By Meghan Ondrish

Seedling in Dirt

In order to bring transformative change, the Coaching for Community Transformation team is always on the lookout for innovative approaches to bring more value to their clients and communities. Lucky for them, they have Lily Hollister.

Lily is a recent graduate of the Coaching for Transformation program, and has spent the last year bringing her coaching skills to social and ecological movements. Her business, VUJA DEsign, is combining coaching and permaculture design to support individuals, organizations, and communities, including hers, that are polarized by environmental and social challenges.

So what’s permaculture? According to Wikipedia, it’s a system of agricultural and social design principles which simulate or directly utilize the patterns and processes observed in natural ecosystems. And as Lily describes it, “it’s a global grassroots movement designing social and ecological solutions for the challenges we face in order to create a regenerative and resilient future for people and the planet.”

Lily’s currently designing an approach to help people map themselves as ecosystems. “Social and ecological design have a lot of the same components,” she explains, “and most ideas and visions we have as people tend to follow the same kind of life cycles we see in nature. So I want to help individuals, organizations and communities design and implement their brilliant ideas by looking at how nature does it. After all, nature has millennia of R&D for us to learn from.”

She uses the metaphor of the tree frequently in her work—helping her clients move their ideas through the stages of seeding, rooting, shooting, budding, blossoming, fruiting, and finally to dispersing new seeds. Lily explains that each step of the process prompts conscious reflections to help bring an idea to life, like, What kind of seed am I? How long has this idea resided in me? When are the conditions going to be ready for my vision to sprout? What am I growing into? What kind of pollinators/collaborators do I need? What pests am I attracting? What’s the fruit — the finished product—going to taste like? How am I going to spread my idea like a plant disperses its seeds?

Looking at how diversity creates resilience in nature, Lily also aligns this with organizations and communities and aims to bring this principle into service of the groups she supports. “One of my favorite permaculture principles is ‘use edge and value the marginal.’ The edges of ecosystems are the most diverse, and therefore the most productive places, where unique species emerge. That’s the same within an organization or community; often on the outskirts of our communities we find the most marginalized people, the most diversity, and the most possibility for energy and ideas to emerge. We need to be looking to these edges for collaborations, which make our communities more inclusive and resilient, just like nature does. If you have a diverse ecosystem it’s less likely to collapse and it functions more or less synergistically. If you have a monoculture, it is almost certain to be weak and susceptible to disease and blight. I believe that our communities function in exactly the same way.”

With her unique but natural design and coaching skill set, Lily is already beginning to literally and metaphorically plant seeds for positive change throughout the world.