Activities (block 7)

Key Activities

Work, defined in physics, is the effort applied to change the state of an object. If the state of the objet is unchanged, no work has been done.

Work done= Force X Distance.

We use the same word to describe performing a paid job. This can get confusing when considering community finance because things are moved – the states of things are changed (like raw food is made into a meal) but not called work because they are not associated with a paid job.

Conventional business approaches which see the chain

raw materials >product or service> waste

value different activities for the production of the service that the product or service offers differently – some activities are unpaid and some are highly paid. For example: some activities in the chain from field to plate are valued quite low as a percentage of final consumer pricing, a farmer gets a very small percentage for example. Other activities are not paid at all: for example, a consumer is expected to fetch food from the store and in modern stores they do the check-out procedure themselves. Cooking is also unpaid.

Financial permaculture sees work as all activities that taken together  provide the services the community requires. So being a volunteer on the entertainment committee has the same value as digging ditches and planting seeds. We will use the term “work” to mean activity in a paid employment, and activity to mean what you as an individual do in the context of your community.

Conventional  economic thinking sees work creation as essential to provide economic growth. If this work is bad for health it is something that the market should correct, but all things that are negative for environment or health are counted as services sold and therefore make up economic growth so there is an incentive to retain “negative” activities as they help bolster GNP which is seen as generally a “good” thing.

Permaculture finances sees activity optimisation as essential to providing the services the community values whilst exerting responsible stewardship on the natural resources both health of humans and eco-systems in general. This is about reducing the amount of work (in physics terms) to provide the services of the commons.

It also values the job nature does. The permaculture approach gets nature to do as much of the work as possible.

Indeed, letting nature do as much of the work as possible is a cornerstone of permaculture.

Conventional business thinking puts a low value on physical labour and a high one on intellectual work. At the same time, physical labour, in suitable amounts and carried out properly, is good for you. In fact, being outdoors doing physical labour with others is pleasurable and healthy.

To add to the block “activities” brainstorm a list of things that need to happen to provide the services identified.

Just create a list from which you will be able to add to or take from and which you can check against the other blocks.

Do not worry at this stage if you have no idea of who will carry out these activities or where the equipment will come from. It is good to just list what needs to be done as later on you can work out what:

  • Needs special intellectual skills
  • Is best done by many at a time
  • Is best done by small groups
  • Gives good exercise
  • Needs careful supervision as it involves danger, etc

If there are natural groupings of these tasks, explore that, and explore if these groups map against any work groups or other organizational sub-divisions you might be considering.

The next thing is to work out the number of people needed for each activity and the annual number of hours need.

As a rule of thumb  count on a working year being about 1800 hours and a volunteer year maximum 400 hours.

Save these figures as you will be entering them into the object worksheets later on.

That is probably enough on activities for now but remember to park all questions and issues.







Updating the Objects Template

When you have worked through the activities needed to produce the service your commons members will be enjoying, it is time to start some quantifying work, and here the Objects Template can be useful. You can download the template as a word file or create your own excel document. For smart budgeting purposes, you can have one excel sheet per Object group. If you do this on paper use sticky notes because there will probably be quite a bit of rearranging. Continue reading “Updating the Objects Template”