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Design, Education, Marine Permaculture, Regenerative Principles

In the spring of 2016, Terra Genesis began working with Regenerative Seas, a nonprofit organization looking to work on the interconnected systems of marine conservation and coastal community well-being. The organization was born out of a response to the atrocities taking place in the marine environment and the simultaneous exploitation of coastal communities in the name of eco-tourism and development. There is an international phenomenon occurring wherein members of the concerned scientific community see that fisheries are being over-harvested and even species that are illegal to fish are being decimated by fisherman in rural areas (often to supply the large demand of Chinese markets, i.e. shark fin soup, manta ray gills, etc). The solution to this problem that is often proposed is bringing in eco-tourism to give the local people an alternative (and potentially higher) income stream that will simultaneously build an appreciation for the preservation of the marine ecology. A healthier reef system will bring more divers. What the Regenerative Seas organization has started documenting is that often these promises of uplifting the local people go unfulfilled. The ecotourism solution acted more as a premise that helps dive companies get a foot in a door and to some degree fulfill their agenda of preserving the marine environment (and profits), but the stated goal of uplifting local people is ignored. Take the example of Mabul, Malaysia for example.

Mabul, Malaysia – An island wrecked by “eco-tourism” One of the first locations that Terra Genesis was invited to visit was Mabul, Malaysia. We spent seven days there hoping to gain some insight into the relationship between the local people, tourism, and the marine environment. The diving in the area of Mabul is incredible, so it is an amazing place to learn to dive, but the consequences of the boom in tourism has not meant prosperity for the local people or the environment.Seven years ago Sipadan Island became a turtle and bird sanctuary, resulting the in eviction of the dive shops and resorts from the Island. The creation of this sanctuary was a boon to the birds and turtles but unfortunately resulted in the shift of the dive industry to Mabul island, where it was initially thought that the tourism dollars would result in an upliftment of the local people. (In fact, some of the dive resorts still claim to be helping the people by giving jobs and steady income.) The Island of Mabul is approximately 50 acres in size and has supported a fairly stable population of approximately 2000 people. The people of the island are made up of three distinct ethnicities, Bajau Laut, Saluk Muslims and a group of nomadic seafarers who don’t claim any country as their home (and are refused an ID card when they try). The island has traditionally had enough water for all the local people via a stock of groundwater that infiltrates on a yearly basis. The amount of total water in the small aquifer was unknown but always served the people well, providing plenty of fresh water for the household use of the local people. When the dive shops started popping up and ultimately cover a fair portion of the land area. A small percentage of the population has been given jobs, but the rest are separated from the resorts by a barbed wire fence. On one side is a well groomed and pristine grounds of the resort while the other is covered in trash, eroded soil and abject poverty. In addition, the local population has increased in order to feed the demands of tourism.


The worst part of the story has to do with the water. An island that once easily supported the local population of people with clean water now receives daily shipments of bottled water that the local people struggle to afford. At 3 Ringgit per liter (about $0.75), water now is estimated to take a huge portion of the average monthly income of the people on the island.The loss of fresh well water coincided with the influx of dive resorts and the over consumption of the aquifer wafer. As the demand for showers, flush toilets, dishes and irrigation water for the landscaping around the resorts increased the wells dropped to a level where the salt water began to creep in and resulted in a complete loss of drinkable water available for free to the local people.One of the dive resorts now offers five liters for each person who works at their resort, but other than this “incredibly generous” benefit, all local people on the island either need to find a way to import their own water (which is not an option for people without national ID cards because of complex cultural bias and laws) or pay the 3 Ringgit per liter of imported water.


There is almost no food growing on the island. No farms, no gardens, very few fruit trees, and along with the import of water also comes the import of food. Because the people are so poor, the food imported is almost exclusively processed foods individually packaged in plastic. Where is this plastic to be disposed of? The culture of the people of the island has always been of harvesting local resources and anything that is waste can be thrown in the water on into the bush to decompose. This works great when everything you have comes from the natural systems around you. The “waste” is easily incorporated back into the natural systems.But now, with the introduction of processed foods, individually packaged for consumption, comes a new problem, one of waste. The easiest and quickest ways to deal with this problem is just to continue doing what they have always done, which is either to throw the waste into the ocean or into the bush. The trash in the ocean “disappears,” which we all know is not actually true, but it does solve the immediate problem for the local people. The trash on the land builds up and inevitably is swept up and then burned, which seems to solve the problem. As we know, these solutions have terrible side effects, including the toxicity of the oceans, the death of marine life, and the release of harmful toxins into the air. The open air burning of plastic has been shown to produce one of the most harmful neurotoxins known to man. So in getting rid of this trash, we are now poisoning our children and limiting their future potential.

