The power of working together

This post is the second in our inspirational blog series about people benefiting from our Permaculture Ambassadors programme. Here we talk to Wenderlynn Bagnall who, along with her husband Iain, run Wishtree Agroforestry and Permaculture Centre in North Devon.

What's the most important thing you believe people can do to create more sustainable communities?

I don't think it's one thing but if I had to choose, I think working cooperatively is important. Bill Mollison posed a question in the designers manual which I think says it better than I can.... 

" is a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action: of looking at systems and people in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions. A basic question that can be asked in two ways is:

    ‘What can I get from this land or person?’What does this person have to give if I cooperate with them?'

Of these two approaches, the former leads to war and waste, the later to peace and plenty."

I feel before we can begin to make any changes, we need to be able to communicate effectively and work together. We need to look at people's needs and wants, as well as their strengths and weakness. It takes time to build a self-sustaining system. To do that we need to act, but we can't act if we don't know what the vision is - and to get the vision we have to have clarity. If we can do that then we can build systems that last and regenerate themselves. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a positive change in the  community

Do what you can. It doesn't matter if you live in a shed, a house or a castle, or don't have access to land, there is always something you can do to make even the slightest difference towards positive change. 

I wish someone had told me that change takes time, but if you do a little something every day you are actively participating in making those changes take place.

Being aware of the world around you is important: question things, read, research, visit a project, plant an edible garden or do some guerilla gardening, join a group or create one. Allow your child to evolve naturally; listen to them. There are endless ways we can action making a change! 

Most of all, connect with people that have the same or similar vision as you. It makes it easier if there are others around you doing what you want to do. You can learn from them and they can learn from you. Every time you do that little something, you are building a bridge for others to be able follow you across.

What's the most important 'lesson' that permaculture has taught you?

It's taught me that it's ok to be vulnerable. By that I mean it's ok to be who you are. It was the scariest thing in the world to let down my guard and let people see in. It's been enlightening and has opened up so much creativity in me. People have told me they appreciate me being open, honest and authentic.

I've learned to be more open about my vulnerability.  It has also taught me that there are deeper insights into who we are if we allow ourselves to see them. Once we do, we get to the core of who what really makes us part of this world. 

Why do you do what you do?

Because I can see the beauty and real wealth in it.  I want to bring people together and help them to learn about what really matters. I like the idea of creating alternative families. For example, I have some very close friendships with people; I consider them to be my family.

To me family is just a word that means a collective of people that want to support each other and maybe even share a common goal. I love being around people and learning from them. We all have so much we can teach each other. 

That's why I feel very lucky that I have the LAND project. It means I can live closer to what's intrinsic to me and share my experiences, teach others about them and share in the abundance. I want to pay it forward, to return the generosity that has been shown to me, to help others that are less fortunate than myself and people generally.

I love how it makes me feel when I know that I have helped someone, shared food and knowledge with them or we have shared a celebration. It's the best gift that anyone can give me, and it costs nothing but kindness. 

Have you been inspired by this blog to act as a Permaculture Ambassador? We can offer you support and training through a specially-tailored programme to help you make a positive change within your community. Join others from across Britain for the Permaculture Ambassadors Conference on 21 April 2017, in central Birmingham (travel subsidies available). Tickets from just £22.