A Journey of Becoming: Working in Systems

Debbie Clarke
Jul 23, 2023

This blog is the final part in a four part series sharing our journey of our evolution to become the Centre for GOOD Travel. The first describes our realisation that amidst a global pandemic, we knew returning to business as usual wasn’t an option. Part 2 introduces Who We Are, and why unpicking our essence, our uniqueness, is critical to understanding where we have impact. The third reflects our internal discussions about how A New Role for Tourism requires a new way of working, from all of us. 

This final blog describes the systems that we’re a part of, and where the potential lies between those systems we interact with and what we, uniquely, can offer.  

We’re hoping that by sharing our journey transparently, we’ll be joined by other tourism businesses and organisations on this journey and our collective impact will be even greater. 

Living systems thinking

For the past 10 years, as a travel company, we have worked to transform the tourism industry into a force for good through our trips, education, and advocacy. Bringing a regenerative approach to our work means we’re learning to understand that we ourselves are part of ecological or living systems.

Living systems are open, self-organising life forms that are in mutually beneficial relationships with each other, exchanging information, energy, and materials. Living systems or networks are webs of interdependent and dynamic relationships between organisms, nested within ever larger networks and systems. A tree’s whole and complex system of roots and branches is nested within a forest, which is interconnected and has a relationship with other trees, plants and animals, which is nested within its wider environment - waterways, climate, geology and topography. Enhancing the capability and capacity of one system enables that system to add to the systems it is part of. Thriving trees are able to contribute nutrients, seeds, shelter and much more to create thriving forests, which in turn contribute to thriving ecosystems and places. 

As our understanding of living systems grows, and we begin to see ourselves as a living system nested in other living systems, our understanding of our potential for impact is significantly expanded. To do this, we need to understand which systems we are part of, rely upon, and to which we are uniquely positioned to contribute. This sweet spot is where potential lies, and helps us to focus where we place our efforts. 

Where we have influence

What finally emerged for us, after months of work mapping our systems, was our potential to work with the specific systems reflected in the graphic below. 

While our work takes place globally and with different segments of the tourism sector, a regenerative approach requires us to recognise and respond to the unique cultural and ecological aspects of each place. We strive to do this by working with our direct stakeholders (and their systems) as shown  in the graphic below, with the ultimate impact being on local places and communities (indirect stakeholders). 

Our systems and how we work: 


We see our travellers as a living system to which we can add capability through our trips (group and independent), pledges, blogs, resources and storytelling. Our intention is for our travellers to not only contribute positively during their travels, but also be deeply impacted themselves from their experiences, time with our local hosts, and in nature. 


We know that travel can be transformative with the right ingredients, and so we bring a deliberate design process to the experiences we create that provides opportunity for inner transformation. We work to impact our travellers in such a way that they are inspired to think about how they can live, work, and play in a more nurturing way in their own places and communities. 

Spending time in nature allows for deeper connections to nature - New Zealand
Partner Destinations

We continue to create trips to New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, Fiji and Iceland. We have long standing relationships with local hosts in these countries and see ourselves as part of their local systems. Our local hosts are carefully selected, as we only work with partners who align with our values. Our aim is for local hosts to benefit economically, socially, and culturally from deep encounters with our travellers. Nurturing our relationships with our partners is a top priority for us. Ensuring these relationships are reciprocally beneficial is key. We choose local hosts who often work beyond tourism, on social, cultural, and environmental projects in their communities, so our support of them enables them to utilise the benefits of tourism to impact their local places. 

Waka Abel Tasman - one of our highly valued partners
Tourism Regenerators: 

The third living system we are part of is a network of ‘tourism regenerators’ globally. This is a growing, self-organising movement of tourism people (professionals, tour operators, tourism educators, students, and travellers) who are seeking to understand what a regenerative approach to tourism means and make changes in how they work. While a regenerative approach has been applied in other sectors and industries, this approach is new to most in tourism. We add value to this diverse network through two types of services.

Capability Building 

As a tourism business that has evolved based on regenerative principles and frameworks, we are uniquely positioned to assist our partner destinations and tourism regenerators in applying these principles to their own specific situations. We do this through our capability building programmes for tourism entities, regional and national tourism organisations. Our understanding of regenerative principles also supports our work with communities who are seeking to co-create a regenerative tourism framework for their places. Our courses supplement this work for individuals or groups who want to deepen their understanding of regenerative principles and application. And our GOOD Awaits hosted conversations are an outgrowth of our podcast series, providing a regular gathering for those who want to engage in supported dialogue of regenerative tourism. 


Through our pioneering work with the GOOD Awaits podcast, we are leading conversations and explorations about regenerative tourism, not only in Aotearoa New Zealand, but also globally. We’ve been thrilled to hear the feedback of so many listeners who have valued these conversations and the learnings they have gleaned from them. Our storytelling work reflects our deep commitment to supporting the mindset shift required in the tourism industry as described in part 3 of this blog series. Our community engagement podcasts can be embedded in community engagement projects, giving an authentic opportunity for locals to voice their thoughts about what tourism in their place should be by literally handing them the mic. This storytelling work is impacting both our partner destinations and tourism regenerators systems. 

Expanded Impact

By working from the potential of our essence in relationship to the systems we’re part of, new service opportunities emerged. As a tourism business that had been largely reliant on international trips pre-covid, these expanded area of work provide diversified income streams that add resilience to our business model.  Uncovering new ways to add value to the tourism sector beyond our trips and experiences is also exciting for us as a social enterprise. This process highlighted the need for us to transform GOOD Travel into an organisation that would offer services across the various systems we’re a part of; the vision for the Centre for GOOD Travel emerged. 

Our annual and long term goals are now connected to these systems, ensuring that systems transformation is always at the forefront of our focus. This way of working also holds us accountable to our mission and values. 

As our understanding of a living systems approach deepens, and as our relationships and the context we’re working in continues to change over time, we will inevitably continue to change how we work. The systems graphic above will inevitably evolve. As a tourism business with tried and tested models of working, thinking about changing how we work in response to our changing world can be daunting. However, to not do so leaves us vulnerable to future impacts and doesn’t align our work to be in harmony with nature. 

Contact us to learn more about how to bring this process into your own tourism work.

Together we can have greater collective impact.

July 23, 2023
5 min read