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The Trans4m Movement – Integral Worlds Theory: Articulating a “Whole” (New) Perspective


Our Story: Trans4m in Brief

Trans4m is a local-global movement driving integral transformation processes to address today’s burning issues by actualising positive impact via new integral thinking and action.


Trans4m’s Co-Founder Prof. Ronnie Lessem (in 2013, at the 1st International Conference for Integral Green Economy in Slovenia)


Trans4m’s Co-Founder Prof. Alexander Schieffer (in 2013, at the 1st International Conference for Integral Green Economy in Slovenia, with Sarvodaya’s Secretary General Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne)

Co-founded in 2006 by Professor Ronnie Lessem and Professor Alexander Schieffer, and headquartered in the French Countryside as well as in neighboring Geneva, Switzerland, Trans4m has grown from a Center for Integral Development into a local-global movement of integral transformation agents holistically impacting their societies on critical issues.

From economic revitalization to corporate social responsibility; from community development to violence against women; from food security to disaster management; from organizational knowledge creation to indigenous healing systems, from educational transformation to transformative education – Trans4m is dealing with many of today’s burning issues.

Trans4m operates through cutting edge programs and processes that generate culturally relevant responses to critical issues on the ground – always led by local transformation agents. Our engagements are spread across Africa (from South Africa to Zimbabwe to Nigeria), in the Middle East (Egypt and Jordan), in Asia (India and Sri Lanka), Europe (Switzerland, Germany, UK, Slovenia), South America (Brazil, Paraguay) and the USA.

At the heart of Trans4m’s work is its Integral Worlds approach – a highly innovative, culturally adaptable framework and process for individual, organisational and societal transformation. Its main purpose is to co-develop and practically implement locally authentic, integral solutions with a view to restoring balance and releasing genius, thereby co-creating local-global role models for sustainable (integral) development.

Examples for Trans4m’s engagements are: developing and teaching transformative educational programs for Transformation Agents, e.g. at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and the Meridian University, USA; designing and delivering a Global PhD Program on Integral Development, accredited by Da Vinci University, South Africa; framing an integral university structure and transformative educational curricula for Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development, Egypt; supporting communities and organisations in transformative processes, such as Virgin Money, UK; MedLabs, Jordan; Deutsche Telekom, Germany; working with an entire society to co-create new, viable socio-economic models, such as Slovenia and Zimbabwe.

As Trans4m’s work and impact spreads ever further around the world, we sustain our growth through a closely-knit co-creative network of junior fellows, fellows, senior fellows, local centersintegral partner organisations and partner universities– jointly pursuing the course to create and nurture conditions for a healthy and equitable, life-affirming and joyous development of our individual and collective human potential. Integrally!

  1. Integral Worlds Theory: Articulating a “Whole” (New) Perspective
  2. Integral Development Theory: Realising Individual and Collective Transformation
  3. Integral Economics Theory: A Roadmap for Economic Transformation
  4. Integral Enterprise Theory: Transforming the Enterprise into a Core Development Agent in Society
  5. The Integrators Theory
  6. Integral Research Theory: Research as Enabler for Individual Renewal and Social & Societal Innovation
  7. Integral University Theory: Re-inventing the Role of University in Society
  8. Integral Advantage Theory: An Integral View on Emerging Economies & Societies
  9. Integral Polity Theory: Aligning Nature, Culture, Society and Economy
  10. Our Process: Releasing Gene-ius with “C+A+R+E”

1. Integral Worlds Theory: Articulating a “Whole” (New) Perspective

Integral Worlds is a pioneering approach for the holistic development of individuals, organisations, communities and societies. It serves to address imbalances – within an individual, organisation, community and or society, but also within specific fields, such as economics, enterprise, or human development. Over the past decades it has been gradually applied to a large number of knowledge fields: from economics to management, from development to education – with its applications, in theory and in practice, ever expanding. The Integral Worlds approach is simultaneously transcultural, encompassing the wisdom of the south, east, north and west; transdisciplinary, spanning the natural and social science and the humanities; transpersonal, straddling individual and community, organisation and society; and transformational, evolved out of original and particular local grounds towards integral global effect. Integral Worlds serves as the core knowledge base for the Trans4m movement.

A revolutionary paradigm-shifting approach, Integral Worlds draws on the particularity of each and every person, organisation, community and/or society – aiming to enhance a sense of calling, belonging and rootedness (local identity) with a view to catalyse a meaningful, wholesome contribution to humanity (global integrity).

Integral Worlds is modeled on life itself and aspires to contribute to healing today’s fragmented, conflictual and, often, destructive individual, organisational, communal and societal ways of being. It holds a vital key to the necessary and immanent shift of global consciousness towards a more healthy and holistic, peaceful and participatory, conscious and co-creative approach to development, in tune with the whole of creation.

Integral Worlds initiates processes of healing and holistic realignment by activating all the complementary parts of any human system, such as nature and community; culture and consciousness; science, systems and technology; as well as enterprise, economics and politics. Starting and continuous focal point of any transformation process within an Integral Worlds perspective is the inner core of the individual or collective entity, its deepest value base, spiritual and moral source.

