Harvesting the Wisdom of Networks: a Collective Narrative

On May 3, 2018, a group of thought leaders, practitioners, and supporters of the regenerative movement gathered for a participatory session on Harvesting the Wisdom of Networks at the first ever ReGen conference in San Francisco.

At the beginning of the session Dr. Beatrice Ungard and Dr. Stuart Cowan presented Regenerates Network by Regenesis (see the transcript of the presentation here) and Regenerative Communities Network by Capital Institute as examples that illustrate important questions about in-network and cross-network learning and regenerative qualities of a network.

After that the participants engaged in small group conversations about the highest potential for the networks they know, how these networks operate today, and what principles, strategies, and insights can facilitate in-network and cross-network learning to realize the potential for a regenerative future.

Participants’ reflections were stewarded and harvested through a process designed by the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership. These reflections that included video recordings and written notes were turned into a collective narrative — a text that links individual insights into a cohesive whole with minimum change of the original language.

Brian Kaminer, Bren Lanphear, Carla Marie Muñoz, Carrie Norton, Claudia Meglin, Dag Falck, David Michael Karabelnikoff, David Witzel, Desiree Kane, Devita Davison, Elizabeth Carney, Gretchen Grani, Gurpreet Singh, Jen Cates, Kristian Simsarian, Marianne Connor, Magenta Ceiba, Matt McFarlane, Melanie Dawn Weir, Motohiro Fukasawa, Naama Raz-Yaseef, Rachel Lynn, Rachel Miller, SooHyen Park, Tre Cates, Veena Harbaugh, shared their names with us so that we could give them credit for contributing to this collective narrative with their reflections.

Kevin Doyle Jones, a co-founder of ReGen18, shared some insights with the group at the beginning of the session and thus he too made a contribution to this narrative. Dr. Beatrice Ungard and Dr. Stuart Cowan also participated in the conversations. Other contributors remain anonymous.

This collective narrative is part of the report on the Network of Networks track presented by Dr. Stuart Cowan at the #ReGen18 plenary on May 4th and it is a resource for the Kyoto Charter — a crowd-sourced document on how to design/build regenerative and thriving societies.

This narrative is a living document. If you have comments, requests, or suggestions, please send an email to wisdomofnetworks@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Motohiro Fukasawa & Fyodor Ovchinnikov

In our conversations, we named a lot of diverse networks including B-Corp, agricultural networks, slow money, entrepreneurial communities, some physical spaces, and even TEDx that could provide some valuable opportunities for the regenerative movement. We noted that we all are coming from very different places and acknowledged the level of self-reflection in the room, the openness to meeting people where they are at and creating opportunities for collaboration and growth. We also recognized that there will always be tension points, so sometimes we have to let things go and sometimes we need to work through these tensions to come to a stronger solution.

The first thing that is very important to remember is that without the help of the community, a place-based community, we will never be regenerative. We need to work with the community locally because that ecosystem has to show up locally and has to see who wants it and who does not. This is why inclusivity is critical for regenerative networks on all their different levels, so we need to learn how to bring diverse people into our networks and practice regenerative work together.

Another critical challenge is to go beyond mere interactions into true engagement that supports the whole being including emotions, building stronger connections among individuals in those networks and across networks. So how do we facilitate inter-network collaboration? How do we facilitate the flow of information and create energy through the networks — really, how do we build momentum?

There are multiple very practical tools that we talked about such as one on one knowledge sharing, video conferencing, in-person meetings (both one on one and as groups), convenings, Slack channels, Google Drive, video recording, storytelling, recorded narrative — these practical technological tools are very valuable for learning, sharing, and scaling. These tools might sound obvious, but when used in conjunction with one another, they can create very powerful knowledge capture and sharing mechanisms both within and across networks.

