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  • Writer's pictureMike Marburg

Regenerative Development and Tim Murphy

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

In a previous blog post, we introduced the concept of Regenerative Development. As described before, the term regenerative describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials while integrating the needs of society with natural ecological processes. Unfortunately, humans historically engaged in development only as a way to use natural resources to improve our own wellbeing. We are seeing the consequences of that now (

More recently, the concept of “sustainable development” has captured attention as a way to improve society’s wellbeing without destroying or undermining the natural resources needed in the future. In our view, this is a step forward…but not enough. For Simply Shenandoah, we will follow regenerative principles by using natural resources to improve society’s wellbeing in a way that also builds the capacity needed for future growth.

An essential step in regenerative development is being able to discern the core of a given place. The core is what organizes all of the dynamics that comprise a place, giving it a living yet recognizable character and nature. Key to comprehending the place as a living system is understanding the ongoing and distinctive patterns from which it organizes the relationships that produce its activities, its growth, and its evolution. To accomplish this, it is necessary to perform a whole systems assessment of the area – including cultural, economic, geographic, climatic, and ecological factors. This then creates the foundational understanding and thinking required to see how humans can enable the health and continuing evolution of the place and themselves as a part of it.

We have recently engaged the Regenesis Group (, a world class leader in Regenerative Development. Pioneers Tim Murphy (bio below) and Bill Reed will be advising us, and Tim will spend a week in the Shenandoah Valley later in May to perform this whole systems assessment. One of the things that emerges from this assessment is an appreciation of both nature’s role and of the co-creative interplay between nature and culture. Instead of starting with the building and what surplus it can generate, we will ask our designers to consider what ecological services have been disenabled and what roles are missing that enabled those services in the past.

Ultimately, every regenerative project seeks to catalyze a process of “co-evolving mutualism”— the increasing and mutually beneficial integration of human and natural systems that supports their co-evolution. The implication is that harmony is not some steady state, but rather a process of progressive harmonization with dynamic systems that reflect a reality that what is sustainable today may not be so ten years from now. To stay “alive” a system needs to maintain its adaptive capacity, and its capacity to create new and unpredictable things. We look forward to exploring this further with the broader community, as well as the architects, engineers, consultants, and planners on our project. 

PS - Most of the smart words and fancy terms in this blog came from publications authored by Bill Reed.


Tim Murphy is a founding member of Regenesis Group, and has over 25 years of experience in whole-systems site assessment and project planning. He specializes in the integration of ecology and culture to create new potential for land, economic, and community development. Tim has also been a pioneer in permaculture education and design. He studied for a number of years under Bill Mollison, who created permaculture as an interdisciplinary approach to land use and community development. Tim brings an advanced systems-thinking approach to permaculture practice, enabling his clients to leverage their projects to influence and be supported by whole systems. He is internationally recognized for his whole-systems site assessments and for his revealing insight into the systemic patterns of economic growth and decline. Recent notable projects include Playa Viva, a regenerative resort project adjacent to a valuable archaeological site in Juluchuca, Mexico; and the Villages at Loreto Bay, a mixed-use community development in Baja California Sur that made the regeneration of a critical estuarine ecosystem foundational to its project vision.


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