Issues like these abound throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. This is what Regenerative Seas set out to see with out own eyes. We would like to find the most appropriate nodes of intervention to put our resources to the greatest good. What issues are most important? Which areas of concern could be addressed most efficiently with most positive benefit to people and the planet? How can we, as outsiders, most effectively affect positive change without imposing our culture, ideals, and beliefs on others? These are the questions that we are setting out to answer, and Mobul was an incredible first stop on this journey.

Why hire Terra Genesis International?

The founder of Regenerative Seas, Jessica Hardy, sees the issues very clearly. In fact, as we experience on our trip to Indonesia, there is no shortage of potential intervention points. But there are hundreds of NGOs doing work in Indonesia alone. There are thousands of scientists studying the oceans and marine conservation. Ms. Hardy wants to use her unique perspective and experiences to guide Regenerative Seas to the perfect strategy and use of resources to be most effective (and disruptive) in achieving her goals. Though TGI doesn’t bill itself as an organization that specializes in strategic development of the nonprofit sector, Jessica understood that what we do with our clients would be an excellent fit to help her discern how best to move forward with her project. Using Holistic Goals setting work, organizational essence work, a series of design sessions, and a two-week trip into the field, we were able to help Regenerative Seas sink more deeply into the nuance of what its role could be in the world. The process of definition and redefinition will never be done, just as the challenges facing theseas will continue to change, but working alongside Hardy helped us all to be more clear about what Regenerative Seas’ work is in the world, and how Hardy’s unique understanding can be put to work in an effective and uplifting way.

How has this changed us?

Along with working on her and her organization, we quickly discovered that Hardy was actually working us! And we are grateful. One of her stated goals for bringing us on this trip of discovery was to activate in us a sense of the importance and critical nature of the problems facing the marine environment. She sees in Terra Genesis one of the leading teams working with agroecological systems, doing very important work to shift companies and clients toward more awareness in their work. But after looking into it, she found that with very small exception almost none of our work directly addressed the problems facing the marine environment. It was Hardy’s secret agenda in hiring us, to make the transformation in us one of the first strategic steps of the Regenerative Seas organization.

Has it worked?

I’ve heard the rhetoric and alarm bells for years about the oceans. I’ve heard that the top five fisheries on the planet are on the verge of complete collapse (Atlantic Cod collapsed 25 years ago, and Bluefin Tuna is on the verge). I’ve heard that there are estimates that total populations of fish are less than 25% what they once were, while at the same time the population of fish eaters just continues to grow. I’ve seen documentaries about the shark fin issue, the dolphin slaughters and incredibly brave volunteers aboard the Sea Shepherd ships putting their bodies between the harpoon of Japanese whaling vessels and their unknowing prey. I’ve heard about the bleaching of the coral and the drop in pH of the oceans due to the excess amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But what I didn’t have before was a personal experience of connection to those realities. The power of personal experience is many times more powerful than all the stats and documentaries one can work through. This is one of the principles that separates the work that TGI does with many other consulting firms. We always work to have our clientsexperience a change, rather than just being told that something could be different. This trip offered me the opportunity to really experience, in my being, the challenges facing the marine environment. Being on Palau Kappas with Anwar Abdullah, founder of Ocean Quest, diving in his coral gardens and learning learning to graft coral onto rocks was incredibly empowering. The process he is working on in 14 locations throughout SE Asia is helpig restore the reefs after bleaching and other climate related events. I’ve been moved by being able to sit with Anwar and hear the stories from him of what these waters were like when he was growing up here, how the coral covered so much more area, and how there were always schools of fish jumping out of the water has. How the fisher people of western Malaysia were some of the best in the world and would bring in huge hauls day after day. And how at this point those fisher families have moved to Thailand to captain boats in those waters because the fish are gone. Anwar shared with us his personal measurements of the UVb levels in the area and how they have steadily grown over the years. He personally has seen a 500% increase over the past five years.Having seen Mobul and the terrible conditions for the people there has moved our team immensely. Having seen scores of baby sharks for sale in the markets (against local and international law) and the general immature size of most of the seafood for sale, has really set in me a sense that the oceans are not the “inexhaustible food source” it once was thought to be.

