Regenerative Cultures – Creating a Cycle of Abundance
Capitalism has created a cycle of scarcity that cripples our capacity for systemic change making. It is imperative that we break this cycle of scarcity in order to support the work we need to do to heal both the exterior damage (on the planet, humans and other species) and the interior damage (historical and current trauma). This will allow us to move from a paradigm of dominance and control to one of partnership and trust, transforming both our concept of ourselves and our ways of working from homo economicus to homo reciprocans.
The work of regenerative culture making involves three interrelated and mutually reinforcing areas of practice which together form the Regenerative Triad. The purpose of the Regenerative Triad (RT) is to enable communities to break out of the scarcity cycle (fear) and build a virtuous self-enforcing regenerative cycle (safety) by helping them to:
- Understand the underlying conditions that inhibit progress, and design projects and interventions that interconnect the different areas of the triad and re-inforce the effects of each.
- Develop alternative satisfiers to the 9 fundamental needs to liberate communities from being ’locked in’ to old destructive practices, both on the inner and outer level. (Guillen-Royo, 2018:93)
- Explore the effects of the Place – Time – Power deficit in their communities and ensure projects to reclaim Regenerative Space are designed into their programmes.
The three nodes that form the triad are:
- Restore – acts that halt destruction and repair structures and systems
- Connect – projects that reconnect us to people and place
- Heal – projects that help our bodies, hearts, minds and communities heal from collective trauma
The reason I have chosen these three ‘nodes’ is because, in my experience working with and within community change making groups, people often tend to fall into one of these three categories –either through their preference, personal qualities or skills set, or a combination. At times of tension (often associated with scarcity of time, space, money – see above) groups tend to divide along these lines. Each group tends to emphasise the importance of their actions above that of their counterparts. Rarely do groups acknowledge and emphasise the importance of these other spheres, understand the dynamics between them and capitalise on the opportunities to work in solidarity and grow together, building a reinforcing cycle where each sphere boosts the strength and impact of the other. I believe we need conscious strategies to boost solidarity or we risk ‘competing to save the planet’, another expression of the legacy of capitalism.
The three areas feed into each other, each serving to strengthen the foundation of the other. Lack of capacity in one or more of these areas, impacts the other areas and the regenerative capacity of the whole. For example:
- When unresolved trauma gets acted out in groups it has the potential to hijack the group’s broader goals
- Lack of support in the areas of healing and local connection may lead groups working in frontline activism to burn out. Fighting a big fight and returning to a community lacking in strong connection to place and people and ways to meet needs independent of the system one is fighting, can lead to frustration and cognitive dissonance.
- When local groups keep coming up against systemic barriers to their projects with no capacity to address them they may lose courage.
- When local groups give little time for interpersonal relations due to pressures to ‘do’ instead of ‘be’ they can become disconnected and suffer burn out.
- When local groups fail to address internal dynamics through lack of understanding and holding capacity around these issues the group may disintegrate.
- When communities fail to understand the systemic issues they may remain focused on only healing the internal trauma or, (worse still), focus on the individual aspects of trauma rather than connecting it to the larger system
- When trauma becomes identity, groups may become tribal and disconnect from larger issues and common goals that can build solidarity.
Communities that remain trapped in a cycle of scarcity run the risk of fragmentation, disillusionment and burn out, and in worse cases may become susceptible to fascist rhetoric i.e. strong leader and violent responses
Conversely, when a community understands and can strengthen the mutually re-enforcing dynamics of the Regenerative Triad they are able to grow the Regenerative Culture of their area.
Restoration includes actions that halt the damage currently taking place, as well as those focused on righting systemic wrongs, both material and social. Most of the rights we now take for granted have been won by challenging dominant structures through legal and non-legal means, often with significant loss to personal safety or even lives.
In recent years and months we have seen uprisings across the globe in defense of the land, water, biodiversity, indigenous culture, democracy, human dignity. Campaigns challenging our systems of
justice, finance, education and land management continue to gain momentum.
• Protests by Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Fridays for Futures have galvanised a global climate movement, pushing the climate crisis higher up the agenda than any previous actions and shifting our perceptions of what is politically realistic. XR’s system of selforganising circles also provides a live experiment in new ways of participation and governance, which enable all voices to be heard.
