What does it mean to operate a regenerative business?
How do we align our revenue models with our project’s visions?
How do we build cultural bridges to repair the neo-colonialist tendencies that have characterized our era?
These are just a few questions the 2022 Regenerative Business Coheart came together to explore during our 4-day incubator event last month.
Three years ago, during a late-night stroll in the Minnesota cold, I recorded an exercise to cultivate a vision for the next chapter of my life. I’d been in MN for three and a half years and was ready to reignite my life in Costa Rica.
This was the third in a series of visioning exercises where I put my headphones on, with the voice recorder app open, and a held intention to think deeply about a single idea. By walking with the phone in my hand, with the record button running, I’m also able to keep my mind from getting distracted, staying focused on the topic that I’ve set out to ponder. When my mind does get distracted, the phone in my hand is a good reminder. I pause the recording, move the timestamp back to where I faded into thought, and continue recording where I left off.
The practice keeps my attention on point, and having a recording to take notes from or make into a transcript afterward, helps me harvest the fruits of the effort.
On my first walk, I’d come to accept those tying balloon animals was not my life’s passion, and I needed to make it my definite chief aim to get back to the tropics.
My second walk revealed that the thing that lights me up most and makes me feel like I’m living my life to the fullest is when I’m co-creating meaningful experiences for people. I determined that I was going to redirect my attention toward event production.
This third walk came after a conversation with Josh Hughes of VerdeEnergia and Blacksheep Regenerative Land Management. I asked him what he thought struggling land-based project leaders needed to know to get their projects to thrive. That conversation unfolded into a design for an event that has finally come to fruition!
We started the event with a warm welcome at Cascada Elysiana, a delicious meal, a round of introductions, and some exercises to help us increase our presence with the many reasons we’re doing what we’re doing.
The following morning, Chela Rie held space on the yoga deck, guiding our visionaries through a gentle session of warming up our bodies and calming our minds before a long day of learning, processing, and widening our perspectives.
The first session began with an exploration of Bloom Network’s 5 Qualities of a Regenerative Relationship:
- Essence to essence
- Equitable flow
- Patient spaciousness
We followed up with a playful warm-up exercise for the body, mind, and spirit as we reflected and acted out the 6 Qualities of a Regenerative System, by Galen Meyers:
From there, we flowed into a series of writing exercises, clarifying where we are, where we want to go, and what we need to get there. In addition, we took time to share our superpowers and our project’s unique qualities with each other. We also looked deeper into who we want to serve and what’s most important to them.
Ed Zaydelman, a consultant at Live the Possibility, held space with an authentic charm as he shared his experiences building his dream project Vida. The intimate and candid conversation he facilitated was a highlight for many guests. Hearing veterans’ stories of trying, failing, trying again, succeed, is also a gift that brings us together and gives us permission to have patience with our process.
The writing exercises, which are the core of the event’s design, are tremendous in pulling out truths that we know but often don’t admit to ourselves. Ed asked us what the risks are if our plans don’t work out, but just as importantly, he asked us to look at our resilience from another angle. He had us consider what the risks are if our projects succeed wildly.
Questions like these are ones few people stop to ask themselves before they’re faced with their challenges.
One of my favorite pieces of advice, shared by Ed, was his encouragement to look up Richard Taubinger’s work at https://www.consciousmarketer.com/. I’ve since become a huge fan of his work!
Of course, sitting through perspective-shifting presentations isn’t the only reason the attendees signed up for the event. Community connection is at the heart of why many of us do what we do, and jamming music together is a highlight for many. That evening, after dinner, conversations of backstories, world travels, and dreams coming true filled the space until the instruments came out. The chatter lulled into a captivated cacophony of jaw-harp, flute, drums, and voice. What a treat! I’m grateful to say that I’m rarely far away from talented musicians.
Itai Hauben Green, permaculture designer at Symbiosis Costa Rica took the mic the following morning as he delivered a solid presentation on project management and creating a harmonious workplace culture. Once again, the presentation was interwoven with thought-inducing exercises and lively group discussions, exchanging ideas and insights that lifted each attendant’s understanding to a higher level.
I wrote pages of notes during Itai’s presentation, but the question that sparked the most insight was how to coordinate your workforce holistically.
Some practices to consider when employing laborers:
- Hold a degree of formality with your employees. Etiquette is an expression of respect, and they deserve it.
- Offer a contract for employment, bonuses, & pay their “Caja” (social security).
- Pay generous wages to valuable team members, but start additions off with a training rate. After that bump it up after 1, 3, 6, & 12 months, and each year or two afterward.
- Give sufficient training and take personal responsibility when issues arise due to lack of clarity.
- Celebrate team members’ birthdays.
- Hold weekly planning meetings to describe project visions & planning with everyone.
- Encourage initiative, but require that all initiatives be communicated during the weekly meetings before any effort or resources are invested.
- Keep team members focused on one task at a time. Resist the temptation to switch them up to something else once a project is open.
- Promote mutual respect among the work crew, irrespective of any hierarchy.
- Use a 3-strike rule for inappropriate action.
- Discourage gossip.
