Nova Network

The Nova Network is a transdisciplinary global community providing evidence, inspiration, and advocacy for the health and flourishing of all people, places, and planet.

Above: Early Career Researchers at the 2019 Detroit meeting of inVIVO Planetary Health

Our mission is to transform the health of individuals, communities, and the planet through deeper understanding of the interdependence of all systems and by promoting awareness, attitudes, and actions required for meaningful, collaborative change.

Who we are: The Nova Network is an initiative of the Nova Institute for Health and welcomes anyone trying to make a difference in the world—including researchers, creatives, advocates, community organizers, educators, clinicians, policymakers, and young people, across the arts and sciences—to co-create a culture of belonging for meaningful progress.

Our agenda: We seek to underscore the connections between personal, environmental, economic, social, and spiritual health—and awareness that our current global planetary health challenges are intertwined. We promote holistic and integrated perspectives for novel solutions and values that promote cultural change. 

What we do
  • We create new opportunities for collaborative discourse, ideas, and action—to engage rich expertise, integrate research, encourage diverse perspectives, and nurture relationships for creative solutions.
  • Our events include international conferences, virtual “campfire” discussion forums, and in-person workshops, retreats, and other events.
  • We have ongoing real-time engagement and dynamic interaction on the Nova Integration Hub, the Nova Institute’s web-based forum (to be launched in November 2022) that provides a platform for knowledge sharing, nourishing activities, and mentoring connections for early career researchers. 

Through these diverse activities, we seek to promote awareness, identify solutions, and inspire creativity, connectivity, and purpose. 

What Planetary Health means to us

“The interdependent vitality of all natural and human made systems, including the attitudes, values, and collaborative actions that promote flourishing of all people, places, and our planet.”

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Our affiliated journal

Challenges is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, open access journal that welcomes contributions to any problem, or any aspect of the “grand challenges” facing our world and our societies today. It addresses the pressing need to accelerate integrated cross-sectoral discourse toward collaborative solutions to improve every aspect of life on our planet. It provides a key avenue for the Nova Network to share diverse and original research, perspectives, and viewpoints, including the “Nova Interview” with leading experts from different fields.

Progress through cultural change

The Nova Network encourages a culture of mutualism, trust, and authenticity to generate new opportunities through collaboration, ingenuity, and creativity for meaningful growth and shared benefits across all scales—beginning at the grassroots. We seek to normalize and place greater value on wisdom, empathy, kindness, hope, love, creativity, and respect—the deeper values that unite, empower, and refocus priorities of individuals and groups towards shared solutions.

Member Benefits
  • Quarterly email newsletters, plus special news bulletins 
  • Discounts to special events, conferences, and “member only” events
  • Eligibility to apply for travel grants for in-person annual conferences 
  • Eligibility to apply for collaboration grants 
  • Eligibility to apply for grants to support publication costs for work performed in collaboration with the Nova Institute
  • Designation as Network Member and access to a private group on the Nova Integration Hub (to be launched in November 2022) 
  • Opportunities for projects, research, and publications to be highlighted in quarterly Network bulletin 
  • Nova Network member affiliation may be included in bylines and publications according to the following guidelines 
    • We strongly encourage members to cite their Network affiliation on publications as: “Member of the Nova Network, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA”. 
    • This may include any work, particularly projects or ideas inspired by engagement with the Network, in addition to specific collaborations as a result.
    • When this is in use, please inform us, so that we can promote your work!
Nova Network Origins and History

The Nova Network was created in 2022 and is a realization of the decades-long outreach efforts of both the Nova Institute for Health and inVIVO Planetary Health. Recognizing the importance of collective actions and an expanded reach based on values, wisdom, and relationships, inVIVO Planetary Health and the Nova Institute began working closely together in 2020. The inVIVO initiative sunset in November 2022 when it became part of the Nova Network, which is directed by Susan Prescott.

In 2012, Professor Susan Prescott, MD, PhD, founded a new initiative that called for creative, integrated, ecological solutions for the health of all systems at all scales as a transdisciplinary response to the Worldwide Universities Network’s Global Challenges. Known as inVIVO Planetary Health, its members were among the first to provide evidence that the ecology of the early environment—including microbial diversity, nutrition, toxins, nature relatedness, social interactions, and early life adversity—has life-long and transgenerational implications for all aspects of well-being and resilience. 

To restore human health, we must restore the health of our society and our relationship with the natural environment—with a greater sense of unity, place, and purpose—from the first moments of life.

Susan L. Prescott, Founder and President, inVIVO Planetary Health (2012-2022)

Please visit the inVIVO site to see favorite moments of past gatherings and more. 

 The Nova Network is a proud member of the Planetary Health Alliance.

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.