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Designing Regenerative Cultures
Additional Resources Chapter 5
References (p. 128)
Stuart Walker directs a research group in sustainable design at Imagination Lancaster
Bill Reed teaches integrative design at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard and the University of British Columbia
Alastair Fuad-Luke explores design as “co-futuring” as Professor for Emerging Design Practices at Aalto University
Martin Charter directs the Centre for Sustainable Design at University College for the Creative Arts (UCCA).
Seaton Baxter (p.125)
Prof. Seaton Baxter turned out to be one of the most influential mentors and helpful supporters I was to encounter on my path of learning so far. After reading my dissertation, he suggested that I might want to deepen my research during a PhD in Design. He had recently created the Centre for the Study of Natural Design at the University of Dundee. In 2003, Seaton helped me to win a full scholarship to support me during my doctoral research and in January 2006 I received my PhD for a thesis entitled Design for human and planetary health – a holistic/integral approach to complexity and sustainability (Wahl, 2006b), which informs many aspects of this book.
DESIGN THINKING PIONEERS (p. 133)
Over the course of the last century a number of visionary pioneers of design thinking and practice identified the culturally transformative power of design in the creation of a world that works for all. The pioneers were Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford, Buckminster R. Fuller, John Tillman Lyle, Viktor Papanek and Ian McHarg. Among the elders of the design (r)evolution currently underway who are still active contributors to cultural transformation are John and Nancy Todd, Sim Van de Ryn, William McDonough, David W. Orr, Seaton Baxter, David Ehrenfeld, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Janine Benyus, Ezio Manzini, Steward Brand, Tony Fry, John Thackera, Niels-Peter Flint, and Bill Reed. If you want to deepen into questions about the way that design can help to create a regenerative human culture, these people and their work are a good place to start. Many of them have been living this question for most of their professional lives. We will return to some of their work in the next chapter.
EMERGENCE AND DESIGN (p. 137)
Complex Dynamic Systems
Without going into the mathematical foundations in any detail, we could say that any system with more than three interacting variables that change in non-linear ways over repeating cycles (iterations) could be regarded as a complex dynamic system. Most of the world around us is governed by such dynamics! Whether you want to apply this theory to a business, an organization, a community, a city or an ecosystem, all of them are complex dynamic systems, and therefore unpredictable and uncontrollable beyond a very limited and tightly defined temporal and spatial scale.
COLLECTIVE VISIONING (p. 149)
Regionally focused projects
A good example of a regionally focused visioning project involving a wide diversity of stakeholders is the ‘Dreaming New Mexico’ process initiated by Bioneers. Similar processes need to occur in regions everywhere! We need local, regional and global visions of what a thriving future might look like and how we might create networks of collaboration so that regenerative cultures at different scales can mutually reinforce and support each other.
Starting in 1994, Maurice Strong (Secretary-General of Rio’92) and Mikhail Gorbachev (as co-founder of Green Cross International) led an international process that resulted in the publication of the Earth Charter in 2000 as a “shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community” based on i) respect and care for the community of life, ii) ecological integrity, iii) social and economic justice, and iv) democracy, non-violence and peace.
The Earth Charter has now been widely endorsed, but is not an official United Nations document endorsed by its member states like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Since Rio+20, the UN’s process of expanding and reframing the MDGs has involved thousands of people from all over the globe and has resulted in the proposal of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Open Working Group, 2014), which will inform the official post-2015 UN development goals.
The Alliance for Sustainability and Prosperity (ASAP) founded in 2013 aims to “facilitate the global movement to craft a sustainable future by: i) bringing together parties interested in redefining the relationship between humans, economic life and nature, and ii) serving as a collective forum for information, debate and exchange”. Its members, who include thought leaders like Robert Costanza, Frances Moore Lappé, Hunter Lovins and Richard Wilkinson, have offered a response to the less than satisfying progress the world community made at the Rio+20 summit in a document intended to catalyze a deeper conversation about the future we really want.
It offers a vision for a new development paradigm that aims to achieve “equitable and sustainable well-being of human beings and the rest of nature” by “refocusing our attention on the ultimate purpose of economic life” and “systematically transforming business as usual to put people and the ability of natural systems to sustain them first” (Costanza et al., 2013). The document details a series of general requirements and strategies for achieving these aims. It lists several specific objectives in each of these areas: well-being and happiness, ecological sustainability, equitable societies, sustainable economies, and thriving inclusive communities. I encourage you to explore this vision document for yourself and to use it to start design conversations that can educate and transform your local culture and community.
In their 30 years up-date to Limits to Growth, Donella Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows observed that “a sustainable world can never be fully realized until it is widely envisioned” and “such a vision must be built up by many people before it is complete and compelling” (Meadows et al., 2005: 273). They offer a start at such a process by listing a number of characteristics of a sustainable society (273-274).
Albert Tullio Lieberg has applied his 20-year experience in international development, multilateral cooperation projects and activism to formulating a vision of and roadmap to a “globally renewed society” in The System Change (Tullio-Lieberg, 2010).
Ross Jackson’s Occupy World Street – A global roadmap for radical economic and political reform (2012) outlines a sustainable “Gaian World Order” based on a redesign and restructuring of global institutions, rooted in “the oneness of all planetary life” and the “emerging holistic worldview”. Ross suggests a “break-away strategy” by which a pioneering group of nations would form a “Gaian League” to cooperate in prototyping viable alternatives to existing global institutions by establishing a “Gaian Trade Organization”, a “Gaian Clearing Union”, and a “Gaian Development Bank”, inviting all UN member states to join.
In their 2003 Schumacher Briefing Roy Madron and John Jopling proposed a globally collaborative network of Gaian Democracies beyond the “imperatives of the debt-based money system”, “placing responsibility for decision-making at the level of the holon and the holarchies”, and “shaped by the participative processes through which Gaian citizens have been thinking, acting and learning together” (2003: 126).
Leister Brown has been a tireless advocate for ‘Plan B’ – a rapid transition towards a more sustainable future, keeping his detailed vision of how this transition can be achieved up-dated regularly (eg: Plan 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, 2009; and the Earth Policy Institute’s ‘Plan B Updates’).
Robert Gilman, whose Context Institute has informed and inspired leaders of positive global change for over three decades, has recently launched The Foundation Stones Project to offer a core curriculum for 21st century change agents in the transition “from the Empire Era to the Planetary Era”. We need to build a vision of life in the planetary era.
Bioneers (p. 150)
One community that has been collectively “re-imagining civilization in the Age of Nature” (Ausubel, 2012) is the Bioneers community, so lovingly brought together by the tireless work of Kenny Ausubel, Nina Simons, and J.P. Harpignies for over 25 years. In my own participation in that community my own visions of regenerative cultures became more detailed, vibrant and magnetic. The Bioneers conference programme, their publications, and the Dreaming New Mexico project continue to be an inspiration for many.
There are diverse ways to facilitate visioning processes that help us to deepen into and implement the visions we want to co-create. Mapping out the three horizons, exploring the detail of the vision based on the 12 nodes of the World Systems Model and the connections between them is a method used by the International Futures Forum. I also find World Cafés (Brown et al, 2005) very useful as an initial way of starting these conversations. At the scale of communities and social enterprise the process of ‘Dragon Dreaming’ developed by John Croft is a great way to help people generate the first series of successful projects that begin to manifest the visions they have decided to co-create (Dragon Dreaming, 2015). The practice of ‘transformative scenario planning’ described by Adam Kahane is a powerful blend between a grounded visioning process and conventional scenario planning (2012). ‘Planning for real’ methodologies have been used effectively to implement community-based visions for a number of decades (Community Planning, 2015).