• With the murder of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests have erupted across the world, leading to a global call to action on racism. Source: CodePink
• 600+ civil society groups have signed an open letter urging governments around the world to ‘take a lead in ensuring countries around the world do not face a wave of investor-state dispute
settlement (ISDS) cases arising from actions taken to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis’. Source: (Johnson, 2020)
• Ongoing protests in Belarus, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, and Bolivia centre on issues of corruption, inequality and political freedom.
• Proponents of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) are challenging the politics of austerity and longstanding assumptions of how money functions in an economy, with the proposal of a Job
Guarantee, in some cases linked to a Green New Deal to address the mounting climate crisis. Others are campaigning for a Basic Income to ensure each citizen has enough to live a decent life without having to resort to wage slavery.
• Movements challenging the concentration of land ownership in the hands of the few are calling for a Land Value Tax, public land buy-backs, and National Land Trusts, amongst other solutions.
Source: (Parvin, 2020)
• Rewilding campaigns calling for the large-scale restoration of ecosystems are gaining momentum, with 82% of Brits in favour of reintroducing extinct species to the UK.
Source: (Pheby, 2020)
• In a radical move, Barcelona’s municipal government is planning a forced-buyback of vacant properties at half the market value to provide affordable housing to their least well off residents.
Source: (O’Sullivan, 2020)
Acts of Restoration may be driven by local communities, but have a global focus and an
understanding of the collective nature of our struggles. By remaking conceptual, legal, economic
and organizational frameworks they have the potential to break existing Place – Time – Power
dynamics and can provide potent satisfiers for the needs of Freedom, Participation and Creation,
while simultaneously liberating Regenerative Space for the functions of Connection and Healing.
Acts of Connection include projects that reconnect us to people and place. They strengthen the fabric of communities, help us reframe our ideas of value and wealth, and can create powerful lasting satisfiers for all nine fundamental needs. The chart below gives examples of practices and their potential to satisfy one or more fundamental human needs:
Acts of Connection play an important role in forging local identities and developing bonds of trust that are necessary for building regenerative cultures. Connecting frees energy for acts of Restoration and aids the work of Healing.
“Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality. Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits. Trauma in a people looks like culture.”
Resmaa Menakem (On Being podcast, 2020)
In this area are practices designed to heal the collective trauma of the scarcity cycle and the interrelated traumas of classism, racism and colonisation. These impacts can be felt from the individual body to the body of the community, town, nation, world.
Creating spaces for collective healing in communities allows us to recover our intrinsic values and desires, our sense of humanity, our innate strengths and our capacity for empathy and joy. They can help us remember that we have an actual right to be well and that our lives mean more than what we produce and consume within a capitalist paradigm. They offer us the space to reclaim our cultural imagination and rebuild our relationships with each other.
We’ve had 100+ years of psychotherapy, focusing on the individual, and – as James Hillman pointed out in his book by the same name – ‘the world is getting worse’. Perhaps we have reached the limits of this approach, reached ‘peak individuality’ and it is time to recognise that neither our suffering nor our healing is ours alone. We heal for our communities and our society and, ultimately, the earth.
Healing requires the development of community practices that restore safety and give space to acknowledge and recover from collective trauma. These may include:
- Restorative circles – This is a community process designed to support those in conflict. It brings together the three parties to a conflict – those who have acted, those directly impacted and the wider community – within an intentional systemic context, to dialogue as equals.
- Listening spaces – This is the slow work of simply being together, offering each other our undivided attention so we can be seen in our full humanity. They allow for deep connection and the emergence of new ways of relating, creating and learning.
- Somatic therapies – As cultural trauma is held in the body, working with the body can help us connect with and regulate our nervous systems, restoring our connection to ourselves and others.
- Nature connection – Nature connection practices have the double advantage of healing our nervous systems while allowing us to experience our interconnectedness. Experiencing ourselves as interconnected beings in a supportive world helps us see how our own healing is linked to the healing of the earth.
- Theatre, play and improvisation – Momentarily suspending everyday reality and awakening our innate playfulness and imagination can allow the emergence of new stories and new ways of being that free us from constricting patterns and expand our sense of possibility.
- Healthy food, fresh air and enough sleep are essential for healing. Communities can take part in Acts of Connection to ensure that these are available and where not support the acts of Restoration directed towards these areas.
Acts of Healing help build trust in our communities and aid the process of Connection. Practices that help us acknowledge and assimilate past hurt can release the energy required to take part in Acts of Restoration.