Inclusion and exclusion in permaculture enterprise
Permaculture and enterprise both have distinctive patterns of inclusion and exclusion. This raises the possibility that enterprise could be a route to diversification of the permaculture movement, in terms of both demography and practice.
Findings from the KEEP Project concerning the backgrounds of those involved in permaculture enterprise confirmed conclusions from previous research and the anecdotal observations of many in the permaculture movement concerning its lack of demographic diversity and dominance by white people, usually well-educated and from middle class backgrounds. This points to both important lines of further inquiry and potential practical applications for future action research on permaculture and enterprise.
A key issue is understanding blockages to engagement in both permaculture and enterprise. This is closely related to identifying Enabling and limiting factors for permaculture enterprise. Do permaculturists face distinctive blockages to taking entrepreneurial approaches, different from those encountered by social and environmental enterpreneurs from other backgrounds? Can permaculture and permaculturists learn from practitioners and analysts in other fields where engagement in enterprise is more widespread and successful?
A related factor is different forms of engagement. This can include how people conceptualise and communicate what they do as well as differences in what people actually do in practice. Different forms of engagement can in turn effect documentation. Where groups are absent from research findings so far, this may be because they are not in fact involved in permaculture enterprise, or it may be because they are for whatever reasons less visible, or less widely reported. Diversity in all these dimensions, and consequent diversity in knowledge, experience and practice, can be a powerful basis for mutual and collaborative learning, if existing barriers to participation can be overcome.
The low documented diversity among permaculture entrepreneurs is thus an opportunity to engage demographics that are currently poorly represented in permaculture as a whole. Great opportunities for mutual learning exist between permaculture and BME entrepreneurs, and people working in deprived communities in which little permaculture is reported to be practiced. An excellent example of the type of project from which permaculturists could learn much about navigating barriers to inclusion is May Project Gardens in London. Enterprise may be a route through which permaculture can become more accessible and/or relevant to groups whose participation is currently low or absent.
Enterprise also offers an opportunity to more effectively mobilise, share and leverage the skills and knowledge of what we might call 'marginal permaculturists'. These might include entrepreneurs and businesses currently on the fringes of the permaculture movement, or those following similar approaches towards parallel aims but without recognising or labelling what they do as permaculture.