And the diving…

As part of our work with Regenerative Seas, we were treated to a three-day, live-aboard dive trip in the Komodo National Park, off Flores Island, Indonesia. Because of the extraordinary efforts of the conservation world, the biological world of Komodo is fairly well protected. I was able to experience an incredible sense of the beauty and abundance that once flourished globally in our marine ecosystems. Though I am told the numbers of fish that we saw are only a fraction of what would have been there 50 years ago, I was overwhelmed with the sheer numbers and diversity of the fish. The bright colors, the diversity, the wild and crazy patterns and shapes the fill the reef. But after spending three days with Anwar studying coral restoration, it was the coral that really stole my attention. After one of the dives I surfaced and shared that I was trying to wrap my brain around the ecosystem that is the coral reef, just completely fascinated by the complex and completely foreign ecosystem. I was trying, in my own way, to relate it to the complex interactions I know of in a terrestrial forest system. As a permaculture designer, I desperately wanted to understand the relationships, support networks, guilds of species and the succession process associated with the reef. After asking Nick Everett, one of our dive guides, to take a photo of a 1-meter by 1-meter area of the reef surface, he aptly pointed out that from any distance, 30 ft or 3 inches, the photo would still show a mind-boggling amount of diversity and complexity. Just like in a terrestrial ecosystem (or perhaps even more so), the closer you look the more complexity you see, from macro to micro-organisms, with cooperation and synergistic relationships at every level. It was incredibly beautiful, overwhelmingly complex, and awe-inspiring at the same time. Over the course of the 3 days and 9 dives that we did, I started to get just a bit of what I was after in terms of my understanding of how things function together, but more importantly the marine environment grew in my heart to something of great importance. No longer is the marine environment a secondary thought to terrestrial, but the realization that not only did the life on land evolve out of the water, but is still completely reliant on the ocean systems for its air, its minerals, and its health.

I’m not saying that I am shifting my efforts to working with the sea, as my core competencies still lie in agroecological systems, but being aware of what we do on land and how that might affect the oceans will definitely stick with me. I’ve also followed up our time on the water with learning more about the state of the fishing industry worldwide and have decided to carry my strong convictions about what meat I eat to seafood as well. No more canned Tuna and no more shrimp cocktail for me! I have to be convinced of the sustainability of the fishery involved to engage.

Up and coming for Regenerative Seas

Terra Genesis is on retainer with Regenerative Seas and we look forward to working more on the development and transformative actions that the organization will take. This fall Jessica will be traveling back to SE Asia to join Anwar (from Ocean Quest) on an exploration of coastal communities in Borneo and join on a hammerhead shark survey in eastern Indonesia in hopes of collecting data that can be used to urge the government to move forward with proposed plans to create another large marine reserve. Thanks to the Regenerative Seas team for your great efforts. The seas need all the help they can get.


Education, Regenerative Principles, Regenerative Supply

by Carol Sanford

A current, prevailing worldview is that everything and everyone can be categorized as a particular type. Each of us—plant, animal, or human—can be classified within a system of limited possibilities. Based on this belief, all of us humans are hungry to know who we are and how we fit into our time and place. We so eagerly want to know what types of lovers, wives, parents, or men we are that when magazines promise us quizzes to sort ourselves out they quickly disappear from newsstands. This helps us identify ourselves, and it may seem to help us understand nature and other beings. But despite its allure, by itself it cannot give us real knowledge. On the other hand, we hate it when we are compared to a specific other person or when our situation is described as a generic example of things as they are. We love the idea that no two snowflakes are alike. We know from genetic science that there are no combinations that repeat. Nature does not create exact duplicates. From microbe to baby deer to human brain, every particular example of each life form is unique. To overcome confusion about the degree or quality of likeness and difference among living beings requires discernment developed over time. It is true that based on surface characteristics, a person, a tiger, or a watershed is not unique and can be identified and categorized according to rating scales similar to the ones we enjoy reading about in magazines. Personality characteristics and personal strengths are easily organized into typologies. Nevertheless, at our cores each of us is singular, and every whole, living being has an essence that is permanent, not an accident of birth, and not the result of socialization. This irreducible reality is captured in the root meaning of essence, which is not to become something, but to be something.

Why Does Essence Matter to Business?

In the business world, we have a firm grasp of differentiation, which is often the basis of branding. A truly great business—one with a long and consistently creative life—goes beyond differentiation to essence or singularity. It becomes aware of its unique identity early on and adheres tenaciousrosely to it over the long-term; it hires to preserve it, develops products and services that express it, and makes it the basis for orientation and development. Singularity is the source of disruptive innovation, and a wise business jealously guards it. Yet even so, a great business often does not express equal understanding of singularity with regard to people and natural systems. In a living system the only lasting and precise way to augment health and wellbeing is to work with the essence of a particular whole—the same way we work when we’re raising a child, governing a city, or growing a brand. For example, when we mistakenly set out to make a child more like an idealized someone else, she quickly loses her identity, which is the source of her intelligence and vitality. The best way to set a child on the wrong track is to tell her to be “more like your father” or “more like your sister.” Advocating or advising from ideals of any kind interrupts essence expression. Ideals arise from societal or cultural aggregations of assumed truths. We form them in order to corral people who seem to be wandering beyond the bounds of accepted society. In other words, we use them to standardize norms, to make people all alike so that we can predict and control their behaviors. The imposition of ideals to for the purpose of dominating is not only characteristic of our relationships with children. We extend it to everything alive. John Mohawk, a tribal elder and a professor at New York University, has said that “ideals are how one culture eradicates another, as the Europeans have come close to doing with the Native People’s of North America.” Within the context of standardized identity, people learn to normalize themselves by mimicking others. In the business world, this can show up as the imitation of products or approaches that belong to other companies’ brands, a symptom of the failure to identify and adhere to singularity. And because we have spent so much time collecting and organizing ideals, standards, best practices, competences, and categories, most of us haven’t learned to recognize and value singularity in any aspect of our own businesses.

