I have been on a journey through my entire twenties and now through my early thirties to cultivate a profound understanding of the organizing principles of living systems in the hopes that I can interpret and apply them to what I’m passionate about — the design of regenerative and socially just organizations and communities.
I am not the first to apply ecological principles to social systems. Peter Senge developed his infamous systems thinking approach to organizational learning. Joanna Macy crafted her Deep Ecology philosophy for personal and societal transformation rooted in ecology, systems theory, and Buddhism. Margaret Wheatley developed her vision for a new form of leadership inspired by living systems theory. More recently, adrienne maree brown birthed a growing consciousness of the emergent behavior of complex systems. And of course, indigenous cultures all around the world have held the sacred intelligence of nature for millennia. I stand on the shoulders of all my elders.
Because of all these great leaders, we have inherited an ecosystem of different terms to describe this social application of ecological principles, each term reflecting the lineage it comes from. Social permaculture is most well-known and grew obviously out of permaculture. Social biomimicry is an offshoot of biomimicry. More recently, emergent strategy has become a highly recognizable term in movement-building and social justice circles due to the meteoric popularity of adrienne maree brown’s book of the same name. I’ve also been introduced just in the past few months to the concept of love-centered organizing by my friend, Yoojin Lee. Some people may bemoan the confusion that may come from all these different terms, but I actually love it because it’s a reflection of abundance — we get to have all these different terms, each one bringing its own flavor and particular take on this work. It’s like religion and God. Different cultures throughout human history have developed different religions and humanity is richer for it. Each religion offers a different lens on God and no one religion can claim monopoly on knowing the ultimate nature of God.
Because of my education in the ecological sciences, I prefer to use the term “regenerative practice”, which is inspired by the concept of regenerative design that…