Permaculture Organisations and projects mapping

(Philipp) #1


I am part of a project called the Permaculture Collaborative Laboratory (CoLab). This is an international permaculture network that aims to make the movement more coherent and effective.
Find some more info here:

We have got a database of PoIs and plans to work with our global networks to further add to that list (and keep it up-to-date). We would work on coordinating a network of organisations and individuals who would volunteer to curate geographic areas of the map. Beyond embedding it into our own site we also want to use the maps to introduce organisations to each other, etc.
I have been browsing the boards a bit and it looks like we are roughly aligned with what you are trying to do.

Am I correct in thinking that you already added a permaculture project database to your portfolio?

Have you collaborated in the past with people like us (with similar intentions)? Have you got a model, procedure, etc. about how we would go about this? What would the expectations towards us be (including format of data, etc.) and what could we expect from you in return?

Thank you for your help.
Best wishes,

(if this is not the right place for this topic please feel free to move it, thanks)

(Helmut) #2

Dear Philipp
Thanks to your request.
I am not the perfect person to answer your question, as I am not any more involved very deep in TransforMap.

The Principal-Questions is: Do you want to edit your POIs each by each in OpenStreetMap or do you want a link/ connection to TransforMap?
As the TransforMap writes directly into the OSM, you can not have the automatical connection.

In this case, I would like to share with your the Transition-Connect Interface, the OpenFairDB and the Map of Tomorrow (Karte von morgen) which offer this link to different databasis and shows all POIs on the Karte von morgen, which can be embedded on different pages.

We are at the very beginning of this connection, so all hints are helpful.

So in short, if you can edit each of your POIs singularly, it is the best to use TransforMap. If not, you are welcome to help to develop transition-connect.

(Philipp) #3

Dear Helmut,

thank you for the reply. The current idea (and we are exploring others) would be to refer people from our site to an interface in which they can create the PoI (in transformap) and then to embedd OSM into our site.

Key for us is search functionality. It would be helpful to be able to add more tags then, say, permaculture. I saw a list of which tags transformap worked with (I think that was proposal stage). We would like to tag PoI with other things (for example, are they a demonstration site, what kind of projects do they run, do they offer training, etc.). We would hope for people to be able to filter these and search for them (in their area).

I am aware that this might be stretching it. It would be good to hear what exists, what would be possible, and what will never happen (within the OSM framework).

Thank you for your help.
Best wishes,

(Jon Richter) #4

Thanks Helmut for jumping in and helping out here to engage the Transformaps community.

It is unfortunate we were not loud enough in broadcasting the news about the current state of developments. As of the architecture presented in

we do not utilise any OpenStreetMap nowhere within the stack, despite imported ideas about the data model.

Therefore the statement

is unfortunately wrong and only relates to experiments from 2015 with and This information could be communicated more prominently.

For me it also reads contradictory that


why I guess it could be good to revisit Transition Connect in a separate thread without taking over this request for a permaculture map and maybe even separately from

to produce a well-informed, collective perspective on it.

With these changed preassumptions also the conclusions in


change a little. In applying the same rhetorics, informed by the previous remarks, we could fairly state:

The principal question is: Do you want single maps that are connected in a closed, specific environment and aggregated in a single place, or do you want single maps in an open, generalised environment which can be aggregated in multiple places?


In short, if you want full control of your whole data integration pipeline, it is best to use a custom solution. If not, you are welcome to help develop TransforMap.

If we spend some cautious time to learn from our collective findings and reiterate them a little, we claim to be ready for building a web-native data federation.

Please have a read of

to learn about the preconditions we came about and check out (put a * into Termes de recherche, click Actualiser le filtre and wait a little) to see where we’re heading to.

Thanks again for providing a chance to be more verbose about all this.

(Helmut) #5

Hi Philipp
Thank you for your answer! That sounds exactly what we are creating with Karte von morgen. One day it will be mergeds with OSM but till then we need a lot of funding.
But for now, Karte von morgen does exactly what you describe here.

Could we have a call about that: Mobil: 017647670833

(Helmut) #6

Hi Jon
Thanks for your comprehensive answer. So much quitations in one text. I feel, lets say overwhelmed…

  • Did I understand correctly, that your maps do not save directly to osm? (Is this the actual webpage of transformap?

Then what is the big advantage of TransforMap?

(Philipp) #7

Hi Jon,

Thank you for your reply.

To be honest, there are some turns in it (when you go from an answer to my original post to engaging with Helmut) that I do not find entirely understandable. In any case, I think I got the gist of it.

  1. I am not really interested in getting involved in some kind of alternative mapping community politics scenario. (this feels like an undercurrent in the above).

  2. We already had a very basic custom built solution. The reason why I ended up here is because I am looking for collaborative strengthening of already existing open web platforms. (relates to 1). As far as I can see, Open Street Maps is the biggest fish in that pond (from a user perspective) and, therefore, it makes sense to contribute data to that. You have started covering that in the how-to of your charter.

  3. We like something that works around the world, in a fractal manner. A solution that is applicable to mapping at a local level (by people who use the map to develop the digital footprint of their community) and at the global level (where we as a network can get our head around what is out there).

Those are bits of information I feel might be relevant to the conversation.
It would be good to hear your thoughts on this!

Helmut, I am based in the UK. Please drop me a line on and we set up a call.

Thank you.

Best wishes,

(Jon Richter) #8

Hi @Philipp,

I’m glad you found your way into the Transformaps community. I am happy to see the interest and alignment from one of the communities we initially included into our first prospects. This response has been written over the course of the last few weeks and combines a multitude of perspectives into a narrative linking your endeavour to what we have been doing over here.

When I am searching for permaculture, it displays three entries, when I am filtering it counts up to 21. Those seem to ask for additions!

From your Trello card

I learn that

The map of permaculture organisations and projects we had was a good starting point. We got all that data still.

We are in conversations with others (e.g. CASA) about the implementation of a fractal mapping solution.
Something that can be used at local, national, bioregional, etc. levels to map permaculture initiatives. However, it is underpinned by a single database that allows for a global (colab) view.

Now it would be interesting for me to retain access to that dataset. Is it the one presented on (catalogued as permaculture map)? If it is, from seeing the Google Map I would understand why one wants to open it up a bit to a new mapping system, since their Terms of Use pretty much lock any data into their system.

I would also like to know if you managed to find a fractal mapping solution? You’re definition of volunteer groups taking over certain regions of a map sounds very much like a general use case for many communities attached with TransforMap. Incidentally, I have recently also been approached by some German permaculture activist in Bavaria, who wants to combine regional mappings to an overarching view. In building the infrastructure, we tried to prepare for this by allowing to aggregate multiple maps into one view not only in service design, but also in data modelling. Up until now we did not fully push on through into that direction. Additionally, to respond completely to your aim, the social dimension and communicative needs around mapping are known, yet until now have to be sidelined from the mapping interfaces into third-party communication channels.

Further on I’ve spent some time digging into the available documentation of CoLab and found Trello and Google Drive to be the main places to do work for you. For me as a systems integrator it is always interesting to see Conway’s Law at play in shaping organisational structures by the communicative means at hands. I will get back to this further down below.

Now please allow me first to highlight some findings on the website, which I also deem useful to remark in outlining mapping collaborations.

Where we are coming from

Build communities

  • Identify and link existing networks around each theme
  • Create effective online spaces to communicate combined with local ‘on the ground’ networks, demo sites, etc.
  • Develop capacity to share information and resources more effectively

This are rightfully sufficient conditions for any collaboration, while the technical constraints can only be considered neccessary. Whyfore we may want to put emphasis on the first.

Where we want to go

The Vision, Mission and Aims

We aim to:

  • research, assess and provide information about the current state and extent of permaculture thinking and practice and its strategic context to enable effective planning, project design and network development;
  • make effective links between permaculture and allied networks that enhance our collective work towards our shared visions;
  • work towards a multi-lingual platform that enables wide participation from across the worldwide permaculture community;
  • provide and document existing training and learning resources to enable people to participate and work effectively together;
  • use and document the process of CoLab development to actively learn and unlearn organisational development processes suited to complex multi-layered networks.

From reading this I come to conclude the broad range of perspectives we want to align with and link to by the various mapping campaigns we conduct, may they be geographic, semantic, temporal, social or material in nature.

CoLab Origins: A story

One of the things that came out very strongly from the initial survey work was a clear sense that people valued and held their autonomy. They considered their ability to decide on their own policies and their future projects and activities as very very important! People do not want to be told what to do. People also told us about their many needs and challenges and how collaboration and mutual support could help them to overcome many barriers they encounter. We can get more done by working together.

… and tested different technological platforms like zoom, hackpad and Slack. …

… The CoLab is an experimental space for online working which seeks to support those who wish to work together to do so. It’s the place where we can work together when we’re not in the same room/town/city/country/timezone/hemisphere!

… The CoLab aims to fill the space between the face to face / in person meetings with an ongoing online space for collaboration.

From this I like how you point out that working together is more about giving people information and tools at hands to make their own decisions, other than having to establish a group consensus. We also always did best when we operated under the consent principle, that people would always be asked to object, but not in a way that stops others of going forward.

It seems important for me to hightlight, how subtle and foundational the information and communication technologies (ICT) we use daily influence our attention, perception and action.

How we collaborate

  1. how the CoLab works and
  2. how we use information and communications technology to do this.

Project Management
Proposals and decision making
File Storage and office applications

Thinking again of

I like how this presentation focusses on the use of the tools and the need they answer first, before presenting them. This shows a healthy distance to the promises of certain tools as all-encompassing, while acknowledging for swappability in choosing an offer. As @gandhiano and me tried to emphasise in the article Re-decentralization of the internet and development of new ways of ownership and commons for Degrowth in Movement(s), the question of property regimes of informational infrastructures is apparent in most political movements, yet often unreflected. The commercial platforms too often encapsulate the users into silos, from which it gets harder to escape the longer we’re in.

Above you also mentioned Hackpad, which has now been shut down and huge amounts of documentation got lost and links to it are dead ends by now.

If we would be formulating our requirements towards libre infrastructures as a sufficient condition for our practical work together, and if the different means are neccessary components to reflect a holistic workflow, your services in use could be easily replaced by …

  • Slack
    Matrix / Riot or Rocket.Chat
  • Trello
    Kanboard or Taiga
  • Loomio
  • Google
    • Sites
      … a wiki
    • Forms or
    • Drive
      … Nextcloud
    • Docs
      … Pads (Etherpad, HackMD), OnlyOffice, LibreOffice Online (Collabora)

If the international permaculture network or the CoLab as a starter wished to find an uncommercial online place for solving these dire needs with free and libre open source software (FLOSS), I’d suggest having a look at the list of the awesome librehosters that we know are providing such already.

The reason why I have been answering to and addressing Helmut first, before addressing you and your specific case directly, was to clarify technical misunderstandings and reemphasizing the need for open and accountable community processes. In any way I would love to read protocols from your calls and further documentation that you will make available online somewhere. I would love to return to answering your initial questions, which were the most clear and direct we have received in a long time, but feel the need to respond to the confusion that emerged further below first.

Please be aware that OpenStreetMap does not allow data imports by default and that they are often reverted, if found and done wrongly. What I tried to convey above was, that OpenStreetMap is not the ideal place to put domain-related location data, such as for community gardens, community-supported agriculture or permaculture initiatives, since these depictions cannot be validated on the ground and are often considered too subjective. This does not mean corresponding tags would be removed often, either. It’s just not what OpenStreetMap is good at, hosting herogenous and arbitrary depictions of reality. It rather tries to be a single source of truth, with an aim of a neutral point of view, similar to Wikipedia.

