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Restoring Planetary Health

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This is a summary document for a training program we are creating at Rancho Margot in northern Costa Rica -- as part of a global effort to birth "bioregional learning centers" for the spread of regenerative practices.

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Restoring Planetary Health

  1. 1. Training Program for Restoring Planetary Health Rancho Margot :: A Regenerative Campus for the 21st Century !1
  2. 2. Evolving Our future How We Restore Planetary Health Our Collective Intent Humanity is currently living through the most profound period of planetary change in the history of our species. We have altered or disrupted every major ecological system of the Earth to the point of overshoot-and-collapse. The only way to safeguard our future is to regenerate landscapes while cultivating community health and resilience at regional scales. Our vision is to create a world-class learning center for regenerative design that enables entire regions to guide their own evolution toward greater health and harmony with nature. Rancho Margot is a living university that currently functions as an eco-hotel and1 self-sufficient farm. It is 440 acres of regenerated landscape in the Agua y Paz Bioreserve of northern Costa Rica. Thousands of students come here each year2 http://www.ranchomargot.com/1 http://lacgeo.com/agua-y-paz-biosphere-reserve-costa-rica2 !2
  3. 3. for immersion programs in sustainable living and as volunteers in work-study programs. The next evolutionary step is to become a regenerative campus that trains and certifies regenerative design practitioners to work with entire communities around the world. Our core focus is on Latin America where biodiversity hotspots are threatened and existing land-use practices continue to degrade the environment at large scales. We have many organizational partners to work with and an emerging global network of bioregional projects spread across North, Central, and South America. Here in Costa Rica we have Universidad para la Cooperacion International (UCI)3 as one of our primary collaborators. UCI has a 25 year track record of project- based education in sustainable and regenerative development. They have prepared a generation of leaders who helped set up and manage conservation land, shaped policy formulation for sustainable development, and influenced the cultural contexts in which people now prepare for a turbulent future. UCI is in the process of restructuring its educational programs around regenerative development for projects, communities, regions, and nations. They are currently situated on a small campus in the heart of San José with a media center and faculty who excel at hybrid online/immersion teaching. Rancho Margot has been a longtime ally with their students and faculty. Rancho Margot currently has a dormitory to house 40 students at a time and bungalows for its hotel guests. It needs to expand its capacities for the immediate work of partnering with UCI to deliver a robust 6-month training program for regenerating entire bioregions. The Training Program There now exist many thousands of landscape restoration projects around the world. Networks with global reach include Transition Towns, the Global https://www.uci.ac.cr/3 !3
  4. 4. EcoVillage Network, Ecosystem Restoration Camps, and more that could be named. In each case the focus is on individual projects or communities. You might find reforestation efforts or a farm converted from traditional to regenerative agriculture; neighborhood revitalization with green spaces or cleanup of pollution from a waterway; and other valuable projects for local improvements. What you won’t find at present is cogent tapestries of collaboration across entire regions at the level of mountain ranges, coastal estuaries, and watersheds. Bioregional efforts have been underway for decades in some places—like the ANAI Project in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica or the Cascadia Independence4 Project of the Pacific Northwest—but they lack the capacities for truly systemic5 transformation that would enable them to scale and replicate across the planet. One absent capacity is the lack of properly trained regenerative designers who know how to enter a community and begin to work with its existing assets to guide such a transformational process. We have been working closely with the Regenerative Communities Network and the Capital Institute to identify the best6 7 practices in bioregional design where there are already regional-scale collaborations underway. These include efforts like Niagara Share that work to remove all toxins from8 manufacturing in their local supply chains in partnership with material science researchers at the University of Buffalo in New York. And also the work of Regenerate Costa Rica to help the first country on Earth get within the “doughnut9 economics” targets for societal and ecological health at a national scale. https://www.anaicostarica.org/4 https://www.cascadianow.org/5 https://regencommunities.net/6 http://capitalinstitute.org/7 https://niagarashare.org/8 http://fieldguide.capitalinstitute.org/costa-rica-hub.html9 !4
