What is Regenerative Community Development, and why should you care?

Dr. Leah V. Gibbons
Regen Living
Published in
7 min readJul 14, 2022

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Regenerative Community Development is a change process that manifests regenerative communities, that allows ever higher levels of life, health, and wellbeing to unfold. The Regenerative Community Development Framework © provides a guide to support the shifts in human consciousness, thinking, and acting necessary to align us with life’s principles. It provides tools to support us in understanding and making sense of the complexity of life, life’s principles, life’s relationships, their emergence into conditions and realities, as well as our roles in the intricate dance of life and regeneration.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of ecovillages, or perhaps intentional communities. And you’re attracted to them, or at least curious. Maybe you’re even part of one now, or you were in the past but it didn’t work out (that’s to be expected — most fail). You want to live more sustainably, in integrity with your heart’s and mind’s desires and knowledge about the state of the world.

You need to know that you are not alone. Not by far. There is a wave of change manifesting a more thriving world, including people living or longing to live in community, in closer relationship with the rest of life. Regenerative Community Development, based on life’s and nature’s principles, provides a viable path toward that more thriving world and toward successful intentional communities.

So many people right now long to live in community. This longing reflects something we all know deep down inside — we are social inter-beings, meant to live in interconnected communities of human + more-than-human life. And living in community is how we are going to get through the global degeneration unfolding before our eyes, emerging from it in ways that are flourishing and thriving, joyous and fulfilling, healthy and harmonious for all life.

Living in community means we are highly attuned to the needs of whole living systems (human + more-than-human life) for them to be thriving, flourishing. It means knowing that humans are but one humble component of that whole, and we are in service to it. Thus, our own health, wellbeing, and happiness increase as the health and wellbeing of the whole increases. Through community, we act as conscious catalysts for all life to thrive.

Living sustainably, regeneratively is an ethical imperative as much as it is a practical one. We humans have created quite a mess on this planet. Since the industrial revolution, humans have caused unparalleled damage to Earth and her life systems: biodiversity loss (a human-caused mass extinction), habitat fragmentation and destruction, species extinctions, pollution, decreased human health, loss of sense of community, loss of food and water security, excessive and toxic resource consumption, decreased access to healthful foods, climate change, and degradation or unsustainable use of the majority of Earth’s life-giving resources, processes, and functions, just to name a few. We have created conditions that cause Earth to be at or beyond tipping points of life-supporting processes. It is questionable how much longer Earth can support human and other life, especially in familiar forms, and the speed at which we approach this unthinkable outcome is only increasing. We must change our ways NOW.

Technological responses alone to stop this degenerative spiral will not work. That is one of the problems that got us into this mess. We closed our hearts and our minds to the fact that we are inextricably linked to all life, and the health and wellbeing of any one part depends on the health and wellbeing of the whole. We used technological advances devoid of wisdom and compassion to destroy the life systems that support humans and all other life. You know this story. We are living it now. It is the story of the illusion of separation and the resulting fear, violence, and destruction wielded by humans on each other and the rest of Earth.

But there is another story emerging. We are living it now, too. We are at a unique time of transformation in how humans live on and with earth and all of her life. We are becoming much more conscious and aware of how our consciousness, thinking, and acting impacts others and Earth, of the interbeing of all things. We are changing what we do and how we do it. We are reaching out to form networks with others on this healing journey from the illusion of separation to the truth of our interbeing and co-creating thriving, flourishing communities and earth.

For this story of living our interbeing to be successful, we need guidance. Nature provides us with that guidance. Nature’s principles are life’s principles. When life’s principles unfold, thrivability and flourishing for all results. This is regenerative sustainability, or regeneration. Humans are not separate from nature — we are nature — but we have tried to escape the perceived constraints of life’s principles, pushing against them in damaging ways, resulting in our current escalating race off a cliff.

Consider this: all the ants on the planet, taken together, have a biomass greater than that of humans. Ants have been incredibly industrious for millions of years. Their productiveness nourishes plants, animals, and soil. Human industry has been in full swing for little over a century, yet it has brought about a decline in almost every ecosystem and life system on the planet. Nature’s principles produce more life. Humans’ perversion of nature’s principles destroys life. Which path would you like to follow?

To survive, thrive, and flourish, we must align with nature instead of trying to deny her.

