On Regenerative Cultures & Decentralized Imagination Healing

MagentaCeiba is the Executive Creative Officer of Bloom Networka global community of regenerative culture leaders that gather online and in-person to collaboratively envision a brighter future. Magenta is also a classical pianist and calls herself an imagination healer, trying to help people change their reality where imagination is suppressed by a hierarchical distribution of power, focusing instead on creating alternative societies, business networks, and creative communities in harmonious relationship with the Earth. In this interview we talk about how Bloom Network fosters and scales regenerative culture practices and solutions globally.

Bloom Network is a global community of regenerative culture leaders. Could you explain what “regenerative culture” means?

I usually describe regenerative culture as the opposite of extractive industry. Instead of taking more resources than you are putting back in, you are creating the conditions for more life and more diversity to emerge. The concept of sustainability — where you are putting back as many resources as you’re pulling out — is somewhere in the middle on this spectrum. With regenerative culture and regenerative systems you are making conditions for robust life to thrive — other than fixing things when they are really broken. This occurs through community-oriented life and nourishing practices, whether that’s agriculture, arts, alternative preventative health practices etc. One of our goals is to embed regenerative practices into work life and company structures. Moreover, a lot of indigenous cultures are regenerative cultures — as they operate in a healthy way and in harmonious balance with the flow of nature. This is a thing to be aware of when talking about regenerative cultures — is that they have been with us for thousands of years, they refer to ancient guiding wisdom.

What is an “act of regeneration” the Bloom Network refers to, and what are the examples of those acts?

Bloom is currently in the process of formalizing and tracking that. An example would be planting a tree, or planting a community food forest, or going to a training on restorative justice, resolving conflicts in ways that don’t involve putting someone in prison — restoring healthy relationships for the person who committed the crime and everyone affected instead, contributing to local food sovereignty, to more equitable justice situations. Imagine the preventative health example — planting a garden in your backyard with healing plants, and learning how to do herbalism for boosting immune systems. There are tens of thousands of those sorts of practices and millions of people doing this all over the world — we could talk about these types of regenerative justice practices forever. They just aren’t visible in mainstream media and platforms, and social networks are not really geared towards collaboration and action focused issues — although people are ready to do now, what needs to be done.

Tell us a bit about your background and role at Bloom Network.
My experience with community organizing and regenerative culture started with training at an organization called Radical Women, a socialist feminist grassroots activist organization in the U.S. Radical Women prioritizes fighting for the needs and leadership of the most oppressed, with a special focus on queer women of colour, encouraging them to bring their voices on leadership forward — which are unique and important, because of the multi-layered nature of their experience, their perception of how systems are working and causing harm.

On top of that, I got into healing practices when I went to Burning Man for the first time, where I learned about psychedelics and their role in healing, and I came across a network of meetups called Evolver Spores, where people were integrating their psychedelic insights into social transformation.I was looking for awareness of where the systems are broken, what needs to transform for us all to be healthy, well and create equitable societies, and finding the healing tools to move through some of the intergenerational trauma that I believe all of us are carrying through the passage of time and evolution of humanity.

Evolver at the time was something that brought activism and healing together, organizing meetups jumping around all kinds of different topics — from conflict resolution tools, to solidarity economy, to backyard composting. I started meeting people with really amazing project ideas but they didn’t necessarily have the business skills to pull them off. They weren’t the kind of people who would go get an MBA, and the businesses they were developing were not the traditional, single issue causes — they were instead working on systems-oriented problems, with somewhat more complex objectives that had to be realized within communities. That’s how I got pulled into organizing from my training with Radical Women — bringing these people into the same room together, starting dialogues and sharing skills and resources, so that we could move forward together.

From there I got involved in local organizing with Evolver — but the organization ran into pretty extreme leadership problems resulting from having a traditional hierarchical management structure but ultimately trying to run a peer to peer social network. The local organizers around the world were voiceless in the context of the power structure of the entire organization. We had to separate from that company.

