Regenerative Web 3 - The Landscape, Opportunities, and Entry Points
A post on the state of the regen web3 ecosystem—including a breakdown of top organizations to be aware of, as well as some interesting predictions about what 2023 might have in store for the regen ecosystem.
What’s at the heart of web3 for good? How can this emerging stack of technologies be used to grow the capacity of life on earth? How might we restore our natural systems, bridge silos, and bring humanity into a state of harmony with life through web3 technology?
Join us in an exploration of the intersecting movements of regeneration and web3, and learn how regen web3 could form the technical foundation for a new paradigm, where human systems increase the capacity of life.
What Is Regeneration?
There’s a movement happening, one unlike any other modern cultural or technological movement that’s happened before. One with the potential to shift our economy, infrastructure, and culture into harmonious, life-generating living systems based on co-evolution with earth. It goes beyond sustainability, developing on the potential of every person, place, living being, and organization to grow capacity of life on earth. Are you interested?
Welcome to the Regenerative Movement
It’s a movement that has established roots in the principles of ecology, permaculture, indigenous world-views, and self-development. To be “regenerative” is to first see yourself, living beings, and places as whole, interconnected, and nested entities, with their own unique essence. From this regenerative view of reality, it’s possible to design nodal interventions in places of transformational leverage that develop the beings involved to grow their unique potential.
Many might look at that previous paragraph and not have any idea what I’m saying. That’s how I felt when first learning about the concept. It challenged the way I thought and saw the world, making me realize that it’s a completely different paradigm of thinking than the one we default to in the modern world. To dive deeper into regenerative theory, check out the following resources from Carol (the last article I wrote as a summary of the principles she gleaned from her Irquois grandfather).
A Whitepaper on Regeneration’s Significance
Listen to Carol Sanford Discuss Regenerative First Principles Here
Read more about the Regenerative First Principles (bolded) Here
To grasp the concept of something being “Regenerative”, it’s helpful to contrast it with “Sustainability”, which has become a mainstream rallying cry for climate action.
Sustainability works on optimizing efficiency and minimizing harm in parts of a system (like minimizing carbon emissions)
Regeneration works on designing conditions that allow for highest potential expression of a unique place, taking into account the systems that it’s nested within. An example of regenerative design and development lies in Playa Viva, an eco resort in Mexico that’s minimized carbon emissions, but also:
- Trained farmers in biodynamic / permaculture based practices
- Restored the bird population and native wildlife
- Forged strong social trust between resort growers and local townspeople.
- Restored the dying economy of the local town through win-win partnerships with the resort.
The regenerative approach takes into account many factors beyond a few environmental metrics, studying the environmental, cultural, and economic patterns that can be leveraged to create transformational change in a whole host of areas.
The essence of sustainability is do less harm so an activity can sustain through a period of time.
The essence of regeneration is to grow the unique capacity of a living system in a process of co-evolution.
To see the relationship between regeneration and sustainability, check out this graph from Regenesis Group, some of the leaders on Regenerative Design and Development.
Image from Regenerative Design and Development (2011) by Pamela Mang and Bill Reed
Regeneration is deep, holistic, and needs to be distinguished from sustainability if we’re going to implement it correctly the context of web3. For more reading on regeneration from the people who’ve been doing it their whole career, check out these articles:
The Regenerative Economic Shaper Perspective Paper
Regenerative Design and Development
How to Embody and Implement Regenerative Thinking
To round out your intro to regeneration, here are some key pillars of regenerative thinking to chew on as you move forward in your journey:
Work from potential, not problems
💡 Focusing on a problem is inherently reductionist. It brings a single broken fragment to the foreground and fails to account for the context or system within which the problem is a symptom.
- Regenerative Development and Design, pg 115
The future orientation of potential allows us to evolve from what currently exists, bringing into possibility the relationships, projects, and systemic change that seems impossible when focusing on all the individual problems.
Fifth principle of Regenerative Design and Development from @regenesisgrp— Adam French (@afreezyfrench) October 17, 2022
Work from potential, not problems.
What does this mean exactly?
I'll share my notes in a thread 🧵#regen #ReFi #sustainability #impact
This principle can be incredibly tricky to implement, as many of us have grown up in a society that prizes problem solving in its entrepreneurs. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by the complexity of many problems, it’s time to re-ground yourself in the potential and vision that you’ve created as the basis of your project.
Designing regeneratively means that the designer is constantly developing themselves internally. Learning to detach your ego from your work, empathizing with others, and managing your relationship to uncertainty. Clearing your psyche from unconscious motivations and reaching a place of inner stillness is paramount to designing a regenerative solution in partnership with a place.
Let go of pre-conceived, generalized solutions to facilitate emergence
Many people enter web3 wanting to build like web3 tools are a hammer and everything is a nail. This will prevent you from building something truly regenerative. Each place, system, and unique context calls for a unique solution that fits its essence. Take the time to truly listen and receive what is needed in your specific context to reach the potential that’s been co-created before you architect a web3-based solution. Connect diverse people around a shared purpose, and hold space for new approaches, ideas, and energy to emerge.
What’s The Role of Web3 in Creating Regenerative Systems?
A Convergence of Paradigms
There’s another movement happening, one that you’re familiar with if you’ve been following Gitcoin: Web3. Web3 includes a wide variety of technologies and ways of organizing - DAO’s, Smart Contracts, NFT’s, Disco’s, Blockchains, Hyperstructures and many more emerging structures for coordination of data, money, and work.
Many people have come to the web3 ecosystem in search of a more meaningful way of working and transacting, beyond corporate and governmental interests. Web3 holds the promise of economic and governance infrastructure that’s more resilient, equitable, and collaborative.
This is a special moment in time, where the web3 and regenerative movements are converging, as hundreds of people from all walks of life are coming together to envision and build regen web3 systems to educate, coordinate, and compensate people for undertaking regenerative projects on a global scale.
Web3 As a Tool for Regenerative Action
Decentralized ledgers, smart contracts, DAO’s, NFT’s, cryptocurrencies, and web3 enabled co-ops could act as potent tools for managing data, strategic coordination, and economies around regenerative projects.
Decentralized ledgers facilitate distributed consensus, providing a source of truth and tool for governance that could enable previously excluded stakeholders to co-create and manage projects. These decentralized ledgers, when correctly integrated, could also enable us to visualize and track the nestedness of systems, understanding how local actions can have national or global ripple effects in an environmental and social context.
NFT’s could provide a container for the data of a regenerative project, tracking social, environmental, and economic data within a specific bio-region or other area that defines a whole system. NFT’s could represent the wholeness of places by organizing all data around one token, unifying our analysis of the place and restoring it to it’s true state.
Think of an NFT that represents a bio-region, and the different natural, cultural, and economic systems that support the bioregion are represented as data streams within the NFT. Now we have all the relevant information in one place, facilitating the interdisciplinary understanding of a place’s wholeness that’s necessary for regenerative work. NFT’s could be “linked” to the bio-regional NFT to show their nestedness within the whole of the bio-region. Astral protocol is working on this right now, in partnership with Kolektivo and other Regen web3 orgs.
Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts can act as a new containers and transaction structures for holistic value. You can back the value of a cryptocurrency with anything you can imagine that others might also find valuable. Using the five forms of capital as a framework (natural, produced/manufactured, social, human, and natural) you can create cryptocurrencies that are backed by natural, social, and human capital within a place (maybe a bioregion) or group of places (like a group of neighboring bioregions), gaining in value when people execute local projects that regenerate native natural resources, trust (social capital), and the grow the capacity of locals (human capital) within that place to execute on further projects. Smart contracts and DAO’s could enable communities to collectively create and decide on which projects to execute and invest in.
DAO’s and web3 enabled Co-ops, when implemented correctly, can facilitate a more open, relational, and purpose-driven working style that enables people to contribute in ways that expresses their unique essence towards a systemically impactful purpose without the stifling limitations that traditional corporations use by default .
DAO’s tend to be more collaborative by nature, as many people are members of multiple DAO’s at once. This collaboration creates a space that has potential to become regenerative through intentional co-evolution between different DAO’s.
A key notion in regenerative design is the co-evolutionary, partnered relationship between socio-cultural and ecological systems, which requires an explicit engagement with the implications and consequences of future design decisions.
Source: Regenerative design, socio-ecological systems and co-evolution
Another potent space that DAO’s and cryptocurrencies bring to the surface where we can implement regenerative design is the governance and decision making space. We have an almost blank slate where we’re able to design decision-making structures from the ground up, with the potential to include previously marginalized stakeholders in the process. DAO’s can organize people under a shared potential or purpose that organizes this governance process, enabling structures to be built around a specific potential system, actualizing the regenerative principle of work from potential, not problems.
Hopefully by now you’re excited about the potential of the web3 tech stack to empower regenerative systems - let’s dive into innovators who’re building at this intersection in real time.
What’s Cooking at the Edge of Regeneration and Web3?
There are already thousands of people, organizations, protocols, and entities with undefined structures diving into the edge of regenerative thinking and web3.
For a wider view of the intersection of what’s happening at the intersection of social impact and web3, check out the Greenpill book and listen to the great podcasts hosted by Kevin Owocki, founder of Gitcoin.
One of the most popular and active corners of this emerging space is the Regenerative Finance sphere, a collection of climate-focused orgs creating financial systems that incentivize and compensate regenerative actions. Check out some of the leaders in ReFi:
Keep in mind that “regenerative” is a complex label that many people apply to their marketing material without deep understanding of regenerative principles and design processes. You can read the material linked in the beginning of the article and put on your critical thinking hat to sniff out the truly regenerative organizations, as opposed to organizations focused on sustainability.
The ReFi Gateway
ReFi DAO is a thriving community of DAO’s, innovators, engineers, and designers who’re all building at the intersection of climate, social justice, and web3. They have >1,000 brilliant souls in their discord and are hosting community-sourced founders circles for people to connect around topics such as carbon sequestration, web3 and real world assets, and much more.
Jump into their discord to get a finger on the pulse of ReFi, as they’ve built an amazing community.
The ReFi Pioneer
Regen Network has been building at the intersection of regeneration and web3 since 2017, before either concepts were trendy. They’ve created a blockchain platform that supports the creation of “ecological assets for the ReFi economy”. Their protocol, built as an app-chain on cosmos, is built specifically for handling ecological data. They’ve just launched their marketplace, where you can buy and sell eco-credits minted on-chain.
Check out their whitepaper for an in-depth technical breakdown of their approach to designing regenerative web3 systems.
The ReFi Up-and-Comer
Kolektivo Network has spent the last few years doing applied research in Curaçao around applied regenerative economics, and has built a platform that aims to support regenerative local economies. They’ve brought together quite an impressive web3 enabled stack that aims to improve ecological understanding, value exchange, and coordination. They just launched their MVP and are looking to scale their approach in the next few years.
Check out their bluepaper to get the details
The Sacred Economics Blockchain
Celo is a blockchain with the mission “of local economies to regenerate global ecologies… to build a financial system that creates the conditions for prosperity—for everyone.”. They’ve positioned themselves as the blockchain for social impact, and have a philosophy based on the sacred economics model of Charles Eisenstein, which has some overlap with regenerative thinking. They’ve co-created the Climate Collective, which brings together “an expanding coalition of companies building at the nexus of web3 and climate action.”
Celo also has a dynamic algorithmic structure for creating stablecoins, backed by context relevant value. You can read more about that here.
If you’re a builder who’s interested in Celo, check out Celo Camp, an accelerator that pays people for building in the Celo ecosystem.
The Regen Web3 Watering Hole
Gitcoin has established itself as a watering hole of sorts for climate and regeneration oriented web3 projects, where they come to get startup funding using the quadratic funding protocol. Since the funding protocol benefits projects that have a large amount of donors, the grant rounds always foster a sense of collaboration and community between ReFi projects. Check out some of the projects who’ve raise on Gitcoin here.
A Grassroots Implementation
What if I told you one of the best examples of regen web3 in action was thriving in the Brazillian Favelas? Muda acts as an inspiring implementation of regenerative web3 technology. It’s a social currency platform and marketplace that where community members throughout Brazil can engage in value-adding actions such as planting native trees, composting, sorting trash, and volunteering for NGO’s and receive a social cryptocurrency in return once the action is marked as legitimate by blockchain validators. With this cryptocurrency, they can buy local food from CSA’s, art made by fellow residents, and other useful goods on the Muda marketplace. The Muda organization uses the platform Cambiatus to manage the blockchain and social currency technology. They also work with local partners to provide incentives for CSA’s to get started, covering costs so they can provide a supply of local food on the marketplace, which people can buy with social currency earned through pro-social actions.
