Stories from the Rainbow Warrior Land

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 | Uncategorized

I am just returning from a week in Indonesia where we visited Belitung, a beautiful island that is famous, among others as the home of the Rainbow warriors, a real life story of a school in a shed for ten marginalized misfit children—an inspirational story told by Andrea Hirata’s bestselling novel and film, English: The Rainbow Troops (see picture shows our group in a replica of the classroom).
We went to Belitung to take a sensing journey in order to learn about the situation on the ground. We also wanted to review the five prototype initiatives that our tri-sector group of IDEAS change makers is working on. One night the Bupati (the Bupati is the directed elected Regent of a community of 100,000 to several million people) invited about 30 stakeholders of the community: Governmental Department Heads, NGOs, religious leaders, business leaders, etc. It was late when we arrived back from dinner, (8.30 PM), everyone was exhausted from a long day that started for many at 5 AM, and there was a considerable amount of tension in the room, that is, frustration about the current condition of the community.

People where tired, the noise and music from next door was considerable, and it looked for a moment that the whole thing could easily go nowhere. But then, slowly but surely, the evening took a really remarkable turn. What emerged is a situation and shift that in my eyes is a true microcosm of our developmental situation globally today. Before we knew it was 11 PM and absolutely no one wanted to leave.

So here is a brief version of that story that in our 2014 Theory U/ Society 4.0 Fieldbook will be described in more detail. The design outlined below was developed over dinner on the fly (I only learned that same day about the event).

1. Opening: The Bupati as the host opened the meeting. I made a few remarks about the three divides as the universal leadership challenge across all communities and civilizations today.

2. Movie: Then we showed a ten minute inspirational video clip that shared the story and amazing pictures of space astronauts who fly into space and then “turn the camera” back onto our planet earth and are stunned by the beauty and living presence of planet earth.

3. Small Groups: We asked them to “turn the camera back onto planet Belitung” and share in small groups what they notice, what is dying, what is wanting to be born. The small groups were mixed with community members and with participants from our tri-sector program (change makers that with the exception of the Bupati all came from out of town).

4. Social Presencing Theater: Then we asked them to return back into our large circle. Inside that circle we had placed 15 sheets of paper that each were labeled with one of the key stakeholders in the community: the Bupati, the administration, the legislature, religious leaders, teachers, fisher folk, mother nature, children, youth, mining companies, oil companies, central government, police, etc. We asked them to add missing stakeholders roles (which they did). And then I asked them to enact the voice, view and concerns of all stakeholders in a live “current reality movie” in which everyone was invited to stand up and step into one of the stakeholder roles (anyone but one’s own role) and “to speak from the I.”

What happened was an amazing outburst of energy, in which the whole complex and intertwined and highly conflicted current reality situation came fully alive within minutes.

5. Reflection: Then we asked them to reflect what they had seen. “Review the tape: If the current reality movie we have been watching illuminates important aspects of the current system, what are you noticing about it?”

What followed was moment of transformative silence. You could hear a pin drop. Then the first person spoke up: “I noticed that at first everyone was blaming the Bupati for all the problems. We thought that the big leader is the sole source and the solution to all our problems. Later we realized that we all had our role to play. That we need to shift the way we communicate.” What ensued was an amazingly sharp and precise sequence of reflections in which they noticed that the deeper problem of their situation was not the Bupati or the other stakeholders, but the deeper mindset and awareness.

“Nobody takes responsibility,” said a second person. “Instead of blaming the Bupati, people should be asking themselves what they can be doing and assuming responsibility in what they can do to solve the problem.”

A third person said: “We need to improve communication between stakeholders. This role-play exaggerated how we could be doing more. By exaggerating these roles and placing them in little boxes it’s clear how communication can be improved.”

Finally, someone said: “Every stakeholder only spoke from their ego. But we were unable to really think together as a community.”

