Permablitz in Practice: Host Learnings

Volunteer standing next to an activity poster for a vegetation corridor

Last month I was fortunate enough to host around 25 volunteers for a Permablitz at our home. A Permablitz is a hands-on opportunity for like-minded people to come together for a working bee; to learn from, laugh with and practice permaculture together while getting projects done.

Here are my key learnings from hosting such an event.

Open communication at all times

Hosting, participating and coordinating a Permablitz gives a massive sense of achievement to all involved. It genuinely is a community project and requires everyone to work together. Whether it’s preplanning with the Permablitz Volunteer Coordinator, rallying the community to source resources, empowering volunteers on the day or celebrating the achievement, everyone wants to be involved and communication is key to that.

Conduct preliminary walk throughs

To set the day up for success, get out of the house with pen, paper and flamboyance to act out all the steps needed to complete a task that you will be asking your volunteers to do. While moving from one step to the next, jot down what’s needed to complete the task. You may like to divide your paper into columns labelled overall ‘task’, ‘steps’ to be undertaken, ‘resources’ needed, ‘tools’ required and ‘notes’ for any specialist skillset or contextual nuances. This gives you the best possible foundation to ensure that you have what you need.

Create project activity sheets

Now that you have done your walkthroughs, you can easily write up an activity poster to show nearby, with the name of the project, the recommended steps and even a little sketch. I say ‘recommended steps’ as everyone, including you, will be approaching these tasks with various experience and expertise. You have the privilege of knowing what resources you have and time to research any task prior to the day, but I encourage you to keep an open mind and see what collective wisdom brings.

Example of project activity sheet

Make serving food on the day as simple as possible

As a host, you will be bombarded by questions the whole day, so don’t be caught alone, having to juggle feeding both information and food to your wonderful volunteers. I highly recommend having someone assist you with catering on the day. Pre-prepare all meals, as 25+ people creates a lot work in the kitchen beyond cooking, such as washing up and preparing for the next round of sustenance, especially if you avoid single-use plates and cutlery. This is especially important if you have kids to look after as well.

Set expectations and create a shared sense of accomplishment

This can be a balancing act throughout the day. On one hand, your volunteers want to feel like they are contributing, yet at the same time, they want to see all tasks completed the end of the blitz. These two perspectives didn’t present themselves clearly until later in the day when a volunteer was deeply apologetic for not ‘completing’ a project. I had been working from the perspective of ensuring that there was enough activities for volunteers so that they weren’t standing around wondering what to do. What this balance looks like will differ depending on your context, however I’d recommend:

  • Include projects that are co-located or close by each other. Volunteers want visibility and quick responses so that they can continue their flow. Having activities in distant locations is difficult to manage.
  • Sense check progress throughout the day and coordinate volunteers to focus on areas that may need some additional help
  • Chunk out the activity posters. Start with what the minimum tasks required to ‘complete’ the project. If you identified ways to chunk out your projects during your walkthroughs, you can always draw up additional tasks if time and resources allow.
Volunteers at Matt & Lyndal’s permablitz

I’d recommend hosting or volunteering in a Permablitz. It’s empowering, uplifting and relationship-building. I hope these tips give insight and enables others in co-ordinating and hosting their own Permablitz.

Words and images by Matt Cole