Visual: Tikuna Adeishvili

Designing a Regenerative Community Strategy

Published in ATÖLYE Insights · 18 min read · October 4, 2023

A comprehensive guide and open-source regenerative community design canvas supporting you in designing place-based community innovations.

Author: Josine Bakkes (ATÖLYE Community Member) Editors: Melissa Clissold, Nikkole Mojica Visuals: Tikuna Adeishvili


This article aims to provide insights into regenerative design as a fundamental and indispensable principle of community design by focusing on our explorations and learnings that emerged at our "Regenerative Community Jam" Workshop held in conjunction with Dutch Design Week at Eindhoven in October 2022.

The workshop helped facilitate a collective brainstorm on regenerative projects, through our newly-developed open-source "Regenerative Community Design Canvas", which will be shared below.

In this article, we will first introduce the "fertile grounds" of Eindhoven and the Netherlands, explore current challenges, and discuss how to move beyond sustainability towards regeneration/regenerative design. Then we'll share more about the workshop through case studies, format details, a guide to using the aforementioned canvas, and finally, a list of resources for further exploration.

In case you are short on time, here's a link to our open-source "Regenerative Community Design Canvas" from the workshop.

Do you have any ideas or recommendations? Try the canvas yourself and get back to us - we'd love to hear from you!

Regenerative Community Jam

In October of 2022, we had the pleasure to be a part of Dutch Design Week and host our very first "Regenerative Community Jam" at the Eindhoven Library in the Netherlands. This workshop aimed to utilize the skills and wisdom of the crowd, to create regenerative solutions to challenges faced by local initiatives in Eindhoven and the Netherlands at scale.

What challenges are calling for a jam session? Have a look below for a little observation from above.

Dutch Duality: Innovation Heights vs. Biodiversity Depths

The Netherlands has been recognized as one of the most advantageous startup markets in Europe, and is known for its "fertile grounds." From the prioritization of renewable materials to the valuation of resources and efficiencies, innovation in the Netherlands yields a lot of potential.

Eindhoven is at the heart of the Dutch high-tech manufacturing industry, and one of the leading technology centers in Europe. Forbes Magazine coined it as "the most innovative city in the world," and according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Eindhoven's "patent strength" is as high as 22.6 patents per 10,000 inhabitants, surpassing Silicon Valley in the United States and ranking first in the world.

The city, and its region, are known for innovative strength and a multi-disciplinary way of working. It's no wonder that the annual Dutch Design Week which brings together a community of more than 2,600 designers and more than 355,000 visitors from the Netherlands and abroad, is hosted there every year.

The Netherlands is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Despite its modest size (41,543 km²), over the years it has become the second largest agricultural exporter in the world. Today, two-thirds of the total land area of the Netherlands is used for agricultural purposes.

Despite agricultural success, the country has witnessed declines in native species and biodiversity due to habitat loss, pollution, and changes in land use. This mirrors the global trend of declining biodiversity, with ecosystems worldwide suffering from human activities.

Amidst a worldwide wave of ecosystem decline, it's clear that sticking to the same old design playbook won't save our planet - it's time for a paradigm shift that will reshape our world, communities, products, and services for lasting sustainability.

Image by Mackay Cartoons

It's time for a new design paradigm

At ATÖLYE, we have a long history of taking innovation challenges faced by our community seriously. Our current design portfolio consists of projects that place sustainability, community, learning, and spaces at the forefront of what we do. Still, this may not be enough on its own.

While we cannot predict the future, we can shape it through today's choices paired with our dreams for tomorrow. How can design help us question our current ways of thinking, in order to make decisions that are committed to helping all life thrive?

How might the practices of design and innovation evolve to meet the existential challenges we are currently facing?

What if there's a century-old design methodology that empowers you to put life and its connectivity at the center of every design decision that you take? A design principle to generate life, not just human life, but the life of all living things.

A design methodology that enables you to design community services and products, in support of both human and living systems co-existence and co-evolution. A design methodology aimed at creating the conditions for all life to thrive.

Enter: regenerative design.

Trajectory of Ecological Design, Bill Reed

From Sustainable to Regenerative Design

Regeneration is not just about sustaining what we have, but improving upon it and leaving a positive legacy for generations to come. While sustainable design is aimed at minimizing negative impacts, regenerative design takes a more proactive approach by actively restoring and enhancing ecosystems and communities.

Regeneration is the ultimate form of sustainability, as it not only preserves but actively improves the vitality of ecosystems and communities."

— Anna Edey

Image by Space10

This sounds wonderful doesn't it, but how does this translate into specific actions or outcomes? Let's demonstrate the difference between sustainable and regenerative design through an example. Imagine you are designing a building....