In talking to Flavia, who’s working on the Muda project and a liason to the ReFi community, she mentioned that many of the founders of Muda don’t even know how blockchain technology works. To me, this shows that building a successful regenerative project using web3 technology means that you focus on the user experience, value flows, and partnerships that will bring it to life, not necessarily the technology.
Do you have a regenerative web3 idea that you want to build? Create a grant on Gitcoin to get it funded and tap into the amazing community. 😊
The ReFi space is rapidly emerging and largely still figuring itself out. To join the process of mapping out the ReFi space, tap in at this typeform.
For a wide view of the regeneration + web3 landscape, check out this map that we made with the most active organizations in Regen x Web3. Note that not ALL these organizations are web3-based organizations. As you move towards the top of the graph (and each individual circle) the organizations become more “regenerative” centric than “web3” centric.
Here’s a quick rundown of the categories that the Map is organized by:
ReFi - the movement around creating an economy that is aware of and rewards regenerative outcomes.
Community - Spaces for people to connect around regeneration
Eco-Credits - Organizations working on creating economic tools from the regeneration of specific natural phenomena - carbon credits, water, biodiversity, trees.
Funding and Investing - Building financing vehicles for regenerative and climate friendly initiatives
Tech Infrastructure - Specific pieces of technology that enable aspects of ReFI to flourish, like Astral protocol that's focused on place-based NFT's.
Regenerative Infrastructure - The built environment, energy, human structures that interface with natural ones.
Built and Stewarded Environment - Creating specific tools to foster a built (cities, dwellings) or stewarded (agricultural) environment that restore biodiversity, build communities, and produce healthy food.
Politics and Law - Economic, legal, and political structures based on regenerative principles.
On the Horizon: Big Opportunities In Regen Web3
While many organizations see the potential of web3 to transform and expand carbon and other eco-credit markets, regenerative projects extend into social, cultural, political, and even spiritual places.
"The deliverable of a regenerative project is to grow people's capacity to collaborate and co-evolve with each other and their place"
Source - Deepening into Regenerative Practice - Conversation between Bill Reed & Daniel Wahl
With much of the focus in the space is on solving the technical issues in an economic and coordination context, I think there’s an exciting gap that regenerative web3 solutions should focus on moving forward. That gap lies in relationships and states of being. Our society has become so fractured in how we approach things, and it creates conflicting tension where there could be creative tension. Can we unite previously conflicting parties around regenerative purposes that are organized around using the transparency, flexible hierarchies, and equitable voting structures of DAO’s? Could we create spaces that help people step into their fullness as a human and work with vulnerability as a part of a creative process?
One example can be found in the regenerative agriculture space. There are a host of universities and scholars of regenerative farming techniques that grow soil health, water retention, and crop nutrition. But they don’t normally have great relationships with farmers, as farmers don’t trust people who don’t have the experience of being on a farm. How could web3 provide the tools to align the intellectual knowledge of these scholars with the practical knowledge of farmers? Who else needs to be brought into the equation, and what would their role be? How might a DAO help in bringing transparency and shared purpose towards the interactions of the actors in this complex systems.
Designing in this entrenched social fabric gets sticky, because it requires the designer to manage human egos, entrenched mistrust, and divisive rhetoric. If you want to design truly regenerative solutions, you can’t stay at the detached, logical level of technical systems. You must dive into the context of specific places, co-create a unified vision with the people there-in, and design a structure that brings it to life. The complexity you find may be intimidating, but understand that embracing each layer of complexity gets you closer to the transformational leverage that we need to create global systems that grow the capacity of life.
2023 Predictions for Regen x Web3:
- We start to see regen web3 pilots that spark real-world collaborative innovation, getting people outside of both spaces excited about the potential of both crypto and regenerative design
- Weaknesses of current web3 tools are exposed and iterated upon by increased interaction and usage by people in rural communities and developing nations
- The web3 community starts to embrace use cases of web3 that are less economically focused and more coordination
- The disconnect between current funding available mechanisms and the vision of regen web3 becomes clearer, and more innovative approaches / alternatives to VC and grant funding (like Gitcoin) begin to emerge and gain traction as a response
The intersection of web3 and regenerative design holds a world of potential to shift our state of consciousness and systems of governance, collaboration, and finance to a state of mutually beneficial co-evolution. It’s an inspiring intersection that’s rapidly gaining momentum, but we must move deeper into our understanding and embodiment of living systems thinking if we are to build with clarity.