Developing the Capability to See Essence

In a regenerative process we look for singularity not in existence, but in potential. I love to suggest that the essence of the IRS is not collecting taxes. That is only a surface. At its founding, the IRS was intended to increase the wealth-producing capacity of citizens and fund the agreed-upon costs of existing as a nation. How would our relationship with the IRS change, if we were able to see through to that essence? How would the IRS work with us if they were able to hold in mind their unique identity? Would the nation ever experience a shortage of revenue? I suggest that every one of us living in the United States would be wealthier and probably happier. It isn’t easy to see the essences of people around us because they are often obscured by the challenges of family, school, and work life. When people are persuaded to conform, their essences are overtaken by personality traits, and the characters they play take center stage, nudging out their true selves. In order to develop the capability to recognize and engage with essence—our own and others’—we must hold it in mind and pursue its living expression in all of our efforts. Every watershed, community, and business has an essence. No two businesses are alike, although at a functional or object level (as with personality in humans), they may share many traits. We may classify types of employee, natures of raw material, categories of business plan, but until we take the time to know people, materials, and systems as their singular selves, we are failing to know and nurture them in the same way we fail to know and nurture a child when we exhort her to be like her father. A regenerative view of the world sees phenomena not only as dynamic, but as singular. That is, instead of categorizing, identifying, and grouping according to what things have in common, a regenerative business always seeks to discern the essence that makes each thing distinctly itself. It accepts and welcomes the realization that each expression of being is one of a kind. This ability to appreciate singularity becomes the basis for deep creativity and motivation, a diametric opposite of the deflating belief that everything has already been seen and done by others before us. It requires constant resistance of the tendency to categorize and pigeon hole. Instead it seeks to see each phenomenon, each customer or retail location or product, as unique and new and deserving of our full presence and attention. Looking to existence, writing down our observations or collecting facts, will not reveal singularity. In order to sniff out essence, we must become trackers and look for it in the same way that native peoples follow the traces of animals who have passed by. Essence becomes apparent in the patterns that are specific to a person, those that reveal how they engage with the world, their purpose in life, the unique value they create as the result of their endeavors. The same is true for the essence of any natural system, community, or organization.

Save the Date: First Annual Regenerative Business Summit. Oct. 18- 20, 2016. From Friday Evening on 18th to Noon on 20th. Seattle WA. At The Foundry by Herban Feast. Get Notified:[UNIQID]

Carol Sanford is an Educator & Thinking Partner with Game Changing Fortune 500 executives and Rock Star Entrepreneurs for 40 years. Author multi-award winning books The Responsible Business &The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders & Impact Investors, Top 100 Global Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. TEDx X4.

This article was reposted from the Carol Sanford Institute with permission from the author. The original post can be read here.


Education, Regenerative Supply

by Carol Sanford

Phase One: Discern a Living Structured Whole and Avoiding “Part” Thinking

How to know if you are doing something else and calling it Regeneration! Last month I began a series of blogs on the concept of Regeneration. The idea of Regeneration has a very long history of practice.  It comes out of the concept of Living Systems Thinking.  Charles Krone, one of the pioneers of Procter and Gamble’s revolutionary work design, developed something called framework-thinking, which promotes the ability to see wholes at work. The one used here, he called Levels of Work, employed by all P&G Soap employees to understand markets, customers and even soap making, as a living process. The Levels of Work framework enables our understanding of the different kinds of work we take on, in business and other activities. Using it well utilizes a hierarchy of work, some with a better return for innovation, some better for problem solving. Each activity requires different natures or work. He called the base of the hierarchy “operational work,” getting things done and done well. The next level is “maintain or sustain,” how to keep something at its highest level of functioning in a changing ecosystem. “System evolution” level increases the capability of a complex system to evolve over time. Finally, “regeneration work” builds the capacity of wholes to, on an ongoing basis, uniquely bring new value from its role and contribution.  All of these levels are needed, but much is lost if we cannot tell where we are, or worse, fool ourselves. I see this happen with innovation often.  The situation required regenerative work, but often used maintain problem solving tools.