Why do you think the organization ran into these problems?

This is one of the classic problems that, I believe, decentralised tools are built to prevent — abuses of power and resources, situations where a few people can make decisions that negatively impact the work and well-being of all the other stakeholders. That was the reason why we are really excited to adopt the decentralised tools and run our governance in a decentralised manner. With Bloom, we are in the process of designing a new, peer-to-peer leadership structure, and a financial model which is led by local leaders on the ground. Those local leaders are helping to network together different projects in our communities, focused on issues such as local food sovereignty, restorative justice, as well as environmental, social and health restoration projects. The goal is to build a fabric of solidarity economies that can work between the siloed institutional structures, to enable the flourishing of these community solutions for healthy, ecological relationships.

How do these communities benefit from being part of Bloom Network?

People can start local chapters, and we give them templates and tools for this — for example, how to run a meetup, a film screening, a potluck, and so on. We have tightened up the leadership gatekeeping a bit, so that we can trust the people who are building communities in this network, and the bonds won’t get broken over time. We ask people to produce 3 events before they start formally organizing as a Bloom chapter. We have a peer to peer structure which involves a monthly call with all the organizers around the world to share what they are doing and determine how to help each other. We are really looking forward to the decentralised web for the right tools to help our communities in these efforts.

How is Bloom Network formally organized?

Functionally, we are an international cooperative. Legally, we are a public benefit nonprofit corporation. We want to set up a DAO-like organization, as it seems like the only way to run an international cooperative, in terms of taking members donations and allocating them across international borders easily. It seems like it’s going to generate much less administrative overhead to run it that way.

How big is the organization and how many people are involved in the network?

There’s a core team of 3 people regularly working together, pushing things forward, 12 people involved in specific projects — like our conference or innovation lab — and about 7 advisors. We have 12 active local chapters with 1 to 6 organizers each. Overall, there’s around 6,000 people in communication with us, locally or internationally — in Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, and volunteers in the UK, Sweden and Italy.

Are these communities volunteer-based?

They are currently mostly volunteer-based, and we are working on fundraising to get our membership model very streamlined, so that it’d be easy for people to start local events. A percentage of the membership fees would go directly to a local chapter to organize. It’d be up to the local chapter to decide what to do, which existing organizations to funnel the funding to. Most of our local chapters work collaboratively by connecting various groups and networks that already exist in their region; given that these groups tend to be underfunded and invisible, it makes sense for them to work together performing regenerative work on the ground. Often, these groups’ communications don’t parse to the larger audience — they have overly niche vocabularies or political viewpoints, and their aesthetics don’t really translate to the wider base of people who are ready to participate. They do very much grassroots organizing, or are a tiny team that doesn’t have the bandwidth to hire marketing or communications people. Our role in the ecosystem is to bring more visibility to those groups and let people know that this work is happening and is something that they can participate in. Through a local Bloom chapter, relationships are born in a very organic way, community leaders get to know each other while working on projects, where they need very little mediation. The formalization of that structure through governance and financial setup that we are planning for 2020 will just help more resources circulate — more people finding out about these opportunities and volunteering. We want to make it easier for people to quickly mobilize.

Is there any way you measure impact of Bloom as an organization or local chapters themselves?

We are tracking basic things, for example how many people come to the events, how many actions are performed, as well as softer tracking of network connections and value exchanges happening. We are also in conversations with Myra Jackson from the UN who helps local grassroots communities to connect with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and adapt how they’re being measured. The way local communities track impact is a little softer and different than how a data scientist would track impact. My favorite metrics framework is from MetaIntegral, I highly recommend checking it out. Other metrics of success for Bloom are job growth in regenerative enterprises, and redistributing wealth to bioregional leadership networks. For local Blooms it varies by what they choose to focus on — for example the Costa Rica chapter has been resuscitating the local scarlet macaw population.