If you are interested in this matter, please read the following texts about the major problems that OpenStreetMap faces, which should explain why it is not suitable for a wide range of applications. Learning this was a painful process for ourselves, but we’ve adapted successfully and early enough, I think. Others would claim we did not stick to it enough.

Pardon me the responses, if they are too detailed. The excerpts shall give you an impression of what I am looking at when reading the discussion, and which parts produce associations. I thought this way my arguments can be more easily and directly related to the points you brought up and we establish a discourse that takes the presented ideas into account and makes transparent, which ones were omitted. The ideas we are discussing here are very complex and intertwined, why an explicit and exhaustive mode of communication may provide more clarity than i.e. superficial marketing language and promises.

An old experiment from 2015 at directly saves to OpenStreetMap. Those entries are shown from the experimental viewer from 2015 at

If you are referring to the current interfaces at or, yes, those are not writing directly to OpenStreetMap.

Yes it is. Please note it has not been updated with the progress of the funded TransforMap projects since two years and presents outdated information. I am aware this may be confusing, but cannot take responsibility and action for every little detail of the whole project. In the past my attention had been more absorbed by process coordination and low-level engineering, why I always hoped a self-organised group of communicators would emerge that takes care of this.

Here I am unclear whom your question is targeted at, since you will receive different answers from whom you ask. Are you asking me for my personal opinion, the initial community for their vision, the wider community for their understanding, the project managers for what they tried to achieve or the project funders who took over and shifted the requirements definition? Each of them will have another specific way of evaluating the scope TransforMap set out to achieve.

At this point of the conversation we have come past an initial, uninformed, intuitive and unreflectedly direct reponse to your proclaimed desire, have embraced the CoLab’s methodology and methods with our experiences and followed up on pointing out known and possibly avoidable caveats in laying out and conducting federational mapping activities.

Getting back to the initial request from the Permaculture Collaborative Laboratory, I have deeply read the CoLab website to understand its scope and commented on it well before here. Now, since they are well formulated and provide a wealthy response surface, I’d like to answer the introductory questions one after the other:

We have previously provided guidance for certain communities on how to use for their community mapping activities, and agglomorated some kind of network of peers and organisations, mainly in #welcome-on-board:who-is-who. This was an ongoing process during what had been called 14MMM or 15MMM. Unfortunately a 16MMM ceased to be instaurated due to project logic fallacies. Further on an #communities:intermapping community seems to be emerging, which is in its infancy and lacks substantial exchanges between the partners. Up until now in 2017 we held two notable meetings, one in Firenze and one in Villarceaux, precluded by a Commons Space in Montréal 2016.

There was once a post on my personal blog, which was an early depiction of what we might expect.

To add to that, we could nowadays also encourage to use:

Generally it may be considered sufficient to shape an inclusive community process first, before attempting to tackle any outputs. We did improvise otherwise, due to lacking experience, but learned a lot along the way. A neccessary remainder might be to build on libre infrastructure, as outlined above.

This is a delicate question that I would like to escalate into a collective enquiry sometime and someplace else. It is very well suited to be encompassed and extended upon within the

As a gist, I can briefly mention that we prefer:

  • accessible and inclusive communities
    An active online community that has clear interaction points and regular activity
  • wide open licencing
    Creative Commons or ideally Public Domain
  • open data formats
    ideally web-compatible data structures and interfaces
  • self-hosted infrastructure
    supporting an uncommercial and distributed internet
  • proactive witnessing and appropriation of collective interest
    a sovereign way of invitingly acting towards others

From that, I don’t want to promise, but can maybe extrapolate, you will gain:

  • access to other communities’ bodies of knowledge
  • the ability to enrich your data with related sets of informationally encoded knowledge
  • avoidance of enclosure by proprietary interest
  • insight into the intricacies of how information and communication technologies shape our ways of acting and thinking
  • the willingness of others to jump aboard your ship and to help out scrubbing the deck

Could this be a good start to move on further?