The underlying circular design of our central model acknowledges that since time immemorial the circular shape has been a symbol for the totality. It also symbolises the cycle of life that each living system undergoes. In Integral Worlds, the outer globe marks a worldly, holistic perspective. Embedded in the outer global circle is the local context. At the very centre of such a globally embedded context is, what we call, the inner core. It is here, at the core of an individual, organisation, community, or society, that the impulse for transformation or development is initiated – be it through a perceived imbalance of the overall system, that becomes your objective concern, be it through a particular, subjective evolutionary calling. This inner personal core and the outer, global circle are then connected through the ‘4Rs’ of Integral Worlds: Realities (worldviews), Realms (Knowledge Fields), Rounds (different levels, from self to world) and Rhythms (transformative rhythms, applied to all of them).


Integral Worlds Approach – Key Overview Model

2. Integral Development Theory: Realising Individual and Collective Transformation

With Integral Development, a groundbreaking development framework and process is introduced to address the most burning issues that humanity faces. 

Building up Integral Development

In Integral Development theory we argue that the current development crisis is not only a crisis within the discipline of so-called development studies and/or in the political and economic practice of development. Rather, the overall ineffectiveness of current development theory and practice, as lamented by a large number of renowned international development thinkers and practitioners, is merely one of many symptoms of a profound civilisational crisis humanity as a whole is facing.

Humanity, we believe, is in a transition phase from a modernist, rational, monocultural, capitalist paradigm towards a new evolutionary stage. During this transition time – which, according to the leading US-American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, may well last for another few decades – humanity will have to deal with massive disruptions, on all levels. While some thinkers hold that the direction and outcome of such a new evolution is totally unknown, there are a growing number of social philosophers articulating the rise of an Integral Age.

Indeed, all over the world, we can notice attempts to develop more integrated, holistic and balanced perspectives – within scientific disciplines, within various domains of life and within organisations. Local and global movements are promoting ecological balance, sustainable development, gender equality, social justice, cultural unity in diversity, religious dialogue within and in between religious (and non religious) belief systems, equitable livelihoods, inter- and transdisciplinary forms of knowledge creation, peaceful co-evolution of nations and civilisations and more. All these initiatives seek to bring about a more integrated approach, overcoming the highly fragmented and unequal state of our current world.

In the process, the predominant dualistic thought-and-action pattern of the modernist era – which also underlies the distinction between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ societies – begins to dissolve. We can witness globally a rising awareness that this current evolutionary phase is not any more engaged in ‘tweaking’ existing systems, but rather points towards something fundamentally new.

In a thorough analysis of past and present development discourses we surfaced major disintegrating patterns. In our work, we suggest a set of integrative orientations that need to be included in a new more integrated approach to development, serving to overcome the destructive impact of the existing one. In doing so, we laid the foundation for our approach to Integral Development, building on our prior work on Integral Community, Enterprise, and Economics, Integral Research and Dynamics.

The Integral Development Model: The 4Rs of Integral Development

The four main elements of the Integral Development approach, drawing from our overall ‘Integral Worlds’ approach, are what we called the ‘4Rs’: Realities, Realms, Rounds and Rhythms. These four constituents are dynamically and interactively interwoven.

  • Transcultural Realms: Integral Development acknowledges diverse reality viewpoints within each context and across the world. It captures this diversity by differentiating and integrating four archetypal worldviews or realities:

• Southern Relationship based Viewpoint on Reality

• Eastern Inspiration based Viewpoint on Reality

• Northern Knowledge based Viewpoint on Reality

• Western Action based Viewpoint on Reality

Altogether these realities relate to a rich variety of typological and structural patterns across civilisations.

  • Transdisciplinary Realms: Each reality viewpoint has a different emphasis, which leads to four different knowledge fields or realms, each providing a particular perspective. Any given development calling & challenge requires the transdisciplinary engagement with all realms:

• Southern Realm of Relationship: Nature & Community

• Eastern Realm of Inspiration: Culture & Spirituality

• Northern Realm of Knowledge: Science, Systems & Technology

• Western Realm of Action: Enterprise & Economics

  • Transpersonal Rounds: Each particular development calling & challenge is to be followed through (or: fully ‘rounded out’), traversing each realm via four interconnected rounds:

• 1st Round of Self Development

• 2nd Round of Organisational Development

• 3rd Round of Societal Development

• 4th Round of Uni-Versity Development

  • Transformational Rhythms: Realities (worldviews), realms and rounds are altogether aligned with and are hence subject to fourfold transformational rhythms:

• Southern formative and grounding (G)

• Eastern reformative and emerging (E)

• Northern (newly) normative and navigational (N)

• Western (fully) transformative and effecting (E)

These rhythms stimulate and enable dynamic and interactive processes towards authentically addressing the development calling & challenge at hand. They are designed to release the GENE-ius of a particular self, organisation, community & society.