The first blog in this series was an overview of the history, including my forty years with the concept, and the etymology of the term Regeneration as an approach to change and health. When one sets out to work Regeneratively, it is with the intention of Leaping-Frog-300x300finding the full potential of some effort, one that will proceed through seven phases of thinking and acting, where each phase builds and interacts with the others. The use of phases instead of stages allows you to revisit as you move along. Phase One is the subject of this blog, which offers a more in-depth look as the first requirement to even begin thinking about working Regeneratively.  You begin with discerning a living structured whole. When my daughter graduated from Swarthmore College, Tim William, now a professor emeritus, granted her a Distinction in Biology. She had refused to dissect animals and insects, still graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and instead studied them in motion, sometimes with imaging equipment. In appreciation of her wisdom, he offered his own relevant experience in the Peace Corps as a teacher in Zimbabwe. He had invited the young village students to capture frogs and bring them back in jars he provided. He proceeded to show them how to kill the frogs with chloroform using his frog. The children froze and then screamed, all running out of the makeshift classroom. Very shortly, the local Chief emerged and asked why he was teaching the children of the village to kill frogs. Tim explained that is was just a necessity of being able to cut them up to be able to understand a frog. The Chief, with a toothless grin, got down in a squat position and began to leap around croaking, in what Tim reported was a very accurate depiction of frog behavior.  When the Chief rose, he said to Tim, “You cannot understand a frog, without a WHOLE frog doing what frogs do.” He made Tim squat and hop and “be” a frog. Smiling broadly as he walked away, the Chief added, “You have to feel the whole frog in motion, to truly understand.” He had also removed the lids and gleefully watched all the frogs hop back into the brush.

What is a Living Structured Whole?

Think of the human body, both literally and metaphorically. You know it is a whole for one reason. It has structures, systems and processes of its own.

  1. It has a self-contained and containing structure. E.g a skeleton.

  2. It has systemic working systems, which order and organize the working of activity inside the Whole. E.g. digestive, elimination, and cardio-vascular systems.

  3. The processes it engages in make use of a self-managing open exchange, rather than a closed one. E.g eating is an exchange with other systems, repeating, always with fresh material. Closed systems always require the importation of energy from an external system. An open process can engage in value-adding or value-extracting processes with its ecosystem.

Other examples of wholes with structures, systems and processes that meet these criteria are a Customer, Earth, a Place, or an Employee. They each have a self-contained and containing structure, systemic working systems to manage the recurring working of the whole, and the processes that manage exchanges and fuel. A Business example: a corporation means “the body of the whole.”  Some business units are wholes with their own structures, systems and processes. A school most often is within the larger school system. It operates independently as a whole within a whole.

Why regeneration requires a structured whole?

It is the structures, systems and processes that get regenerated. If it is not a living system, it cannot be regenerated. For example, a curriculum or programs, which are “part” of processing, can be upgraded or refreshed, but not regenerated.  In another example, our skeleton can be regenerated, which happens after an accident or bone loss. It is done in the context of the whole body if it is really regenerative, with its unique DNA, in that context and age, and is specific to that person. This happens even beyond the physical, one’s spirit when depressed, for example. 

What happens if we don’t start with a whole?

We promote and work from fragmentation like with bones when seen as a “part” of the body, not structuring for a whole. We seek to treat the “parts” as problems in decline and try to stop the decline (i.e. doing not as bad), or we pursue something generically good, which is not matched with the whole that we want to regenerate.  E.g., medicine when it is not holistic, or sustainability approaches when practiced as parts of the whole (water, forests separately). The undeveloped mind collapses to perceiving parts. We have to learn to see wholes. In business, it leads to having someone supervise all the parts to bring them together. In medicine, we see one specialist after another for different parts of a subsystem.

How do you discern a whole?  How can you avoid fragmentation?

Medicine has been moving toward a holistic view of human health in many quarters.  This means working less to find solutions for symptoms and working to see what health creation might look like for the whole human being. How do we work from what makes systems healthy, like the cardiovascular systems, metabolic systems, and circulatory systems, in the context of the whole in which they are nested? Otherwise, it is working with the “parts of a cut up frog” to understand a living frog. It cannot be understood if it can no longer jump and croak.  What makes the “being” healthy as a whole, working to create vital structures and systems at the same time through regulation of the processes the person engages in. Fragmentation tends to be our default, and it is often hard to break the habit from out training.  Here are some hints

Use a living systems framework that evokes questions that helps us understand the working of a particular “whole.” E.g. the Levels of Work Framework I used to create this blog and many other works. A Framework is not the same thing as a model that shows how to replicate an existing pattern. It can be First Principles, like in classical and quantum physics. Frameworks invite the generation of a pattern, in this time and space, rather than follow a preset pattern. We need models for building airplanes, but not businesses, ecosystems or families. A systems framework is a mechanism for questions rather than answers.

