What is regenerative?

The content of this site is focused on regenerative work, which relates to Carol Sanford’s model of four levels of businesses operating mode. The first is a scarcity-based self-serving mode, and the subsequent modes are increasingly more trust-based and pro-social.

EXTRACTION: Sanford notes that the most common business mindset has been to try to get as much out as they can while putting in as little as necessary. This is often a short term strategy of extracting value from people or external resources. This is often done without concern for balance, because the so-called invisible hand is expected to direct our efforts to an area where they are most profitable, which is presumed to mean where they are most needed. Many unintentionally slip into a habit of extracting from employees, business partners, and even supportive family members. While these relationships have some degree of reciprocity, they also can be coercive to some extent, based on not seeing adequate alternatives.

ARREST DISORDER: In Sanford’s model, a step up from the prior mode is to arrest disorder, meaning to offer something better, something less extractive and more sustainable, as you overcome specific problems that are seen in other service or product offerings.

DO GOOD: A further step up is to do good by working from generic best practices or ideals, such as non-profits and b-corps intend to do. These businesses understand that over the long term, the extractive model doesn’t give the optimal value return.

REGENERATIVE: Sanford’s most-encouraged level is regenerative, meaning to use systems thinking to consider a whole system, how the various parts work synergistically, and how to heal the ruptures within it. She encourages us to see how we can best contribute to a system that we have expertise in and concern for.