Regenerating refers to designing systems and practices that take a holistic systems approach to solving environmental, social and economic problems—aiming to restore, rejuvenate and liberate.
In other words, beyond reducing or preventing future harm to people or planet, we proactively focus on reviving a better tomorrow—one that is more sustainable, flourishing and just. The mindset is one of openness and abundance rather than retreat and scarcity.
We conceptualize regenerating as interlocked—viewing “social” and “ecological” regenerating as intrinsic to one another, operating at the individual, collective and systemic scales.
Interlocked “social” and “ecological” regenerating
We believe that as humans, we have the potential to spark more life—and more thriving—for one another and for the living ecosystems in which we live. In this sense, it is impossible to be fully regenerative without a mindset that pays attention to both “society” and “nature”. For example, if we are attempting to restore nature but do it in a way that hurts marginalized members of a community, it means that we are causing degenerative outcomes which undermine our positive impacts. Not only would this not be holistically regenerative, but even the ecological restoration may be unsuccessful or unsustainable.
As such, social and environmental justice and ecological regenerating must go hand-in-hand. For example, one could imagine the rise of green, regenerative jobs for workers that enable the restoration of ecosystems, thereby mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. One could also imagine that these projects advance gender and racial equality through diverse leadership. If we can let go of degenerative thinking and learn regenerative mindsets, values and behaviors in its place—the possibilities are endless.
This means moving towards realizing a world in which everyone belongs equally, that is committed to our collective equity and emancipation in full acknowledgement of historical social injustices.
As innovators who value historical knowledge in designing systems change efforts, we are aware that innovation and its impacts are not removed from historical context. Rather, they are part of overlapping stories across past, present and future. We take a holistic view of social regenerating whereby physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs are all considered, and where interventions are designed for these needs rather than for abstract goals such as “growth”.
Current institutions are degrading the ecosystems and planet on which we depend. Ecological regenerating means moving toward a radically circular economy in which all production and consumption cycles are designed “earth-to-earth”.1 Regenerative institutions do not simply reduce or halt future environmental damage, but they find innovative ways to regenerate or build upon what has already been lost.
Interlocked individual, collective and systemic regeneration
Our approach allows us to push multiple, interdependent pressure points for systems change. Our praxis communities foster interlocked regenerating at the individual, collective and systemic scales, in part because the radical regenerative systems change we desire cannot happen without attending to and balancing all of these.
In a world where many of us feel that we are often pushed to giving more while draining ourselves in the process, we recognize the importance of individual restoration and deep reflection. We believe that “inner” regenerating must be cultivated in tandem with “external” regenerating—that is, we must continually reflect on and nourish our inner lives—for example our health, values, habits and ways of thinking.
By turning our attention inward, we are able to uncover some of the ways in which we unintentionally embody degenerative habits and expectations. As we begin to see more connections between our thoughts, bodies and habits and the world around us, we can imagine ourselves more as one part of a web of life and move away from the construct that we are discrete, separate individuals. This kind of work broadens possibilities for creativity and allows us to push for systemic regenerating more effectively and sustainably.
Regenerative systems change requires cultural change, which happens both individually and collectively. Our communities of praxis are the collective substrate that allows us to shift toward more regenerative cultures. By building and strengthening social solidarity through these diverse communities committed to a collective project, we enable regenerative cultures to be embodied and further diffused more widely through our members’ social networks. At a time when social divisions proliferate in many parts of the world (a symptom and contributor to degeneration), a regenerative response is one that reignites social solidarity and trust.
By deepening our relationships with one another through a shared journey toward regenerative praxis, we are also stronger in the face of challenges to our mission. As we aim to foster diverse communities—in terms of expertise, economic, racial, gender, age, ability, etc.—we fortify our protective net. This is crucial in light of the inertia of the degenerative status quo, which maintains power in part by suppressing and eliminating threats to its interests. Our strategy of depth and breadth of collective solidarity enhances our defenses and equips us to respond more innovatively to attacks.
We believe that an approach grounded in praxis has a much better chance of effecting the scale of systems change we want to see, compared to the status quo. For example, we might see more catalytic levers pulled for systems change or innovative solutions that are regenerative. We might also see better execution of specific projects from improved knowledge sharing. Lateral network-building and ideas sharing will spark unexpected connections and initiatives for regenerating.
As our communities grow and evolve, we aim to champion the promising regenerative projects and systems change initiatives that will emerge. This involves intentionally fostering connections with potential donors, investors and other resources, as well as spreading awareness and galvanizing support for these efforts in critical early stages. It also means supporting projects to navigate the inevitable barriers they will face from entrenched interests that will view them as threats.
Ultimately, we desire the institutionalization of regenerative systems—this requires initiatives that span the public, private and civil society spheres. Lively Worlds aims to support this new wave of institutions through the networked scaling of regenerative projects, empowered by praxis.
Together, we can collectively steward a better tomorrow.