We spoke to a multi-decade earth regenerator about his project that ranked #4 in the GR15 Climate Round, and how he collaborated with other grantees to supercharge their mission-aligned projects.
When humans live and work in harmony, our processes are more aligned and our actions are more efficient. Unfortunately, this is not how the world works for most of us today, and it’s not how we collectively operate. Generally speaking, we all want to reach our goals, and we’ll elbow one another out of the way to get there – even if our goals mirror one another. We live in a competitive and fast-paced world, and our actions often do more harm than good. ReFi—and Web3 in general—has boomed in the past year, but it can be argued that it doesn’t touch real-world communities enough. Unless we come up with a better solution to actively and collaboratively create the impact we are striving for – harmoniously.
And an answer for how we do this might be found in the practice of syntropic agriculture and its application into our own practices.
Syntropic agriculture <> Syntropic practices
Syntropy = harmonious relationship.
Syntropic agriculture increases syntropy between species across space, time, and function. It means reforesting the planet through imitating natural regeneration processes. It enables people to create dynamic, successional, and economically viable ecosystems that restore degraded soil biodiversity, while integrating them with productive agricultural food sources. Farming in this way requires a deep understanding of the complex natural systems at play in local ecosystems, in order to best imitate them.
This type of agriculture, albeit very effective, is also not a copy-paste strategy one can apply uniformly around the world. If applying this practice to forests, for example, the location of that forest will determine the formula for the desired techniques in order to achieve the most effective approach for the ecosystem.
Syntropic agriculture is about providing a harmonious integration of food production and forest regeneration. It’s an example of process-based agriculture, as opposed to input-based agriculture. Most large-scale farms operate on the latter.
Essentially, it means that you’re working with nature instead of against it.
Joe Brewer has always been a free spirit, connecting to the earth from a young age, where he would spend a lot of time alone immersed in nature by a creek. Being connected to the natural world the way he has been all his life awakened his awareness of the ecological crisis that our planet faces. Having found his own peace in the creases of nature, he has set out to do what he can to turn the tables.
Based in Barichara, Columbia, Joe is the founder of Earth Regenerators, a global network of 4,000 members interested in regenerating the planet through on-the-ground projects and a study group. He has a background in physics, math, philosophy, atmospheric science, complexity research, and cognitive linguistics. He is also an author and is passionate about not only creating impact, but finding ways to create that impact in the most harmonious and effective way possible.
A Syntropic design practice
“I know that your project will help mine. I can see my purpose, and I can see your purpose and I can see our shared purpose.” - Joe
The stark reality, however, is that most of us don't have the ability to think this way, or we haven’t made it visible. “We need to create strategic frameworks, where we are in contact with each other in real human relationships. These real human relationships: not only do I help your project because I know it achieves my strategic goal, but I collaborate with you in some way to build a human relationship that lasts beyond this interaction,” Joe says.
Similarly, when we think of collaborative design within different protocols, we can learn a great deal from Syntropic Agriculture. Instead of working in parallel competition with one another, we instead aim to align our goals and work in harmony.
Barichara Regeneration Fund + GR15
During the GR15 Climate Round, Joe and his team created a grant on a regeneration fund that supports the wholesale restoration of 500,000 hectares of territory in the Northern Andes of Colombia in South America, by “developing and weaving together a network of individuals and organizations pursuing regenerative work on the individual, social, and ecological scale.” For more information on this project, visit its Gitcoin grants profile.
What would it mean to work with Regen Foundation, Gitcoin, and Giveth all at the same time? This is the question that Joe and his team asked themselves, which inspired a systematic way of operating within GR15 that saw an immense amount of cooperation. A syntropic design practice was at play during those few weeks.
Joe and his team thought out of the box during GR15. They made sure that the community they were getting involved in donating and sharing their project was trained in creating Web3 wallets, and they curated a list of 11 other mission-aligned Gitcoin Grants projects to encourage their community to donate to. They not only focused on their own individual goals, but the goals of the collective. They began with the basics - making sure that those who wanted to get involved had the tools, while simultaneously thinking about the bigger picture in order to reach their goal of regeneration and sustainability.
“Gitcoin is the first step in funding a pipeline for Web3 local Regen projects.”
One of the things Joe talks about is the role of a master weaver within a community. When talking about creating real-world impacts within communities, the impact needs to begin from the ground up. That’s where weavers come in.
What does it take to become a master weaver?
A weaver is someone who creates the bonds, the trusts, and the innate paths between organizations, projects, and people. They are the ones who create syntropy in and amongst the connections in order to cultivate impact.
They are usually invisible, and not well known. Joe says one of the most important aspects to a master weaver is that they are on their own spiritual journey to heal their own trauma. They are generally humble, soft spoken, empathetic, and smart. David Hodgen is one of these master weavers, and the chances that you’ve heard of him is very slim - which is exactly what makes him so successful.
Joe has a strong following on Twitter, which makes the visibility easier to attain, but he says it’s about so much more than that. “More important than size and diversity [on social media], is a level of trust,” he says.
There needs to be existing trust. There needs to be systemic understanding. But, according to Joe, the most important part in this practice is trauma healing, because when working closely with communities, cooperation tends to break down because of trauma responses people have.
Master weavers are on a spiritual journey of healing their own trauma. It’s a messy road, but it’s an essential one if trusted and established relationships are to be built.
And most importantly, the best weavers are invisible. You don’t notice what they’re doing until it’s already been done.
“Cooperate with the cooperators.” – The Evolution of Cooperation, by Robert Axelrod
To recap: if you’re thinking of creating a grant and maximizing your ability to secure funding and its impact, there may be a lot to learn from how Joe harnessed the power of syntropic design practice during and after GR15:
- Stack funding sources
- Form coalitions across similar projects
- Educate your community, and support them in having the tools they need to participate in the grants round
- Decide who to cooperate with and who not to
Especially during this bear market, the way to survive and ultimately succeed is to build together.