Creating healthy, vibrant and resilient communities through a Regenerative Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

Creating healthy, vibrant and resilient communities through a Regenerative Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

How does a Regenerative cross-sector collaborative framework address major global issues? How can it be applied on a regional level in New Zealand? What does it look like and how does it work?

This post explains the process behind a regional project in New Zealand that Āta Regenerative is leading with partners from Local Government, Universities, Iwi authorities, environmental organisations and sustainable business groups.

Creation of the framework

This cross-sector collaborative framework was designed prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was designed to address the impact of climate change, water quality, health, poverty, housing and social inequity. It helps create the conditions for the ongoing health of the region delivering greater resilience and creating opportunities for new growth, development and employment. The COVID 19 pandemic has created greater urgency and focus on the need for resilience, support of existing business and community and the development of new opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic impact on this region will be severe with predictions of economic recession both regionally and nationally. The strong agricultural base of the region and the expected increasing global food demand can help the region manage through and recover from these effects but recovery needs to be based on a regenerative approach and the emergence of new opportunities.

The sectors that have been brought together as members of this cross-sector collaboration include agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, business, education, health and community. They are all affected by these issues and the crisis and need to be part of the solution. The issues represent some of society’s most complex problems and are interconnected and a consequence of bad design.

Cross-sector collaboration is the correct tool to support the redesign to create the conditions to resolve these issues. It provides voice to all sectors with a common objective of health for the region, its economy, environment and people.

The region has an estimated population of 250,000 residents and was selected because it includes many small towns and smaller communities, has a high percentage of Maori and has a high dependence on agriculture, forestry, tourism and welfare.

Project purpose

The purpose of this Framework is to create transformational change within this region.

  1. To move farming from the current industrialised model with associated net carbon loss and damage to waterways and soils, to regenerative methods which sequester carbon, support climatic, environmental and economic health and create employment and business opportunities.
  2. To create new and novel food industries for domestic and export markets supported by the provenance of regenerative farming practices and the production of healthy food linked to consumers who care about the impact of their food production on environment, welfare and community.
  3. To reposition tourism for a domestic market. Local tourism has increasingly become focused on international travelers, potentially at the expense of domestic tourism.  The region is traditionally popular with New Zealand travelers and well positioned to regenerate with a domestic focus. The growth and promotion of locally grown high quality produce linked to healthy production practices can help support this reposition.
  4.  To use the forestry resource within the region to produce value add products and support greater housing construction. Lack of quality housing is identified as a major social health issue within the region. This will provide greater revenue to landowners, create new local specialised processing and jobs creation and support emerging businesses in associated industries.
  5.  To develop and build the local infrastructure to support these and other projects.
  6. To provide the education and training to develop the capability and capacity required.
  7.  These changes are expected to ease pressure on the areas DHB’s and markedly reduce dependence on the welfare system.

Getting started

The first step has been to design and establish the Cross-sector Collaborative using the Regenerative Framework developed and implemented by nRhythm.  The Regenerative Framework is a flexible non-prescriptive framework that allows members the opportunity to co-design operational structures, strategic priorities and programmes including work plans that are contextually relevant to the desired purpose and outcomes.

This cross-sector collaborative design has been used successfully internationally and can be rolled into other regions of New Zealand.

Built into this project is the monitoring of impact on ecological and social health over time. Ecological health of farms within the region will be monitored using Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) a globally recognised tool developed by the Savory Institute.  This creates an Ecological Health index for each landbase. An index which improves year on year shows that the landbase is regenerating.

Organisational and Community Health is monitored using the Organisational Health Index developed by nRhythm and used effectively in similar communities globally.

The potential outcomes from this approach touch on all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goals

Collaborative Design

Cross-sector collaborative design is critical to achieving effective outcomes. The design needs to accommodate the differing priorities and values of the members and ensure there is a feeling of equity amongst members. A Collaborative by design includes the active participation of all members to inform governance, member roles and operating structures as well as strategic priorities and programmes. The UN Sustainable Development Goal #17 recognizes the importance of partnerships and collaborative governance.

This use of regenerative cross-sector collaborations has helped networks and collaboratives around the world create transformational solutions to complex problems. These include regeneration of one billion hectares of grasslands, revitalization of agricultural communities, reversing the effects of climate change, and ensuring that all residents have equitable access to safe and affordable transit, affordable housing, and meaningful access to economic opportunity.

By employing a holistic, systems-based approach to create thriving and resilient collaborative networks, we can address the most pressing and complex social and environmental issues for the long-term health of the region.

This design process empowers all stakeholders to be informed decision-makers, active communicators, and ardent collaborators to ensure the underlying health of the collaborative.

Sustainability, growth, transformation and true systems change become a naturally recurring outcome of the collaborative.

The Regenerative Framework

A thriving, resilient, holistic ecosystem embodies the key regenerative principles which ensure the underlying health of the collaborative and its members.

We use a design process and framework called the nRhythm Regenerative Framework. This is a flexible, non-prescriptive framework that allows collaborative members the opportunity to co-design operational structures, strategic priorities and programmes including work plans that are contextually relevant to the desired purpose and outcomes of its members. This framework becomes a guide for holistic decision-making, enabling collaborative health.


