PART THREE OF A THREE-PART SERIES
3 December 2020
The term “new normal” is being bandied about in reference to COVID-19, as a way to come to terms with the changes that have recently impacted our lives. The term can also be used to describe an alternative future; a future without poverty, climate change and biodiversity loss, where we live within the carrying capacity of the planet, in harmony with each other and with nature.
It’s an attractive proposition but it’s not without challenges. Most of our existing systems are woefully inadequate to support such a scenario. Our short-term focus is creating a “take, make, dispose” mentality with little consideration for the future of our planet. Surviving in this dynamic, in and towards a new normal, requires a period of transition. Individuals and organisations will need to grapple with complexity and uncertainty. The new normal will require different skillsets — agility, flexibility
and adaptability. The new normal will be about transitioning from static to fluid and towards transformational, real and regenerative change.
Take agriculture as an example. I recently visited a farm in Brandenburg, in the east of Germany, close to the Polish border, which is moving towards regenerative agriculture practices. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach that restores soil quality, increases biodiversity and improves watersheds. This farm has multiple reasons to undertake such an incisive change of farming practices — the most prominent relate to climate change and degraded soil, particularly due to highly
intensive farming practices.
It sounds simple in theory. We know about notill farming practices, syntrophic principles and the value of permaculture. But how easy is it in practice? What does it mean for a whole system to change? What are the pathways to a new normal? How do we finance this transition?
PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS
In the end, it comes down to people and their relationships. In Brandenburg, they started by learning from other farmers, created a strategy for the land and implemented first steps. Field workers, many of whom are volunteers, had to collaborate and work together in a different way, learning new skills and approaches, and operating within a broader stakeholder group. Trust has been critical as they increased their ability to learn through different contexts and convince others of their approach. It takes an effort to create a thriving community which takes responsibility for its own change and learning processes.
Perhaps most important of all has been securing philanthropic support and investments. Regenerative change requires a long-term perspective that integrates social, economic and environmental concerns. Many philanthropic organisations already have this long-term mindset, and investors seem to be catching up in
understanding such interdependencies.
VALUES AND VISION
From my perspective, personal values and a clear vision are critical to this successful transformation. Advisors are key in this process, as they facilitate, guide and support the individual or community in their endeavour. They also have access to a competent network allowing them to connect with peers, knowledge carriers or thought leaders. Advisors understand the broad range of possibilities available to engage in change-making processes and help cocreate transformation.
Looking forward, we must embrace this new normal in all its complexity. But let’s not kid ourselves — it’s will remain challenging. COVID has exposed how connected we are as a global society but also showed the disconnect, particularly in relation to nature. Let’s then reconnect, build new relationships, explore innovative pathways and jointly cocreate as a positive force for good. After all, it is a journey. Travelling together might actually be fun.