By: Jo Anne V. Coruña

This is the second part of former Staff member Jo Anne’s “Ecology of Changemaking” series. Read the first part here.

There is no escaping nature. However far our species may have travelled away from other creatures and natural spaces, simply by being alive and being human, we are still a part of the natural world. Our concrete buildings, roads, airplanes, all our technology, and even rovers on Mars do not put us in a bubble that can make us immune from what is happening to our planet. The climate crisis affects us all, in all corners of the world, although some bear the brunt of it more than others.

The same thinking applies to changemaking. Even if one is not running an organization focused on nature, our work cannot operate separately from our environment. In fact, initiatives are inevitably and intricately situated in the natural world, directly or otherwise. The change we seek to make does not, cannot, and should not exist in a bubble. We are feeling this first hand with this pandemic that has upended all of our work and lives. We have had to rediscover and realize so many things: Our impact on the environment and on each other, the fragility of our food systems (among many others), and the urgency of adapting more sustainable and regenerative ways of living. For better or worse, our work’s embeddedness in nature has come to the fore. If nutritious food or clean water or fresh air is not available to us, how can we even dream of empowerment, peace, or joy? We must design our changemaking work with an ecology of changemaking in mind.

An Ecology of Changemaking essentially means working towards the change we seek to make IN COLLABORATION with nature. It means designing nature into our projects and programs. Nature has so much to teach us, and the lessons are available for free, if we are only keen to learn. Systems thinking underlies the best solutions to the deep and enormous problems of our time. And to learn systems thinking, along with resilience, regeneration, the importance of (bio)diversity, and the strength of community, nature is our best teacher.

Our work becomes much harder and even futile if there is no natural world that can sustain us. We cannot ignore the very foundations of human life: Air, water, food (plants and animals), community. An Ecology of Changemaking posits that the integration of natural systems into our changemaking is its own reward. Spending time in nature has been scientifically proven to improve our mental health and wellbeing. Growing our own food ensures that we get the nutrition we need and not the chemicals that poison us. Observing how nature works can show us systems thinking in action. Permaculture and its ethics and principles can help us create and integrate these natural systems into our work. It can help us and the communities we work with to be more resilient and regenerative so we can not only survive but thrive, now and in the future.

Do you have questions on how to integrate permaculture into your organization? I would love to hear about what you’re doing, so we can figure out an ecology of changemaking that will work for you and your communities. Send an email to joannevcoruna@gmail.com.

About the Author

Jo Anne is a writer, visual artist, and permaculture designer & practitioner. Before art and permaculture, she was a member of the Ashoka Philippines team, searching for social innovators in the Visayas. She is currently growing a food forest garden in Bacolod, Philippines, with her husband and two kids. Jo Anne shares her permaculture field notes and illustrated plant files on amidstthegreen.org.

Featuring impact stories from the Philippine community of Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social innovators.

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