Investing from a Regenerative Mind
By Sidney Cano and Ben Haggard (with The Regenerative Economy Collaborative)
Regenerative investment is not really about what one invests in. It’s about how one thinks about investment and its effects. It depends upon investors who are willing to invest themselves.
Making higher order contributions to life on Earth demands that one move beyond conventional wisdom and accepted practice, in order to generate thinking that is genuinely new. This requires learning how to appreciate underlying dynamics and energies as a basis for creative strategies that enable systems to shift to higher orders of expression, bringing forward their unique potential.
A regenerative investor must cultivate a regenerative mind. This means being willing to go beyond training and experience in order to understand and work in the world in new ways. It is a comprehensive, demanding process. After all, it’s never easy to let go of one’s certainties, the things that have always worked in the past. But this is the kind of course correction that is needed at this critical moment in history.
The following framework (Fig. 3) offers a sense of the scope of a developmental process for growing new ways of thinking that enable one to discover and manifest inherent potential in living systems.
Essence-to-essence connection refers to the attitude that one must adopt, an attitude of understanding and respectful appreciation for the distinctive nature and inherent potential that lies within any living system. If we are to move from acting on to partnering with the natural systems, raw materials, local cultures, and human beings that our investments and businesses impact, then we must learn to connect with them as autonomous beings.
Systems evolution refers to the ability to see a world of process, dynamism, and flow, wherein life becomes increasingly rich, ordered, and complex as it unfolds its potential. This is true of the evolution of societies and economies as well as of species and ecosystems and it requires one to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity as foundations of creative thought.
Living systems thinking refers to the principles that enable the mind to pattern its activities in accordance with how living systems work. For example, living systems thinking emphasizes wholes rather than fragments, potential rather than existence, essence rather than generic categories, and so on.
Self-managing and self-determining refers to the need to build capability and capacity into the systems that one invests in. This is key to moving from extractive or authoritarian relationships with living systems, to regenerative ones. At the regenerative level, investment always seeks to grow the ability of communities, people, and ecosystems to successfully determine their own destinies. When this is the case, investors and businesses are rightfully seen as allies rather than predators.
Discerning levels refers to the ability to monitor one’s own thinking to see which paradigm is shaping it. Without this ability, one is unable to sustain work at a regenerative level and naturally reverts to a lower order of paradigm because of the engrained habits and social pressures to do so. (See more about discerning Levels of Paradigm [i]).