Regenerative Framework

Collaborative Context

The purpose is to create vibrant, healthy communities for the long-term sustained health of the region and its people through the development of a Regenerative Cross-sectoral Collaborative involving key sectors within the region.

Due to the impact of COVID 19 the outcomes of this collaborative will first focus on projects which will help mitigate the impact of the pandemic within the region and set the conditions for rapid recovery including new employment and business opportunities.

This creates a thriving region of resilient rural communities with a strong agricultural heart based around regenerative practices supporting a strong local food industry where the health of environment, people and communities is nurtured.

Collaborative Structures

The Collaborative structures are collectively designed by the members. However, there are three key structures: Founding members, Cooperative Trust & Key Sectors.

Founding Members. The role of the founding members is to create the necessary structures to form the collaborative.

Supporting Partners. The supporting partners support the Founding Members through the provision of specialised expertise within the sectors included.

Cooperative Trust. The cross-sector collaborative is incorporated into a cooperative trust. Governance and roles are designed when there is representation from other sectors in the community.

Sector Participation. All members reside in the region. Several sectors need to be represented in the collaborative.

1. Agriculture 8. Spiritual
2. Education 9. Environmental
3. Research 10. Finance
4. Local Parliament members 11. Regional Councils
5. Iwi 12. District Councils
6. Food 13. Local Industry
7. Social Welfare 14. Marketing/Communication/Branding

Collaborative Work

The Collaborative Work consists of the design and implementation of the collective programmes and projects of the collaborative. This includes strategic priorities, funding requirements and work plans to create the most impact. In a healthy collaborative, outcomes are achieved and activities are rooted in the Collaborative Context. Even though this is a collective decision by membership, we have identified key areas of interest which will impact the region.

Impact on Region

Environmental degradation, animal agriculture, water quality, and soil loss are deeply connected to mitigating climate change, improving health and labour issues, reducing food waste, and improving the overall quality of life in the region. It is now evident and at the forefront of local and national policy.

While final decisions on projects and outcomes of the collaborative come from the members some examples of projects to be considered include:


Work with the industry to have a majority of the farmer base within the region enrolled in regenerative farming programmes. This requires training and education both of farmers and supporting advisors and institutions to build capability and capacity.

Farms under regenerative farming programmes have a positive impact on soil and water quality and help move the region from a net loser of soil and carbon to carbon neutral or positive. Ecological Outcome Verification and the creation of an Ecological Health Index are applied across farms to monitor the improvement in ecological health.

Regenerative farming allows farms to continue as profitable businesses within the boundaries of new regulation. Our experience with applying regenerative practices to farming is that there is an improvement in health of land, animals and people with reduction in inputs required to maintain productivity and greater employment opportunities.

Establish Go to Market programmes to leverage the provenance and ecological health of the farming practices and greater nutritional health of produce to create new and novel local and export food businesses and opportunities. The shortening of the supply chain creates better revenue opportunities for producers. A focus on the local and tourism market supports and grows local businesses. The provision of higher nutritional value food to the local communities has a beneficial impact to physical and mental health.

Build specialised processing and logistics to support artisanal and specialised consumer facing food products especially meat and dairy processing.  There are long term job opportunities within these facilities and support for local businesses in process and retail.


Forestry is a heavily commoditised industry. Opportunities are explored to use local log production in value add for local product and the construction industry. This provides greater revenue to landowners, create new local specialised processing and jobs creation and support emerging businesses in associated industries.


Tourism has taken a major hit from the impact of COVID-19 due to the pre-COVID dependence on international tourism. Research is required to reposition tourism for a domestic audience and restructure to tell a more local story, link to its agricultural base and add more value to the region. Employment and business opportunities will come from this.


Lack of suitable housing is a major social issue in much of the region. Refocusing timber production to support growth in healthy and affordable local housing provides a boost to local business, employment and health, reducing the lack of housing as a social issue.

Health system

The region has a high dependency on social support and lacks the resilience to cope with major disruption from COVID 19 without significant economic, physical and mental health issues and social impact.

  • Systems and programmes designed to address the whole person.
  • The need for and upgrade to or addition of infrastructure needs investigating and planning.
  • The creation of more employment opportunities and the improved self-worth this generates has a major impact on community health and equity.


Provide meaningful education and training pathways for students and workers of all ages.  As employment opportunities grow within all sectors of business within the region, this will require support services and infrastructure to grow capability and business capacity. This will in itself create new opportunities.


This outline describes a collaborative that is currently underway in one New Zealand region that has the capability to be rolled out in other regions. It provides a framework to support a better future with better health outcomes, improved environmental results and thriving communities. We will continue to report as we reach important milestones in this project.

Ata Regenerative are at the forefront of regenerative agriculture practice in New Zealand. With 17 years working in the regenerative space and as the only EOV provider in the country, Ata Regenerative can assist with your transition to farm practice that focuses on the regeneration of soils, increased productivity and biological diversity, as well as economic and social well-being. To find out more, contact us here

Dr Hugh JellieMay 28, 20202

Dr Hugh Jellie

Dr Hugh Jellie is the founder of Ata Regenerative and has spent 17 years researching farming systems and regenerative agriculture around the world. He now helps farmers, organisations and individuals change to deliver improved environmental, social, financial and health outcomes.