Diana Chaves of Impact Hub San Jose & Francisco Grau of Nangu hosted the afternoon sessions. Diana walked us through the Lean Startup model for product creation. It’s a process of establishing a hypothesis for an intended product and doing small experimental tests with that product, adjusting as you go to test the idea, and adapting changes before making any significant investments into your assumptions. It’s a powerful exercise for anyone who’d like to save themselves time, heartbreak, and a lot of money by over-investing before critical adjustments can be made to the plan.
Francisco shared an invaluable perspective as another Costa Rican native who’s spent much of his life as a multicultural bridge amidst several progressive communities, initiatives, and movements. He also explained the different organic certification options, like private certifications, group associations, and export standards like USDA.
We also discussed several different ways we’ve found people using their land projects as a playground for financial sustenance.
Of the ones shared, I noted the following:
- Value-Added Food Production
- Farm-to-Table Restaurant
- Educational Programs
- Services (birthing, hospice, personal retreat, etc.)
- Intentional Community
Later That evening, after a delicious dinner and a round of bliss balls for dessert. We got into a group discussion around “Regional Resilience.” Is that the most empowering term we can use? Should we be calling it Regional Empowerment? Adaptability? Synergy?
A few notes that stood out for me as efforts worth making were:
- Know your neighbors.
- Identify where your community is dependent and find ways to take the power back.
- Show up to local organizational committee meetings. And participate.
- Find ways that you can become a cultural bridge.
- Learn new languages!!!
- Cultivate a culture of connecting with nature.
- Celebrate, teach, and use local medicines.
- Establish local food distribution networks.
- Create a directory of goods & services providers.
- Establish group chats on Whatsapp or other commonly used platforms.
- Set up resource-sharing libraries and agreements for their co-use.
- Call together interest-specific circles of people to begin self-organizing toward self-governance and collective support.
- Hire a consultant to help establish a local trade currency!
Sunday morning came too fast. We needed more time.
Actually! We always need more time!
We scheduled in a couple of solutions to that problem. The program includes 9 follow-up calls, stretching out over the next 4 months. So we can keep going deeper into what’s important to the collective.
The other mechanism was morning yoga classes with Chela. Starting each morning with a balancing of the body and calming of the mind was instrumental in my ability to sit patiently through the long days of information exchange.
Diana H Dokos, business development coach at Trust in the Flow, walked us through most of that morning’s time slot. Similarly, she guided us through understanding how we can apply Shamanic Principles & Practices for Business Development, Building Your Dream Team, and Creating a Conscious Community. It was an enlightening journey through the different states of awareness, personal identification, and interaction with the outside world that we operate from. It was powerful to see the differences between when we operate out of our Survival, Conditioned, Authentic, or Higher selves and how that approach invariably affects the outcome.
Wealth exists in the world.
As conscientious creators of a new earth paradigm, it’s our responsibility to gather the tools and resources required to build it. If more regenerative leaders don’t rise up to receive wealth & work with it, we’re leaving it in the hands of those who’ve already made a mess with it & are doing harm.
The history of earth guardians playing it small and believing that they need to stay meek is a story that we need to change if we’re going to see a shift in power. It’s time to shed our taboos and be authentic in our need for financial currency and security to empower our creativity.
The next seven generations are counting on us to shift the balance of power. We can’t do that by judging it and pushing it away.
It’s time to heal the story, so we can heal the past and emerge into a more holistic future.
After the close of Diana’s presentation, Diana Chaves & Francisco joined us again to guide us through a group conversation on cultural bridging as a remedy for neo-colonialism. For many, this was the highlight of the event and a topic that we’ll soon be revisiting in the Land Stewards Mastermind program.
Give some of these gems a moment for reflection:
- Neo-colonialism is perpetuated at the hands of the economy rather than weaponry.
- Be mindful of the common tendency to create an isolated bubble with your project.
- Resist attempts to create a “New Earth” culture without connecting with the existing culture.
- Learning the local language is the #1 most powerful thing we can do to build bridges of understanding and outreach.
- Resist hiding in your shyness of not knowing the language. Stretch beyond your comfort zone! Build relationships!!!
- Translate as much of your program’s information and invitations as possible.
- Provide translators at your events when reasonable. (Microsoft Translate is a powerful app to experiment with for this purpose.)
- Join & attend your local development association.
- Pay generous wages and include your workforce in the creative process.
- Get to know local traditions, songs, foods & medicines – not just the modern local culture but the indigenous traditions as well.
- When you find yourself effectively practicing integration, encourage others from your culture to adopt those practices.
- Practice reciprocity! Be generous with what we cultivate in the use of local resources.
- Be mindful of displacement. Offer local neighbors a piece of your property to grow some crops on (organically, of course.)
While portions of the event turned out different than initially designed, the Regenerative Business Incubator for Landowners has been a success worth celebrating. Not only did we have a full house of change-makers come together in a spirit of connection and self-improvement, but a community has developed that’s been meeting twice a month, taking the work and relationship-building deeper.
Besides the coheart reunion calls, we’ve kicked off the Land Stewards Mastermind program. This is open to new members who want to connect with other land-stewarding change-makers around the country. Join us as we collaboratively lift each other up on a weekly or monthly basis (depending on your desired membership level.)
If being part of a collective like this appeals to you, visit https://regenerationnationcr.com/mastermind/ to learn more and become a member.
Potent times are upon us.
“We may not have it all together, but together we can have it all!”