Sustainable Design

If you aim to design your building in a sustainable fashion, you'd design your building with energy-efficient features such as solar panels, high-quality insulation, and LED lighting. This sustainable design minimizes energy consumption, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and lowers operating costs over the building's lifespan. Aiming to make it a net-zero, and carbon-neutral effort.

Regenerative Design

If you aim to design your building regeneratively, however, you'll design your building with an adaptive and ongoing process, making it site-specific, designing by taking its surroundings into consideration. What is present in the place, who are all the habitats (incl. flora, fauna), and what are their needs? What is the heritage of the place? Moreover, how is the place connected with the wider surrounding systems? How can you design your home in support of, and in partnership with, your wider surroundings?

This could result in a green roof and vertical open gardens that incorporate native plant species, and provide a home to animal species. This type of regenerative design not only reduces energy usage but also actively contributes to the local ecosystem. The greenery helps absorb carbon dioxide, improve air quality, provide habitat for pollinators, and mitigate the urban heat island effect. The building then would positively impact both its occupants and the surrounding environment, fostering the growth and revitalization of the ecosystem.

"Regenerative design calls us to be stewards of the Earth, working in partnership with the land to enhance its health and vitality." - Bill Reed

Regenerative design focuses on the development of products, services, processes, and surroundings that will lead to better levels of well-being and resilience for all life. It positively contributes to the health of earth's living environmental systems and communities - social, cultural, ecological, and economic.

At the heart of regenerative design is the belief that we, as humans, can be catalysts for positive change. That we are capable of restoring the Earth's systems rather than depleting them.

Regenerative design invites us to reimagine our relationship with nature and design, recognizing that our well-being is intrinsically tied to the health of the planet.

Hikmet Kaya, a forest engineer from Turkiye transformed the landscape of his hometown through hard work and dedication. Hikmet Kaya has proven that humans can be catalysts for the regeneration of the earth's systems.

Regenerative Design: A Paradigm in Constant Development

Regenerative design is not as "new" as it may sound. It draws inspiration from Indigenous cultures and land-based communities, reflecting the wisdom of coexisting with their environments for centuries.

Today, it is a design discipline influenced by approaches found in biomimicry, biophilic design, ecological economics, deep ecology, agroecology, biodynamics, circular economics, as well as social movements like permaculture, transition, and doughnut economics.

The evolution towards regenerative design represents a paradigm shift in how we approach creation, innovation, and problem-solving. This includes how we understand ourselves, who we are to be, and what our role as humans is on the planet. This shift is rooted in a broader transformation of thought and values, essentially our "worldview."

"Design follows worldview and worldview follows design." - Daniel C. Wahl

Worldviews, which encompass our beliefs, values, cultural norms, and perceptions of the world, profoundly influence how we approach design. Subsequently, the design solutions we create will influence and shape our worldviews.

Derived from: T Beer, Ecoscenography: An Introduction to Ecological Design for Performance, 2021

Traditional worldviews prioritizing individualism, competition, anthropocentric-, mechanistic-, and linear thinking have contributed to the many environmental and social challenges we face. A regenerative worldview is rooted in the belief that humans are an integral part of the natural world, interconnected with all life forms and ecosystems.

Instead of exploiting resources, the regenerative worldview promotes stewardship and responsible management of natural systems. It values Indigenous knowledge, local wisdom, and the inherent rights of nature. This worldview seeks to restore, regenerate, and nurture ecosystems, emphasizing collaboration, adaptability, and sustainability. It envisions a future where human actions not only sustain but also enhance the vitality of Earth's systems, leading to thriving ecosystems and communities for generations to come.

The relationship between worldview and design becomes mutually reinforcing. Each informs and shapes the other in a continuous feedback loop. It is therefore of utmost importance that we remain aware of dominant attitudes and beliefs, for true change is only possible when steered from within.

3 Circles of Behavior Echo-System, Derived from The Habit Factor

Regenerative Design is by nature an evolving practice - the tools, processes, and methodologies are in constant development. Exploring regenerative design as a practice is just as much about giving old frameworks new meanings, as it is about exploring what new ones can be created.

For the last year, I collaborated with ATÖLYE to translate all the current thinking within Regenerative Design and understand how it can be applied to building more resilient and thriving communities, projects, and businesses.

With our Regenerative Community Jam in The Netherlands last year, we were able to experiment with a new Regenerative Community Design Framework and explore this article's pressing questions and more.

Below are the findings and framework, along with information on the workshop structure in case you choose to replicate it in your own communities.

Workshop Format

The following section will delve into the specifics of the workshop format.

