The development, application, and refinement of a Regenerative Development Evaluation Tool and indicators

Leah V. Gibbons, Genevieve Pearthree, Scott A. Cloutier, Meagan M. Ehlenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Ecological indicators are foundational for holistic guidance toward thriving living systems, yet existing indicators are incomplete, fragmented, and do not fully integrate living systems principles. We suggest that thriving living systems (i.e., social-ecological or complex adaptive systems) can and should be the aim of sustainability and sustainable development. Thriving living systems, also called regenerative living systems, are those in which complexity, diversity, capacity to support all life, and the potential to change to provide future options increases. Holistic ecological and sustainability indicators and evaluation tools are needed. The emerging field of regenerative development (RD) offers theoretical and practical guidance for such indicators and tools. We integrate complex adaptive systems science, ecology, sustainability, and regenerative development to construct and pilot the first iteration of a holistic sustainable development evaluation tool—the Regenerative Development Evaluation Tool—in two river restoration projects. The tool identifies RD Principles and Core Characteristics of Regenerative Living Systems that provide general guidance for thinking and decision-making. From these general indicators, place-based quantitative and qualitative indicators are constructed through a co-creative community process. Our case studies reveal factors correlated with degrees of engagement with RD and potential place-based indicators for each project. We recommend continuing the development and expansion of the RD Evaluation Tool, adding RD indicators and strategies. We also recommend developing an RD process tool that can work explicitly across scales, integrating the neighborhood, city, landscape, and regional scales since they are pivotal for sustainability efforts and manifesting thriving living systems. Finally, we recommended integrated research and practice to test and adapt RD tools and processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105698
JournalEcological Indicators
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Holistic development
  • Holistic indicators
  • Regenerative development
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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