Investing from a Regenerative Mind
Evolving the Role and Practice of investment — Part 3
By Sidney Cano and Ben Haggard (with The Regenerative Economy Collaborative).
A regenerative investment approach will require rethinking assumptions about what success is and how to measure it.
Assessing if investments are Regenerative
To some extent, current impact investment practices are locked in by the metrics they use to indicate success. A regenerative investment approach will require rethinking assumptions about what success is and how to measure it. This means shifting attention away from narrowly defined, easily measured results or outcomes, and turning it to systemic effects leading to changes in the state and capacity of the system. To help make this shift, one might ask the question: “To what extent has a system grown its vitality, viability, and preparedness for evolution? And how do we learn to evaluate such changes?”
Appropriate indicators of success are important. They create transparency for investors, and they reassure other stakeholders that an initiative is fulfilling its intended purpose. However, they must be designed carefully if they are not to undermine the systemic potential that a regenerative investment is designed to foster. The following set of questions are offered as a starting point. (Figure 4) When answered concretely (that is, with regard to a specific investment in a specific social and ecological context) they may open up new insight into the effects that an investment is producing.
For example, Playa Viva — an eco-resort located in Jolochuca, Mexico — has managed to be a sustained regenerative force within its community.
As a direct outgrowth of its business activities, the resort has: stimulated the growth of ecological agriculture in the region; promoted a cooperative of artisanal sea-salt producers; identified new channels and products for local builders, materials, and crafts; revitalized the economy and social dynamism of the adjoining village; and helped poachers of the area’s endangered sea turtle populations transform themselves into knowledgeable guardians of what has become a significant ecological, cultural, and tourism resource.
In this way, the flows of financial, human, intellectual, and natural capital that created Playa Viva have not only built a successful and internationally recognized business. They have also produced regenerative, systemic effects that continue to compound and grow over time.[i]
Investors have a critical role to play as change agents and shapers of a new economic dynamic in a rapidly changing world. This is true for all kinds of investors, from governments, to private funds, to philanthropies, to business-owners. Each of these investors, if working from a coherent understanding of living systems, have the potential to contribute to evolving the way humans inhabit their planet.
There are no recipes, procedures, or best practices for this, because each living system is unique, and the manifestation of its potential depends on internal development and creative participation. But in the absence of a one-size-fits-all approach, the way forward can be found in cultivating a regenerative mind on the part of each investor and community of investors.
Note: For investors who are interested in pursuing this further, a growing body of literature and practice is emerging with regard to cultivating a regenerative mind, you can take a look at resources of particular interest, as well as articles published by The Regenerative Economy Collaborative.[ii]
We thank our reviewers from The Regenerative Economy Collaborative for the comments and suggestions they provided about this article.
For more on The Regenerative paradigm: https://medium.com/the-regenerative-economy-collaborative/the-regenerative-economic-shaper-perspective-paper-part-2-418f35369ded
[ii] You may want to read:
- “The Regenerative economic shaper” chapter in The Regenerative Life: Transform any organization, our society, and your destiny book by Carol Sanford. Nicholas Brealey publishing.
- Sanford, Carol (2011). The Responsible Business: Reimagining sustainability and success. Published by Jossey-Bass.
Also, if interested in participating in a developmental community of investors, please follow this link.