A note from Regenerate Cascadia

What did you do during covid? Milla McLachlan, Alain Gauthier and Dana Carman nurtured an informal collective of a dozen facilitators and coaches, based in Portland, focused on building individual and social capacity for resilience and regeneration in the region.

In the first months of 2019, drawing inspiration from initiatives such as Karen Mahon’s Climate Hope, Hilary Bradbury’s Climate Kitchen, and the Deep Adaptation movement, Dana Carman and Alain Gauthier hosted conversations with colleagues and friends who shared their interest in supporting efforts in the Cascadia region to create flourishing lives for all in the midst of climate change, social and economic injustice and potential societal collapse. These conversations grew into the informal collected called Regenerate Cascadia (RC). 

Milla writes:

“We come together in a virtual meeting every two weeks. Initially gathering on Zoom was necessary to accommodate members who lived outside the Portland area, and we continued in this way during the COVID-19 crisis. Members also engage in one-on-one or small group online meetings, phone calls, and ‘walk and talks’, as lockdown guidelines allow. Our process for planning and hosting the biweekly calls developed organically, and continues to evolve as we sense into our mission and purpose. At the outset we focused on getting to know each other and building strong relationships. Slowing down, taking time for meditation and thoughtful check-ins at the start of each gathering has built deep trust, and created a nurturing space in which masks can be dropped. We have experimented with innovative group practices such as using the four paths of regeneration (via positiva, via negativa, via creativa and via transformativa); strategies to overcome immunity to change; drawing insights from the Enneagram; using system mapping and constellations; and navigating polarities. Periodically we revisit and deepen our shared understanding of, and commitment to regeneration. Our gatherings have enlarged our capacity to embrace not-knowing, and enabled us to hold space for widely different perspectives on key issues such as the dance between reflection and action, hope and despair, collapse and rebirth.

We also use a peer-support process to support each other in our work in the world. When a member requests assistance on a specific issue they face in their work or personal life, they draft a brief description of the issue and frame a specific peer-assist question. One or two members volunteer to work with the member to prepare for an upcoming group meeting, at which the member will present their question, and engage with the group in conversations, followed by further consultations with the volunteer peers. The member shares insights and outcomes from the peer assist in a subsequent RC meeting. One member was launching a new online program for corporate CSR leaders in collaboration with two partners. The caring questions asked by RC members helped her to realize a buried concern, which was the fear that she wouldn’t be able to ‘hold’ the group in the online space in ways she usually did in in-person gatherings. In the participative learning climate of the RC conversation, she felt fully present to the emerging collective wisdom. She realized that she could bring the same presence to the online gatherings with the CSR leaders. This realization built her confidence and has enabled her to foster a participative learning climate among the CSR leaders.

As a result of his peer-assist and an earlier conversation on Enneagram types, another member realized that his usual approach to his consulting role, which for decades had been characterized by objective observation and analysis, was shifting quite radically. He shared that he was supporting a team of leaders in a nationwide non-profit organization, (of which he is also a member), in their effort to reimagine their organization’s role. He is passionate about the potential role the organization could play in creating a flourishing future. Devoting many hours to this pro-bono assignment, he sensed that he was losing his much-prized objectivity, and may have become overly identified with the project and the outcomes he desired for it. In deep conversations, RC peers asked penetrating questions and shared diverse, even contradictory, recommendations on his dilemma. Reflecting on these conversations, he resolved to rebalance his role as a consultant. In his work with the non-profit leaders he now embraces and expresses his own heartfelt perspectives and desires openly, but he is consciously taking a step back, listening more intently to different viewpoints, and refraining from pushing the leaders towards his preferred outcomes.

Both members mentioned that the peer-assist process had positive and enduring benefits for them. They concur that the trusting relationships that had been built up over time in RC allowed them to hear and absorb challenging truths on the dilemmas they faced, knowing that members spoke from a place of love.

As the need for thoroughgoing societal regeneration becomes more visible by the day, RC continues to wrestle with questions about what is ours to be and do, both individually and collectively. We persist in our commitment to cultivate and embody a spirit of regeneration as we act in service of the future.”

We would love to hear from other groups engaging with these questions in innovative ways.

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