Timeline for Permaculture Project Establishment

This timeline assumes that you and the core people involved in your project have already completed a PDC. If you have not, then make this your first priority! 

The following timeline is meant to be a general guide to starting an education center or permaculture project. The steps included do not necessary have to occur in the following order as site and situation specific circumstances may necessitate deviation from the outline. 

This document is still being developed and updates will be automatically available at the following link:  Timeline for Permaculture Project Establishment.

Before you start.

Make a statement of purpose and your reasons for starting or developing a project.

What is the best thing that you could leave for someone?

Reality check - What level of aid do you want to engage in?

Over-developed world
Developed world 
Underdeveloped world
Crisis social or environmental situations
War zones

Clearly document where you are now by looking at the following areas:


Who will be working on this?
What are their skills/talents
How much time/energy is available to work on this?



Physical Structures

Teaching facilities
Community halls
Commercial kitchens
Accommodation facilities, etc.

Legal Structures

Nonprofits, etc…

Local community support or network

 Permaculture groups
 Organic farm networks
 Seed savers
 Tribal support

Project Initiation - How a project begins.

From the ground up - brand new projects.

Self Initiated
From an individual, family, or informal group.

By forming an organization.

By an existing organization.

Adapting an existing project to permaculture.

A permaculture project that wants to adopt the PRI model.

Large scale - well funded.

Small scale - minimal funding or needs funding. (see section on funding.)

Set up your business structure or organizational structure.

A possible structure is a symbiotic relationship between a nonprofit and a for-profit business. A nonprofit is essential for certain grant funding and tax exemption purposes. For-profit business may allow you to get funding from investors.

Non-Profit (Look for local organizations that help nonprofits in your jurisdiction.)

The term nonprofit is used rather loosely to describe groups that come together to achieve a mission, rather than to make a profit. The term "nonprofit" does not imply any specific type of legal structure. If a group incorporates, it is a nonprofit corporation. If it does not incorporate, it is an unincorporated nonprofit association.

There are different protocols for organizations everywhere in the world. 

Getting started (Specific to USA, but applicable concepts to most non-profits:) 

Draft a mission statement. - Describe the purpose of your organization.
Recruit a board of directors. - Or put together an advisory group if you don't plan to incorporate legally.
Hire a lawyer. - To help write and file articles of incorporation and advise on legal issues.
Open a bank account. - Preferably one that has experience with non-profits.
Get an accountant to set up bookkeeping.

Write your budget.

Get insurance, or an insurance agent. - You may need liability or property insurance and advice on issues like staff policies. 
Write your articles of incorporation. - The articles provide a legal description of your organization and assign power to the board. Submit them to your board for approval. You will need these in order to incorporate as a nonprofit
Draft bylaws.- Describe how the the organization will be run and how the board will operate.
File your legal documents with the government.

Alternatives to making your own non-profit: 

Umbrella organizations (USA)

Local chapter of a national non-profit.

Join the board of a non-profit that has a similar mission.

Some more alternatives here. http://nonprofit.about.com/od/nonprofitbasics/tp/nonprofitalternatives.htm

For Profit (look for local agencies that provide information on the process in your jurisdiction, or talk to a business lawyer.) 

Mission Statement

Legal Body 

Type of business
Who has power/responsibility
How are decisions made

Business Plan

How will you make money?
What will you spend money on?

Understanding the NGO and aid organizations

The Large (international) NGO

Well organized.

Less effective, more bureaucracy

Less connected to the people on the ground.

Small NGOs

Less organized.

More effective. 

Motives and objectives

Empowerment - positive

Aid as bridge to knowledge and sustainability
Skill and knowledge transfer
Helping people help themselves

Planning your own obsolescence

  Dis-empowerment- negative

Aid as a weapon for control
Financial gain
Inflating ego
Maintaining a status quo that perpetuates a situation

Proposals and funding

Research possible organizations, trusts or funds that might be willing to fund your project. List_of_wealthiest_foundations on wikipedia

Employ a grant writer if necessary

Hourly wage


Take a grant writing course

Write twenty grants…get one 


Research the objectives and mission of the funding body and make sure you directly address them. 

Be able to describe the current situation and the outcome you expect.

Who will benefit from your work?

How will it carry on after funding ceases?

You will need to provide a detailed budget.

