Announcing the Regenerative Futures Lab (rLab)

Regenerative Futures Lab tile featuring representations of mountains, trees, and human formsFaced with a staggering amount of evidence about the current state of the world — climate crisis, escalating inequality, disintegrating democracies — Thomas Mande, member of the new Regenerative Futures Lab (rLab) planning team, stated: “We need to do better. And I think we can by preparing ourselves for success in building a different future, not by preparing for success in the current reality.”

Funded by the Kenan Institute for Ethics, rLab was launched in the spring semester of 2023 with two student teams working on research projects focused on the theme “Building a Happy City.” In the future, it will run for the duration of the academic year, providing funding for several student teams to search for paradigm shifting, regenerative answers to specific topical areas that will differ each year. The thematic focus for the 2023-2024 academic year is “Debt – What We Owe to Each Other.”

Students in rLab actively seek collaborations and input from experts in the field, faculty, and outside organizations in a process that aims to generate non-extractive relationships between cohort members and the world around them as an essential part of breaking down exploitative constructs of work and community.

“This is a very exciting opportunity, responding to growing numbers of students, here and elsewhere, urging us to take more seriously how current systems threaten their future prosperity,” said Dirk Philipsen, faculty director of rLab. “Our team is very grateful to Kenan for supporting this important endeavor.”

The Lab is part of a larger set of initiatives to address the needs of a world centered on human flourishing, ecological responsibility, inclusive decision-making, and regenerative systems thinking.  In the Fall of 2023, FOCUS will launch a new cluster, “Regenerative Ethical Futures,” in which seven Duke faculty will teach courses ranging from youth activism, eco-feminism, to beyond neoliberalism and a pluriverse of thriving futures.

Toward the end of each academic year, rLab will also host a symposium on regenerative futures, bringing to campus some of the most innovative and creative thinkers and doers on the thematic topic of the respective year.

David Toole, current director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, sees these programs as an important contribution to the university’s wider initiatives to address climate change and a world beyond climate crises. “Our students seem ready and eager to ask bigger systemic questions, and I want to encourage such efforts,” said Toole. “More than ever, we need our best and brightest young minds working on better answers.”

For further information on the new Regenerative Futures Lab, please contact Dirk Philipsen at dirk.philipsen@duke.edu