At the same time, even the greatest technological infrastructure cannot substitute human interaction. Recognizing and nourishing our humanity is vital for regenerative networks, so we need to remember that sharing knowledge on the human to human level is essential. As we do that we need to treat regenerative networks as evolving living ecosystems, create conditions for diversity, complexity, and creativity, work on cultivating the sense of belonging, trust, and safety, break down barriers to access and design for inclusivity, develop protocols for sending and receiving in a way that supports reciprocity, allow for flexibility and free embodied engagement, invite inquiry, learning, and co-creation, reward self-reflective commitment, listening, self-balancing and self-healing, enable both place-based and global digital connectivity, build a shared context, agree on a conflict resolution process, compost everything that is no longer effective, set regenerative principles as a filter, and build health at the nodal level using ancient and emerging technologies that are available to us.

We also thought that it would be fascinating to start thinking about all our networks and ask the question: what might be the opportunities and the potential for starting cross-pollinating the idea of regeneration across all those very different networks so that we could start telling shared stories and generate a coherent narrative? As a concrete idea, we thought about using TEDx as a vehicle for sharing stories of regeneration and creating cohesion across projects and networks.

This cohesion is very important today as we see networks and projects working on the same problem and using almost the same approach, but still failing to see and intentionally pay a positive role in the larger context. This is why one of the biggest risks for emerging regenerative innovations is the pressure from the existing institutions such as the old “poverty industry” that love people staying where they are. For example, there is a business support group in San Francisco that gets money and has no success metrics, and so somebody who is showing real success is a threat to them. This is how old institutions are often hostile to successful innovators who formally share the same overarching goal with those very institutions — in this example, the commitment to end poverty. So at the current reality what we found is that network processes are really influenced by financial pressure. If there is any place in the network that’s extractive, the tendency is then for the network to either collapse or become extractive as a whole.

So the idea of a coherent narrative across networks is very important, but it is also vital to think about how we can allow such a narrative to evolve over time. How can we build this common vision but still be learning and evolving at the same time? There is a tendency to move very fast to address the challenges we face, but when we move too fast we actually forget about the principles of regeneration, so we need to learn how to slow down and really reflect on what matters to us, what is important, where do we want to go, and then act.

If our networks become truly regenerative and realize their highest potential, they will become living, evolving, naturally functioning environments where abundance and resilience are recurring outcomes of their underlying health. In that regenerative world, everyone’s creativity will be restored, cultivated, and grown infinitely. Regenerative networks will operate as living organisms, having the capacity to have their own awareness about themselves and cycles that each network as a whole as well as its individual components will be going through.

Like today’s Internet, regenerative networks of the future will be free, accessible, and inclusive. People will be welcome to hop on when they want to engage, to co-create, and when this desire is no longer there, it will be natural and easy to hop off. Like the Internet, regenerative networks will provide a send-and-receive protocol and facilitate “spontaneous cooperation”. Here is a related Buckminster Fuller quote from one of the ReGen18 sessions brought up by some of us to illustrate this idea: “Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Another concept that resonates with our image of regenerative networks of the future is the Blue Ocean. The ocean is big and blue for everyone. In the Blue Ocean future, everyone is a winner and everyone makes things happen by offering their gifts to the collective. If we choose this future, there will be no losers, and if we all pull together our talents, our abilities, our networks, and our resources then we can bridge all the gaps that we have now.

This regenerative environment is something that indigenous peoples had in their blood for thousands of years. Native Americans, as well as indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, have been doing this work for generations, and now there is an opportunity to meet our challenges together. For Native American tribes such as Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe here in San Francisco that means that their ancient technologies and knowledge would be fundable which would allow them to focus on being stewards of this land and regenerate their environment.

There is a lot we all can learn from indigenous peoples who have lived in regenerative communities for thousands of years. Their networks were strong and they all were appreciative of the land and the environment around them. Guided by the indigenous wisdom, we all should embrace the idea that we are here to protect the next seven generations to come. This will help us make sure that whenever we take we don’t take too much and it will also prompt us to come together and restore our planet for the future because we are preparing it for the next seven generations.