Let’s get back to Interbeing. You see, all life exists in relationship, interbeing. That is the only way it can exist. Seen from the perspective of ecology, life exists in communities. Further, humans have always lived in communities — we are social beings. Our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the rest of life are essential for the shift to regeneration because it must occur through communities, through relationships with purpose (all life thriving) and structure (the structure found in nature). Also, working through communities catalyzes regeneration upscale, with bioregional and global impacts.

Regenerative communities, then, are place-based human + more-than-human holistic living systems in which humans understand that we are partners with the rest of life, in a co-creative dance. We act as conscious catalysts for all life to thrive. We understand the places we inhabit deeply and align ourselves with nature’s life-giving principles. We understand our community’s unique character and purpose in the larger communities we are part of, and act in ways that increase thrivability in those larger communities.

Regenerative Community Development is a change process that manifests regenerative communities, that allows ever higher levels of life, health, and wellbeing to unfold. The Regenerative Community Development Framework © provides a guide to support the shifts in human consciousness, thinking, and acting necessary to align us with life’s principles. It provides tools to support us in understanding and making sense of the complexity of life, life’s principles, life’s relationships, their emergence into conditions and realities, as well as our roles in the intricate dance of life and regenereation.

When we approach change within and beyond communities consciously and intentionally, transformational change can spread to other communities and larger scales of organization — e.g., cities, regions, the world — relatively quickly. We can catalyze regional and global transformation toward thrivability this way. Therefore, focusing our attention and actions at the community scale can be maximally impactful while also being deeply meaningful for our human experience.

What do Regenerative Communities look like? In Regenerative Communities, people live in ways that nurture more life. This includes many diverse strategies, within guiding regenerative principles and characteristics, that are specific to each place and to the inhabitants that co-create the community. There are several key aspects, or flows, to consider in regenerative communities. These include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Soil
  • Nutrients
  • Organisms
  • Finances
  • Infrastructure
  • Worldviews/Consciousness

We seek ways that these aspects can flow together to mutually support more life expression. Some examples of how this might be done include:

  • Homes and other structures built out of local, biogeological, renewable materials such as earth, hay, and timber.
  • Structures built by local inhabitants who develop skills in natural building, systems thinking, pattern language, compassionate communication, ecological knowledge, rituals to connect to the land and each other, and more. The community might support them in bringing these skills back to their own communities to help transform them.
  • Onsite rainwater capture, use, and reuse. When the water reaches the end of its use for humans, it is used to water food crops, or go back to nature to nurture other organisms and re-enter the water cycle.
  • Onsite farming using methods such as regenerative agriculture, Permaculture, and agroecology. Food production increases biodiversity, water quality, soil health, air quality, and human health and wellbeing. All community members are involved in food production, preparation, and consumption. Everyone knows how to grow food in a way that nourishes not just humans but the rest of life, as well.
  • Food production, harvesting, consumption is celebrated with rituals and ceremonies that deeply connect people to place, one another, Spirit.
  • Energy capture from the sun and other primary sources. Structures built such that very little energy use is needed. Community members’ behaviors are also energy conserving.
  • Ecological restoration is actively and continuously underway.
  • Earth-based rituals and ceremonies are ongoing.
  • There is no waste — everything is nutrition for some form of life, some life-giving flow — so everything is designed to cycle and nurture life
  • A community economy that cycles financial flow through community members. Cottage industries that spread regenerative practices throughout the region.
  • Governance that is deeply participatory and in which everyone is involved. Everyone has power.
  • Community members are actively working on their own personal growth as well as community growth — the inner aspects of regenerative development. They support one another in developing interbeing consciousness.
  • Compassionate communication is the norm.
  • Life is everywhere — from human-dominated gardens, farms, landscapes to wild forests, fields, and streams.

Again, the specifics of each community will be different and will be co-created within the Regenerative Community Development Framework’s © guiding principles and characteristics.

Learn more about Regenerative Development, as well as some of the organizations and collaborations working to manifest a thriving world.

And join us or reach out!!! After all, it takes a village, or a community, as it were.

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Dr. Leah V. Gibbons
Regen Living

Dr. Gibbons has created regenerative standards and is a cultural creative catalyzing shifts in living systems beyond sustainability toward toward thrivability.