- Habitat for Humanity Bridgeport, Cromwell, Danbury, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Salisbury, Waterbury, Willimantic (HfH)
- Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding (CCIU)
- Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA)
- Melville Charitable Trust (MCT)
FROM: CT-ReGenesis Cooperative Network Developers
At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient…only the universe rearranging itself.
CT-ReGenesis Project’s proposed mission is to rearrange our State more nutritiously and equitably; one home, one neighborhood, one cooperative moment in time.
We believe Habitat for Humanity, the Food Alliance, Council for Interreligious Understanding, and the Melville Charitable Trust already participate in this mission, as do we all. Some more intentionally; some less so.
This communication will introduce each of us to the others, within a proposal to design a cooperative network together. This cooperative project might have the potential to significantly expand how we define optimally supportive housing and homes, nutrition, and healthy well-being.
A summary outline of our initial infrastructure might be pictured as a tree with two balancing main branches, each reseeding the soil of future generations:
Habitat-9 CT Chapters/6 ReStores Council for Interreligious Understanding
Restoring materials, homes, neighborhoods Restoring people and communities
Formation of renewed places: hope Formation of young people: faith
Food System Alliance
Restoring well-being, nutrition, health
Formation of healthy CQI systems, individual and corporate
Melville Charitable Trust
Restoring supportive homes/environments
CQI supportive habitat development for optimal sustainability of at-risk people
Root system leading to a support network of CT social investors/philanthropists/public-sector investments
Who is in this CT-ReGenesis Network?
We are an informal cluster of individuals, three of whom are currently working part-time to propose that the four organizations (counting HfH chapters as representative of one international organization) could form a Core Network Team:
Mary Millican is a parent, former special needs school administrator, former owner of vintage retail enterprises, estate staging and closure experienced, master gardener, avid recycler. She wants to help Habitat ReStores, and other non-profit materials recyclers discuss how they might optimize their individual effectiveness for clients while minimizing transportation and acquisition expenses through cooperative networking and resource sharing.
Janet Tanner is a real estate agent with ReMax, an international brokerage firm. Her eco-justice and social justice experience includes advocacy for affordable housing, Habitat volunteer, horrible gardener and cook, shops at thrift stores because it is the logical thing to do, parent of a fully employed ADHD young adult. She wants to help people who are selling their houses get rid of their unwanted resources as generously, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible, recycling goods into a cooperative distribution network where each item will return highest and best use where it is most needed in the local community. Habitat ReStores would be ideal organizing anchors for local gathering and distribution networks.
Gerald Dillenbeck, M. Div., MPA in Community Development, Permaculture Designer with special interest in the economics of ecological and nutritional development for at-risk populations. Interreligious EcoMinistry Chaplain at the Sustainable Farm School. He is a Taoist Christian, more or less; Ph.D. candidate in Holistic Teleology, occasionally; dissertation research is relevant to the mission of the proposed CT-Restore Cooperative Network. He is a former Habitat Board member (New Haven, in the 90s), sometimes a not-so-great community gardener, and vegetarian cook, member of the Order of Universal Interfaith, former President of the CT Housing Coalition, former grants administrator for Covenant to Care for Children, which, among other things, distributes clothes, and sometimes nutrients, through a network of faith communities, to at-risk kids throughout Connecticut.
Jerry (seldom “Gerald”) would like to help form religious and secular youth leadership teams to discuss and grow toward CQI standards for optimal nutrition, home environments, and sustainable vocations in a globally “rearranging” self-awareness. This requires formational environments mindful of the diverse and mutual well-being of all individuals, and all species. His favorite story is Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, “A person’s a person. No matter how small.”
Readers are encouraged to first look at the section pertaining to your own organization. If that makes sense, then reading the other sections should begin to articulate how the Core-4 could fuse high CQI eco-equity and nutritional outcomes throughout Connecticut.
CT-ReGenesis Network’s potential value for HfH and ReStores: Two Scenarios
Each Habitat ReStore is loaded with great resources including many that have filtered through various Youth Transition Teams, sometimes as community improvement volunteer projects that have led to establishing entrepreneurial cooperative enterprises, vocations, and guild associations. The Americorps/VISTA programmatic platform has been tailored to support challenged young adults move into sustainable Transition Team vocations.
- Full kitchen sets
- Bath fixtures
- Good reconditioned appliances [entrepreneurial venture of a Youth Transition Team]
- Furnishings, including refinished/painted by a Transition Team(s)
- Interior décor
- Window treatments
- Organic compost [entrepreneurial Transition Team]
- Mulch [Transition Team entrepreneurial opportunity]
- Gardening equipment
- Seeds and plants, seasonal [Transition Team organized and produced]
- Bicycles [Transition Team refurbished], urban cargo-bikes
Most of the more established real estate agents in Connecticut are supporting the ReStore Cooperative Network’s expenses to pick up their property sellers’ unwanted items prior to closing, then distribute those goods where they will return the highest value. This follows the CQI value template for greatest effectiveness in response to trauma, potential pathology, lack of well-being, with least overall resource loss. Resource investments include living-wage time invested by cooperative worker-owners, and energy/nutrient depletion.
Also available at the ReStores, or other neighborhood/community center space, are Restoration Incubators for homeschool education, training, recreation, and vocational development space. These Centers are home to the HfH, Food, and Housing AmeriCorps/Vista youth leadership and internship programs, and may provide after-school Deep Learning activities available from the Sustainable Farm School, Gaia University, etc. AmeriCorps stipends are initially paid through a Melville Foundation grant, and eventually through ReStore sales and cooperative exchanges within the Network.
Additional classes, cooperative employment, activities that might emerge from these Incubators, depending on local interest and needs:
- staging services for real estate sales,
- solar and wind energy production,
- Community Farm Association transactions, food banks,
- designing organic, edible landscapes and gardens, and installation support services,
- mural design teams,
- cooperative stores and exchange centers for clothing, toys, books, tools, seeds, organic fertilizers, mulch,
- child and elder care,
- tax assistance,
- classes in nonviolent communication, writing, entrepreneurial development, natural construction and crafts, permaculture design, interfaith dialogue, cooking, preserving, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation,
- support for the formation of residential cooperatives, partnering indigenous tenants in multis with property owners looking for a buyer.
Each Habitat homeowner receives a broader scope of services, as needed and welcomed.
- Recycled, natural and low carbon-footprint building materials and systems design;
- Optimized functional, aesthetic, and ecological site planning and landscape design;
- Access to cooperative-subsidized alternative energy [a potential Transition Team enterprise];
- Green/natural/recycled/refinished/repurposed furnishings and interior design, new homes fully staged in consultation with homeowners [Transition Team enterprise];
- Edible landscape design, including organic gardening, on site, or within a nearby community garden setting [Transition Team enterprise];
- Full garden-to-table-to-compost nutritional loop support system—implementation and/or maintenance, as needed and wanted [Transition Team service];
- Functional bicycles/tricycles, cargo pedal systems, possibly battery-fueled vehicles eventually [Transition Team services and/or entrepreneurial enterprise];
- Access to organic CFA cooperative;
- Access to treadmills, exercise bikes, aerobic equipment connected to electric meters [Transition Team enterprise];
- Solar panels, wind/water turbine energy production system on site as feasible [Transition Team enterprise].
In addition to these two scenarios, HfH relationships with constituent faith communities may be enriched with enhanced youth ministry connectivity and a broader band of useful volunteer skill sets, more inclusive of all ages and genders.
CT-ReGenesis significant values for the CT Council for Interreligious Understanding (CCIU)
This opportunity framework is somewhat the mutually symbiotic reverse of the Habitat possible futures scenarios.
Adolescence through young adulthood is the stage we are increasingly losing kids from intentional faith communities, and other formational systems, such as schools. Perhaps even more true in a globally interfacing culture, young adults are discovering their life journeys informed by the “Religious Commons,” what is held as sacred by all faith traditions, including those that have become secularized, like science, the arts, humanities.
Resilient, “deep learning” development systems help us understand ourselves and mature most effectively in an intentionally diverse environment, with others we may primordially see as not like me. Deviant frames of reference, appreciatively facilitated, become richly valued diversity for better understanding the range of assets, resources, and nutrients in Universe. Cultural strengths and challenges inform each other through the individual’s original lens of meaning and value. This seems to be true in all regenerative economies, whether they are pedagogical, spiritual, financial, communication, ecological, or possibly even genetic information systems.
CT-ReGenesis is informed by a combined economic, ecological, and social justice agenda long familiar to the religious sector. Faith community participation in this cooperative network may increase interreligious opportunities for dialogue, understanding, and cooperative neighborhood improvement projects. Those with skills and interests in alternative energy, new economics, eco-justice, international justice dialogue and discernment, gardening and agriculture, nutrition and food preparation, therapeutic and nutritional education, permaculture design, holistic therapies and medicines, planning and design, nonviolent communication and living, group facilitation, compassionate therapy, are a rich source for mentoring, team leaders, and skill-shares.
Faith community members may want to consider stronger nutritional and environmental standards for their own properties. For example, more edible plants and less grass, buying into an alternative energy cooperative, harvesting solar and/or wind power on-site, group purchases of local CFA contracts, investing in local cooperatives, organic farms, and intentional communities, responding to local needs for more affordable and sustainable habitats.
Faith communities may come to think of their HfH affiliate as the local religious sector’s incubator for housing, economic and nutritional and vocational development, and neighborhood improvement partnerships. Individuals may discover that their religious tradition is more dynamic and compelling within a more inclusive polyculture. If participation in this cooperative network transforms Habitat’s Restores into incubators, participation by CCIU may transform this platform for mutual understanding into more of a positive teleological laboratory. CT-ReGenesis network developers may want to consider the Interfaith Youth Core (www.ifyc.org) as a rich resource for linking youth ministry to interreligious understanding and housing/human/environmental service projects. There is also a federal initiative for interreligious cooperation and community service that may be useful for drawing higher profile momentum.
Regenerative Nutrients for the CT Food System Alliance
Food systems are nutrient systems. Food, power, medicine, health are words that have been closely associated with each other since early symbolic communication, and these are all about nutritional flow. The Permaculture Design principle of greatest effect with least effort is all about optimizing the improvement of quality, measured in nutrients, energy, vigor, thriving, rather than the lower qualitative standard of survival of the fittest. Regenerative evolution of nutritional flow aspires to abundance, resilience, healthy sustainability far into our future. The evolution of nutrient systems becomes revolutionary as our focus moves from survival toward global thriving.
Thich Nhat Hanh understands communication as a type of nutrition. What we sensorily absorb from our environment, whether through taste, sight, insight, or hearing, lies on a spectrum from abundantly nutritious to offensively toxic, even poisonous in sufficient amounts. Substances, sounds, views, fragrances, feelings, ideas, informationthat we are drawn to because they enrich our selves, and our Universe, are nutritious; those we avoid have proven to be toxic.
Both science and religions agree that our neural and nutritional systems evolved through natural systems experience, following natural principles of thermodynamic balance and development, regardless of the polynomial, polycultural, paradigmatic, or power/energy frame through which we have learned to comprehend Universe. Our most permanently-encultured (PermaCultured) frames, or narrative strings, extend back through our proto-history toward an even more Primal Root in the form of shared RNA Codex. RNA-coded nutrient-fed-and-yielding development systems define the form and function of all living cells. In a sense, natural sciences recognize RNA as our universal progenitor of life, and each neural/nutrient system is an articulation of that global, natural, and primal plasmatic river. Our neural systems thrive with natural nutrition abundance, and avoid dissonant, toxic, anomalous, and entropic dissonance patterns (negative deviance, in Group, BioEvolutionary, and Cognitive Dissonance Theories).
Forming a newly-activated intentionally designed polyculture with affordable housing developers, neighborhood organizations, interreligious intentional communities, and post-millennial young leaders, heads of young families, populations at-risk of homelessness and poor nutrition, promises greatest inclusive effectiveness, with least redundancy of organizational and program-delivery expense. Strategies that are more academic and school-based tend to be less effective and well-sustained at the family level because these are not responsive to the specific situations of each household. Program delivery limited to school-based participation seldom engage at-risk parents in the sustained and holistic way that would be most helpful for family well-being and health, including mental and economic health.
Organic carrots, even habitually devoured, will only go so far in meeting the full nutritional needs of a family living in a chronically stressed environment. On the other hand, a family suffering from PTSD eating organic carrots will probably do better than the neighbor devouring the equivalent weight of quick-fix toxins and sugars.
Youth EcoMinistry settings are also ideal opportunities for all of us to teach each other about our growing awareness that nutrition v. toxin is a range of resource variables that crosses all sensory receptors, from touch through sight. Both positive and negative deviance information travels across all natural systems and paradigms, sometimes enriching, sometimes decaying, adding further dissonance, sometimes adding great beauty and grace and feeling to a growing global comprehension of our nutritional vocation to be sure every individual’s health and energy developmental needs are met. Nutrition optimization is healthy self-care (greatest effect) and dissonance prevention (least resistance).
Regenerating CT’s Optimally Supportive Habitat with the Melville Charitable Trust
What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?
Henry David Thoreau
Community and Economic Developers, and Permaculture Designers, come to the topic of nutrition from an unusual position, especially if they have watched and listened to the nutritional flow of our global wealth evaporate. While research funders are finding significant productive value in cooperative-learning structures, philanthropists are finding the competitive grants economy unsuitable for encouraging cooperation and networking. This dissonance becomes more urgent as social investors of good will are confronted by the viral growth of the non-profit sector, each becoming increasingly skilled as a special interest lobby for its exclusive domain, territory, and mission.
Adding considerable climatic cacophony to the evaporative trend of philanthropic dollars: When investment markets do poorly, the suffering of competing worthy missions raises to a higher pitch. Generous social investors’ wealth deposits shrink, and calcify, deplete, and become of incrementally less functional value in the face of further climatic change. The nutritional power of the grants and research economy wanes as need becomes more acute, critical, dissonant, chaotic, moving toward despair. The nutritional wealth of our communities ebbs as our communication resonantly echoes and flows with the discord of not enough, and exclusion, and not in my backyard.
Diverse theories and practices of systemic change frequently note that enduring transformation is more likely in the presence of both (a) a compassionate sense of urgency, and (b) an inclusively mindful intention to develop resilient cooperative relationships. The greatest compassionate effect, in the face of increasingly critical global suffering, is to be and do the opposite of what is least mindful, most exclusionary and competitive—creating a vacuum of subcultural, exclusionary, chauvinism. Housing is the Answer! when our questions are provincial, rather than mindful of whole household-systems analysis.
Solving the problem of homelessness, especially through diverse forms of Supportive Housing was a strategic choice at a time when the philanthropic sector was investing in food and nutrition, but not so much in shelter. The scandal of people without shelter in the midst of affluence appalled the Trust’s Founders. This combination of urgent compassion and holistically mindful strategy has superlatively served the MCT in achieving remarkable socioeconomic influence for a more inclusively equitable society.
This cooperatively intended proposal celebrates a watershed moment in the possibilities for achieving realistic CQI outcomes for eco-justice and for humanity, for inclusively restoring people in a place of increasing climatic vulnerability.
Until recently, social investors have been offered opportunities to invest in prevention of loss strategies or more urgent intervention to remediate critical losses already incurred. Supportive Housing has usually been an intervention tool, while affordable housing projects, more broadly argue that local access to affordability helps prevent homelessness, as well as having other well-being benefits.
Based on the symbiotic principles of Permaculture Design and Buckminster Fuller’s Theory of Regenerativity, the CT-ReGenesis Cooperative Network seeks a more inclusive regeneration strategy. Restoring value in people, places, materials, thoughts, actions, words intends to prevent decay of our commonly held values (air, water, soil, nutrients, communication, information, beauty, gratitude, love, mindfulness, equity, integrity), one moment at a time heuristically assumed as an eternal positive teleological place. Somewhere within our network of diverse repurposing, we can help each other find our most mutually confluent home and purpose, if we choose cooperative rather than the more competitive side-by-sideness of walled missions designed to support institutional survival more than shared vocational purpose.
Restoration intervenes at the first identified risk of loss and disvalue, minimizes loss by identifying highest potential purpose through existing relationships, reorientation, reuse with least economic and ecological cost to our present and future. This seems like an appropriate metric for Continuous Quality Improvement within any system, set, or universe.
Cooperative polycultures are more productive of positive resources, nutrients, information, more resilient, easily and inexpensively maintained, resistant to dissonance and disease, mutually enriching, mutually grateful for nutritious diversity, than the competitive economies of scarcity in monocultural self-preoccupied identities.
A pre-development grant to mutually design the CT-Restore Network from three individuals to four, and more, cooperative, mutually-investing, organizations would be helpful. More significant in the larger picture, perhaps the MCT could invite other New England/New York social investors to discuss and discern the possibilities for supporting cooperative enterprises informed by regenerative values, intent, and practice. Our path is recycling; our goal is profoundly deep socio-ecological regeneration.
It would be extremely helpful if the MCT Executive Director and/or Trustees could collaborate on a media plan for this project and the ecology of cooperative economics, social investment, and philanthropy that forms this cooperative project’s theoretical infrastructure. This might conceivably be of interest not only to the CT Council for Philanthropy, but also communication outlets beyond Connecticut.
Our philanthropic foundational question becomes “If we are not 100% invested in cooperative and community-based regenerative initiatives, then on what basis would we expect highest CQI sustainable return on our investments? Is it ethical, is it morally appropriate to the needs and expectations of future generations and species, to settle for anything less than our 100% commitment to a regeneratively equitable and inclusive economy and ecology; bringing us the biggest bang for least bucks?
At the end of the day, each era, each project, we are each and all recycled nature, restoring our pilgrimage home, where past greets future, with gratitude for what we have started, and what may further evolve from our own endings.
 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in response to ongoing social investment optimization objectives, to achieve both sustainable positive outcomes AND cost effectiveness, has led an initiative for program design and reporting metrics that meet Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) standards. The long-term comparative trend analysis by the Tellus Institute (www.tellus.org) defines a constellation of global economic, political, and ecological values that project optimized long-term viability outcomes through the year 2100. They call their highest performing algorithm the “Great Transition.” This CT-ReGenesis proposal heuristically assumes that Tellus Institute trend analysis is appropriately responsive to social investor’s urgent search for CQI program design and reporting standards.