As we talked about regenerating our planet for future generations, we noted that change has a quality of being emergent under pressure. Sometimes humans need a crisis in order to change at the land level or the network level. There was a specific example where there was a fourth generation cattle rancher in Utah. The land on which four generations of his family lived for decades was dying, it was going to dust. It is because of the process that had been unleashed by this crisis, the rancher actually had the capacity to listen to a woman from the Bureau of Land Management that showed up with land principles. Because he was in a “need to know” kind of mood, he was able to shift his mindset to take advantage of something that before it became a crisis perhaps he wouldn’t be open to.

If we look at the historical timeline, the period of destructive colonialism is very short compared to the thousands of years when the Earth was inhabited by indigenous peoples. These peoples were responsible stewards of the land and there were abundance and beauty, and nothing was disturbed. As this all changed so dramatically over such a short period of time, we need to look for ways to regenerate our planet in a comparable period of time. With so many brilliant minds coming together to work on this, there is hope that this is achievable.

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A comment by Philippe Greier inspired by his Facebook exchange with Kevin Doyle Jones under the link to this collective narrative:

How does a regenerative format for a conference look like?
Here is my take on it. I guess we have the tools to stay in our local communities without the need to travel with airplanes (and cars) and spend lots of efforts and money to hang out with ourcrowd. That is not very beneficial for our earth at all.
Can we be wiser? Organizers spending a lot of efforts and force to bring people together while competing with more and more events and gatherings happening since the world is getting smaller. Participants paying for listening to stories and success examples but not being to participate in a co-creation endeavor is outdated. I am often thinking to myself when I am entering the room. “What does it take to activate the full potential of all people present with all their ideas, resources and abundance?” As Ray Podder puts it: all involved people could be co-investors.
A regenerative business model for events with immediate and long term impact. That is why we should bring the content that were discussed at the ReGen and various Impact Playgrounds to life. With indigenous leadership and co-ownership.
This is learning in networks — applied.

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Resources shared by the participants (to be updated):

  • Official ReGen page on Facebook with some videos from the sessions:

https://www.facebook.com/Regenecon/

  • The Regenerative Economy Group on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/theregenerativeeconomy/

  • Reports by track curators at the final plenary session (including Dr. Stuart Cowan reading excerpt from our collective narrative):

https://www.facebook.com/Regenecon/videos/230078394238251/

  • Presentation of the Regenerates Network by Dr. Beatrice Ungard:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-makes-network-regenerative-beatrice-ungard-ph-d-/?published=t

  • Music for Regeneration: Opening Night of Regen18 (Personal Reflections on #ReGen18 by Gary Gach):

https://medium.com/@nobodhi/music-for-regeneration-702c1cada2ea

  • The Role of Networks by David Witzel:

https://the-wave.ongoodbits.com/2016/06/03/the-regeneration-wave-it-takes-a-network

  • Narrative as Network Glue by David Witzel:

https://the-wave.ongoodbits.com/2018/04/25/regenerative-storytelling-narrative

  • Announcement from Magenta Ceiba:

Bloom Network has been developing some infrastructure for regenerative initiatives and communities/networks to share resources and wisdom with each other. It is peer-led by local chapter leaders on the ground who are community organizers attuned to many different communities in their regions. They produce events and media to help the broader public find what is happening and participate in regenerative culture.

In the next couple months, we’ll be implementing social media features online including a wiki for people to share best practices and find who is working on what in the regenerative culture area they’re interested in, interactive webcasts for networking and resource sharing, etc. You can connect via our website at http://bloomnetwork.org, and attend our conference, HiveMind, in San Francisco this fall. HiveMind is focused on collaborative action coordination.

We’re mostly designed to help scale up what is working well, and better connect regenerative culture makers across different sectors or movements so we can more quickly address climate change, divest/invest, etc.

One of the ways Bloom Network would like to contribute to the regenerativity and possibility of our networks, is to create an app that facilitates settlers contributing a portion of their income or purchases to the indigenous people of the land they live on, similar to the Shuumi Land Tax: http://sogoreate-landtrust.com/shuumi-land-tax/. Individuals as well as organizations could participate, for example a percentage of members’ dues could go toward this. The money would go to the tribal governance in or near each area. There are a lot of details to work out, but we’re looking for developers to participate in the governance hackathon at HiveMind.