Here you'll have a chance to discover details about the workshop itself: the goals, agenda, participant profiles, theoretical groundwork, and the guidebook for initiating your personal regenerative community design canvas. Additionally, we'll provide recommendations for future applications and next steps.

Learning Objectives

How might we regenerate the health of living systems in the places and communities that we live in?

The goal of the workshop was to help participants get familiar with the topic of regenerative design and learn how to start applying it within existing contexts. The intent was to get participants to explore, experiment, have fun and play, and ultimately support the evolution of collaboration for local initiatives with the diverse expertise of the Dutch Design Week crowd.

This exploration was facilitated by connecting Dutch Design Week participants with case study initiatives and supporting them in evaluating the regenerative potential of an already existing community project in the Netherlands. Through practical steps, attendees worked on unpacking ideas by mapping potential next steps in managing their community more regeneratively.

The workshop program consisted of:

  1. A community welcome and group energizers - creating an atmosphere of warmth, connectivity, and open reflection between all participants.
  2. Introduction to Regenerative Design - a reflection on participants' current dominant worldviews to see how individual perceptions invite different decision-making processes. Furthermore, a discussion on how humans, as an integral part of the natural world, are interconnected with all life forms and ecosystems.
  3. Case Study Presentations - Four initiatives were presented, after which the participants chose one to work with. These "case studies" provided the foundations to ignite brainstorming amongst the group.
  4. Regenerative Community Design Canvas - through a four-step approach, initiative holders and participants were guided through a methodology for rethinking their situation, with hopes it might result in new potential goals, instruments, and tools.
Alexandra Karim Hawald presents the regenerative tech innovation from the initiative FarmOn.

The local case studies

We invited four amazing Dutch initiatives, who all work on the intersection of regeneration, community, and innovation in order to "revitalize" the Netherlands - within cities, villages, and farmlands through online and offline innovations. We were also joined by a mixed audience of about 30 people from the design, innovation, tech, consulting, and marketing sectors.

  1. Land van Ons (Our Land) is a citizen collective that buys and restores degraded agricultural land in the Netherlands on behalf of its members. They believe that farmland is the key to biodiversity restoration, and are working together to make more regenerative ways of farming possible. With membership open to all, the collective is actively working to be a bridge between the heavily divided countryside and more urban areas.
  2. Regeneratie Coöperatie is a grassroots movement that helps people, communities, and organizations find their own regenerative path. Through workshops, events, and excursions where they interact with nature, and listen to the stories of those already on their regenerative path, they empower and connect people to take regenerative action to co-create a resilient and strong regenerative movement.
  3. TJIKKO - upside club is seen as a unique concept in the middle of Amsterdam, a place where "regenerative solutions" are developed together with neighborhoods, making consumers a part of the climate solution. TJIKKO is a promising example of a place where change will arise from care and connection with one another.
  4. FarmOn is a startup aimed at supporting the transition to regenerative agriculture. They provide farmers with access to finance by creating investable business cases that work financially and ecologically. Moreover, they measure - at scale - the ecological outcomes of sustainable farming practices.

"It was intimidating to expose our problem to others, but witnessing individuals from entirely different backgrounds viewing our issue through their lens was incredibly fascinating. This offers perspectives that would otherwise remain unseen."

— FarmOn

The Regenerative Community Design Canvas

A "Regenerative Community Design Canvas" was developed and tested to provide step-by-step guidance to help explore fields of community design through a regenerative lens. A methodology facilitated in a linear way that still allows space for non-linear thinking.

The following section will provide a brief insight into the building blocks for the Regenerative Community Design Canvas and an acknowledgment of the groundwork.


To design this methodology, we drew from the expertise of leaders in many trans-disciplinary fields such as Systems Design (Paul Hawken), Biomimicry (Biomimicry Institute), Regenerative Cultures (Daniel C. Wahl), Regenerative Business & Economics (Carol Sanford), and Regenerative Leadership (Laura Storm).

A special thanks to Bill Reed, Ben Haggard, Pamela Mang, and the Regenesis Group, for their work on the intersection of Regenerative Design and Development, and the development of the Regenerative Tetrad Model. A model that functioned as a foundational playground for the design of the Regenerative Community Design Canvas.

Regenerative Tetrad Model,

The 4 premises of the Regenerative Tetrad Model

How might we design projects more regeneratively?

Since 1995, Regenesis Group has created many theoretical frameworks for regenerative development and design. The Regenerative Tetrad is one of them.

The tetrad model can be used to design a new activity, understand an ongoing activity, or assess an activity as it unfolds. It's a holistic model that invites us to explore and asks us to take four key dimensions into consideration while designing regenerative projects. A model that works as a system itself, where all 4-axes are interconnected and related.

