Regenerative living solutions are a reflection of societal revolution, hence they are not just new business models but experimental prototypes that reflect changing human needs. With that perspective in mind we can better apprehend their potential on a socio-economic level and the changes in cultural mind-set they suggest and incubate at the same time.
As not only the pace but also complexity of our life ́s has exponentially increased over the last few decades, we are now being confronted with systemic challenges that cannot be solved with the same way of thinking that initially created them. A change in our collective cognitive approach from causal to relational, linear to systemic, competitive to collaborative and individual to collective will be needed in order to help us to navigate the increasing complexity of the digital age.
We could call this different way of thinking “the regenerative approach”. In a regenerative mind-set a holistic perspective is applied, which considers the interconnectedness of all domains of life, such as social, cultural, economic, spiritual and scientific. This is what will enable the creation of truly nourishing experiences for all stakeholders as a regenerative living solution can develop the ideal conditions and frameworks for these domains to cross-pollinate each other.
Back to basics: diversity, innovation and resilience
The regenerative approach also implies a new narrative of human existence that is driven by changing priorities, which are largely caused by technological innovation but also an evolving collective consciousness.
Therefore, new hybrid concepts that respond to the blurring of traditionally siloed life-areas can be seen as a return to a more organic and human way of living. Nature in its essence is symbiotic and does not produce mono-cultures. These are human inventions, driven by a desire for speed, efficiency and profit. It is the natural diversity that creates abundance and allows innovation. Diversity drives resilience and this is what is needed to create a strong social fabric in any local community or ecosystem.
Regeneration can also be seen as a progression of the concept of sustainability, which is too focused on maintaining the status quo and only along the way reduces its negative impact by tweaking and improving it but actually not fundamentally changing it. Regenerative living solutions can prototype this transition and become showcases of an applied regenerative lifestyle and new way of doing business.
Exploring regenerative businesses
As we have seen, regenerative living solutions are not only attractive for its tenants and the local ecosystems, but they also represent interesting business opportunities. Nevertheless, this comes with an invitation to rethink what we consider as a good business deal. How do we measure success through the lens of regeneration? First of all, it requires different KPI ́s that are not only considering profit, but that take into account people and place too (the 3P ́s). Also we need to take a more long-term time horizon, as well as to consider the not so easily measurable and quantifiable parameters like wellbeing, quality of life and ecosystem resilience. The requirements for value-creation models and ROI thus becomes multi-layered. Here we can revert to the concepts of circular economy that promotes regeneration or to the approach of the doughnut economy, which takes into account the economic ceiling and the social foundation of society.
Funding regenerative living solutions
When looking at funding of regenerative living solutions, we see new models coming up that are aligned with their intrinsic spirit. For example, crowd-financing and shared ownership, or membership-models that can be compared to traditional time-share or fractional-ownership models. Nowadays this is becoming much more accessible thanks to new technology, namely blockchain and the possibilities of tokenization of real estate assets.
Considering the relevance of regenerative living projects for regional development, there are different funding sources coming into play, e.g. with public funds for structural support programs, economic development, as well as pension funds that invest in new forms of housing. There are foundations that contribute to projects if buildings of public interest or with a cultural heritage are being refitted. Some foundations even buy land in order to remove it from the speculative market, this is obviously only of interest if a project is entirely focused on social impact.
Pandemic shifts: repurposing and rural influx
The topic of refitting or repurposing has gained a lot of attention since the pandemic, as many office and hotel spaces in urban areas are being swept off the market. There are nevertheless also increasing numbers of touristic properties in rural areas that are going out of business. They are particularly interesting, as they already have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate long-term stays and offer an attractive leisure setting.
A side-effect of the pandemic is that more people want to leave the urban areas and settle in the countryside. So their main residence might actually become the rural area, whereas they would only go to town for a day or two. Here the idea of city-pods becomes relevant, where one uses a shared infrastructure during the visit in town, which ideally is collaborating with one ́s countryside residence. Such affiliations will allow their residents to enjoy the benefits of living in multiple locations and thus getting the best of both worlds.
The opportunities offered by hybrid models
Innovative concepts are also reflected in a hybrid business model that allows for creating a symbiotic ecosystem where different businesses can interact and generate synergies.
An interesting aspect here are the opportunities in multi-generational inclusion that can offer creative solutions to the challenges in the care for infants and the elderly. If working with existing infrastructure of the ecosystem or specific needs of the local community, valuable exchange systems can be built to create win-win situations for the project and the destination. How these segments can be effectively combined with other elements like eco-tourism, co-living, business incubation or even education, will be an interesting exploration for the first prototypes daring to do this. Nevertheless, the synergies and potential in business opportunities are making such new ventures a worthwhile experiment.
Making a regenerative living solution truly regenerative
To build living spaces that are truly regenerative a different approach in the project development, management and operation is suggested, which already starts with the design process. A regenerative approach will require more time and investment in the beginning, but that can be compensated with savings in marketing later on, as the project will enjoy higher levels of support and adoption. An ideal process should be participatory and be based on multi-stakeholder discussions across all social domains, excluding nobody, not even project opponents or critical voices.
The most challenging for experienced developers and owners might be to leave room for emergence along the planning phases. This means that a certain freedom must be given to adapt the project to unforeseen needs and objections that can surface in such a process. This requires flexibility in project management and a certain willingness to experiment and play by new rules. Such a way of collaborating and co-creating will provide all participants with personal learnings that are very valuable and at the same time ensure that a project created in that way will be perceived as authentic and will instil a sense of belonging.
What is nevertheless indispensable in these times of disruption is to have a future-fit strategy. Without having a clear vision of the future, one will not be able to make sense of change. Therefore, it is mandatory to be proactive and start to (re)imagine a regenerative future for your organisation and yourself.
This article appeared first in the Spatial-X whitepaper: https://www.spatial-experience.com/spx-lab/publications/remote-work-stay-2021?fbclid=IwAR21hkg58agpe_JMmjwVL4i6PWWNGzDGsmqYHaj9FOnhd4aCYkD3jc3rK9k
´I believe that we are living in the most exciting period of human history and it is my purpose to support humanities transition to a new paradigm. My passion is to create spaces that enable transformative learning experiences and showcase new ways of living. With a background in hospitality management, I am now creating hybrid retreat, campus and village concepts that prototype a disruptive combination of consciousness, regeneration and technology. ´
Martin Hohn / www.atma.life