Awakening the Greatest Regeneration

Get ready for the Greatest Regeneration!

Diana Ayton-Shenker


Maybe it’s a mid-life thing, but for the past few years I’ve been obsessed with these words from poet Mark Nepo: “I wish for you the courage to ask of everything you meet: what bridge are we?” Do we have the courage to ask? Do we dare?

What bridge are we?

How can we be the bridge spanning and spawning a new global agenda, an agenda of transformation, of regeneration? I can’t shake this question. It feels impossibly urgent.

Why does this feel so urgent? As human trespass surpasses the planetary boundaries required to support human life on earth, we face the potential of global systems collapse. It’s that urgent. This prospect is compounded by populist and popular resistance to the profound changes required to course correct human behavior and public policy. Furthermore, we see climate breakdown mirrored in growing social, economic, and political fragility and fracture, these fissures which fuel our collective anxiety and fear. Fear underlies and exacerbates indifference, divisiveness, narcissism, and the repudiation of civic norms and values. Fear can paralyze, or it can mobilize. I fear we can no longer afford paralysis; our prime directive is to mobilize.

Some claim that out of the Great Depression arose the Greatest Generation. What if out of the Great Recession, to counter potential systems collapse, we build the Greatest Regeneration? What would this mean? What would it take? The Greatest Regeneration means finding new and renewed ways to be generous, genuine, and generative. We need to start now, right where we are, in our own spheres of influence, stage of development, and reservoir of insight. We need to create, excavate and accelerate regenerative paths supporting the needs of people, society, and planet. This is the heart of a New Global Agenda, and the driving questions of our time. A New Global Agenda asks:

How can we be more human, become more humane?

How do we build, or regenerate, a world of viable and vibrant human life?

The Greatest Regeneration requires Essential Mindset shifts for collective impact. The Stanford Social Innovation Review suggests that the 1st step in “essential mindset shifts for collective impact” is to set a common agenda. A New Global Agenda highlights regenerative strategies, priorities, practices, and pathways to help us navigate our rapidly changing world. As Ghandi urges us to Be the change we want to see, we must also see the change we want to be. The vision of regeneration goes way beyond sustainability, beyond maintaining the status quo; beyond surviving to thriving.

Awakening the Greatest Regeneration inherently recognizes that regenerative transformation has already begun. Regeneration is happening and gaining momentum. We see this groundswell rising through emergent fields of regenerative medicine, agriculture, economics, design. We need to connect the dots to harness and amplify these movements into a massive global shift: a shift of essential mindsets, of behavior and being,of collective and individual action and consciousness.

How will we do this?

Manifesting large-scale social transformation is not limited to a linear process; it is a fractal design. Culture shift happens as a recurring, spiraling pattern. We see this pattern of regeneration swirling all around us, within our bodies, our biosphere, our atmosphere, and galaxies far far away. Nature inspires and implores us to awaken the greatest regeneration with examples from creatures as small as a tightly coiled millipede, as large as the curvature of an elephant’s trunk, from the unfurling frond of fern, to the stellar waltz of a binary star system’s spiral orbit around a common center of gravity. Even before we are born, the helix of our DNA and the arterial vasculature of the uterus are spirals; we literally come into this world nourished by regenerative fractals.

We must catalyze the fractals of regenerative change that are all of us. To catalyze is to initiate, innovate, instigate, inquire, inspire. This is an iterative process. We are less served by a series of static solutions, rather by understanding and pursuing iterative, agile, resilient practices. Life is not a ladder of achievement; it’s a lattice, a matrix of values-driven experience. We are here to catalyze this matrix.

The core values driving Regeneration are human interdependence, inclusivity, integrity, and love.

First, we must recognize the inextricable interdependence binding all of us together, the deep fascia of connective tissue between the collective and the individual. As regenerative beings, we embody the most fundamental and profound act of regeneration with every breath we take, exchanging air with each other, with our bio-ecosystems. As long as we live, we are alive. And we’re in this together.

Second, we must value inclusivity. The greatest regeneration is an inherently interconnected aspiration made real by bringing everyone to the table, ALL of us as partners: policy-makers & practitioners, philanthropists & investors, entrepreneurs & advocates, scientists & artists, healers & patients, students & teachers, our children & our elders. Inspired by poet June Jordan, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the ones, we are not alone, and there are many more to come. The Greatest Regeneration requires us to stand together with the Global Majority, not the “bottom of the pyramid,” nor the less pejorative “base of the pyramid”, rather with the breadth of humanity as the rising Global Majority.

Third, we must demand integrity, in ourselves and our leaders. While Stephen Covey asserts that change happens at the speed of trust, the pace of change has outstripped the rate at which we build trust. To accelerate trust-building, we must prove ourselves to be trustworthy. This means being accountable, authentic, honest, and showing up with our best selves. This means being more human and more humane. As Gerd Leonhart writes: In the face of geometric growth in technology innovations, and transformations, we need exponential growth in our humanity.

Finally, we must call on and cultivate love. Love is perhaps our greatest, yet underutilized, superpower, the ultimate renewable resource. Our capacity to love is universally accessible, affordable, infinitely elastic and precious. Critics say that human compassion, our demonstrable capacity for conscious kindness, holds the smallest market share of human behavior. I say our innate capacity for love, for pervasive altruism, is an undervalued stock. Let’s invest now.

This is how we will catalyze the Greatest Regeneration, be more human and become more humane. Our world needs this. Ready or not, it can’t wait.



Diana Ayton-Shenker

@daytonshenker is Global Catalyst Senior Fellow at The New School; CEO of Global Momenta; an author, poet, and the editor of “A New Global Agenda”.