Regenerative Development

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Regenerative Development term was first proposed by Regenesis Group in 1995, describing an approach to enhance the ability of living being to co-evolve.[1] In order words, a framework with design practices that grows the capacity of humans to assess and respond to the world's living complexity.

Regenesis Group founders considered that the core cause of all current challenges is a fractured relationship between people and nature. So, at the core of regenerative development there is first an invitation for a cultural and psychological shift, and only secondarily technological. According to Regenesis [1] their work "integrated three distinct and complementary approaches to change":

  • Living Systems Thinking: a framework-based approach, developed by Charles Krone, that consciously improves people’s capacity to illuminate the inherent potential that a living system is attempting to manifest
  • Permaculture: an ecological design system, originated by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, that discerns patterns in natural and human systems in order to weave them together as dynamic wholes
  • Developmental Change Processes: an approach to community engagement that encourages stakeholders to work together to evolve the potential of place, rather than struggling over the limits presented by existing conditions"

Regenesis and their members have been gathering experience from land and community development projects all over the world. The work is focused on the developmental potential of place (including territory and its community) with the understanding that we design living nested systems. By exploring the history and uniqueness of the place with the local community and stakeholders in that region, they invoke a deep sense of belonging and ownership.

Inviting all to see the potential of that region[1], something we all have in common regardless of our other differences, participants understand or can take up new roles of value adding that benefits both community and territory (taking into consideration the human, social, natural, produced and financial capitals). This tends to enhance their will to express themselves in the three lines of work: developing themselves (1st line of work), developing the capability of the group, team or initiative they are involved (2nd line of work) and serving the development and evolution of larger nested wholes (or the systems beyond the scale it’s been co-creatively designing, 3rd line of work).

Accomplished regenerative practitioners might trigger an evolutionary process in the communities they serve that does not stop when the project or policy/funding scheme is over. They are expected to leave the communities better equipped, with new energy (vitality), agency (viability) and capabilities, to keep moving forward (evolution), despite difficulties and obstructions and with a stronger connection to their place, both the natural and human build environment and ‘neighbours’.

Important Chronology

Based on the scientific article published by Mang and Reed (2013)[2]

  • 1880-1915 - Early Roots

In the 1880s Ebenezer Howard wrote a book entitled "To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Social Reform" [3] that was re-issued in 1902 as "Garden Cities of To-Morrow"[4]. These book already highlighted the need to build settlements where humans live in harmony with the rest of nature, and stimulated the founding of the garden city movement as well as the establishment of several Garden cities in Great Britain.

In 1915, Patrick Geddes, a biologist that saw cities as living organisms, understanding that a city is rooted in a certain natural landscape's features, processes and resources. His work influenced regional planning movements in Europe and the United States of America.

Figure 1

Glossary of important terms

In a paper by Mang and Reed of 2013 [2], they intend to make visible the growing number of choices of "green" design available today. In order to be able to assess and integrate them, they have developed a glossary that can be useful (references of each term can be found in the mentioned scientific article):

Figure 1. A growing cornucopia of green design choices makes it ever more challenging for designers to sort what we should do from what we can do. Copyright © Regenesis Group Inc. Illustration by Kronosphere Design [1]
  • Biomimicry: "sometimes called biomimetic design; an emerging design discipline that looks to nature for sustainable design solutions."
  • Cradle-to-cradle: "framework for designing manufacturing processes “powered by renewable energy, in which materials flow in safe, regenerative, closed-loop cycles”, and which “identifies three key design principles in the intelligence of natural systems, which can inform human design."
  • Ecoliteracy: "the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible, including understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities (i.e. ecosystems) and using those principles for creating sustainable human communities."
  • Ecological sustainability:"a biocentric school of sustainability thinking that, based on ecology and living systems principles, focuses on the capacity of ecosystems to maintain their essential functions and processes, and retain their biodiversity in full measure over the long-term”; contrasts with technological sustainability based on technical and engineering approaches to sustainability."
  • Ecology:"the interdisciplinary scientific study of the living conditions of organisms in interaction with each other and with the surroundings, organic as well as inorganic."
  • Ecosystem: "“the interactive system of living things and their non-living habitat”.
  • Ecosystem concept: “a coherent framework for redesigning our landscapes, buildings, cities, and systems of energy, water, food, manufacturing and waste” through “the effective adaptation to and integration with nature’s processes.” It has been used more to shape an approach than as a scientific theory"
  • Living systems thinking: "a thinking technology, using systemic frameworks and developmental processes, for consciously improving the capacity to apply systems thinking to the evolution of human or social living systems."
  • Permaculture: "a contraction of permanent agriculture or permanent culture, permaculture was developed as a system for designing ecological human habitats and food production systems based on the relationships and processes found in natural ecological communities, and the relationships and adaptations of indigenous peoples to their ecosystems."
  • Regenerative Design: "a system of technologies and strategies, based on an understanding of the inner working of ecosystems that generates designs to regenerate rather than deplete underlying life support systems and resources within socio-ecological wholes."
  • Regenerative Development: "a system of technologies and strategies for generating the patterned whole system understanding of a place, and developing the strategic systemic thinking capacities, and the stakeholder engagement/commitment required to ensure regenerative design processes to achieve maximum systemic leverage and support, that is self-organizing and selfevolving."
  • Restorative Design: "sometimes called restorative environmental design; a design system that combines returning “polluted, degraded or damaged sites back to a state of acceptable health through human intervention” with biophiliac designs that reconnect people to nature."
  • Locational Patterns: "The patterns that depict the distinctive character and potential of a place and provide a dynamic mapping for designing human structures and systems that align with the living systems of a place."
  • Place:"the unique, multi-layered network of ecosystems within a geographic region that results from the complex interactions through time of the natural ecology (climate, mineral and other deposits, soil, vegetation, water and wildlife, etc.) and culture (distinctive customs, expressions of values, economic activities, forms of association, ideas for education, traditions, etc.)."
  • Pattern literacy: "being able to read, understand and generate (“write”) appropriate patterns."
  • Regenerate: "• To give new life or energy to; revitalize; to bring or come into renewed existence; to impart new and more vigorous life; • To form, construct, or create anew, especially in an improved state; to restore to a better, higher or more worthy state; refreshed or renewed; • To reform spiritually or morally; to improve moral condition; to invest with a new and higher spiritual nature; • To improve a place or system, especially by making it more active or successful."
  • Source to sink: "simple linear flows from resource sources (farms, mines, forests, watershed, oilfields, etc.) to sinks (air, water, land) that deplete global sources and overload/pollute global sinks."
  • Systems thinking:"a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, and for seeing patterns of change rather than static "snapshots." It addresses phenomena in terms of wholeness rather than in terms of parts."


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mang, Pamela, e Ben Haggard. «Regenerative Development and Design», 2016, 274.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mang, Pamela, and Bill Reed. “Regenerative Development Regenerative Development and Design.” In Sustainable Built Environments, edited by Vivian Loftness and Dagmar Haase, 478–501. New York, NY: Springer New York, 2013.
  3. Hall, Sir Peter, Dennis Hardy, E Howard, and Colin Ward. To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform., 2006.
  4. Howard, Ebenezer. Garden Cities Of To-Morrow. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1902.