Living systems are defined by 3 characteristics:

  • They survive
  • They connect with their environment
  • They regenerate.

So regenerativity is fundamental to a living system like a city. As living systems cities,  regeneration in the city can be seen through all 5 Maps of the City.

Map 1 reveals regenerativity through the process of developmental growth that transcends and includes the stages of development that human systems traverse. Regenerativity arises when the individuals and their collectives transform to a more complex stage that means they discover new ways to survive and connect to their environment. For instance, during the pandemic most schooling shifted from the classroom to home. Teachers became replaced or supported by parents delivering home schooling. This change impacted the families of students and parents in bio/psycho/cultural/social ways. It impacted teachers and school administrations, universities and colleges and government education ministries, challenging all their assumptions about how/when/where to sustain, connect and regenerate educational cycles in cities. This caused some circles of learning to upcycle and expand and others to down-cycle and contract – showing up on this Map 1 at different levels in all 4 quadrants.

Map 2 reveals regenerativity because it shows the nested holarchy of city systems and thereby the influence they have on one another – as an individual is a member of family, neighbourhood, workplace, recreational team, voting party, community association, city precinct, eco-region and nation. Regenerativity can ripple through this entire system of nested connections. For example, in this year of covid the conditions of lockdown kept most people working at home, away from city centres, not using public transportation and utilizing the convenience of online communications. Regenerativity ripples through the entire network as people literally re-created in new ways (online dancing anyone?), worked away from central offices, consumed supplies through online platforms, were separated from family members and redefined their relationship to nature. If you lived in a nursing home, provided health care or delivered household goods your risk of survival was threatened and your opportunity to regenerate was possibly reduced.

Map 3 depicts the micro-meso-macro relationships of human capacity, through stages of development that impact your options for surviving, connecting with your environment and thus regenerating. Map 3 looks very much like cells multiplying in a petri dish – or a fetus developing in the womb. This view of the city reveals that survival, connecting to your environment and regenerating all occur through the lenses of our worldviews, capacities and interbeingness. During the pandemic this could impact your exposure to the virus and the options for healthcare. The differences in approaches were visible through the daily reporting of locations and numbers of infections, mortality rates and “R” numbers. These played out on national stages where national healthcare policies impacted all 3 characteristics of the city as living system. One could easily compare the experiences of New Zealand (who had extremely low covid rates) to the United States (who experienced very high covid rates) and the response strategies of different countries, e.g., China’s autocratically enforced city lockdowns versus Brazil’s laissez-faire repudiation of public health virus responses.

Map 4 reveals the organizational structures that have evolved over time. Research has shown that individual organizations have lifetimes much shorter than either individuals or cities. However, cities contain all these 8 organizational formats, in addition to the capability of constantly inventing new ways for regeneration to occur – through individual interconnection with all the 4 Voices in a myriad of groups, organizations and sectors. During the pandemic, the Economist reported that the Healthcare sector changed more quickly in response to the virus than had ever happened before. If one considers a city to be a super-organism that contains organs, organelles and cells, then the developmental options that are visible in Map 4 build in resiliency to enable adaptation to the changing environment. This in turn can enable regenerativity at a different level of complexity in which the threat occurs – this might happen at either a greater level of complexity where expansion occurs – or it can happen at a lower level of complexity where contraction occurs. Cities and countries must pay attention to the relationship between internal order and external life conditions to keep not only a steady state of sustainability but the possibilities for re-generation – literally creating conditions for the thriving of a new generation of Citizens (and 4 Voices).

Map 5 is a toroidal flow of energy that depicts the involutionary and evolutionary flow of life energy in a city. As the map of spirituality in the city, it is tracing the journey of life before and after it manifests with a need to sustain itself; before and after it arises to connect with the existing environment; and before and after regenerativity replicates the pattern embedded in the bio/psycho/cultural/system DNA of the individuals, groups and cultures in the city. The flow of energy in Map 5 represents the cycle of regenerative life on a grand scale. It reveals the never-ending quest embedded in city emergence. It captures the exhilaration of expansionary possibilities – like any boom town can tell you – and the sluggishness of cities locked down against their natural expressiveness – like any human habitat who has lost their economy or raison d’etre – such as any mining or fishing village deprived of their “catch” – or during the pandemic any learning retreat deprived of their spiritual seekers.

All the maps of Integral City reveal that regenerativity is not inevitable, but regenerativity is necessary to grow Care for survival,  deepen Context for connecting wisely with our environments and expand Capacity to enable healthy regenerativity that depends on wellbeing at every scale from person, people, place to planet (as we explore in Book 3: Integral City 3.7: Reframing Complex Challenges for Gaia’s Human Hives).

This blog series explores Regenerativity as: