Bill Reed - Principal at Regenesis Inc.

Bill Reed - Principal at Regenesis Inc.

Bill Reed is an internationally recognized planning consultant, design process facilitator, lecturer, and author in sustainability and regeneration. He is a principal of Regenesis, Inc. – a regenerative design, living systems integrator, and education organization. His work centers on creating the framework for and managing an integrative, whole and living system design process. This work is known as Regenerative Development. It is a meta-discipline that unifies the pattern understanding practices of Ecological Design, Biophilia, and Organizational Psychology into a design process that lifts building and community planning into full integration and co-evolution with living systems. The objective: to improve the overall quality of the physical, social and spiritual life of our living places and therefore the planet.

Bill Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Using regenerative design principles in business and the built environment

  • How permaculture informs regenerative development

  • Healing the earth in 18 months

  • Moving beyond sustainability to regenerative development

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Interview Highlights:

Tell us a little bit about the process at Regenesis. You talk a lot about "place" and the "story of place." Tell us what that means and why this is so important when you're leading this type of regenerative work.

Yeah, it's the foundation. By place we mean everything in that place: human consciousness, worms, habitat, geology, business, infrastructure and you name it. All of those aspects of life are in what we call "place." So, we don't separate people from place, for instance. They're part of it. And we don't separate nature from place. It's not about placemaking, it's about place as a living organism. Our philosophy is that every place we live in is a unique living organism on the planet and is evolutionary in its own particular, unique way. Unless we understand this, then what gives us the right to build there? We have found that once we work in congruence and in harmony with place, actually ecosystems and social systems recover their health, become dynamically stable and evolutionary all at the same time. The shift that we see when we work with that level of wholeness is profound.

I learned so much just chatting with some of your colleagues during the work that we did and just learning how the geography and the history of a certain place, and understanding that that's really what created the culture that's in that place today. It's amazing how crucial it is to understand this to be able to address the specific sustainability issues that place might be facing.

Yes. You can't escape mother nature, it just surfaces. You might ask, "So what? What does having that understanding do for us?" If nothing else, it awakens us to fall in love. I like to say that we're dating nature when we do this and it helps a community actually understand, honor and love what and who this place is. It's also a much different motivator than feeling guilty or feeling that we should do something. Although fear is a great motivator too of course, but hopefully we have that impulse of care and mutual reciprocity behind it.

You've been talking about this need to transition from sustainability to regenerative development for quite some time. We're now seeing it become more of a topic in corporations, in universities, in communities that are starting to use that language of moving beyond sustainability. How do you think this transition is coming along? What are you seeing in this movement overall?

I am seeing some incredible work being done in the regenerative agricultural field. I think it's more easy to understand because people can regenerate. They can see that the soil can be regenerated. But there's a nuance here. Regeneration is not restoration. Restoration is part of regeneration, but regeneration is the ability to do it again. It isn't doing it the first time. So, to regenerate soil or regenerate an ecosystem is not about doing it once. The Re is really important. It's the capability to keep engaging as systems change and as life evolves.

So the "Re" is important here. It's rebirth. It's birth, life, death, rebirth cycles. So, how do we learn to understand our role in the system? Farmers typically are closely engaged with their soil, so to some degree they're doing regenerative work if they're paying attention. But about 90% of the world doesn't live on farms anymore. And they're the ones with the votes. They're the ones that are making decisions. How do we build that understanding in a population that basically thinks food comes in plastic wrapped containers.

What is one piece of advice you'd give sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

Number one, work with deep integration. Co-create with community, design team and owners. Once you start working with integration, the question becomes where do you stop integrating? That means that we actually have to start getting into how life works. So, if we're sustaining life then we better understand how life works as best we can. So, the recommendation is understand how to be an ecologist.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability or regenerative development?

I think a lot of us are somewhat depressed about the state of the world and how little we've done. But when even three to five years ago, people were not very receptive to this concept, so many people are opening their minds and hearts now to realize that we have to do something differently. So, I don't know if I'm excited about anything in the world of sustainability, I'm excited about the world that people are realizing fundamentally that we have to work in a different way. It's that Greek definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think finally people are realizing we need to change the paradigms out of which we're working. So that's exciting.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

He speaks a lot about what we believe in. His name is Charles Eisenstein and his new book is called: Climate A New Story. I'm kind of tired of reading about climate, but he changes the dimensions on that. I recommend that. I'm reading it now and enjoying it a lot.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in your work?

We are collaborative learners. We are learning this as we're teaching it to people. There is no answer book for this work. So, I highly recommend the Regenerative Practitioner Course. I highly recommend reading Carol Sanford's books, because I think both of them talk about this work in a unique way. The resources are really these living system frameworks and you can read about them. Yeah, it sounds so self aggrandizing. I apologize for that, but I just don't know the other resources for these things. JG Bennett's work is a source for these systemic frameworks. They open up a different world and so I'll leave it at that.

Where can people go to learn more about you and the work you're doing at Regenesis?

Our website is and you can also access our education site, which we just changed the name to Institute for Regeneration. My email address is: If anybody is really interested, we do have articles on the website. I have more that I can send people. I'm always happy to send stuff out. I'm happy to respond to anybody if they're interested in exploring more.