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As part of our series on the megatrends we see emerging globally and locally, today’s focus—within the megatrend of Regen—is on the importance of regenerative systems and design into the future.

The climate is changing, requiring fundamental shifts of focus and mindset at all levels of society. The science and approaches to planetary healing continue to emerge as does the language to talk about it, making it difficult to wrap our arms around what’s needed. We can get lost in the terminology. We hear about green and sustainable businesses that consider a wide array of environmental, economic, and social factors when making business decisions, including the triple bottom line and corporate social responsibility. Is there farther to go? Leading from the edge, offering the most innovative solutions means we must go beyond sustainability and begin to understand the importance of the regenerative. 

At Continuum, we partner with people doing good in the world and equip them to be their best. We’re fortunate to have had the Alliance Center/Regenerative Recovery Coalition in Denver, Colorado, as a partner and client for the past several years, facilitating the development of their strategic framework and learning from their commitment and expertise on regenerative systems.

At a presentation to the Experiential Training and Development Alliance [ETDA] Conference, January 2022, we asked Brenna Simmons-St. Onge, executive director of the Alliance Center, to talk us through a map of the territory they work in every day. We have found it so insightful to have these distinctions and ways of thinking as we take our place in contributing to a sound future for all. We thought it could be useful to you, too. Here’s a quick excerpt from that presentation.

What is Regenerative Thinking/System Design?

What should we know as business owners and leaders and consultants about the difference between sustainability and regenerative practices?

Here is one of my favorite graphics that describes the continuum of sustainable vs. regenerative models.  It basically plots the spectrum from conventional reductionist design or mechanistic design thinking all the way up to the regenerative.

The Sustainable into Regenerative Model derived from Bill Reed at the Regenesis Group

Conventional: On the far left, we see the kind of Conventional business-as-usual exploitive, siloed reductionist thinking and scarcity models, where a lot of people, companies and organizations still operate today.

Green: When we go one step forward, there’s Green which is kind of doing ‘less bad’.  You’re still on the left side of that spectrum, but you’re starting to make movement toward the sustainable.

Sustainable: Right there in the middle of the spectrum is Sustainable, which is just merely sustaining a system, not making it worse, not making it better, just keeping it in motion as self-sustaining. Importantly, it’s not repairing the harm that has been done, and we have done a lot of harm to each other and to the planet that needs to be healed before we can move forward and really elevate collective consciousness.

So, as you can see, sustainability is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the end destination. We have a way to go from there.

Companies regularly contact me, saying “Brenna, I can just about wrap my head around being sustainable. Now I have to be regenerative?  I just got here–tell me it’s good enough.”

And my response is that it’s an imperfect journey, and every step along the way is worthy of celebration. It’s really important that you know we don’t have to strive for perfection, but let’s strive for progress, getting as far as we can toward the right side of the spectrum, to the regenerative.

Restorative: As we start to move from sustainable into regenerative, the restorative is the middle ground, where we start to heal, where we go beyond just making a mess and begin cleaning it up.

Regenerative: Regenerative work is healing. It’s actually being net positive–not making the mess to begin with–and healing the systems, healing the way we interact with ourselves, with each other and the natural world.  It gets into more holistic design thinking where we really understand the interconnectedness of all things and all life.

Nature is naturally regenerative, and we have actually interrupted those processes up to now.

So, how do we then bring the regenerative into the systems that humans design?  

We have to go back to the basics, return to our roots and really look at biomimicry as we design the systems that govern society.

Find Out More

We invite you to  learn more about the Alliance Center work and their Regenerative Recovery Coalition. Individuals and organizations can join, no matter where you live and work.  The coalition started in and for Colorado but now is becoming a national force for regenerative recovery.

Brenna Simmons-St. Onge  As Executive Director of the Alliance Center, Brenna works day in and day out to create an equitable, inclusive and sustainable future. With a background in corporate social responsibility, she spent more than ten years developing and implementing sustainability programs for some of the world’s leading hotel brands. She was named one of the top 25 Most Influential Young Professionals in 2015 and received the City of Denver’s Community Builder Sustainability Award in 2017.