6. Leverage point: At the end, when everything was said and done, one of the youngest participants posed a question to the facilitators and the whole group. “The problem is” he said, “that we never had such a conversation before because we normally have no space that can hold and facilitated such a conversation that we saw tonight. What can we do to create such a space?”

7. Next steps: The group will form a small core group that reflects the diverse stakeholder group composition and that takes responsibility for co-creating a conducive space that allows such a dialogue process to be continued.

To me, it felt as if I had seen a microcosm of a general stuck situation that we experience in countless communities and systems today. What intrigued me was the experience that with the minimal infrastructures of holding the space (indicated in the seven steps above), the community did everything by themselves. They did it. They transformed the old pattern. And you could feel how much they loved the energy. It is a small but hopeful beginning of a long, long journey.

Where have you seen similar stories recently? Are we talking about a beginning pattern here? Thanks for sharing your experiences!


3 Comments to Stories from the Rainbow Warrior Land

Kathy Jourdain
August 6, 2013

Dear Otto,

What you have described is the work that thousands of Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter ( and Circle Practice ( practitioners around the world are doing every day on small and large scales. The Art of Hosting is a set of patterns, practices and principles that when used with mindfulness, consciousness and genuine curiosity create the conditions for engagement such as you describe and provide new lenses through which to address complexity, including an exploration of world view.

Many AoH practitioners, including myself, are well versed in Theory U – and I believe you know some of them – Toke Moeller, Phil Cass, Jerry Nagel, to name just a few.

There are stories all over the world of how the old patterns of individuals, communities, organizations and systems are being transformed as people begin to realize their own role in conversations that matter, inviting wiser action to shift the shape of the world, their world – like traversing the U does.

In Nova Scotia, where I live, AoH has been used in health care, public health, the food movement, rural and economic development, public engagement and the black community to shift deeply entrenched patterns.

In Minnesota, we have been using the patterns of AoH in multi-cultural communities to help people see each other in whole new ways and work to resolve tension and violence in communities like South Minneapolis and Saint Cloud. We are also in an exploration of how AoH can begin to address issues of race, racism and white privilege.

We have also used AoH in places like Silicon Valley, in the European Commission. AoH has been used in many indigenous cultures including First Nations in Canada and Native American in the US to tackle some of the toughest issues. Toke has just done some work in Cote D’ivoire to invite conversations about the future there.

In much of the work I’ve done where we’ve used Theory U, we have thought of Theory U as the journey and AoH as the operating system. There is a pattern that is emerging and gaining momentum for exactly the reasons you have described above – because people begin to see and embrace the power they do have. Such beauty in the world to see the possibilities emerging in so many places, in so many ways, by so many people who practice with compassion, generosity and kindness in their hearts.

Thank you for the great work you are doing in the world. In gratitude and appreciation. Kathy

Agota Ruzsa
August 6, 2013

Dear Otto,

Thanks for the great account of the seemingly spontaneous unfoldment of the generative and transformative space. I have experienced aspects of it when I manage to have the trust and empowerment to combine Art of Hosting and systemic constellation and deep dialogue processes, which i have done so a few times… I do feel it is the beginning of a new collective pattern when by providing a safe and well held space, the collective starts moving, shifting into a direction where balance and healing may take place.

Mubariq Ahmad
August 21, 2013

Dear Otto, Thank you so much for a systematic reflection of what happened that night in Belitung. Your role play ‘scenario’ is what creating that real live ‘movie’ on the floor. From little experience I have as a facilitator of social processes (generically speaking), a lesson I learn from doing it around Indonesia, honesty matters the most when people are speaking the “I perspective”. And to make that happen, the participants needs to be prepared based on observing and sensing of the situation on the ground. This is the part of the investment that leaders and organizations are less willing to give attention to. Again, it was really a great session we had that night. I sincerely thank you for giving that opportunity to the people of Belitung Timur and offering them the support to become their thinking partner. Let’s pray for the best in the follow up processes. Cheers.

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