A profound way to contribute to the shift towards a Regenerative Economy — Part 1
Beyond implementing models and processes: the need to enable societies to manifest a paradigm shift
By Sidney Cano (Author) and Karryn Olson (Editor) with The Regenerative Economy Collaborative
In recent decades, we have heard of the need to change the economic dynamics we´ve developed as humanity up to today. In many circles, it is now accepted as a fact that the current system is limited and change is imperative. But, what does it take to effect real change?
Economists and institutions employ economic analysis as a starting point, to look into what´s missing at the micro- or macro-economic level, using their knowledge about dynamics that arise from productive activities. However, this might not bring a significant and profound change.
An economy arises from the way humans live together and relate to the planet we inhabit, so it is necessary to ground our understanding of the purpose of an economy in paradigm of Regenerate Life. It is from this new way of thinking that the generation of radically new patterns of economic dynamics become possible. To effect this change systemically and expediently, all the actors involved — business groups and investors, governance boards and councils, civil organizations, cities and citizens, etc. (this means all of us!) — need to be able to think differently.
This article explores the need to develop all the stakeholders’ intelligence regarding the way we think about and engage in the development of an economy from the Regenerative paradigm.
Some approaches to change towards a new economy
In the effort to leave behind the economic models based on the belief of infinite growth and extractive practices, experts and institutions promote different methods, strategies, and tactics that incorporate social and environmental considerations. It is increasingly common, for example, to see government efforts such as generating restrictions or fines for “inappropriate” behavior, or incentives for those who adopt actions and practices in accordance with new policies for better socio-economic development. Some examples of this “stopping harm” approach are restricting the distribution and use of single-use plastics, promoting the adoption of the circular economy, or incentives for businesses and companies that implement the use of renewable energies.
A large-scale example of these efforts is the commitment of the city of Amsterdam to reactivate their economy using the new model of the Donut Economy (a concept developed by the British economist Raworth). The city plans to reduce the consumption of new resources and materials up to 50% through recycling, reuse, and extension of the useful life of materials and products. This will be enacted through a “materials passport,” measures for restaurants and hotels to donate food to avoid waste, incentives for the use of more sustainable materials in the construction of buildings, etc. Also, the use of biometric technology is envisioned as a way for Amsterdam to easily track, monitor and recover resources, and better innovate circular solutions.
In another example, the European Economic and Social Committee (CESE) is steering European governmental and other entities, towards the Wellbeing Economy, “an economy designed to deliver social justice and environmental health.” The Wellbeing Economy Alliance aims to facilitate collaboration and cooperation among its members through building a coherent knowledge and policy evidence base.
Yet another approach is the economy of the Common Good (ECG), in which businesses use the Common Good Matrix to produce new kinds of balance sheets that show how fair, sustainable and transparent they are — measured by “social, ecological, democratic and solidarity” criteria. This enables consumers to choose products and services with a higher score, and governments to create advantages for ECG businesses.
All these approaches can be commended… We need a change, that is undeniable!
However, it is crucial that we pause and consider how it is that we think of designing and implementing change processes:
• Where does the inspiration or intention for these changes come from?
• What is the quality of the relationship between those who promote the change and the System in which the change is sought?
• What must we stop, or evoke, to really make a difference?
- What is the nature of process that creates conditions for meaningful and sustainable change?
The approach from which the change emerges affects the level of Effect we can have.
If we want to bring about change that produces dramatically different outcomes, it is necessary to disrupt our fundamental understandings about how change occurs. We do this by examining how we think about and approach change processes.
Yunkaporta, in his book “Sand Talk: How indigenous thinking can save the world,” shares an interesting perspective: In his quest to understand what will lead us to sustainable changes, an Australian aboriginal matriarch, who has carefully observed human processes for decades, shared this with him: “…non-aboriginal people (…) always begin with the last step: Direct. Government agents come into the community with a plan for change and they direct activities toward this change immediately. When it all fails, they go backward to the next step: Reflect. They gather data and measure outcomes and try to figure out what went wrong. Then, they realize they didn´t form relationships with the Community. So, belatedly they go to the next step: Connect. Through these relationships, they discover the final step — which should´ve been the first — finding a profound respect for members of the Community they ruined. They cry as they say farewell and return to the city, calling: “Thank you! I´ve learned so much from you!”
 Tyson Yunkaporta senior research fellow on Indigenous wisdom. Who wrote Sand Talk: How indigenous thinking can save the world.