By Peter Bane, Darrell Frey, and Bob Randall

The Permaculture Institute of North America is growing. As a national professional organization, PINA officially launched three years ago. Our list of PINA diplomates has continued to grow and we are working to expand Diploma offerings beyond Permaculture Education and Permaculture Site Design. PINA’s board, made up of permaculture practitioners from the far corners and mid-lands of the United States, meets regularly to continue the work of PINA’s mission to:

  • Promote permaculture pathways to professional development
  • Grant diplomas
  • Preserve the integrity and quality of the Permaculture Design Course
  • Facilitate networking among permaculturists

Fulfilling this last part of our mission, to facilitate networking, is the next big push to complete the groundwork of PINA. How do we facilitate networking? How do we provide professional development services to design course graduates? How do we promote strong networks of permaculturists, whether they are designers, educators or practitioners? And in turn how can PINA diversify our national organization into a web of interconnected alliances, working together to solve the dilemma of our human relationship to our bio-regions and our planet?

Since our initial organizing board began to meet over five years ago, PINA has been guided by the vision of regional hubs and bioregional permaculture guilds providing the true on the ground leadership for Permaculture’s continued evolution.

In common usage a hub is a center of activity connected to subsets or satellite activities. Examples include airports that serve as transfer points for major airlines and information routing devices linking networks of computers. These terms, of course, derive from the hub, or center, of a wheel. The wheel’s hub often serves as a concentration point to distribute energy, either to transfer motion outward as in a cartwheel, or inward, as in a windmill.

In keeping with the permaculture concept of seeking models in nature, PINA’s system of a larger organization networking with interconnected hubs is analogous to the development and function of neurological system in living animals. Recent research has been finding support for the theory that certain neurons in the nervous systems of developing and mature organisms serve as “hub neurons”, or “super connected nodes[1].”

These hub neurons act to coordinate communication and activity with associated neurons and to regulate communication between various organs and processes within the organism. Furthermore, in developing organisms these hubs have a “central role …in shaping developing networks…” More simply stated, our brains and nervous systems contain hub neuron cells and cell groups that serve to direct our development. When we mature, many of these hub neurons continue to act to direct and maintain healthy functioning of our brains and bodies (more information on neural networks can be found at PINA’s founding board members envisioned networks of interacting “hubs”, based in diverse bioregions, connected through the continental organization, as the ideal structure for our professional organization. As with the neuron hub model, PINA hubs will interact with the larger organization while guiding and shaping regional guilds and individual permaculture professionals.

This model has two main parts; the continental organization and the regional hubs. The organization as a whole is building a broad consensus of professional designers and educators. By working together, we shepherd shared values and standards on a continental scale, thus insuring the integrity of permaculture as a profession. The hubs provide training and proving grounds, offering education programs, internships and advising services to design course graduates. But most importantly PINA hubs will be regional and thus connecting permaculture students with experienced professionals in their home region. Hubs will be made up of both members at large and local guilds that provide permaculture students with access to mentors and advisors in their own area. PINA envisions at least 19 regional hubs from Canada to Mexico. For a more detailed understanding of PINA hubs and a map of suggested hub regions see PINA’s regional hub information page.

Currently PINA has one affiliated hub, The Great Lakes and Rivers Permaculture Institute, and another in development.

If you are interested in starting a PINA hub in your region, we encourage you to study PINA’s hub page, and also the GRLPI web page to learn more about their work and structure. PINA, with assistance from Great Lakes and Rivers Permaculture Institute is currently developing a guide to hub organization. So stay tuned for further details. And if you want to be an active participant let us know!

[1], GABAergic Hub Neurons
Orchestrate Synchrony in Developing Hippocampal Networks