Creating Space: Resilience and Healthy Networks

May 31, 2016 4 Comments

Last week I attended another meeting of the Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (RARE) and we deepened our conversation about a “regenerative framework” for guiding system change. Underlying our conversations is the premise that many living systems – ecological, economic, social – are reaching or have already reached a point of crisis where they can no longer respond to changing conditions in such a way that humanity, or significant portions thereof, can thrive. Another way of saying this is that these systems are losing their capability for resilience (to “bounce back” from perturbations) and regeneration (to self-organize and evolve). Our discussions are focused specifically on the dynamics of networks, human and otherwise, and what these can tell us about why we are where we are socially and ecologically and what can be done to alter current conditions and humanity’s long-term prospects.

Breeding disconnection, diminishing diversity and stemming resources flows is “irresponsible.”

From Dr. Sally Goerner, Regenerative Development: The Art and Science of Creating Durably Vibrant Human Networks, The Capital Institute, September 1, 2015

In a related book by Brian Walker and David Salt called Resilience Thinking, the authors talk about the importance of “creating space” as a practice in opposition and balance to efforts to push for efficiency and extracting greater “profit” of various kinds. Currently many systems are dominated by an emphasis on efficiency and extraction, which can push these systems to a state of brittleness as “command and control” operators attempt to reduce the diversity and intricacy of network elements, connections and flows (viewed as inefficient and hampering predictable and growing returns). What the system and its underlying networks lose as a result are the raw material and capacity for intelligent responses to new phenomena and disruptions. In this sense breeding disconnection, diminishing diversity and stemming resource flows is “irresponsible,” – inhibiting the system’s ability to respond.

A resilience and regeneration framework is about creating space.

Goerner S, Fiscus D, Fath B. Using Energy Network Science (ENS) to connect resilience with the larger story of systemic health and development. Emergence: Complexity and Organization. 2015 Sep 30 [last modified: 2016 Feb 2]. Edition 1. doi: 10.emerg/10.17357.3d5966bc59d8c23528089eb3304db847.

The more “responsible” alternative is to create space through the development of robust, intricate and functional social-ecological networks. In doing so, efforts must be made to:

This adds both gravity and nuance to the work of network development, suggesting that efforts focused on enhancing connectivity, building trust, probing boundaries and supporting social learning are not luxuries but fundamental to creating resilient communities of all kinds and should be the focus of serious investment.


  • Love this! In the thick of similar conversations here in the SF Bay Area about regenerative, heart-based economies, businesses and networks. Central to this for me, as an indigenous person, is reclaiming our relationship to land and to one another. This disconnection is at the root. And thanks for link to RARE. Will be sharing this with the network in conversation here about reimagining everything!

    • Curtis Ogden says:

      Thank you, Brenda, for your comment and perspective. I am very curious to hear more about your work in the Bay Area. FYI, I am working with RARE to develop a “workshop” based on some core frameworks/principles of both resilience and regeneration applied to social-ecological systems and networks. It would be great to figure out if there is something we could do together. Let me know if you are up for a conversation. By the way, any chance you will be at the New Economy Coalition Conference (CommonBound) in Buffalo? We are co-hosting a track on equitable, eco-logical and democratically owned and operated food systems.



      • Warm greetings Curtis, would love to check in at some point by phone or video to learn more about each other’s work. Excited to hear more about what you are up to. Please contact me at to set up a time soon. Next week is pretty full already, but week after that is open.

        Thanks for bringing New Economy Coalition Conference (CommonBound)to my attention. Will be looking into it ASAP! Timely given what we are staring to build…

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