Section 6

---> Stages of Growth


How many human years is one 'year' in the life cycle of a regenerative ecosystem?

Something to ponder. Cycles and flow. Spirals of growth.

Measurement helps us track and tune processes over time. Not so much about ego and achievement as it is about orientation and guidance. Measure what matters. We speak of growth here in the sense of unfolding and enrichment. Growth of capacity and connectivity. Growth in the expansion of capabilities and the scope of possibility, growth in good fortune and shared wisdom. Find out what that means in/to your ecosystem. Maybe different things at different times and places. Maybe it's done with a language or math you don't yet recognize?

Let's check back in with biology for an apt metaphor and inspiration as we pull together a plot diagram for the evolution of co-habitation contexts. The following staged development plan for co-hab initiatives comes off as a loop, or a rising spiral really, like many of life's processes.

SEED stage is where contained, focused energy reserves combined with a set of imprinted codes and recipes for development catalyze the beginning of a new organism. The Seed entity seeks thoughtful placement and a modicum of care, light, and occasional drenching in suitable seed bed medium to sprout and grow. A seed is full of potential, but not every one will survive. Seeds are light and transportable, carrying the essentials onboard, with minimal baggage or fancy acoutrement. Seeds may rest and wait longer than you'd expect for conditions to support good germination. Lunar phases may even have something to do with it. When the time is right, watch out! A flash of inspiration and life takes off anew.

SPROUT stage entities have found their footing on a suitable patch of ground and are beginning to root down and open up. In the physical domain, this means setting up basic infrastructure and facilities, prototyping production systems, and staking out the next stage of development, keeping things light weight and modular. In social and organizational terms, sprouts are still figuring out who belongs where in the scheme of things, what structures and patterns serve best, which relationships (internal and external) feel most synergistic, and what sort of an image/form to present to the wider world. In an integral or systemic sense, sprouts have just popped up on the scene, and others may begin to take notice. This is the most tender phase of development, things are quite susceptible to disruption. At the same time, it's easiest to transplant if the initial setting is not proving to be optimal for growth.

SHOOT stage represents the first sustained growth spurt, where an adequate stream of resources, energy, and consistent attention can be devoted to fulfilling the initial developmental plan of the organism. This could arrive in a few months, or a few years from 'planting' time. It's not a race, don't forget to develop strong roots before gaining too much height! Things may start to diversify into multiple branches of activity and project focus at this stage, still tightly linked at the core. There are likely multiple teams or circles emerging with good coherence. New contributors may be lining up to participate, and fresh supply of capital in other forms is easier to come by. Shoots have developed a clear identity, both internal and public facing, and are beginning to accrue reputation and credibility within wider spheres of influence. Now clearly a vital node in the network, becoming recognized as a regional hub.

STALK stage is a sign of relative maturity, with a strong, stable, thriving core that allows for more divergence and the production of higher order goods/services in concert with the surrounding ecosystem. By this point, you should have a pretty good picture (a map!) of the territory you inhabit, and the different players and possibilities that exist there - extending out perhaps to the bioregional level and beyond. How might you engage in more proactive design and coherence building at higher levels? What gaps are apparent, and how can you work to attract or establish a new cluster of activity there? What kind of systemic obstacles or leverage points are showing up that could unlock big benefits if addressed? This might be the time to start building out that conversation, and perhaps some organizing or governing bodies to help further them.

jump back to >>> Global Villages

It's also the time to be thinking about a significant phase change ahead, and eventual legacy of this incarnation of the organism. Nothing lasts forever...where does the creative energy want to go next? Who is stepping up to steward and maintain things for the long term, if the ecosystem so desires, or else ready to carry on in new directions and locales in need, helping to further build out the bioregional web? Many ways it could go, but make it a conscious choice and careful process, starting now.

SPREAD stage is prime abundance and fruition. Lots going on here. Diverse new forms emerging. Offshoots and symbiosis. Polyculture gardening. New seed packets produced and sent outward into the world. This is also potentially the time when significant value flow and 'return on investment' may be coming back around to long term contributors, raising questions about wise application and 'fair share' of such abundance, both within the org and in the wider field. What shape are your agreements and intentions in now? What does your story say next? What's love got to do with it? Sorry / not sorry.

SPAWN stage may look like retirement and decline, but it is really the start of new cycles in other nearby or perhaps remote niches. How will you draw your story - at least this chapter - to conclusion? What is the ultimate harvest you will have to share? How can your initiative become a nest and launchpad for others to grow out of? Which part of your accumulated wealth, in all dimensions, might be designated a public asset in the commons (if not already)? Who's going to pick up the book deal and movie rights? Kidding, kind of. What radical new possibilities can you see looking forward to the future from your unique vantage point now?

Now, try and re-work the analogies of this section using a mycological or aquacultural lens...also valid and worth reflecting through!? The above description is hugely oversimplified of course, The Giving Tree redux. This process and journey is a dynamic coalition that can support, benefit, entertain, challenge, and reinforce many forms of life in many ways. That's what makes it all possible, all worth doing after all. Network effects = your friend now. Multiple models of mutual metamorphosis to marinate on for inspiration. Lots of different ways to do this, patterns to play with. The beauty is, everyone's going to whip it up a little differently, and each will have something to share and to learn.

jump to >>> Ecodynamics

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