  5. 5. Our goal is to launch a 6-month training program in regenerative design that prepares its graduates to map entire social and ecological systems; guide and facilitate multi-stakeholder collaborative processes; and implement circular economy principles for towns and regions where they work. This will include four months of online training so the students can join from anywhere in the world while keeping the program affordable enough to gain adoption. There is also a two month immersion period where the students come to Rancho Margot and employ what they are learning in real-world regenerative projects that address regional challenges for the Agua y Paz Bioreserve. Upon completion of this training period, they receive a certificate that they are ready to deploy into another region of their choice. A full diploma will be issued 1-2 years later after measurable social impacts are achieved in their future work. Workshops and alumni meetings will be organized for continued learning as part of their professional development after completing the initial training period. This is an essential feature of the program. Being trained and certified is only the beginning. The real proof of student capabilities will be determined by how well their efforts store and capture carbon, regenerate soils, clean up waterways, and preserve biodiversity (on the ecological side) while building robust circulation and healthy lifestyles in the economy of a local community (on the social side). Our goal is not to certify people, but rather to regenerate landscapes through the deployment of certified people. This difference is vital and gets to the core of what a regenerative campus is all about. Students will learn-by-doing in a regenerative environment—in this case Rancho Margot and the Agua y Paz Bioreserve—and then will demonstrate-by-doing in a community project after receiving their certificate. Perhaps the clearest analogue to this education model is martial arts training. A student who studies Karate, for example, must demonstrate skill with techniques and movement forms in order to receive a black belt. This is considered to be the !5
  6. 6. transition from beginner to advanced practice. Upon receiving the black belt, the student must continue learning by teaching and training others if they want to improve. They move to higher levels of certification by demonstrating their ability to serve their communities using what they have learned. We will apply this distinct aspect of practitioner-based learning to the preparation of regenerative designers who deploy into real communities where landscapes have been degraded and local economies are insufficient for the livelihoods of people living within them. They will receive certification that they are ready for the transition into advanced practice at the completion of our program. Then they must serve a community to gain further certification and demonstrate their skills. This enables us to generate cumulative learning with students who go out into the world and continue their training. They will maintain active relationships with our organizational partners, educational faculty, and fellow students as we all learn together how to regenerate people and planet. Scale and Budget We envision this program running in three rotations per year—such that each cohort of students coming to Rancho Margot for mentorship on projects arrives two months later than the previous cohort. With an enrollment of 30 students in each rotation, we can train 90 students per year. This will require intensive mentorship during the immersion period. Each student will have a faculty team comprised of three mentors who oversee their individual project with one mentor in the principal role to offer in-depth personal support on the student’s individualized learning journey. Having a minimum of six mentorship faculty will enable each mentor to take on five students at a time while providing oversight and counseling to the cohort as a whole. We will draw upon many areas of expertise for these faculty—including permaculture instructors, architects and urban planners, business managers and !6
  7. 7. entrepreneurs, yoga and martial arts instructors for body-based practice, and researchers who monitor and evaluate ecosystems. Students will continue active engagement with the program for a minimum of two years with an invitation to return to Rancho Margot for ongoing learning among their peers. Instead of having alumni events in the traditional sense, we will host several meetings per year where former students can come for workshops and meetings to share what they have learned and increase each other’s knowledge based on real-world experiences. These events will have a nominal fee associated with them to cover operating costs and provide opportunities for the field of regenerative design to grow into a mature domain of professional practice. We anticipate that students will come from a variety of backgrounds—including as existing staff for nonprofits and social impact businesses where their employers cover the cost of tuition to grow their own organizational capacities. Philanthropic organizations may find it desirable to provide scholarships as a way to invest in nonprofits they already support as a way to improve the impacts of their donations with staff training as a way to increase organizational impact. Next Action Steps It is time to launch this program. We have identified the training ground as Rancho Margot and the biosphere reserve it resides within. Our education partner at UCI has all of the curriculum pieces for a robust training program. What we still need are seed funds to make core infrastructure improvements at the ranch—expanding upon the 40 dormitory bunks, a library, working farm, community programs, and eco-tourism hotel that are in place—so that we can house the faculty and additional students who come for the immersion phase of their training. !7
  8. 8. A unique style of housing has been prototyped for rapid modular construction at low cost, using materials from the local grounds where reforestation has been underway for 15 years. Architectural plans have been drafted for the layout of the campus and community around it. The curriculum is coming together and will be ready for students by the summer of this year. Now is the time to begin construction of expanded facilities and start promoting our program to potential students. We are seeking a combination of impact investors, philanthropists, and community partners to bring $1.5 million together so that the expansion of housing capacity is delivered in time for students to arrive by the end of 2019. The details for this investment package can be discussed during site visits or by scheduling a meeting with members of our leadership team. I look forward to hearing from you and creating this together in the coming months! Contact Person: Joe Brewer Capacity Cultivator for Regenerative Communities Network, Executive Director of the Center for Applied Cultural Evolution, and Resident at Rancho Margot brewer@culturalevolutioncenter.org !8