Exploring Regenerative Livelihoods through The Work That Reconnects

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By Silvia Di Blasio

Over the last ten years, I have become convinced that we won’t succeed in the Great Turning until we understand and intentionally address this key factor: livelihood, and all the myths, prejudices, and privileged assumptions that surround it.

Wikipedia defines livelihood as “a set of activities performed to live for a given life span, involving securing water, food, fodder, medicine, shelter, clothing and the capacity to acquire the above necessities working either individually or as a group by using endowments (both human and material) for meeting the requirements of the self and his/her household on a sustainable basis with dignity.”

Livelihood is not only the means or activities to secure the essentials: it includes how we choose, use, distribute or share, and dispose of them.

In other definitions, livelihood is not only the means or activities to secure the essentials: it includes how we choose, use, distribute or share, and dispose of them.

For many, livelihood refers to one’s “job,” whether working for an organization or self-employed as a freelancer or managing your own business.

Surveys show that 60% to 80% of the people find their jobs at one point meaningless, boring, disconnected from their values, oppressive, or even all of these together. So, while livelihoods tend to define people’s identities (we introduce ourselves as “so and so, a teacher,” or “so and so, an engineer”), they don’t necessarily reflect people’s values.

We need to “earn a living,” as if being born in an abundant planet that has always provided for us was not enough.

The way our current society is organized, we see jobs, careers or self-employment/businesses owner as  imperatives: we need to “earn a living,” as if being born in an abundant planet that has always provided for us was not enough. We are asked to prove that we are worthy; we are asked to sell our life, energy, and our precious time, away from our loved ones and nature, in exchange for a few dollars to pay for the essentials, such as housing, food, health care, that should be guaranteed by a healthy community independently of our age, ability, ethnicity, identity, etc.  Those of us who are lucky and privileged enough to attend college or university and find a job that pays a bit (or a lot) more may have it easier. However, the majority of jobs and businesses have values and goals that may be far from ours and from a life-sustaining future. Most jobs and businesses perpetuate Business As Usual in at least one, if not all of these aspects: form (how jobs and business are organized, owned, and governed), content (the product created: goods and services), context (where this is created and for whom) or mode (the way people interact with each other, their environment, the end-user, and themselves).

Few can afford to choose their livelihoods.

Our culture values compartmentalization and reductionism, it also puts all the burden on the individual: those of us who enjoy the privilege to do so, change certain things in our lives (like reducing the amount of plastic we consume, changing the type of food we eat, the source of energy for our homes, etc.), but that only changes a portion of the big picture: we rarely see how these systems are interconnected and are each both the source and the consequence of so much pain and devastation: that there are entire lives, communities, ecosystems, and local economies affected by the choices we make. Few can afford to choose their livelihoods: how many work on highly polluting and oppressive industries because their traditional livelihoods were displaced or destroyed? And with all these changes (the ones we are able to make), there come assumptions, biases, guilt and direct or indirect shaming and blaming themselves or others: “How come you work for the oil industry!?”, “You sell pesticides!?” and the like.

How many people experience livelihood as an “elephant in the room” when we run WTR retreats and workshops? How many of those who show up (or don’t) do so because of their livelihood?

In my design studio thesis to graduate as a sustainable designer from Gaia Education, my classmate and I created a unique approach to support people to create truly regenerative livelihoods using a series of practices and concepts. Some of the most powerful tools were from the Work that Reconnects. The goal was to create a tool as inclusive as possible, open source, and when possible, shedding the blame and shame from the process.

We discovered that using the concepts and practices of reconnection and the four stages of the spiral, in parallel with concepts from permaculture, systems thinking, deep ecology and integral life, people could navigate a change of course in their livelihoods.  With these tools they could analyze their present situation, its limitations and opportunities, and then slowly design steps towards the Great Turning as their regenerative livelihood. In this way, they were not just altering one portion or sub-system, but they addressed these changes as a whole and through the evolving lenses of Gratitude, Honouring our Pain, Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes and finally, Going Forth.

Silvia facilitating regenerative livelihoods pilot at the Ecovillage Design Education program (O.U.R. Ecovillage, Vancouver Island, BC 2018)

I tested these processes and tools in my own life, and the experiment is far from over. Since I started, I have managed to leave a full time job (where I was supporting immigrants and refugees to Canada to find employment and figuring out their career lives. A “good” job in the surface, which caused deep pain when I realized I was still feeding BAU: Business As Usual) and have since worked for Gaia Education, for the Spiral Journey WTR Facilitator Development Program as eLearning assistant, for the WTR Network as a coordinator, and for a small local non-profit as settlement worker. Concurrently, I can manage many short-term projects connected to food sovereignty and permaculture. The next steps will involve testing these processes with others at the Ecovillage Design Education program at OUR Ecovillage and launching an online pilot.

There is so much we can do as WTR practitioners (I like this term more than facilitator, as it implies we practice what we facilitate for others). The Gratitude practices allow us to see the many blessings we already have, as well as those of our community. We see all the helps and “capitals” that go beyond a capitalistic and hierarchical view: the many gifts present in the world and all of us: here is where we discover the “helpers and supports” that may sustain our livelihood changes. When Honouring our Pain, we can see what’s wrong, what’s lacking, and where the pains of the world overlap with our personal wounds; we hold the “leaking buckets” of our communities, families and groups: these are all opportunities for us to intervene and heal, as part of our livelihood.  Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes helps us view the strength and gifts we already have (in us and around us) and how we can start creating livelihoods beyond the reductionist concept of money through our connections. Finally, Going Forth is full of opportunities, based on our current intersectional status of privileges, our interests, skills and experiences as well as the needs of our communities.

What if the way we co-design and support each other’s livelihood holds the key to move all these systems and structures?

The Great Turning won’t happen in a vacuum or in a bubble. In our workshops we talk about building the new structures and systems needed for a life-sustaining culture. What if the way we co-design and support each other’s livelihood holds the key to move all these systems and structures? What if livelihood is no longer defined by “earning a living” but by co-creating the Great Turning?

What would that look like?

I leave you with that question…and a request: that as a practitioner of the WTR, as someone who has chosen Life, you use compassion and understanding, creativity and intentional co-design to raise the bar for all and everyone. The Great Turning will come faster to the degree that we are all able to find a right livelihood that serves it and us all. Our WTR sessions can help people find their way.


Argentinian born Silvia Di Blasio is a long time facilitator, life and career coach and activist, she currently works as the WTR Network coordinator, Facilitators Development Program and Gaia Education e-Learning assistant and supporting immigrants and refugees to Canada. Also a friend and member of GEN (Global Ecovillage Network), she collaborates in various programs at OUR Ecovillage in Vancouver Island, BC (Canada).

3 thoughts on “Exploring Regenerative Livelihoods through The Work That Reconnects

  1. Pingback: February 2019 |

  2. Hi Silvia ^.^ Nice text ^.^
    Permaculture and regenerative agriculture are the ways to live and make the lives of plants and animals flourish within nature’s mode of being ^.^
    Thank you for writting about these important issues 🙂
    May all reconnect and feel the joy of being boundless and inclusive ^.^
    Om Mani Padme Hung


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