The paper, Examining Innovation for Sustainability from the Bottom Up: An Analysis of the Permaculture Community in England, was previously published online in June 2016. The paper has emerged from work that Damian undertook for the SOLINSA project. The project developed the concept of ‘Learning and Innovation Networks for Sustainable Agriculture’ (LINSA), working with the Permaculture Association in the UK. Permaculture was a case study and also a transdisciplinary project, and the idea was to co-develop research with the Permaculture Association who were developing some interesting projects to grow the network and inform the public about permaculture.
In the paper, Damian focuses on the food production side of permaculture. The paper builds on an earlier paper, which used communities of practice (COP) theory (Ingram et al., 2014). In this paper, Damian has linked COP theory to Strategic Niche Management to examine the relationship between permaculture and mainstream agriculture. It shows how difficult it can be for novel agro-ecological innovations like permaculture to translate their message into mainstream agriculture, mostly as a consequence of different belief systems.
Abstract of paper:
This paper applies the transitions approach to a novel food production context, via an examination of the food production side of permaculture. More specifically, it examines attempts by the permaculture community in England to interact and influence the Agriculture Knowledge System of the mainstream agri-food regime. Strategic Niche Management and Communities of Practice theory are combined to examine the ways in which the permaculture community has evolved and has sought to develop its agro-ecology message and influence the agri-food regime. Evidence of second order learning and networking with stakeholders outside the community of practice is limited. A tension between internal activities that reinforce a boundary between the permaculture knowledge system and the wider Agriculture Knowledge System are evident. Some external activities designed to cross boundaries are noted. However, activities designed to translate permaculture ideas into mainstream agriculture have had limited success. There is some evidence of interaction and lateral linkage with sub-regimes to enhance capacity but this is usually in individual capacities. Examining the evolution of radical niche innovations such as permaculture thus reveals the way that beliefs, values and epistemologies make the process of sustainability transition challenging and complex, particularly when different knowledge systems clash with one another.
Damian’s other publications can be viewed on his staff webpage.