The Nautilus Process


Before we completely describe this process, it's important that we articulate a few things:

    1. You already know this

    2. We have seen this happen

    3. We know it works


  1. It can be taught

  2. It can be learned

  3. It can be replicated over and over

We see that the Skagit Mill fits into a greater process of system change that Chris pioneered in India, and is related to over 20 companies he has started and helped develop at their early stages. These companies now collectively provide more than a dozen essential human services to more than 12 million people while employing more than 40,000 people .

So what does it mean to be local, open and decentralized? Chris has designed a approach to helping the systems evolve. He has participated in replicating this process in systems as diverse as finance, shelter and health, in areas as far flung as rural America and urban India and at scales that span from small, informal coffee carts to large national banks.

 The nautilus process involves the following steps: alignment, place, immersion, opportunity, entrepreneurs, business models, stand alone unit, growth and replication/imitation. As any one project replicates in the open world, it is joined by other open projects – coalescing. This up-swell of change, though small in any single instance, in aggregate presents a strong force for systems change.

We will describe this process in detail in following posts. Here we will simply suggest that there is coherent path that leads from self knowledge through community immersion and through to business formation and systems change. Companies such as Ujjivan Financial Services, Glocal Healthcare and Vistaar Finance were produced through this process. They currently provide essential human services to millions of people in India.

The Mill has rapidly developed and is currently in the stand-alone unit phase of this process. This means the Mill is built and running. Farmers are participating and the overall community fit has been demonstrated. We are now making flour sales to bakers. In the next few months, we will be able to demonstrated not simply a regenerative cycle in which the Mill plays a key roll, but also that the Mill itself is economically profitable in its first unit. At the mill, each step of the process has been followed by one or more members of the Mill’s founding team. It is not necessary that each member of the Mill community participates in each step.

Through the Skagit Mill, the ‘system change process’ is demonstrating self, community and markets can be integrated cohesively and are self-reinforcing.

The name of this blog highlight three system attributes that we have focus on in our current work. Directionally, these characteristics describe all of our current projects. We also believe that organization based in these ideas provide a remarkably compelling path forward to alleviate many strains on our global system such as adaption and mitigation of climate change, renewal of healthy communities and less damaging impact to ourselves and the planet.


At the scale of a local community you can find problems and solutions that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. This requires spending time in local space and forming relationships with the people living there to discover what the main problems are, and what it is that people love most. From an outside perspective it is easy to conglomerate and stereotype the needs and characteristics of a local community, which is why we believe so strongly in community immersion, which allows us to clearly identify that there is some form fabric that holds everybody together. We immerse ourselves to point out the three or four most important problems in the community, based on what and who they already love.

Much of the apparent intractability of our strained systems is the result of viewing these systems at too high a level. An altitude from which new solutions, and the people who will create, use and implement any new systems, are barely even visible.


There are many open systems – nature, markets, community, Linux, microcredit. Open systems rely on a free transfer of information and are arrange in mutual assemblages of ecosystems. They are characterized by sharing and expressing, rather than hoarding or excluding.

We believe that the fast rate of innovation characterized by open systems and their ability to proliferate rapidly through replication make them an ideal model for system change. We have been apart of open systems change and helped lead several large scale changes of this type.


In a decentralized system, the power doesn’t come from individual units, it comes from the links and relationships that connect them. Particularly for agricultural infrastructure, we have gotten caught at an enormous scale and high centralization from which it is very difficult to back off from incrementally. Our design for decentralized services offers a sustainable solution that will allow the rapid emergence of business models that are independent instead of conglomerated; innovative instead of bureaucratic and inherently diverse because each one will be built in and for its unique circumstances. This decentralization can only be happen because entrepreneurs can think critically and apply this innovation in their own local communities, as the people that are known and trusted in their own communities. Kevin Morse emerged from Skagit County to head up the mill because he knew and loved the farmers and surrounding community. Kevin's values reflect his community and both are now amplified through the business of the Mill. 



  1. […] The key to creating resilient, regional business models that can reshape a system, is to maintain community ownership, while gaining economies of scale through replication and imitation. Westwood Food Cooperative is taking this approach in one of Denver’s most undeserved communities. This is another great example of what we mean by a community business model. […]

  2. […] ideas openly. For more on local, open and Independent, see local blog For the Nautilus, see Nautilus Process For more on Salish|Growth, see Salish|Growth For more on Cairnspring Mills, see Cairnspring […]


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