Diploma of Community Development Requirements

The Diploma in Permaculture Community Development is granted to honor substantial, lasting achievement and excellence in permaculture design for significant numbers of people. This diploma necessarily deals with the design of invisible structures and social relationships as these are understood either to undermine or to bolster community health and empowerment. The bulk of your design work must demonstrably support communities to carry out Earthcare, repair, and regeneration, which will be essential for survival through the 21st century and beyond. Properly understood, Earthcare enables People Care. Efforts that qualify include but are not limited to:

  • Designs that build group capacity or empower groups to improve health, livelihood, access to resources, education, and land-care.
  • Designs that make groups and their home territories more resilient or facilitate transition to Energy Descent.
  • Designs that enhance self-governing abilities or make groups better able to share resources or information.
  • Designs that help rectify Fair Share discrepancies in social formations.

After acceptance into the diploma program, you must complete all of the following requirements with the guidance and support of a field adviser and mentors: Action Learning Plan, Permaculture Design Work, Advanced Coursework, Teaching Experience, Portfolio.

Action Learning Plan

Developed with the guidance of the field adviser, the plan may entail mentoring, internships, paid work, self-directed projects, and direct instruction. You are required either to:

  • Complete 10 comprehensive community-based development designs for at least five groups diverse in demographic characteristics such as age, class, ethnicity/race, gender identification, employment, citizenship/nationality, biome, etc., or
  • Complete five comprehensive community-based development designs that promote beneficial connections among demographically diverse groups, and whichever of these tracks is pursued, also
  • Participate as a member of the teaching team in two full Permaculture Design Courses or Advanced Permaculture Courses.

In addition to meeting the aims described above, or comparable aims, you need to connect designs to the real world, demonstrate an ability to help community members solve problems, design as a team, generate estimates, budgets, and schedules, hold meetings, implement systems, accept feedback, and make corrections.

A single design may be quick to execute or may require years of nurture and persistence to fulfill, but whatever its duration, it has a coherent purpose which can be succinctly stated, for example: To double the membership of a permaculture service organization; To assemble multiple tracts of adjacent land into an ecologically integral reserve and transfer them as a block to the local town for permanent watershed protection; To aid 50 households across a small city to establish, house, manage, and sustain poultry flocks; To rehabilitate five houses in a neighborhood and support the inhabitants and neighbors to stay; To develop enduring collaborative management of a community garden among seven diverse ethnic groups of new immigrants. Designs should be scaled to achieve tipping points. In demographic terms, this may be understood as influencing one in 30. In most cases, the group affected should undergo a change of state. A long and sustained engagement with a large community could involve a series of diverse campaigns, each of which might qualify as a design. Effectiveness increases with experience, and this should be reflected in the arc of the Portfolio, as designs increase in scope with the maturing of the candidate’s understanding of community dynamics. A threshold duration for a single design might be three months or 200 hours of work, though the field advisor should provide guidance on issues of quality and impact.

Advanced Coursework

Participation in a PINA-recognized Advanced Permaculture Design Course or other advanced permaculture course is recommended. You may also benefit from other Community Development coursework, and the field advisor may require either. Skills to be developed for this diploma include facility with social design, financial systems, legal structures of governance, and the facilitation of group processes.

Design Experience

You must demonstrate broadly diverse design experience by achieving overlapping criteria for design projects. The projects must be designed to have effects that last five years or longer.

Of the 10/five required designs…

  • At least three designs for community groups developing physical sites.
  • At least one design for an invisible structure that connects previously unconnected communities into mutually beneficial arrangements.
  • At least two designs that build a community group from individuals who previously did not work on projects together.
  • At least one design that improves the yields of an already existing organization.
  • At least two designs completed in a partnership or team
  • At least two designs completed solo
  • At least one design for a group at a single location.
  • At least one design that functionally connects two or more previously unconnected groups of 20 or more at different locations.
  • At least one design that significantly affects at least 500 urban or 200 rural individuals.
  • At least one design that attempts to build an institution that would outlast its founders.
  • At least two urban or suburban designs.
  • At least two rural or dispersed community designs.
  • At least one design in a community that is demographically different from the candidate’s.
Client Compensation
  • At least one design completed as a paid professional.
  • At least one design completed as a volunteer.
  • At least one design that has succeeded beyond five years.
  • One or more of these requirements may be waived at the discretion of the field adviser, in consideration of your unique circumstances or challenges.


Your portfolio must include several documents:

  • Documentation of how you implement permaculture in your personal life, including the design and status of your home site and livelihood. This item illustrates permaculture ethics in action.
  • Graphic and text documentation for five permaculture designs. This should include summary discussion of how permaculture ethics and design principles were used in your community development designs.
  • Description of five short-course teaching events the candidate has presented or facilitated, stating date, venue, length, audience, subject, and teaching modalities.
  • Evidence of the ability to present design work in an organized, timely, articulate manner.
  • Evidence of training or practice in the facilitation of group processes of decision-making.
  • Two written references from PINA-recognized lead instructors with whom the candidate has studied.
  • Two written references from two communities you assisted.

Additional documentation if applicable:

  • Bibliography of publications.
  • Roster of public outreach activities.
  • Professional awards.
  • Additional supporting evidence, such as field reports or photos.