Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (RARE)
“Long term prosperity is primarily a function of healthy human webs.”
With expertise in fields ranging from international development and regenerative finance to nonlinear dynamics and ecological modeling, RARE’s interdisciplinary team of systems thinkers is dedicated to using these discoveries to create an integrated understanding of how to build durably vibrant, human networks that connects the nuance of human practice with the precision of today’s scientific theory and measures.
RARE’s goal is to bring this empirically-sound, regenerative theory, measures and practice to bear on real-world problems in finance and economic development. Our long-term mission is to support the birth of a Regenerative Civilization by using this rigorous integration of theory, practice, story and measurement methods to address critical problems and support existing reform efforts taking place in finance, economics, and development across levels from local to global.
Bringing new ideas and visions into the real world requires accurate, effective and integrated understandings of how to build regenerative vitality in human systems of every type, from financial to community, and at every level from local, regional, and national to global. This requires the ability to connect emerging theory and measures to on-the-ground practice in a way that enhances both.
Recent advances in the science of flow  are producing a more accurate understanding of how systems grow and develop, and what makes them remain vibrant for long periods of time. These findings dovetail with a great deal of social science research and rubber-meets-the road experience in building healthy human networks.
RARE’s approach to quantitative measures is just as groundbreaking as the regenerative framework itself. We are not simply creating more ways to assess desirable outcomes; we are developing ways to measure the health of the system itself. We do so by identifying and measuring critical structural, circulatory, and value factors known to support a system’s ability to remain vibrant for long periods of time. Here, just as assessing human health requires measuring multiple factors such as blood pressure and glucose levels, so combining multiple factors of economic health gives us a clearer picture of how to develop systems that can live long and prosper both internally, and in relationship with the other nested subsystems – social, economic, financial, environmental – in which they are embedded.
In this case, understanding how factors such as resilience, efficiency, circulation, adaptability and degree of “regenerativeness” make or break systemic health allows us to broaden the term “sustainability” to apply directly to the long-term health of the organization or economy, in a way that incorporates social, economic, and environmental factors in a commonsense, dynamic whole. The underlying premise is that healthy human systems, ones designed to obey the long-term laws of health, naturally become oriented towards the socially, economically, and environmentally desirable outcomes we currently measure.
Because this approach can be applied both within and across scales, it allows us to shift the unit of analysis as necessary from the firm to an ecosystem of firms within and across sectors. Cities within their watersheds are one logical unit of analysis, for example.
Dr. Goerner and her RARE colleagues have developed the initial ten measures of systemic health contained in the appendix of the Regenerative Capitalism white paper. Much work lies ahead, but we are optimistic that such measures will aid the challenge of managing complex systems in a sustainable fashion, benefiting policymakers and enterprise leaders alike.
Initial interest in these ideas has been encouraging. We are currently working with two international development groups seeking to apply these measures in their work on the ground. Opportunities also exist to apply these metrics around numerous domestic development initiatives such as those taking place in Cleveland, Oberlin, and Western Michigan. Most recently, we were approached by the Ministry of Finance in France to apply these metrics of systemic health to the French Financial system. A formal proposal has been submitted.
 A flow-network is any system whose existence arises from and depends on the circulation of critical resources throughout the entirety of their being. Living organisms depend on the circulation of nutrients and oxygen. Ecosystems depend on the circulation of carbon, oxygen, water, etc. Economic systems depend on the circulation of money, resources, goods and information. While ecological flow-networks are particularly advanced, the advantage of applying the broader-case principles to finance and economics is that avoids the question of whether the results are merely a metaphoric extrapolation from ecosystems.
Anamaria Berea, Ph.D. has a doctorate degree in computational social science from George Mason University and a doctorate degree in International Business and Economics from the Academy of Economic Studies in Romania. She has been working in research at the intersection of economics and complex systems for the past 11 years. Her research includes agent-based models of company growth, information crowdsourcing, prediction markets, Bayesian networks, social network analysis, large scale (“big data”) analysis, text and sentiment analysis, and framing qualitative into quantitative modeling, diffusion of fashion, social media impact on crowd-funding success and the emergence of language and communication in socio-biological networks. She is a Teradata University Network Faculty Award Winner and her work has been published in Journal of Washington Academy of science, Decision Analytics, AAAI Proceedings, Quantitative Finance, Handbook of Human Computation and Journal of Strategic Security. Her research has been supported by grants from ONR, IARPA, DARPA and the National Academies of Sciences. She is a member of the Washington Academy of Sciences and Eastern Economics Association.
