Phipps Regenerative Response to COVID-19 (March 14 – Oct. 22, 2020)
In March 2020, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was closed entirely for two and a half months, greatly reducing both earned and contributed income that the organization depends upon to fund its many programs. We took a regenerative approach to this issue and we saw it as an opportunity to make our organization stronger.
Carol Sanford / Diagram credit: 7 Group
In regenerative thinking, when activating and restraining forces meet, we often view this as conflict and our typical response is compromise, which can actually result in everyone losing something. Instead we used that tension to reconcile those forces to create something new. New opportunities can emerge when you explore the full potential of reconciling perceived conflicts. So in our case, we have the activating force (the programs generated by Phipps) coming up against a restraining force (the closures and social distancing generated by the coronavirus). To approach this as a conflict could have resulted in losses, shuttered programs and staff layoffs; because we instead recognized this restraining force as an opportunity to retool our organization, we were able to reach a higher potential and to have staff focused on work that made our organization stronger and more resilient for the future.
To reconcile the conflict of COVID-19 required all staff to work outside of their normal way of doing things in a way that aimed at future potential. Staff took on a wide-ranging array of new and longstanding initiatives, designing future shows, exhibits and programs, reconciling databases, updating standard operating manuals, contacting constituents and completing continuing education credits, among dozens of initiatives.
By using a regenerative approach, Phipps persevered through the closure without furloughs and emerged further ahead in many structural and operational areas than we were before. We were able to reopen the first day we were permitted and hit the ground running with a committed and engaged team. Our seasonal flower shows are as magnificent as ever and we now have a thriving online education program. The regenerative approach and its emphasis on long-term considerations serves us well as we continue to work through this unprecedented time.