For example, all my books are written with a living system framework. The Responsible Business uses a pentad, a five-term framework for looking at an ecosystem’s vitality, viability and evolution. It invites you to use it as a system rather than divided “parts” of the system . The understanding is not the same from one time to another. Rethinking can invite a higher quality of thinking and energy. It shows the connections and relationships. 1. Examine the characteristics of a Whole:

  1. Ask what structures it contains, as a being or entity.  Not all structures are living systems. Neither a ladder nor a building is living.

  2. What are the systemic systems that keep its life in order?

  3. What does it exchange with other systems? Are its processes only internal ones or exchange ones? Living processes promote exchange.


  1. Lists! – A quick clue you do not have a “whole.”

  2. Functions of a whole, like marketing in a business.

A major challenge of our times is the development of a mind that can see wholes and their working, thus overcoming fragmentation of mind and then fragmented initiative on living beings, like Earth. The next blog is #3, How to See Something Alive and Working Without Cutting It Up Into Fragments Through Dissection.  Once you have a whole frog, how do you understand its working?

Save the Date: First Annual Regenerative Business Summit.  Oct. 18- 20, 2016. From Friday Evening on 18th to Noon on 20th.  Seattle WA. At The Foundry by Herban Feast.
Get Notified:[UNIQID]

Carol Sanford is an Educator & Thinking Partner with Game Changing Fortune 500 executives and Rock Star Entrepreneurs for 40 years. Author multi-award winning books The Responsible Business &The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders & Impact Investors, Top 100 Global Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. TEDx X4.


Education, Regenerative Supply

by Carol Sanford

Forty years ago, I meet a cadre of business designers and developers who called what they did Regenerative Business Design. They had led a revolution with extraordinary success in Procter & Gamble, which gave the business world a state of the art approach in producing Return on Investment with people and assets. They delivered earnings for the consumer products giant that were the envy of all industries, in an industry whose margins were collapsed to below 5 percent. Their approach to innovation in offerings and business models was copied widely, but mostly without the same level of return, since they did not understand what was behind it. The cadre had already taken the samregene methodology into banks, the chemical, paper, and food industries, among others — each time with phenomenal success! They were the most studied success story of the 1960s though 1980s by Harvard and its famous management faculty: Michael Porter, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Michael Hammer and others. I picked up the mantel in the late 1970s and now have extensive case stories of my own all based on Regenerative Business Design. You can read a few of those in The Responsible Business (I tried to name the book The Regenerative Business, but Jossey Bass told me no one would have heard of such an idea). Sustainability was hot and I was pressured to give it a title to appeal to that market. In the meantime, many beside myself were seeing the incompleteness and shortfall of sustainability and searching for another idea. They knew it had to be more than “less bad,” which the reigning practices suggested (and still do)!

Many consultants, conference planners and authors adopted new terms seeking to show how they were moving “beyond sustainability” (that was my editor’s first idea for my book title). The dissatisfied folks tried out “resilience.” They revived “restoration.” Some tried “renewal,” which had been popular in the pre-sustainability days. And then a few started picking up the term “regeneration” and running with it. It was a lot sexier and less worn. Regenerative Economies. Regenerative Cities. Regenerative Business. But using the term and understanding its deep meaning is a lot like what happened at P&G. Borrowing an idea does not produce the outcomes and transformation as much as going deeply into the meaning of the idea. This is the beginning of a series of blogs to take us deeply into the history, the practice, and even the etymology and science of regeneration.

Definition of Regeneration from our School of Thought?

A paradigm and accompanying set of capabilities that consider any life form as singular, able to express and grow itself to contribute that essential singularity, over time, to nested wholes in which it is embedded, with reciprocity. It can only be regenerated if pursued as a value-adding process.