In it, the first two axes (Ground & Goal) define and shape motive and motivation. The other two (Instruments & Direction) relate to how a project is carried out to ensure that ends and means stay congruent and that the process stays on a course toward a regenerative result.

The four premises as defined by the study:

  1. GROUND: Place and Potential - Regenerative projects are based on the richest possible understanding of a place. How a place naturally evolves. This helps us find ways to make the place healthier and more vibrant due to our presence there.
  2. GOALS: Goals focus on regenerative capacity - Regenerative projects are defined by the capacity that must be developed and locally embedded to support ongoing co-evolution of the built, cultural, and natural environments, and the humans who utilize and tend to them.
  3. INSTRUMENTS: Partnering with place - Regenerative projects require taking on new roles, moving from a "builder of systems we control" to a gardener, working in partnership with a place and its processes. What instruments are needed to guide this process?
  4. DIRECTION: Progressive harmonization - Regenerative projects seek to catalyze a process of continually increasing pattern harmony between human and natural systems across scales, and require indicators and metrics that can track dynamic, holistic, and evolving processes.

We took these four axes and explored steps, questions, tools, and visual frameworks that could support mapping actions within these 4 dimensions.

The Regenerative Community Design Canvas

Are you ready to start designing? This canvas consists of a 4-step design flow that will help you to understand your communities better.

Visit the Regenerative Community Canvas on Miro to personally explore the steps and guided questions. You'll encounter two completed canvases from workshop participants. Take a peek, embrace the flow, and embark on crafting your strategy!

You might ask: Can I use this canvas to evaluate the regenerative potential of a new project? An existing project? Can it help me to formulate new products and services more regeneratively and in alignment with my community? We believe the answer to all these questions is yes.

"The beginning is the most important part of the work."

— Plato

IMPORTANT: Mapping can feel pretty overwhelming. Rather than holding yourself back for not knowing, just start. Write it out, map it out. The aim of this canvas is to discover and explore, train yourself to think in this way, not to perform the exercise to the fullest extent. Noting down 5 answers per question is already amazing.

"The 'Regenerative Design Canvas' offered an inclusive and original way to define the actors and community around our initiative and include their value. It playfully gave us insight into the type of activities we wanted to unfold."

— Lillian van Hoven (TJIKKO - upside club)

Reflections & Recommendations for Further Use

The workshop created a fertile ground for conversation, connection, co-creation, and most importantly ACTION. Action towards the design of new processes, projects, and solutions to optimize the connectivity and health of living systems in the places and communities where we live. Actions resulting in making people feel enabled to be that driver, designer, and facilitator of change.

" isn't about making something look better, it's about moving someone to action."

— Hillman Curtis

It provided the audience with an opportunity to tap into the paradigm of regeneration and feel invited and empowered to co-create, learn, and grow.

After its successful launch at Dutch Design Week, the pilot can now be considered a relevant format for the exploration and support of existing initiatives and new initiatives.

However, a regenerative design method must consistently evolve; for it to be inherent to its nature and necessity, which is ultimately the mission for continued work.

Let's learn together

ATÖLYE is a strategic design and innovation consultancy. Through our community-powered approach, we help organizations tackle complex challenges to create lasting impact.

"A community that learns together, excels together."

— Robert Reed

What are your thoughts on the canvas? How do you think the current framework can be improved, in order to reinforce the creation of inclusive grounds for action? What frameworks and tools inspire you on your regenerative journey?

This article provided a sneak peek into a method co-developed and facilitated together with community member Josine Bakkes, founder of The Regenerative Design Academy. A method developed with a larger mission in mind: enabling people to drive regenerative transformation in their communities, by providing universal access to methods and means.

About Josine Josine is an ATÖLYE community member. She is a Dutch creative strategist and international entrepreneurship and community design expert. In the past 8 years, she's established, directed, launched, and expanded numerous local-to-global platforms, all with a dedication to shaping ideas that steer people, brands, and markets toward designing for the well-being of our planet.

Would you like to join the movement, and work on the mission towards more transparent methods and means?

Get in touch with for more information.


Want to explore what a regenerative future would look like for you and your organization? Here's a list to help you on your journey:

Get readingBill Reed, Regenerative Development & Design Paul Hawken, Regeneration Daniel C. Wahl - Designing Regenerative Cultures Laura Storm, Regenerative Leadership Carlo Sanford, The Regenerative Business Indigenous Regenerative Economic Principles Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics

Watch a movie Gather documentary The Biggest Little Farm documentary Tending the Wild Fantastic Fungi

Get involvedClimate Farmers Regenerators Capital Institute Bcorporation Regenerative Alliance