Do you have a set of best practices regarding engaging with various stakeholders?

We are modeled on how mycelium (mushrooms) work in nature. One of our values is to transfer information and resources across different sections of society. A lot of our local organizers work in state or city government, and a lot of projects they are involved in are focused on policy. Bloom’s working teams have been drafting a partner engagement policy to support our stakeholders in evolving toward deeper regenerativity together.

One of the problems we see is the disconnection between the different sectors and stakeholders. I’ve been talking to the people from the UN about this hurdle in terms of collaboration and financing — you have the structures of governments financing projects, the private sector and corporations and their incentives for doing good, and then you have the non-profit world, and the grassroots sector who, in terms of a lot of regenerative and hyperlocal solutions, is completely disenfranchised from the entire system, for many different reasons.

Through our local events and building an online platform, we give spaces to people to share internationally, across institutional boundaries. The purpose of Pollination Labs, Bloom’s innovation consultancy based on regenerative design, is to go directly inside the institutions to help the regenerative transformation happen, in communication with grassroots networks. To be able to navigate through this we all need to be working together. How do we get those pieces of information on how to be more collaborative — it’s going to take us all having a more open world with each other.

What are the example projects that you’re carrying out with Pollination Labs, what companies are you advising?
One of the companies who is asking us to help them is called PlanetOS. They make dashboards for doing large scale business analytics, for example pulling data from climate prediction modelling on a wind farm to understand when they will have higher load on a machine and hence need more repair for example. The data prediction they’re pulling are coming out of many different sources. They are interested in applying that to more contexts and want to work with us to understand what’s happening in other movements. They want to sit down with different movement leaders and industry leaders.

One of the other use cases for Pollination Labs is an economic development consortium for state-level governance. The consortium leaders have a program to transform economic financing and institutional practices to be more regenerative and oriented around social impact, and addressing climate. They want our support with facilitation design and event production logistics.

Those are both relatively complicated use cases but a lot of regenerative work is — a lot of the questions that come to us reflect that the structures that currently exist are not set up to do the kind of complex intermodal stuff we want to do. Who knows how to think like that and implement things that are at that level of complexity and crossing institutional boundaries?

Are those regenerative practices scalable?

Once a pipeline of one product in one company is transformed, we have probably figured out a whole bunch of regenerative practices that are applied to other companies and other people working in the industry. We have designed the structures for people to be able to be coherently connected with each other while working across different contexts and different cities. For example, we know organizers in 5 different countries working on food sovereignty projects and we’ll be able to very easily aggregate the information they need.

Can you share your favourite project example?

I really love what the community in Los Mochis in Mexico is building — a network of 27 ecoparks across the city. The city had allocated these lots to be made into parks and was stalling on building them. Construction companies were coming in and building expensive apartment buildings. The community made a move to block that by self-organizing with 17 other NGOs in the city to create ecoparks instead. There’s a recreation space for sports, there’s a space for arts and they do a lot of teaching on community gardening. The point is to teach people how to grow food in their backyards. They also organize biocultural festivals and bring together people who run a lot of healing businesses and social entrepreneurship. They work with a couple of indigenous groups nearby and listen to their spiritual leadership. It’s a really well designed initiative to help people understand what’s going on in their communities, support their local economies and tap into their local entrepreneurship.

Do you have any reading recommendations for those who want to explore regenerative culture more?

We have a podcast featuring voice of regenerative culture leaders from around the world. Our wiki does have a short amount of entries with have a lot of information. This entry https://bloomnetwork.org/wiki/regenerative-culture-examples/ has readings from each of our seven topic areas which we aggregate around. That will give you a good scope of what we work on within Bloom Network. There’s also a blog post featuring a list of 12 regenerative podcasts to listen to that do anything from climate adaptation, new economy, solidarity economy, peer-to-peer economy, to decolonisation and native rights. One book that I can recommend which is a good introduction is Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl. That’s probably enough to start with!

Thank you!