Stuart Cowan, Ph.D. is a Partner with Autopoiesis LLC which applies nature’s own forms of self-organization to provide regenerative design, regenerative economics and finance, and regenerative systems modeling services for the built environment, organizations, and communities. Stuart also serves as Chief Scientist for Smart Cities Council, which accelerates urban sustainability and resilience internationally. Autopoiesis LLC is one of six organizations leading the international Economics of Change initiative to transform real estate investment models to include a comprehensive range of ecological and social value layers. Stuart served as a Transaction Manager and founding team member with Portland Family of Funds, an innovative sustainable community investment fund, where he pioneered the use of ecosystem services and green buildings in the federal New Markets Tax Credits program. He served as Conservation Economy Research Director at Ecotrust, where he led the development of the Reliable Prosperity framework for a regenerative bioregion. He is the co-author with Sim Van der Ryn of Ecological Design, a visionary overview of the whole systems integration of ecology and the built environment that has been translated into three languages and become a standard reference. He received his doctorate in Applied Mathematics from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on complex systems and ecological economics. He has taught at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s Sustainable MBA program, U.C. Berkeley, and Portland State University.
Eric Derks is Director of The Canopy Lab, a non-profit group of international development practitioners, project managers, researchers, strategic advisors, trainers and theorists, whose mission is to: “seed an ecosystem of individuals and organizations dedicated to the pursuit of systems thinking approaches that address complex social challenges and local and international development.” Eric comes to Systems thinking through nearly 20 years of experience in international development, mostly in market systems and organizational development. Working with groups and projects such as Tetra Tech ARD, ACDI/VOCA’s ADVANCE Project; and Action for Enterprise, Eric has designed and led large-scale projects, molded high-performance teams, and learned a great deal about applying systems thinking to project strategy activities, operations, and knowledge management. He believes that, for systems thinking to take hold, organizations need to: be learning organizations; have metrics for both modeling systems and assessing activities; and employ critical thinkers who can experiment, challenge assumptions, and be comfortable with failure and uncertainty.
Michael Field is Chief of Party for Development Alternatives International (DAI) focused on International Trade and Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh. With over 20 years of designing, assessing, implementing, and training in Systems and Learning-based approaches, Mike has served as: the Technical Lead on a DFID-funded market development project in Kenya; a Senior Technical Specialist for Adam Smith International’s ACDI/VOCA; Principal Designer and Technical Lead for USAID’s PROFIT Project in Zambia, an innovative value-chain systems program; and played a key role in setting learning and research agendas in value-chain systems thinking through USAID’s Microenterprise Development Office. Before working for USAID, Michael was the Principle Technical Advisor on a range of private sector development projects for DAI. He earned his M.B.A. from the George Washington University and his B.S. in finance and international business from Drexel University.
Brian D. Fath, Ph.D. is Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Towson University (Maryland, USA) where he teaches courses in ecosystem ecology, environmental biology, networks, and human ecology and sustainability. Brian has taught courses on ecological networks and modeling in Portugal, Denmark, China, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, and South Africa. He is also Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria and is Editor-in-Chief for the journal Ecological Modelling. He has published over 100 research papers, reports, and book chapters and Co-Authored the books A New Ecology: Systems Perspective and Ecological Modelling (4th edition). He currently serves as President of the North American Chapter of the International Society for Ecological Modelling and Chair of Baltimore County Commission on Environmental Quality. He held a Fulbright Distinguished Chair position at Parthenope University of Naples, Italy in spring 2012.
Dan Fiscus, Ph.D. is Development Director for Frostburg Grows, a multi-faceted project integrating local food production, a native tree nursery growing trees for restoration purposes, composting, solar energy and training and economic development, all together on a former coal mine site providing an innovative model for sustainable development in Appalachia. He is also helping to form the Western Maryland Food Council. He earned a BS in electrical engineering from Duke University, an MS in Ecology with a minor in Biomathematics from North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland while at the Appalachian Laboratory. His research interests include holistic understanding of sustainable human-environment and life-environment relations, theoretical ecology and ecological modeling, ecological network analysis, and sources of leverage for social change to benefit people and the planet.
