Developers Advance the Neighborhood
Developers are defamed and condemned regularly for raping the earth. And it is true that a good number of developers are quite inured to their effects. But there is a whole new breed who not only care, but are intentional about bringing a significant value into the communities and neighborhoods where they design and build. And not just for public relations. They see value coming to everyone when they engage this way, including themselves. One example is the idea of considering every project to be one one where the developer is in investing into a Regenerative Neighborhood InitiativeTM (RNI).
A RNI adapts the Story of PlaceTM process to a neighborhood or district community scale. Instead of a piecemeal and generic approach to sustainability, the Story of PlaceTM develops a holistic understanding of the interweaving of the ecology, economy and culture of a neighborhood and its place as living wholes. This “place wisdom” is the foundation for neighborhoods harnessing the power of their own unique stories to conceive, connect, construct and celebrate their regenerative potential and create enduring sustainability. Not incidentally, it also is a foundation for integrating a project into a community in a way that ensures it becomes an engine for positive change and exchange that grows the project’s value to the community and vice versa.
A community and the living place it inhabits is a complex net of multiple interrelated living systems, natural and human. It has its own unique character or identity, its own distinctive role within the larger socio-ecological and economic landscape. Every development project disrupts that net of relationships in some way. Sustainable (green) developments seek to minimize any harmful effects of that disruption. A regenerative project uses the development process as well as the finished project as leverage for the regeneration of its neighborhood. People see the developer as enlivening their community as a creative partner, rather than an interloper to manage and restrain. This brings “being capital” into the developer’s bank account.
The Regenerative Neighborhood Initiative (RNI) is a project that encompasses these objectives.
1. Set a new evolved standard for green building in a region by leapfrogging the piecemeal approaches of most sustainability and green building efforts, moving into a regenerative mode. A regenerative process ensures that you not only reduce the harm that building construction can do, but also that you bring increased health and vitality to the site, the neighborhood and the living systems that hold and are affected by the project.
2. Evolve the level, nature and number of aligned relationships that can provide sustained ability to engage in projects, based on deep and dense connections and links. The ability to move rapidly and with effective stakeholders is money in the bank and partners in the bag for any developer.
3. Ignite the creative energy of the project members, both inside and outside the company, through being a co-creative part of an effort that is both meaningful and significant in the positive contribution it makes to the business and to the community. The outcome: participants see themselves as having “created” a more meaningful living and working space where their own creative ideas are making a difference, and their own learning and development is on a steep growth curve in their professional and personal life.
4. Increase ability to build and maintain projects through time in a way that fosters political and social value as well as financial working capital.
5. Bring a level of integrity to each and every project that is recognized by all stakeholders in neighborhoods, governance groups and other buildings and suppliers as work of the company—creating a lasting legacy that is imbedded in visible form in the area and used as stories and examples of meaningful and creative work for the future.
The effectiveness of conventional, piecemeal sustainability techniques and practices is coming under increasing scrutiny as more is learned about what is required for true sustainability. Developers with the desire to “leap frog” over these practices can establish themselves in the vanguard of the movement toward more holistic and regenerative approaches to sustainability.
The RNI process is not so much about involving neighborhood people in the building of the project as it is about involving the project in building the community’s capacity to create and sustain its own vitality and viability. This is a shift for most development companies. The average development firm thinks of itself as doing the best it can to have a good project in a community without any bad relations. The development company of the future will be asking how it is part of creating better communities—economically, culturally and educationally. Because it needs vital and viable communities it must help create them in order to make sustainable communities. It is foundational to working sustainably. And it is financially effective because it fosters a strong relationship between the developer and community, amplifying and reinforcing the importance of the developer and development to the community, and ensuring a more enduring return on its investment.