The initial proposal of a TransforMap taxonomy for OpenStreetMap contains a field self-description of a community that explicitly mentions permaculture. Nowadays we tend to prefer the human- and machine-readable form on a Wikibase instance, which is together with other selected properties linked to a TransforMap taxonomy.

We already have a multitude of Viewer forks, that support different taxonomies. Your experiments could be a good way to push our code a little forward towards supporting multiple nomenclatures within the same interface, and not within multiple independent ones. See this pad for a rough technical comparison:

For me this is inherent in political activism. Why restrain any conversation?

Our impression is that federated, polycentric systems respond more clearly to the demands you express, more than completely distributed or any centralised services could ever do. Opinions diverge here, since we are unveiling unchartered areas. It’s up to us. One scientist from the geosemantics domain once said (quotation from memory):

Interoperability can only be proven after the fact.

Further on I would like to summon @alabaeye @mattw @Silke @gandhiano @kevflanagan @Maia @tuomo, since this thread has gotten very lengthy, since I feel a little alone here with presenting the perspectives we came up with together and since I am not a representative for the collective, why each has to speak for themselves. Did I sufficiently present the problems, advantages and prospects of federated mapping, and what am I missing out from our collective experience?

Please know that I have not voluntarily responded to convince you of some kind of technical or political truth, but to present the questions we have come to ask ourselves, and to introduce initial possible trajectories of resolution.

Most sincerely,


Strategies for Mapping the eco-social and solidarity economy in soldarity
(Philipp) #9

Hello Jon,

thanks for the reply. Good to see the conversation continuing.
I will try my best in picking up on the diverse and complexes issues we are exploring and following on from where you are at. At some point this technology reaches its limits and if this continues, with more people getting involved (from different parties) we should may move to something like an Issue Based Information System or other graph based tools.

Now it would be interesting for me to retain access to that dataset. Is it the one presented on (catalogued as permaculture map)?

It is not. This is a parallel mapping project that predated our attempt. I was not personally involved at the time but as far as I know there were unsuccessful conversations around collaborating on a mapping project rather than complementing each other.
Regarding access, I need to speak to people about that. Maybe I can get them to bring it from our old site (which should still sit in drupal somewhere) into the current site. It would not hurt for it to be usable at the moment. And that would enable you to have a proper look. However, I do not think that you will find much difference to the map you have identified. I think it is a google maps based drupal implementation with a DB and form to add.

That leads me to:

If we would be formulating our requirements towards libre infrastructures as a sufficient condition for our practical work together, and if the different means are neccessary components to reflect a holistic workflow, your services in use could be easily replaced by …
Matrix / Riot or Rocket.Chat
Kanboard or Taiga
… a wiki
Forms or
… Nextcloud
… Pads (Etherpad, HackMD), OnlyOffice, LibreOffice Online (Collabora)

Absolutely agree, on a personal level. However, commitments have been made. Now there is path dependency and a lack of capacity (mainly time) to make the necessary changes. This, in itself, is a very complex matter touching on sub-culture (mis-)alignment in the permaculture community. We shall see when and how to pick that one back up. I think once more understanding is cultivated the door should be wide open for those changes… (hopefully :slight_smile:

Moving on with tech:

No, we have not. I think there is also some uncertainty on what this might actually look like. In practice since, in a way, all maps are fractal in a way (when browsing them). It is all the stuff around exploration views where fractal could make a big difference in terms of ease of implementation. What you explored with the Bavaria based person sounds relevant. Worth an introduction? How alive is that process?

Continuing with collaboration:

I have not heard from Helmut yet and I have not tried to call him. I am able to keep this conversation going in a preferably asynchronous manner at the moment.

The remainder of the foundations make sense to me. This, however, I find tricky:

More people will need involvement (from within the permaculture community at least) and partially due to its “local first philosophy” it is difficult for people justify spending voluntary time on this meta work. That is even more difficult when working in the abstract. So, small tangible outputs and an iterative process are quite important I feel. However, this could be something to start using as is once our data is imported!? We could offer permaculture specific support for people based on the tutorials that exist…

How do I filter for permaculture in the viewer?I could not find it in the drop down and searched instead…

So, to finish.