That is a lot of ideas, but it takes them all to be regenerative. Let’s look at each one. As a paradigm, regeneration is based on ideas and beliefs about how the world really works. Not how it should work but does. It differs from a worldview, which is how we ought to live, whereas a paradigm is what we count as knowledge. Regeneration has its basis in science of living systems. Particularly the science of life based on DNA and the ability of living entities to bring into existence a form that draws on but evolved based on context, a version of an entity. It is unique to each entity, and further, it evolves to fit the age and context of the entity, or part thereof, being regenerated. As a capability, it makes it clear that it does not prescribe a “doing,” but rather an ableness that has to be built to see the world through a different lens. It requires education and development to avoid falling into a familiar but incomplete way of seeing, much like we begin to see those close to us incompletely and even as fixed. The capabilities are not part of a traditional education, or even an advanced education, for the most part. Its singularity specifies that no two living entities are identical, particularly at the level of their physical and even being DNA. They each have an essence, a distinctive unrepeatable core that is never created again, except by regeneration from which it emanates. It lives and thrives or dies based on the nested wholes in which it lives. Biota lives in soil, embedded into vegetation, in a specific watershed and ecosystem. Nothing is isolated and much is determined by other aspects of the system. But each entity contributes to it working effectively or else it is extractive from the health of the whole. That is the reciprocity. Understanding the working of the nested whole allows humans to intervene beneficially and not extractively. Seeing any entity or endeavor as a value adding process means to see it alive and unfolding toward more of its Essence. More of who or what it is! It leads to releasing more potential — e.g. once you know the chemical sodium cyanide has an essence of binding (most used to extract gold), you can see it as able to ‘bind’ other toxic materials and extract them. This takes a currently used toxic chemical and puts it back to its core task. Healthy soil receives a seed, which it and the ecosystem nurture. It grows into a mature plant throwing off food and new offspring. See it at any point in time, or studying on that phase of its life, it’s cutting it apart into non-living parts. The same is true of the human body. It cannot be segmented to be understood, in spite of what your biology teacher told you when cutting up frogs and fetal pigs. That is seeing a living process and the value adding that takes place at each phase toward the contribution to the next and to the end product or next cycle.

In the next blog, I will look at seven phases of regeneration that are required before an endeavor or entity can claim it is working regeneratively. And later we will look at the six essential value adding processes that are necessary for promoting health, vitality, viability and evolution of any entity or endeavor.

Save the Date: First Annual Regenerative Business Summit. Oct. 18- 20, 2016. From Friday Evening on 18th to Noon on 20th.  Seattle WA. At The Foundry by Herban Feast.  I am looking for the link that was in recent newsletters to sign up for further info. You may know where it is. I will send when i find. Get Notified: 

Carol Sanford is an Educator & Thinking Partner with Game Changing Fortune 500 executives and Rock Star Entrepreneurs for 40 years. Author multi-award winning books The Responsible Business &The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders & Impact Investors, Top 100 Global Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. TEDx X4.

This article was reposted from Sustainable Brands with permission from the author. The original post can be read here.


Education, Regenerative Supply


The Regenerative Business Summit will bring together a highly curated, invitation-only set of business owners and leaders with a stake in six essential value-adding business streams: fooding, sheltering, transacting, adorning, recreating and communing. Summit participants will build lasting alliances and ventures in and across these six streams, ultimately pushing the edge of social and planetary change. Through our blog, publications, webinars, workshops, and an annual summit held each fall, we invite established and emerging business leaders from the six essential value-adding business streams to identify product, service and process innovations that can be tested and evolved by individual business or across sectors.

Please click the banner for a PDF with full information about the Summit invitations, prize nominations, and sponsorship opportunities.


Education, Regenerative Supply

The final TGI founder’s story, this podcast interview of Ethan Soloviev was recorded back in February in the build up to the PV3 conference. Listen in as Ethan describes the ever-evolving process of regeneration, the development of enterprise ecosystems (as compared to single businesses operating in isolation), outward growth from an origin point, the function of nodal intervention points, and much more. Click here to listen to the full episode.



Education, Regenerative Supply

Pod capture 2

Gregory and Ethan recently joined Carol Sanford on her podcast to discuss designing for regeneration. Carol is a thought-leader, and teacher who has been driving system change in the business world for nearly 40 years. In this conversation she engages with Gregory and Ethan to learn more about the exciting work that Terra Genesis has been doing to develop regenerative global supply chains. Follow along here and at to continue the regeneration. Want to know what regeneration looks like for your enterprise? Reach out to us.



We encourage everyone to check out the new permaculture sustainability and social change crowdfunding site. The site was dreamed up and created by one of the lead designers at Terra Genesis International, Christian Shearer, so we are really happy for Terra Genesis to be an official sponsor of

A great way to check it out is by taking a look at the Permaculture documentary campaign that was shot in part at Rak Tamachat, one of TGI’s most recent clients. Please check it out and support the effort: Here, you can read more about this campaign from that page.  Please share it with your friends too!

 Seeds of Permaculture

A Free Documentary about Tropical Permaculture.

Over the last 7 months we have been working tirelessly on this tropical permaculture film project and working to create the highest quality permaculture film to date. Throughout the film we use the artistic eye (and HD film and audio) that characterizes Ahooha films to capture the sights and sounds of permaculture in Thailand.