Sally Goerner, Ph.D. is Capital Institute’s Science Advisor, and Director of the Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (“RARE”). She is exploring with us the scientific foundation for regenerative organizations, financial systems, and economies. Sally lectures worldwide on how the Energy Network Sciences (ENS) can create a commonsense narrative of how to rebuild economic vitality by revitalizing human networks. This narrative is also backed by surprisingly precise quantitative measures. Working with Belgian financier Bernard Lietaer and network theorist Robert Ulanowicz, Sally recently helped create a precise empirical measure of economic sustainability that shows why systemic health in economic networks requires maintaining a critical balance of resilience and efficiency. Sally holds advanced degrees in engineering, nonlinear dynamics, and psychology from SUNY Binghamton, The Saybrook Institute, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill respectively. She is a member of the General Evolution Research Group (GERG); past President and Co-Founder of the Society for Chaos Theory in the Life Sciences; and Director and Founder of the Integral Science Institute. She has written over 50 articles and four books: The New Science of Sustainability: Building a Foundation for Great Change (2008); After the Clockwork Universe: The Emerging Science and Culture of Integral Society (1999/2007); The Coming Great Change in Education (2007); and Chaos and the Evolving Ecological Universe (1994). She is a Co-Author with Bernard Lietaer of Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link – Report from the Club of Rome (2012).
Of her book, After the Clockwork Universe, renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs said:
“…fascinating and amazing in scope. This is the current human condition, socially and scientifically, laid out for all to see.”
Bernard Lietaer, Author of The Future of Money (translated into 18 languages), is an International Expert in the design and implementation of currency systems. He has studied and worked in the field of money for more than 30 years in an unusually broad range of capacities including as a Central Banker, a Fund Manager, a Professor, and a Consultant to governments in numerous countries, multinational corporations, and community organizations. He co-designed and implemented the convergence mechanism to the single European currency system (the Euro) and served as President of the Electronic Payment System at the National Bank of Belgium (the Belgian Central Bank). He Co-Founded and Managed GaiaCorp, a top performing currency fund whose profits funded investments in environmental projects. A former Professor of International Finance at the University of Louvain, he has also taught at Sonoma State University and Naropa University. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Resources of the University of California at Berkeley. He is also a member of the Club of Rome, a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, the World Business Academy, and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Bernard has written numerous books and articles about money systems, including Of Human Wealth (2012), Monnaies Régionales (2008), and The Mystery of Money (2000).
Curtis Ogden is a Senior Associate with the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC), a collaborative capacity-building intermediary based in Boston, MA. He provides consulting services (process design, facilitation, training, and coaching) to a variety of large-scale multi-stakeholder change and network-building initiatives. Much of his work concentrates on food systems, including partnerships with Food Solutions New England, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group NESAWG), Chesapeake Foodshed Network, Vermont Farm to Plate Network, Connecticut Food System Alliance, Minnesota Food Charter Network, and the Inter-Organizational Network for Food, Agriculture and Sustainability. He also consults to networks focused on new economics, education reform, public health, and environmental conservation, all with an underlying commitment to social equity. Curtis is a regular contributor to the IISC blog. He is also an advisor to a few start-up initiatives focused on addressing structural racism and inequality. He lives in Amherst, MA with his wife and three daughters.
Laura Lengnick, Ph.D., is an award-winning soil scientist who has explored agricultural sustainability for more than 30 years as a researcher, policy-maker, educator, and farmer. Her work in sustainable farming systems was nationally recognized and she contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the USDA report Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation. Laura led the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College for more than a decade, where she also served as the Director of Sustainability Education, conducted research in sustainability assessment and holistic management, and led energy descent action planning and the development of an adaptive sustainable dining policy for the college. In 2015, Laura left the college to launch Cultivating Resilience, LLC, a private consulting firm offering ecosystem-based climate risk management services to government, business, and communities. She serves as an advisor to the USDA Climate Science Learning Network, NC Adapt, and the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance. Laura is an affiliated researcher with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Local Food Research Center and holds an adjunct faculty position in Horticulture at North Carolina State University. Her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate (New Society Publishers), examines climate change, resilience and the future of food through the adaptation stories of 25 award-winning sustainable producers across the U.S.
Robert E. Ulanowicz, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Courtesy Professor in the Arthur R. Marshall Center at the University of Florida. He is a graduate of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. Ulanowicz devoted most of his career to developing methods to analyze ecosystem trophic networks. He has published over 190 papers in network theory, ecological economics, fisheries, thermodynamics, and philosophy/religion. He is the Author of three monographs: Growth and Development (1986), Ecology, the Ascendent Perspective (1997), and A Third Window (2009), and Co-Author/editor of four others. Ulanowicz is the recipient of the 2007 Ilya A. Prigogine Medal awarded for excellence of research into ecosystem dynamics. He enjoys swimming and gardening and resides with his wife, Marie, in Gainesville, Florida.