Yes, that makes sense. However, we are also need to have usability and digital literacy in mind. Federation means taking responsibility; centralisation allows people to be users only. Fractal might be the idea of a middle way? That does not mean federated is not viable in the situation. I am merely suggesting that this needs to be taken into consideration…

Thank you for your reply.
Best wishes,

kommentierte Liste aktiver Kartierungsprojekte im Frühsommer 2018
🎈 Invitation for intermapping digital critical collective cartographies
kommentierte Liste aktiver Kartierungsprojekte im Frühsommer 2018
(Helmut) #10

Dear Philipp

I could not catch up with so many Visions and fundamental politics…
Did you find a solution? Which fullfilled your needs the best?

OSM really would not work that well, first of all, you can not add everything to it and second, because for many its just too complicated…

Do we still need to talk about Map of tomorrow? We would love to create with you an open source map of Permaculture.,-47.758&zoom=2.33&search=%23permakultur
Until now we just can offer a cvs download, but as I said, there will be huge interoperability comming with

Do we still need to call?
Mobil: 017647670833

(Jon Richter) #11

Many thanks for following up. In the velocity of our conversation we can see how much time infrastructure work needs.

We had some fruitful attempts during the #projects to use Taiga for high-level, user story centric views on the developments. Unfortunately this did not cover the diverse external expectations and requirements we came about conducting our research and development.

We cannot fetch data that is displayed with Google Maps, since this is prohibited by their terms of use. Having that data on an independent map could help in scraping the data and redisplaying it elsewhere, given licencing considerations are being met.

Indeed this is a challenge we have often revisited with @gandhiano when working with degrowth-minded people. Technology is often considered bad, and therefore less attention is put on choices here.

Had you seen ? It’s actually technically possible, if data providers would agree on few standards. Such a system involves

  • data published under open licences with common formats,
  • a data catalogue and
  • the interface that you see.

We could build from there, if we had made some different choices early on in TransforMap. This path is still open, though.

The process with @metapermi is only slowly gaining traction. We are in some kind of regular, indirect exchange. I have just invited him and others for a digital cartography workshop in Witzenhausen beginning of summer, where one could meet. An english invitation is due soon.

I like the idea of scoping ahead which steps could be taken to implement independent permaculture maps. This may be reason enough for a call.

It seems permaculture is not part of the SSEDAS project’s taxonomy. It seems searching found mentions of the word in description texts.

Yes, let’s be clear on the terms here. I think federated already means what you aspire as fractal. The loose relationness of truly distributed networks is where responsibility is moved as much as possible to the users. The middle ground is that initatives publish their own data and interfaces, but make sure it is compatible with well-known standards.

Where’d you like to take it from here?

(Jon Richter) #12

@Philipp This has landed now in

(Michael) #13

I’m the one mentioned above:

I have recently also been approached by some German permaculture activist in Bavaria, who wants to combine regional mappings to an overarching view.

I’m new here and still doing some orientation (e.g. starting with a dual account unintentionally :wink:

I know a lot of ocal initatives beyond permaculture in a radius of approx. 50km air distance and even for me it is not possible to have an overview of all this spontanously.

My idea is …

  • to capture some more pilot ‘objects’ of different types and
  • with this to try to win people of this initatives to become multipliers.

Permaculturists are sure to use old cultivars (varieties) of species to avoid dependencies of seeds producing companies. I hope this is a start point to win my permaculture collegues for sensitivity for dependenciens concerning geo data. My main profession is IT so I hope to do a good job at this interface role.

(Jon Richter) #14

@metapermi The invitation also counts for you. Feel invited to join us in Witzenhausen next month:

And @Philipp if you or other participants of the CoLab would like to join, there is also an english invitation you can spread: