LFIA Regenerate: Kai Lofgen explains how to regenerate Melbourne with the donut economy and an environmental cap

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Regen Melbourne’s Kai Lofgen has a vision for a future city that balances social environmental needs to create a space between boundaries within which humanity can thrive.

The Living Future Institute Australia (LFIA) Regenerate Symposium kicked off on March 7, bringing together thought leaders and regenerative design practitioners to inspire lasting change in Australia through regenerative design. The symposium was designed to connect and encourage professionals to reflect on how their work can promote social justice, cultural richness and ecological restoration.

A keynote was delivered by Kai Lofgren, head of strategy at Small Giants Academy, part of the influential Small Giants and Impact Investment Group founded by Danny Almagor and Berry Liberman. Mr Lofgren, who is also director of technology and design studio Typehuman and head of the Regen Melbourne mission-led network, shared Regen Melbourne’s vision for a regenerated Melbourne, driven by the principles of knowledge, collaboration , affordability, connection through culture, thriving communities and natural systems, and the economic and governance systems that “enable these visions to come to life”.

A civil engineer by training, Lofgren also studied a bachelor’s degree in arts and a master’s degree in economic history. He has worked for eight years with Engineers Without Borders in Australia and for the past 10 years in social impact, social enterprise, impact investing and social finance.

It was the pandemic, he said, that triggered Regen Melbourne.

“This idea has started to emerge that maybe we should think about what Melbourne will look like on the other side of the pandemic, and maybe we need a forum specifically designed for that.”

What does it look like? Ideally, that sounds like prioritizing sustainability and equality, he said.

Saving donuts

For example, Melbourne needs to redefine its goals according to the “doughnut economy”, a term first coined by British economist Kate Raworth in a report published in Oxfam in 2012 and her subsequent book. Donut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. Since its publication, it has been taken up by policy makers, civil society, academia and business.

The donut answers the question: how do we move the discipline of economics away from its growth-oriented focus so that it is more meaningful to humanity?

The donut is a visual framework for sustainability. In the shape of a donut, it combines the notions of social (quality of life and well-being) and environment (sustainable use of ecological processes). The space between indicates the limits within which humanity can thrive.

The model sets a new goal or compass for the direction of our economy and policy-making. It states that in addition to abandoning the absolute goal of growth, 21st century economists need “systems thinking”, to emphasize the complex dynamics between things and how they work. interconnect, depend on and affect each other.

The concept of an ecological ceiling framework and planetary boundaries came from the Stockholm Resilience Center (a recent documentary by David Attenborough on the subject is currently available on Netflix, which Lofgren recommends). Humanity may already have crossed the environmental ceiling for at least three of the nine dimensions: climate change, nitrogen use and biodiversity loss.

To enter the “safe and just space for humanity” of the donut, we must also address the distribution of global resource use in both consumption and production.

The roadmap

Regen Melbourne’s roadmap for a regenerated Melbourne is to pursue community activation through business forums to enhance collaboration, creating Regen Melbourne neighborhood groups to explore local and grassroots activation of the Melbourne Donut and creating a regenerative project incubator to support new ideas and businesses that work towards the Melbourne Donut vision.

This means establishing expert-led task forces, investigating gaps and opportunities in local, state and federal government policies that can inform the development of donut-aligned policies for Greater Melbourne, and establishing a group of work on data and measures and identify primary indicators and associated data. sources.

This means further development of networks through the creation of a Regen Melbourne Steering Committee, governance framework and resourcing strategy, creating an interactive map of people, organisations, projects and research that accelerates the city into a safe and just space for humanity.

“We have an awful lot of work to do to try to bring our global species into a safe and just space for humanity.”

Regen Melbourne emerged from the Melbourne Collective Challenges with Lockdowns at the end of October 2020. Its vision and mission speak to building a healthier, connected and empowered city.

“The goal of this work is to bring Melbourne into the safe and just space between our social foundation and our ecological ceiling.”

“That’s our goal. This is the goal of our policy. This is the purpose of our economy. This is the purpose of our business. That’s the goal of our social welfare is to bring people inside this safe and just space for humanity and leave no one behind,” says Lofgren.

“This idea of ​​trickle-down economy or sustainability just isn’t working, certainly not fast enough, even if it were to be true. And so, what we need to think about instead is what are the regenerative principles that we can integrate into our work by design from the start. It’s starting to upend some of the principles that led to this crisis that were in the first place. »

“A regenerative Melbourne is full of life,” he said. With thriving neighborhoods, localism and vibrant natural ecosystems where the people of Melbourne can swim in their own rivers. It is a vision of community and relationships, of diversity, of art and culture.

“We can learn in nature. We can grow food in town. It speaks of the idea of ​​embracing life in the fullness of life.

The idea also means that Melbourne should be a more affordable place where everyone has safe, comfortable housing and affordable clean energy.

Lofgren says what’s needed to change this transition is more community activation and cross-industry conversations.

“We have a wonderful housing network in Melbourne, a wonderful climate network and a great emerging food network in Melbourne. But often those conversations happen in the silos that our economic system has kind of designed,” he said. “And so it’s not very surprising that we have a system where cross-sector collaboration is quite difficult.”

“If we’re serious about looking at what’s inherently unsustainable in the economic system we find ourselves in, we need to encourage these cross-industry collaborations and cross-industry conversations.”

Mr Lofgren called on like-minded organizations to join him in his vision for a new Melbourne and sign up to his Regen Melbourne network.

“We can really set big, tangible stretch goals that we should all be aiming for as a community, and not settle for something that might be less than it might be in a time of massive disruption.”

“We can rise together to create the vision.”

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