The societal and organisational shift that is required of us is unprecedented; it can no longer be about improving the current capitalist paradigm based on endless economic growth (even if we were to call it green growth, or sustainable growth), and has to stem from an innovation of the very paradigm through which we can think, and then embody, that radical shift. For many aspects, Regeneration (THE 6 PRINCIPLES ARTICLE) seems to us to be best fitted as this new paradigm for the 21st century.


Rooted in the wisdom of those ecosystemic principles we can observe in Nature, Regeneration, as a paradigm, suggests that for a system to thrive, it needs to regulate the cycle of “death”, and the cycle of “life”. With regards to the “death” cycle, it means ensuring that:

  1. We divest our energies from those organisational or societal patterns that can no longer continue into the future (e.g. petrol-based transportation)
  2. We accompany the dying of what we collectively need to let go of (e.g. cross-continental tourism)
  3. But we protect promising initiatives from an early death from the current dynamics that would otherwise thwart them (just like brambles protect the oak seedling from hungry deers until the oak it strong enough to withstand their munching) (e.g. protecting local organic producers and retailers from the logics of large scale agribusiness)

And for the “life” cycle, it suggests that we:

  1. Encourage life where it is trying to thrive (e.g. lower tax or/and create specific legislative frameworks for regenerative products)
  2. Increase interactions that are life-giving (e.g. civic innovations such as citizens’ assemblies)
  3. And develop collaboration and partnerships (e.g. Danone and the Gramheen bank teaming up to foster health and social regeneration in rural Bangladesh)


A key concept here is that of regulation: the dying needs to be as present as the birthing (just as in the life-cycle of living cells, where a “failure to die” can lead to cancerous growth). We’ve probably all experienced how easier it is to start something new than it is to let go of something we’ve being doing for so long, yet unless we do let go, real transformation is unlikely to happen.


With our clients, this becomes an important part our work: enabling them, at the bottom of Otto Scharmer’s U process, to name what they need to let go of before Presencing, Cristalysing, and Prototyping the new. In a workshop, this may come in the form of a pledge, that the group crafts and then agrees to endorse – even though the hard work of actually letting go will come later, in the following few weeks or months, where they will need to translate that pledge operationally, and face “for real” the disruptive thrust of any process of transformation.


One could be tempted to think that, when it comes to accepting to let go in order to let come, Christian organisations may find it easier; indeed, at the heart of their Faith, the Paschal Mystery (Jesus’ death and resurrection) provides a wonderful framework to find meaning in what is required of us: to accept to let go, to let die, before we let come, and let live, and do so in trust – indeed in faith – that even if we don’t know what ‘the new’ will be, it is in the letting go of that which can no longer continue into the future that we create the space for that ‘new’ to be birthed.


In our experience of working with religious congregations, it is true that the Paschal Mystery is, undeniably, of great help for them in entering that territory of “naming” what needs to die, and in making the necessary pledge to let go of it. Yet we’ve also noticed that the translation of such a pledge into an operational reality is often rather difficult – much like most of us, as mentioned above.


How could that be? Well, perhaps the psychodynamics of the Paschal Mystery can help us make better sense of it.


The core aspect of the Paschal Mystery is quite simple: trusting God’s will, Jesus accepts to die on the cross, and rises on the 3rd day, thus bearing witness that after death comes new life. For every Christian across the globe, this dynamic is the very heart of their Faith. Put another way: this dynamic had to happen, as it is in its unfolding that God’s mystery is being revealed.

Yet as human beings across centuries, we’ve often been tempted to look at some of the characters in that dynamics as ‘the enemy’, as ‘evil’ – as if without their interference, Jesus would have been able to continue to live, and perform his miracles on Earth.


But the Christian Faith itself points to the contrary: it is through dying when he did, and the way he did, that Jesus revealed God’s mystery to humanity. In other words, he did need to be betrayed, judged, sentenced to death and crucified, for without that the Mystery of Resurrection (of life after death) could not have been revealed.


The implications of this is that all characters in that drama are essential, and hold their part for the Paschal Mystery to be able to unfold. Judas the traitor; the high priests who want to get rid of a rival; Ponce Pilatus the roman governor who “washes his hands” of the matter, thus effectively sentencing Jesus; Jesus himself, of course, who embodies the good that will nevertheless die; and also those witnesses, starting with Mary Magdalena and then the apostles who may doubt but ultimately rally to the evidence of life having made it through death. The Paschal Mystery is therefore a dynamic story, the result of all these characters interacting –not the story of just one person.


What does this all have to do with organisational and societal regeneration, you might (rightfully!) ask? Well, regardless of your Faith, and even if you are an atheist, this remains a foundational story for many civilisations, and it may help shine some light on what can sometimes hold us back from engaging in successful organisational or societal regeneration, primarily by highlighting the various roles that need to be taken up, played, acted out in what must essentially be a set of dynamic interactions between those roles.


Take petrol-based transportation for example. It will not end by us pledging the end of it – whether we are users who currently enjoy it, car manufacturers who want to align to climate goals, petrol companies offering to switch to renewables, or government sensing a wind change (forgive the pun).


It will require people taking up the role of bad object, of those seen as the high priests conspiring to kill that which is good (called the Amish by the French president a while back); it will require a traitor, a Judas – perhaps a car company or a petrol company breaking ranks from expected behaviour; a government agreeing to sentence to death petrol-based transportation as we know it; and also witnesses of the new life that is possible beyond petrol-based transportation.


From a psycho-dynamic perspective, what this means is that for successful regeneration to take place, several roles of bad objects need taking up, therefore several people need to accept to put themselves forward to take them up – even if that means being denigrated and insulted for weeks, months, or years.


Put another way: what the Paschal Mystery suggests is that regeneration does not happen ‘nicely’, with everybody agreeing it’s a good idea; or that it may be painful but we’ll bear the pain of it in an adult, harmonious way. Regeneration requires some people to take up the role of “baddies” and be seen as those who sentence to an unfair death – that is the price to pay for the so necessary unfolding of new life.


Of course the intention here is not to condone violent or abusive behaviour, under the guise that it would be in the service of regeneration. Elon Musk’s current reckless and perhaps sociopathic behaviour in his handling of his new toy “Twitter” has nothing to do with regeneration, and looks rather like the results of an untamed megalomaniac drive.


The intention, rather, is to encourage those whose role it is to take the decisions, to follow through with where the collective discernment is pointing to and to actually act on it with decisions followed up by thorough implementation. Regeneration demands it – and we can’t all be Jesus the good guy!


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