image of people working at the south london project

Creating a good design, vision and implementation plan

Good design at the early stage will make a significant long-term difference to any project. If well presented this can really help people understand and be inspired by your project, whether they are part of the project team, external stakeholders (such as funders) or your target audience(s).

A strong and well communicated Vision will make a big difference for attracting, inspiring and convincing partners and supporters, funders, team members and many learners and visitors.

An Implementation plan helps you develop clarity on what needs to be done, by whom and how much it is going to cost, when it will start and how long it will take. It will help to demonstrate to funders or partners that your project idea is deliverable, and that you have a clear understanding of what is required to implement it. For your internal team and any external contractors involved, it will be a practical working document that enables you to keep track of progress, and make any adjustments if circumstances change during the delivery of the project. It should also identify and be used to track the resources, skills and responsibilities for each key element or stage of the project, and the risks or dependencies that might take the project off track or halt its progress if the right skills, money or other resources are not in place at the right time.

Below is a recording of a talk by Suzie Cahn about designing an effective permaculture project to get you started.

Apricot Centre Design

Creating your design 

To generate a good design you will need at least one person with appropriate design skills in your team, or an external design consultant. Often having 2 or 3 people involved as a design team will produce a stronger design, as different perspectives, ideas and contributions generally mean the whole design will be ‘greater than the sum of the parts’. 

As a general guide, it will be valuable to have at least one person that has completed their permaculture design Diploma, Ecovillage Design training or has developed good experience in regenerative design in other ways. Make sure you allocate appropriate time and resources to the design process, as this will help ensure you generate good design outcomes, which will often save you time or produce better project outcomes later.

A design need not be fixed forever, and often will evolve over time - so it should be used as a clear starting point, that is used to build the initial momentum of the project. Have a look at the Permaculture Association Design Library for some inspiration from other projects or use some of the tools listed in the knowledge base as a starting point.

How to write your vision, mission and aims

There are many methods you can use to generate and present your vision. Think about who you are creating the vision for, and then decide the best ways to present it that fit well with the needs and expectations of that audience. Developing your vision will normally benefit from some free-thinking activities (such as guided visualisation to imagine your project thriving in the future, its beneficiaries and impacts in 10 or 20 years time). Backcasting can also be used to tell the story of how you get from where you are now, to the time and conditions for achieving your vision.

A standard visioning methodology used from a local to large city scale (e.g. Houston) is to ask 5 questions and work through defining the answers with clarity over time:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where are we heading?
  • Where do we really want to be? (The Vision)
  • How do we get there?
  • What’s the practical first step(s)?

The last question is then usually revisited at regular periods, with the set of 5 questions and answers also refreshed at appropriate points in time, according to the scale of the project. Often the Vision will be summarised in one or two simple sentences, that go alongside the Mission and Aims (VMA) of your organisation or project. Good visual presentation of your vision will normally significantly strengthen any written description - and vice versa.

One useful tool for developing a vision is the Vision Map. The Vision Map involves drawing, painting, and writing a vision or idea landscape on a big map using the analogies of geography and topology to intuitively explore visions or complex future ideas. This approach is especially suitable if the vision or idea is still vague and difficult to express.

Linking design to implementation 


The implementation plan will normally break the design and vision down into a set of specific sub-projects, identifying:

  • the specific tasks needed to complete these sub-projects
  • the budget and timetable for doing so
  • the people / skills and resources needed to complete the project
  • responsibility allocated to whoever is leading the project.

For more detailed or larger projects (e.g. constructing an eco-building) there will also usually be a Risk Register (identifying the key risks that might affect the project, and measures to avoid or minimise those risks) and Dependencies (such as suitable weather conditions or planning permission for a build project; or specific finance or essential expertise that are required). If you can, directly involve or get advice from someone with good project management experience to help generate a clear implementation plan to complement your project design and vision. Depending on the scale of the project, informally studying the basics of project management is likely to help if you have not got someone with these skills in the team, or the budget to bring in someone in this role.

If you are working from a permaculture perspective, describing the project using the OBREDIMET framework (where the O signifies Objectives as well as Observation) can be a good way to structure your project design and implementation plan.


Pippa Chapman Design

Resource list for project design

people learning to grow food outside

Example Vision, Mission and Aims

Vision Mapping

Vision Mapping Tool by Jutta & Boris Goldammer

Obredimet Framework

Implementation: OBREDIMET Framework

strategic framework

A Strategic Framework Approach

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Project Competencies: design & planning

Case Studies

Inspiring examples of permaculture places


Regenerative Knowledge Commons

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iACT and Land Centres Handbook


Next Steps

Consider taking A Strategic Framework Approach to project design, planning and implementation

Move onto: Income generation - How do we become a thriving enterprise?

Return to: Places Transforming Communities iACT Home

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'iACT iwas co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme. Proj. ref.: 2020-1-UK01-KA204-079285. The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.