In a previous fundraising effort this film has collected the support of over 25 contributors, generously donating $12,500 to make it happen.  This money cover the cost of equipment, travel, filming on location, scripting and much more over a 4-month period. Now we are on to the production phase. To get this film through the final production phase and onto screens worldwide, we need to raise an additional $5,300- or the film will not get made. And once that happens, we will register the film under creative commons license and make it freely available to all!  Truly in the spirit and ethics of the permaculture we are filming!

This goal is easily achievable with your help. If get 530 permaculture fans to contribute $10 a piece to this film, we will send them each an electronic HD copy of the film.  This alone would represent enough funding to hit our goal and that is only a tiny percentage of all the permaculture fans in the world. YOU can help this film come to life by simply contributing $10, and we’ll give it to you for less than you would ordinarily spend on a film of this nature.  AND you will get it one month before the official release!  If you choose to give a bit more, you could get your name or your project logo listed in the credits of the film! The beautiful thing about this crowdfunding effort is that by donating to this film, not only are you receiving a copy for yourself, but you are helping to make the film free for all who want it. We are purposely offering the film as a reward at the low level of $10, because we would love to see huge community support for this project. $10 is doable to make this film free to the whole world!  Please chip in now!

The entire film is being crowdfunded. The first round was $12,500 and successful! It paid for the equipment, travel, expenses and a very low fee for the filmmakers, who are basically donating their time. (Incidentally, it was that fundraiser that inspired Christian Shearer to explore the idea of starting WeTheTrees, after the campaign proposal was rejected on kickstarter. And now, here it is. How cool is that?) This fundraising effort is for an additional $5,300 to cover the editing, production and distribution costs of the film.  No one is profiting from this. The filmmakers basically volunteered their time, and not a single person in the film took compensation for their time.  All of this for the expressed intention of giving this movie away for free!

The film has already been shot, and we literally have hundreds of hours of incredible beautiful footage of various permaculture (and other) sites throughout Thailand. The Film travels to Rak Tamachat just as this exciting permaculture site begins its transition from conventional farm to Permaculture. We visit the Panya Project, to see what is possible in as short as five years on an active tropical permaculture community.  We see the sights and sounds of Pun Pun Educational Center as well as a number of other locations in Thailand.  Christian Shearer (founder of WeTheTrees and the Panya Project) guides the film through the philosophy of permaculture and a number of tropical strategies to help bring health and resilience to the permaculture farm. The film also talks with Belgian natural builder Geoffroy Godeau, international permaculture designer and natual builder Matt Prosser, landscape designer and natural builder Taiga Marthens, soil scientist Marilyn McHugh and more about the various aspects of permaculture.

Your help in completing this project is sincerely appreciated and together we can make a film that will truly make a difference! Thanks in advance for the support, and really the entire permaculture community thanks you for helping to make this film free for all!

Thanks for what you do in this world!

Any funding above and beyond the goal that we set will be put toward the making of the next film in our series, an exploration of Urban Permaculture. We are very excited about this one as well!

Please check it out and support the effort:


Simply put, we want to get the film out to as many people as possible. It is a film with a grounding in the principles of permaculture, set in the tropics.  It is a mixture of information and inspiration, and comes at such a critical time on this planet.  We hope that it is one of the thousands of efforts to move this planet in the right direction.


Ahooha is a documentary film company that works to produce films of extremely high quality and impact. Our most previous film is the acclaimed film about life choices, Freedom Ahead. We intend to make a series of films about permaculture because we believe that these powerful design tools not only make the physical world a better place but also bring enrichment to peoples lives.  We aim to have our next film be focused on urban permaculture.  The second in the series of Seeds of Permaculture documentaries. The people behind Ahooha Films are an inspiring and uplifting couple named Rogier van der Voort and Greetje Mulder. They have been traveling the world capturing the beauty and inspiration through their photos and films.


WeTheTrees is the only crowdfunding platform built by and for permaculturalists. We are excited to be one of the very first campaigns to be successful on this great site. However, every WeTheTrees campaign must be fully funded before its reaches its deadline, so please help us make that happen.


If we don’t raise our goal, we don’t get anything. Donors pledge the amounts, but don’t actually pay until the goal is reached and the funding deadline has passed. We want to avoid this so please spread the word. Everything helps! When we meet our goal we will begin the next stage of the film and keep everyone up to date about EVERYTHING along the way through updates to this campaign.


This film is only going to be possible with the help of the permaculture community. We want this to be your film just as much as it is ours. The more people who participate the more chance we have of getting the film out. To help out please “Like” this page on Facebook (just below the video above), email this WeTheTrees link: and let your friends, permaculture groups, and co-conspiritors know about the film and this campaign. We would love for people to get involved on a local level.

Thank you so much for contributing to this campaign. You truly are giving the gift of this film to the entire world.

Please check it out and support the effort: