REconomy means REgenerative Economy. Economic development has always been considered an adversary of the environment. Development creates a cluttered built environment, congested streets, sprawl, hundreds of acres of parking lots, rising taxes and increasing crime. The landscape becomes what architect Frank Lloyd Wright called “American Ugly.”
Government agencies create stacks of documents and regulations to restrain the impact of development on quality of life but at base governments want development and the revenue potential it represents. The term “Balance” is a mantra of development but on close examination, there is no balance between growth and a finite environment: We cannot create more land, water, farmland, forest and natural beauty.
Quality of life, however, is defined by economic prosperity. Without businesses, jobs and infrastructure, life can become grim. Arguably the thing that is worse than growth is economic decline and impoverishment such as has happened to hundreds of American communities.
REconomy is a business model that seeks to strengthen the weak link between the economy and environment. It seeks not balance but a mission of regenerating, of restoring the natural features of the community that in large part define quality of life.
Regenerative economics is also about long-term declining, rustbelt, communities; communities that have struggled, some for decades, to find an economic model that will restore prosperity, recreate attractive communities and attract families to find homes in a great place to live.
In both cases, sustainability is about creating or restoring a prosperous and secure future drawing on both emerging technologies and tradition crafts and trades.
Centre Sustainability Master Plan at a Glance
Communities across the country have been working for decades to develop plans to promote sustainability. Really good plans are regrettably few in number. Most communities have either partial plans (that depend on limited public resources) or have made little progress. The Centre Sustainability Master Plan seeks to fill the need for a comprehensive sustainability planning template.
Sustainability is first about retaining or restoring the quality of life of a community. Prosperity and economic security are achieved through development of the economic potential of the community but unmanaged growth can have a distressing impact on the quality of life. The quest for “balance” misses the point. We need rather an economy that not only creates wealth but also advances the well-being of the community and secures the quality of life we desire to leave as a legacy to coming generations.
Sustainability is, second, about achieving freedom from dependence upon, from the risk we are becoming increasingly aware about, of an uncertain global economy and from reliance on material resources in places with far from secure political futures.
Sustainability is more than a social good; it is an economic process. It has to be approached in a businesslike manner. It involves risk; not just the personal time and financial investments of entrepreneurs, but of greater importance, of setting objectives the achievement of which people stake their credibility upon.
To achieve any degree of certainty we must have a plan, a document that defines a vision of the future, a statement of purpose, a list of common objectives, and the mechanism for achieving them.
A useful plan must be comprehensive in scope. A community is a complex, dynamic and highly interdependent network which achieves its greatest identify and efficiency to the degree that its daily behavior is well understood. A community is a group of people who share not only a place but a common sense of identity, values and a sense of cooperative endeavor to promote the welfare of all of its members. Transition Centre is developing Community Ecosystem Mapping as a tool for achieving this synergy.
We need to understand the planning process itself. Sustainable economic planning research tells us a great deal about the potential and the limitations of these plans. Transition Centre has sought to extract key principles from this research to guide the formation of an action-oriented process to both assures prosperity and quality of life. These principles give this model a distinctive if not unique character.
Our focus is explicitly local. It is about the place we call home. It is about problems that are within our grasp to solve. It is about the things we can do for ourselves rather than depending on outside agencies.
Myths and Other Liabilities
The classical definition of sustainability is about how we reduce our own consumption to insure there is enough for future generations. This ideal is arguably no longer achievable. We have to have a new plan, a new vision, and an effective program for securing a desirable future.
The weak link in the sustainability matrix has always been that between the economy and the environment. The global economy has barely tapped the brakes on economic growth; indeed restrained by recession rather than mission. We must, therefore adapt and innovate and we can do this.
A brand new for profit corporate legal entity, the Benefit Corporation, provides a mechanism for dramatically strengthening the reciprocal relationship between ecology and economy, terms that share the same root.
The Master Plan Template
The Centre Sustainability Master Plan Vision 10 – 10 provides a framework for setting quantifiable goals. From the vision we can backcast, step by step, into the sequence of events needed to achieve them.
The plan begins with a detailed community assessment. We need to understand what we consume; not the cost of consumption but the quantities of goods and services, of energy and information, of both tangible and intangible variables. We need to understand where resources come from and what risk are involved in dependencies. We need to understand the community ecosystem: the social and economic processes, the players and partners, and the network of collaboration and exchange that define the community. We need to access the resources we have at our disposal and how to combine them into a viable economic program.
Action plans are not policy statements; they are business plans. They are about what will be achieved, who will do the job, and how the job will be accomplished. This model requires extraordinary innovation. Each module of the master plan is expected to not only pay for itself but also provide significant economic benefit to the community.
Achieving a sustainable future requires a dedicated leadership. It requires organization and resources. It requires investments.
Implementation involves organization, markets, financial planning, systematic and effective networking and communication, entrepreneurship, training and education, community development, and other things outlined in the template.
Community ownership of the process is absolutely essential. Governments and institutions are partners rather than authorities. The model is bottom up, not top down. The leaders of a community enterprise are those who take the responsibility for getting things done in a collaborative and cooperative, open-source, manner.
Vision 10 – 10
Economic progress can only be achieved by setting achievable goals. Vision 10 – 10 sets objectives of ten percent economic redevelopment in ten years in each of a dozen sectors. The first ten percent will be the hardest and parts of that extremely challenging in themselves.
Ten percent residential renewable electricity, for example, translates into a count of households in the designated zone multiplied by the best estimates of the cost of installation of wind, solar and other means of generating that electricity.
Even on a small scale, say 5,000 households, the cost estimate can give you sticker shock. Nonetheless, this is a readily achievable objective. As an economic problem it is not a matter of trying to figure out how to get the government to fund this program but how to make it a leverage to both pay for itself and to create noteworthy economic advantage for the community.
Once the objective is set it is obviously necessary to mobilize champions and organize the program. It will be immediately obvious that there is a long list of daunting barriers to getting this job done. There must, therefore, be strong motivation and that motivation comes in terms of both community pride and the promise of prosperity.
Essential to this model is that while there are a dozen or more major initiatives, they must be closely coordinated. The Master Plan Template and the Community Ecosystem Mapping tool help achieve this objective.
Community ownership means transparency. This involves not only providing daily updates on the projects but inviting active public participation in meetings, events and celebrations. Click here to see Centre Sustainability Master Plan site.