Resilient Community Design

Building community resilience – the ability of whole communities to thrive in place over time with dignity, justice, and ecological sanity – is OAEC’s ultimate goal.

This video is a brief introduction to the steps that we use here at OAEC to facilitate groups in creating their own thriving, restorative ecological settlements. Over our 20+year history stewarding land/ water / wilderness, teaching permaculture design, living in intentional community, and participating in community-based organizing, we’ve developed a theoretical framework paired with down-to-earth, hands-on techniques that can be used by any group of land-based people according to their needs and their place. User-driven participatory methods are at the root of our approach because we believe all people have the right, the knowledge, and the ability to best determine an ecologically regenerative, economically viable and socially just future for themselves.

Permaculture Design in Haiti

A Resilient Community Design process facilitated by OAEC Permaculture Program staff in Haiti.

Click below to see more examples of OAEC’s Resilient Community Design in action!

 RCD Projects & Collaborations 


How Resilient Community Design Works

Resilient Community Design is a facilitated design process formatted into an accessible curriculum that can be used by groups of people in diverse cultures and locations. The curriculum follows a predictable pathway but is flexible in duration of process, frequency of engagements, techniques, languages, literacy, numeracy, numbers of participants and more. Each engagement is tailored to the community to fit their particular needs, desires, issues, and opportunities.


Outcomes of Resilient Community Design

The explicit goal of a design process is for a land-based community to create an ecologically and culturally regenerative design map for their site that can be implemented overtime.

Additional goals embedded in the process:

  • Growing ecological literacy and sense of place;
  • Magnifying sovereignty-thinking, community determination, self-governance, and a collective sense of agency by practicing group decision-making and communication;
  • Intensifying social cohesion and fostering relationships by working together;
  • Heightening personal well-being through greater social and ecological connection.

Conceptual Framework

Community resilience is the ability of human groups to adapt to changing conditions over time by developing social and physical infrastructure that can withstand external shocks. In Resilient Community Design (RCD) – OAEC’s adaptation of the permaculture design process – groups follow a set of steps to address their cultural, ecological and economic needs by 1) deepening ecological understanding of their place, 2) strengthening practices of self-governance through collaborative decision-making, and 3) increasing social cohesion and personal welfare through collective work. Thus, the three pillars of RCD – ecoliteracy, self-governance, and social/personal wellbeing – enhance a community’s long-term resilience capacity.


Resilience Depends on Bio-cultural Diversity.  Resilient Community Design provides a learning platform for communities to work towards greater resilience by recognizing that biological and cultural diversity are linked systems.  Bio-cultural diversity at the local or landscape level can also be understood as, “the causal relationship between ecosystem, species and genetics on the one hand and the richness and ecological knowledge, cultural values and practices, institutions, and language on the other hand” (Maffi, 2010, p. 5) which is essential for resilience – especially in these times of rapid environmental and social change at the local and global levels.


African proverb


Resilient Community Design is a methodology that developed out of our renowned Permaculture Design Program. For over 20 years, we’ve modeled and taught ecological design principles at our 80-acre research and demonstration site and have certified thousands of students from communities across the world. We also work with place-based communities as well as individual farmers, ranchers, and landowners to integrate ecological design principles and practices into their land and systems.

Learn more about Permaculture Design

Want to use Resilient Community Design with your group?

We look forward to sharing our methodology with other place-based communities and like-minded organizations who would like to collaborate with us!  For more information, or to inquire about RCD facilitation for your group, please contact Kendall Dunnigan at

Kendall Dunnigan