Crowd funding


Budget item specific



Community meeting

Email tree

Web site

Private funding



 Permaculture Site Consultation and Detailed Site Design

This may be a necessary prerequisite for funding proposals as it demonstrates legitimacy and functionality

This is a crucial step toward further development

A general site consultation is advisable before securing land to assess its suitability as a demonstration site

A mainframe design would address water, access and structures.

Secure Land and Title

You must have a secure title to your land

Developing on land that you may eventually lose or move away from is unwise

Departments,  personnel, and roles. 

These roles may be filled by different people at different times or multiple roles by one person

Administration department- Primary role is managing all office, money and communication related work and designing efficient systems of operation.

Administrator - Assess and delegates the office, money and communication priorities; manages interns and volunteers; performs or delegates the following roles and functions:

Book Keeper
course bookings
Web Development
Community outreach

Interns - long term students, focused on learning and ultimately filling key roles and departments.
Volunteers - part time or temporary helpers.

Site management and design department - Primary role is managing the upkeep and development of the site according to the design plan, also modifying and adding detail to it as necessary. 

Site Manager - Knows the site plan and the timeline for its implementation, directs interns and volunteers, performs or delegates the following roles:

Machinery operator
Builder/carpenter/metalworker/stone mason
Local Nurseryman
Domestic animal expert




Teaching and education department - Primary role is teaching Permaculture courses and designing curriculum.

Teacher - A good teacher is key to financial success as a primary income source is via offering PDC courses. The teacher may perform or delegate the following roles:

Guest Lecturer
Cultural Ambassador
Community Outreach Consultant


Internship Program 

interns are key for helping in day to day operations as they learn to fill primary roles in the institute


Interns must have completed a PDC

Intern application process (see the intern application form.)

Long term stays 3 months to 1 year

Will be given room and board

Interns function as informal overseers and monitors of the project.

In later phases they will expect to see functional systems.

If a project has gone off course, their input and presence is crucial.

They will be connected and reporting to PRI


 willing workers who want to help


Should at least have completed an Intro to Permaculture Course

May be given room and board if possible

Short term stays 1-2 weeks max

Or scheduled weekly or task oriented visits for those living nearby 

 Phase one site development. (or the 1st year)

You have secure title to some land.

You have a clear and detailed Permaculture design for the land.

You have an organizational structure to flow business and resources. (business plan, bank account and legal structure.)

Your key roles are filled by people who are willing to follow through and get things done

In the initial phases of a project, it is common for a few people to do most of the work and fill many roles

Set goals for the first year in several different areas:

Here is a common priority list:

Human presence (improving facilities/base comfort)
Fence and Security
Perennial systems -(food forest.) 

Site development

Drinking water
Home water
Irrigation water
Dams (earth banks, drains)
Food (read: Phases of Abundance, By Bill Mollison)
Put in your zone 1 garden
Begin key food forest plantings - These systems take time to demonstrate, so start them early. 
Think about main crop
Begin propagation of the plants and trees that you will need.

Teaching (aim to begin teaching PDCs and intro courses as soon as possible)

It is helpful to bring in an experienced teacher who will increase course bookings.
It is important that you begin with high quality teaching.
An external teacher who does 75% of the teaching. 


Start up you internship program with one or two people only.
Start up your volunteer program. The WWOOFA program is a way to do that (http://www.wwoof.org)


Get your accounting and bookkeeping systems in place
Set up your own website or set up your page within the PRI website for course bookings and project promotion (www.permaculture.org/au or www.permacultureusa.org )

Document Everything! Writings, photos, video   

Year Two 

Review and evaluate where you are

Do same as for year one – set goals and priorities

You may expand your teaching schedule and interns depending on available resources

Begin training and phasing in local teachers and reduce reliance on experienced teachers that you bring in

Start planning and organizing a local permaculture group.

Year Three 

Aim to be financially self-sustaining by the end of year 3

This is achieved primarily by teaching regular PDC courses with the project’s local teachers

You should be able to use all your own seedlings and saved seed at this point, except when introducing new species for trial

You should be attracting interns and volunteers and PDC students at a constant rate

You should be running extra specialized workshops

Your organization(s) should be operating efficiently and all key roles filled

By the end of year three, you should be relying on locally trained teachers, bringing in outside experience only for specialized purposes

You know you are doing it right when it is enjoyable, harmonious, satisfying and resources keep gathering around you