What Makes a Network Regenerative
The first ReGen conference was held in San Francisco on May 1st-4th; It gathered leaders in the regenerative field to explore ways to move beyond sustainability. The event included four tracks: Restoring the Earth; Regenerative Urbanism; Innovative Finance; and Networks of Networks. The participatory session on Harvesting the Wisdom of Networks was facilitated by Fyodor Ovchinnikov from the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership and began with two examples of networks that are currently being designed: I presented The Regenerates, a network of regenerative practitioners who have taken The Regenerative Practitioner Series offered by Regenesis Group; Stuart Cowan from Capital Institute presented the Regenerative Communities Network currently being developed by the Institute. Following our presentations, Fyodor Ovchinnikov engaged participants in small groups conversations around existing and emerging approaches to organizing in-network and cross-network learning as well as learning gaps that are yet to be bridged. Participants’ reflections were harvested by Fyodor and turned into a collective narrative.
Here is my presentation.
I want to begin with what I believe is an important question for the long-term vitality and viability of Networks: What makes a network regenerative?
If you image traditional networks based on interaction and information exchange, for instance, public safety networks; emergency alerts system; firefighting network; or even, many of our professional networks — are these Networks regenerative? I would argue, probably not…
There are two minimum conditions necessary for a Network to be regenerative, and not merely interactive: first, it needs to be purposeful in regard to adding value to the larger system it serves and, second, it needs to be developmental, i.e., it needs to evolve its value-generating capabilities — those of the practitioners and of the Network as a whole. Growing the capacity of a network as a whole is critical because, like any other systems, networks are subject to entropy, that is, the value they can deliver over time degenerates if they are not nourished by new thinking and capabilities developed at the nodes.
To explore these two conditions and what makes a network regenerative, I’d like to present The Regenerates as an example. This network is being developed by Regenesis, Santa Fe, NM — a world leader in the field of regenerative development. They were founded in 1995 as a collaborative including diverse professionals in the fields of education, permaculture and ecological design, and organizational and human development. Regenesis was the first to introduce the term ‘regenerative development’ to depict an alternative pathway to sustainability, one focused on enhancing the ability of living beings to co-evolve, so that our planet continues to express its potential for diversity, complexity, and creativity. Since then, they have worked on hundreds of projects worldwide.
Regenesis launched The Regenerative Practitioner Series (TRP) — a course on regenerative development and design in 2013. From the beginning, their aim was to develop a School for practitioners to continue to grow their regenerative capabilities. Regenesis held a premise: regenerative work requires capacity and capability development at 3 levels: the self (1st line work); the project team/community (2nd line work); and the larger system that is being regenerated (3rd line work).
Regenesis knew that in order for the work of practitioners to be truly regenerative these practitioners would need to be engaged in an on-going developmental process and, that this developmental process needed to be supported by, and take place within the context of, local communities of practice (2nd line work) because to self-develop over time without the support of peers or a community is very challenging. In this approach, regenerative practitioners work with one another around their 3rd line work to help one another evolve their capacity.
The idea for The Regenerates was to create place-based centers or nodes where multiple practitioners who had taken the TRP course were located and could work and support one another and continue developing their capabilities within a community of practice (CoP). CoPs facilitate critical mass learning around a shared language and practice and leverage the knowledge within the overall Network. Current nodes are: New Zealand/Australia; Mexico; Europe; Vancouver, BC: and in the US: San Francisco/Bay Area; and Austin, TX.
The purpose of the local CoPs is: To grow the capacity and capabilities of practitioners, coming together in place-based CoPs to create synergistic collaboration, in order to have transformative influence on the places and communities in which they work.
The purpose of the global Regenerates network is: To harvest learning at the nodes to deepen our theory base (in contrast to exporting best practices), in a way that supports the continuous re-invention (or regeneration) of our practice, so that The Regenerates become increasingly intelligent about regenerative practice.
How do we make a network regenerative?
The starting point is kind of obvious. Regenesis has launched multiples processes to support the aim of the network and of the practitioners. While we are expecting these processes to evolve as practitioners invent new approaches to support their work overtime, this is what we currently have in place:
- Place-based TRP courses to build local literacy in regenerative practices
- Place-based regenerative communities of practice working from and evolving a shared technology
- Monthly Continuing Practicum hosted by Regenesis
- Annual online Summit hosted by Regenesis
- Ways to support and amplify the work that is taking place locally at the nodes
- A website in development
To conclude, while there is definitely an emerging process taking place, Regenesis intentionally created The Regenerates to be regenerative by design, serving to support continuing evolution of the capabilities of practitioners’ and the network as whole. The aim is to create an energy field, or a movement, about regenerative work and practices that will sustain and evolve regenerative work over time while having increasingly more impact on the places and communities we serve.