Regenerating Places for Community Wellbeing with Beatrice Benne
I met with Beatrice in Yerba Buena park to discuss her current creative focus and how she relates to the connection between creativity and wellbeing. In 2010 Beatrice founded Soma Integral Consulting with a mission to facilitate the resolution of adaptive challenges while focusing on the wellbeing of social and environmental ecosystems. Beatrice’s current focus and the starting point of our conversation is about assisting local governments, communities and cities with the design of regenerative approaches aimed at addressing socio-ecological challenges.
Five Kinds of Capital
Beatrice belongs to a growing group of people called the Regenerates (as depicted in the documentary called: The Regenerates) who believe that humans are not separated from nature but are nature. It’s only through our reconnection to nature that we will be able to address the ecological and social challenges we face as a society. Beatrice’s dream is to make places that help local communities thrive with creativity and wellbeing.
As an educated architect and an experienced leadership consultant she is currently creating a business aimed at facilitating community development projects in urban areas with a high level of community engagement, ensuring the project delivers value across five capitals: human, social, ecological, financial, and produced/manufactured. Beatrice proposes a process for place making based on an understanding of place as a living system.
Through an exploration of the Story of Place (an approach developed by the Regenesis Group) professionals from fields such as anthropology, sociology, geology, ecology, climate, economics, and so on develop a deep understanding of the Place and uncover its identity, vocation and potential. The Story of Place helps the neighborhood or community reconnect to the uniqueness of who it is within its place and the distinctive contribution it can make that increases the worth or value of the larger system within which it is nested. This generates increased meaning and significance that then results in the emergence of a new spirit around which a community can come together. When people are aligned around a shared identity and vocation, there is less competition for scarce resources as people see how they can complement one another and increase their impact through collaboration versus competition.
Who is the Client?
Who is the client when the objective of the development process is the general wellbeing of the community? Why would private businesses contribute to this kind of process and not just build what they want where they want it? Is this method only relevant for the public sector and city planning?
These are questions that are not only relevant in the case of building and place making but in all cross sectoral projects. The public sector is interested in the common wellbeing, organizations in the social/non-profit sector each pursue a specific purposes and companies in the private sector are mostly interested in profit.
What can you do as a creative, entrepreneur to make projects for the common good and still earn an income to support yourself and your family? What does it take to do projects that serve the wellbeing of actors within all sectors? How could entrepreneurs create Responsible Businesses per design (Note: The Responsible Business is the title of a book by Carol Sanford, who is a principal at Regenesis)
In some cases the line between for-profit companies and for-purpose organizations in the public and social sector is blurring. Companies make Corporate Social Responsibility strategies or form a purpose/vision statement to guide their affairs. In the US 27 states have created legislation that allow for a new kind of corporate structure called benefit corporations (www.benefitcorp.net). These B-Corp’s uses the power of business to solve social and environmental systems and can thus be seen as bridging the gap between the for-profit and for-purpose organizations. In his TED-talk Toby Eccles talk about a new business model to solve social needs; it is a problem that many convicted criminals return to prison after serving their first sentence and Eccles presents a business model that successfully has solved this problem. Investors invest in a program that helps released prisoners and get a return if the program is successful. The business offers the government that they will take care of the released prisoners, and if they succeed in lowering the number of released prisoners that commit crimes again they get some of the money that society has saved on costs associated with those crimes, e.g. prison system, judicial system, social system and the police. If successful the money can serve as profit for the investors.
These concepts are all part of what can be called a fourth sector where profit and public wellbeing is important. Learn more about the fourth sector here.
Scales of Creating Wellbeing
If you are reading this and have read the previous blog posts you might have noticed that my inquiry about Creative Wellbeing is very broad. I am touching upon how one can go about creating wellbeing for oneself, how companies and societies create wellbeing for their employees, their customers and citizens. At the same time it is about how the same actors create an interpersonal space of wellbeing that sparks creativity. My first hypothesis was that "adventure sparks creativity and innovation" and my second main hypothesis then becomes “humans are designers of their surroundings and aspire for wellbeing” and our goals are related to becoming effective designers of our world to spark the wellbeing of ourselves and others.