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What is Regenerative?

The term “Regenerative” is being used more and more with little agreement on what it actually means.

Read on and see the chart below to learn what Principles and Core Characteristics must be present for something to be considered regenerative.


After decades of research and experience in living systems, sustainability, design, development, spirituality, psychology, quantum physics, and more, Dr. Leah Gibbons has developed a suite of tools included in the Regenerative Community Development Framework© for Regenerative Development, Design, and Living processes that:

  • define “Regenerative”

  • provide Regenerative Principles to follow

  • identify the characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems

  • provide step-by-step methods to guide systems thinking and acting for regeneration, and

  • provide strategies and evaluation tools to help communities progress on a regenerative path (see image and chart below)

  • offer certifications for regenerative practitioners and regenerative projects

The intention is to help the field coalesce around principles, characteristics, and practices that are true and apply anywhere, in any context, while allowing for local flexibility of expression that is inherent to regenerative living systems and Regenerative Development and Design.

Regenerative Development is an on-going change process in which capacities in living systems develop such that ever greater vitality, abundance, and prosperity for all life manifests. All living systems are regenerative at their core, moving through cycles that manifest new and higher levels of life and complexity. Humans have interfered with these cycles, causing them to slow and/or speed up at certain points, resulting in degenerative rather than regenerative processes on time scales that we can observe and that affect us greatly. To see that this is true, we only have to look at processes such as climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequity and unrest, and similar disruptions, as well as how they are interacting and amplifying across scales of space and time. We have tried to bypass living systems principles, and this is leading to the destruction of most of the life on Earth, Earth’s life support and life regulating systems, and will lead to our own demise if we continue on this path.


With humans significantly affecting or dominating every ecosystem and social-ecological system on Earth, we must consider how to align human consciousness and actions with living systems principles and characteristics so that all life may thrive as one coherent whole.

All healthy living systems exhibit the same principles and characteristics. These could be called Living Systems Principles and Characteristics. Here, we call them Regenerative Development Principles and Core Characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems to help us translate principles into practice through Regenerative Development. For any project or system we are acting in, no matter how large or small, we can refer to Regenerative Development Principles and Core Characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems to guide us in aligning human consciousness and action with life’s principles. First we ensure that the Principles are being followed, then we use the Characteristics to implement a finer, more detailed scale of discernment.

Both Regenerative Development Principles and Core Characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems apply to Ecological and Social aspects of Living Systems, as well as across Process and Product Domains. In other words, our design, development, and living processes should follow the Principles and exhibit the Characteristics, as should our design and development products, i.e., buildings, neighborhoods, cities, food systems, governance systems, educational systems, etc.


If processes and products do not follow Regenerative Principles and Characteristics, we cannot say they are regenerative. They are somewhere on a continuum from conventional to regenerative.

While Regenerative Development Principles and Core Characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems are universal, specific place-based Indicators and Strategies are co-created through the Regenerative Development process as a community. We conceptualize Regenerative Development processes as occurring through communities of varying sizes because all life exists in relationship, in community. It is most useful for bringing humans into alignment with living systems to think and act at this scale, through this lens.


For example, what we call an individual human being is actually a complex community of human cells, bacteria, viruses, fungi, energies from different sources, external environments, the past and the present, and processes we do not yet fully understand, such as our perspectives, paradigms, and worldviews. The same is true for any living systems of any scale. Think of a neighborhood. It is a complex, co-created emergence of human life, more-than-human life, microclimates, geography, hydrology, time, space, and more. To work with regenerative processes, we must work through the lens of complexity, relatedness, reciprocity, emergence—community.

The chart below provides Regenerative Development Principles and Core Characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems.









More information about Regenerative Indicators and Strategies may be found through Dr. Gibbons’s publications

as well as by contacting her directly:

contacting Koru Collaborative:

or contacting Regenerative Living Institute:, 941-224-6256.

Dr. Gibbons has founded these companies to catalyze Regenerative Development in the world. These businesses provide consulting, development, design, educational, and research services for regenerative development, design, and living processes at all scales. 

Please keep in mind that all content provided relating to Regenerative Development is copyright protected. While we want to see Regenerative Development spread throughout the world, we also want to help it stay true to its highest form of expression, its highest potential while allowing for all of its diverse manifestations. If you share this content, we ask that you reference its source, Dr. Leah Gibbons, and her publication Gibbons, L.V. 2020. Moving beyond sustainability: a Regenerative Community Development Framework for co-creating thriving living systems and its application. Journal of Sustainable Development 13(2), 20-52. doi: 10.5539/jsd.v13n2p20.


We also ask that if you wish to implement Regenerative Development following these Principles and Characteristics, you contact us to discuss how to best do so and how we can support you and your community in fully stepping into thrivability for all life.

Regen Dev Principles and Characteristics.PNG
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