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Healthy Friction: when working together drives community-centered regenerative economies

Healthy Friction: when working together drives community-centered regenerative economies


We recently conducted a poll in which we asked our community, “Are you open to working with a partner who may not share the exact same mission as you, but whose area of focus could bring about shared solutions?” The response was an outstanding “Yes” from 93.2% of respondents. 

With Regenerative Economy as a focus and catalyst for social impact, these poll results verify that working together is the key to bringing positive contributions to the world. We must work together to write new chapters as we solve systemic challenges affecting our planet and people. Net Impact’s 2020–2021 goal was to ask our community to consider what our planet could look like if we reimagined systems with the purpose of uplifting economic, environmental, and social systems. Our 2021–2022 theme was to encourage the Net Impact community to consider a solution as a regenerative economy that could forge a social foundation for all.

What are some essential principles of a regenerative economy?

1.    Regenerative economy leads to cooperation.

Reframing success to include environmental and social factors can only be achieved with collaboration. When stakeholders cooperate, an equitable horizontal collective intelligence can grow through information sharing. Moreover, the parties improve their resiliency, individually and collectively, enabling them to withstand better the challenges of the ever-changing, complex systems impacting our lives and the world.

2.    Regenerative economy promotes synergy between actors.

The drive behind a regenerative economy is the desire for all to realize positive outcomes. This approach emphasizes the best interests of the collective and majority. This mindset of working toward common goals for the greater good almost automatically creates synergy among participants in a regenerative economy. It prompts persons to act as a group because they know their combined impact far outweighs what each could accomplish alone.

3. Regenerative economy promotes innovation, adaptability, and evolution.

The best systems thrive when they foster inclusivity. Diversity of thought, experience, and knowledge increases within the group by including actors from all walks of life. This inclusion and the interactions between the players often spark new ideas, methodologies, and favorable results for everyone’s benefit. Furthermore,  the group’s enhanced collective imagination builds the foundation for greater flexibility in the face of novel trials. Through natural progression, systems, processes, and ways of thinking will continuously improve and evolve, leading to better results and a more significant impact.

How can we incorporate regenerative economy principles for impact? 

Our partner, the Walton Family Foundation, is modeling building inclusive coalitions that center community voices and can lead to lasting and regenerative solutions. 

The Walton Family Foundation works in three areas: strengthening the connections between K–12 education and lifelong opportunity, protecting rivers, oceans and the communities they support, and advancing their home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. Rooted in several generations of family — where no voice is louder than the next and different opinions are valued — the foundation applies this legacy to their work by collaborating with grantees and communities to take on some of the world’s biggest problems.


The Turn the Page Project grew from a need to address the pandemic’s increased detrimental effects on disadvantaged students. The Walton Family Foundation and COVID Collaborative partnered to support an inclusive dialogue on the future of schools — including how we all must adapt to meet the needs of families in our changing landscape. The Project’s goal is to serve all students and teachers better and build a more robust, inclusive educational future.

In its support of reimagining education, the Turn the Page Project brings together a diverse group of people that collaborate to create powerful change. 

Turn the Page

A few of the doers, thinkers, and learners helping to reimagine education with the #TurnThePageProject

Participants include:
●    High School Students — Leading grassroots campaign initiatives within their communities
●    Nonprofit Founders — Supporting children who are homeless, ill, or in foster care
●    Youth Scholars — Advocating for representation in education
●    Senior Producers and Correspondents — Bringing awareness to children’s literacy challenges and improving literacy rates across the country
●    Educators — Finding innovative ways to teach the next generation
●    Presidents and Chief Impact Officers — Helping eliminate stigmas to ensure children can flourish in their own ways
●    CEOs — Bridging the gap between schools and the communities they serve by including families in the decisions that affect their children’s education


In 2020, World Central Kitchen, with support from the foundation, provided fresh meals from sustainable sources to thousands of voters in historically underserved communities. This program reflected a commitment to community and hope for a brighter future at the height of the pandemic.

World Central Kitchen

World Central Kitchen workers filling lunch boxes for early voters in the 2020 election. 

#ChefsForThePolls is a nonpartisan initiative operated by WCF, centered on collaboration, with the ultimate goal of using food to heal and strengthen communities.

Home Region

Go Forward Pine Bluff is an inspiring initiative in Arkansas’ Jefferson County, part of the Walton Family Foundation’s Home Region. Go Forward Pine Bluff works to mobilize community leaders across local government, business, and education to build a new generation of prosperity for all Pine Bluff residents. The initiative focuses on the following:
-    Workforce training
-    Educational programs
-    Economic opportunities
-    Mobilizing Community leaders 

Pine Bluff

Ryan Watley is the Executive Director of Go Forward Pine Bluff in Jefferson County, Arkansas. Photo Credit: Rory Doyle

Through cross-sector collaboration between leaders in education, local government, and local businesses, this initiative looks to build and strengthen its community to achieve a generation of prosperity for all. 


Focusing on better collaboration, synergy, innovation, adaptability, and evolution will nurture and enrich society and the environment for future generations. 

We can start the process by looking for ways to support communities, environmental initiatives, and the education system to create positive change and impact today.