The Regenerative Economic Shaper Perspective Paper — Part 5

A Framework for Architecting the Next Economy

The problem with the global economy isn’t how we do it, it’s how we think about it. The dysfunction and destructiveness of the current economy is all the evidence one needs for how bad our economic thinking is. Yet human intelligence has the inherent potential to create an economy that activates life — for people and the planet — if we shift the paradigm from which we’re thinking.

This paper is for those who want to create profound economic change. It provides a framework from which to innovate designs for the next economy.

Evolving a Practice of Regenerative Economics

To evolve a regenerative theory and practice, thinkers about economic change will need to reign in their dependence on outdated ideas while pushing their thinking into new territory. The developmental imperative particularly applies to this group of change agents, who are as prone as everyone else to collapsing into familiar patterns sourced from unconscious paradigms. In doing so, they unwittingly reinforce the dysfunctional systems they wish to replace.

Dismantling Certainty

It is not easy to unlearn and let go of everything one believes in order to recognize something genuinely new. The default position for most human beings is to cram new ideas into the old, familiar paradigm, regardless of how badly they fit. Then, because they don’t fit, one begins to alter the language used to describe them, altering their meanings in the process. We noted earlier that adopting a new paradigm is difficult, life-changing work. But it isn’t even possible to begin, if one isn’t willing and able to let go of certainty.

  • Did I find myself fitting these ideas into a frame of reference I already know?
  • Did I uncritically assume that I’m already doing what’s being described?
  • Did I find myself annoyed with the language, wanting to change it to terms that are more familiar and flow more smoothly?
  • Did I take an idea that was unfamiliar or hard to grasp and move it toward me rather than moving myself toward it?

Paradigm Discernment

The first step in building the capability of paradigm discernment is waking up to the fact that paradigms exist and have enormous influence on the ways that the world works. Pretty much everything that is dysfunctional about existing economies, everything that one is trying to change, is informed by paradigms that fail to adequately reflect a complex, living reality. How ironic then, that the only ways people know how to work on these problems are derived from the same paradigms. Society is trapped in a self-reinforcing loop that can only be addressed through a shift in paradigm — Einstein’s oft-quoted admonition to seek a solution from a different level than the one at which the problem was created.

Living Systems Framework Thinking

A framework is a way of mapping or revealing the underlying structure of a thinking process in order to understand or improve it. To generate or engage with increasingly complex orders of thought that mirror the complexities of a living, evolving world requires correspondingly complex frameworks. The hallmark of a true framework, and what distinguishes it from a mental model, is that it generates questions rather than supplying answers.

Self-Determined Accountability

It may be apparent that we are proposing a radical departure from economics as usual. To create an economy that works in harmony with the planet will require enabling every participant to become increasingly self-determining and committed to accountability for the systemic effects they produce. It will no longer be acceptable to give away one’s authority or responsibility to experts, asking them to do one’s thinking and decision making. Experts, in turn, will need to shift their role from supplying answers to resourcing the efforts of others to find their own answers by developing discernment and thinking skills.

A Developmental Economy

A regenerative economy is a developmental economy. It grows, thrives, and evolves to the extent that all of its participants are becoming increasingly intelligent about how to work within and contribute to the well-being of living systems. With regard to self-determined accountability, this can be a real challenge. It is one thing to say that one should set aside ego and learn to foster the self-determination in every person and system one encounters. It is quite another thing to do it. After all, everything in the existing infrastructures of education, design and engineering, policy, employment, and economic valuation are opposed to this way of conceptualizing social interactions.

In Summary

We have written this article for engaged practitioners, people who care deeply about addressing destructive economic impacts on the lives of people and the planet. Our aim is to provide a sound basis from which to explore a regenerative theory and practice of economics. We have proposed several key concepts that we hope will be useful in moving this exploration forward.



Articles by a collaborative community on using The Regenerative Paradigm based on 7 First Principles from indigenous wisdom.

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Carol Sanford

Sr Fellow Social Innovation, Babson |# 1 AmazonBest Selling/Multi-Award Winning Author | Regenerative Paradigm Educator