The interactive and dynamic engagement of all ‘4Rs’ with a specific, central development calling and challenge, lodged within a particular local context and global setting, is reflected in the circular, integral framework of Integral Development


Integral Development Model

Having laid out the full architecture of the Integral Development model, we now introduce the full terrain of Integral Development, including compass and travel maps.

The Integral Development Terrain

Each reality viewpoint informs a specific realm or knowledge field. Each of the four realms is underpinned by a particular theme. For example, the main development theme underlying the southern realm of relationship with its perspectives of nature and community is expressed as ‘restoring life in nature and community’. Then, each realm contributes to the realisation of a specific guiding value reflecting the full potential of the realm. For example, the ‘northern’ realm of knowledge with its perspectives of science, systems and technology is underpinned by the value of ‘open and transparent knowledge creation’. These main themes and core values, inform the integral journey.

  • Southern Reality and Realm of Relationship
    • Main Theme: Restoring Life in Nature & Community
    • Core Value: Healthy & Participatory Co-Existence
  • Eastern Reality and Realm of Inspiration
    • Main Theme: Regenerating Meaning via Culture & Spirituality
    • Core Value: Balanced & Peaceful Co-Evolution
  • Northern Reality and Realm of Knowledge
    • Main Theme: Reframing Knowledge via Science, Systems & Technology
    • Core Value: Open & Transparent Knowledge Creation
  • Western Reality and Realm of Action
    • Main Theme: Rebuilding Infrastructure and Institutions via Enterprise & Economics
    • Core Value: Equitable & Sustainable Livelihoods

In order to fully actualise the potential of the four realities and realms, the Integral Developer needs to gradually engage with all four rounds of individual, organisational, societal, and Uni-Versity development, dynamically led by the integral development rhythms that we introduced earlier.

With these four rounds (self-organisation-society-Uni-Versity) rhythmically associated with each of the four (southern, eastern, northern and western) realities and realms, we came up with a travel map in a matrix form that encompasses 16 fields, that is four rounds and rhythms for each of the four reality viewpoints and realms.

To navigate the Integral Development journey we developed a travel map with guiding questions, providing orientation.


Integral Development: Engagement Map with Guiding Questions

The developmental tasks in each realm always starts with the individual round, to then successively round out organisation, society and Uni-versity in turn. While the Integral Developer may start this journey on his or her own, s/he would thereby be guided to gradually engage your particular context – concretely with a group, organisation, community and society.

In each realm we link theory and practice. While on the first three rounds (self, organisation and society) we focus primarily on relevant theory, in the final round we emphasise the integration of that theory through new practice. We illustrate such new practice through inspiring case stories from all over the world. Each of these cases, however, embodies not only an integrated organisation or community, it also represents a new educational-developmental space, that we coined a ‘Uni-Versity. We argue, that for each integral reality-and-realm to be fully actualised, such new ‘Uni-Versities’ would need to be established. Why? Because such institutionalisation would then promote the development of new integral development theory and practice in a way that it can be ‘universally’ shared, while at the same time being lodged in a particular context. Without such a conscious articulation through a ‘Uni-Versity’, the danger is that the particular knowledge and consciousness generated in a given case as well as its practice would not developmentally inform and transform society at large. That has been our repeated experience.

The concluding Figure shows the Integral Development Map with its 16 fields, now presenting the major developmental task in each field. This culminating map introduces the core challenges of the full Integral Development journey – challenges, that, with the help of Integral Development theory, can be addressed holistically.


Integral Development: Summary of Main Development Tasks

Note: This is a summary of our book Schieffer & Lessem (2014). Integral Development: Realising the Transformative Potential of Individuals, Organisations and Societies

 3. Integral Economics Theory: A Roadmap for Economic Transformation

Integral Economic Theory provides an integrated perspective on cutting-edge economic theory and practice, as well as a transformative process to engage in economic renewal.

Starting Point: The Need to Reinvent an Economic System that works for all

Years ago, after we had completed our work on the Integral Enterprise,  we increasingly gained the conviction, that we could not address organisational transformation in isolation of an economic transformation. For micro-organisational transformation is bound to be limited by the macro-economic context to which organisations are required to adapt. This very macro-economic system is failing us to such a degree that we are collectively called upon to seek a more viable alternative. To those who claim that the existing system still works and may only have to be tweaked a bit here and there, we argue that it only works for an elite few, and that the time has come for us to develop an economic systems that works for all of us and for the planet. We regard such a system as a crucial prerequisite for our collective survival.

Our painful observation had been, that after the demise of communism we were caught in one economic world (capitalism) – and with it in one particular western or rather Anglo-Saxon frame of mind. Muhammad Yunus once commented that mainstream free market theory suffers from a conceptualisation failure, a failure to capture the essence of what it is to be human. And indeed this was what some of Britain’s leading economists – among them Geoffrey Hodgson, Paul Ormerod and Bridget Rosewell – admitted in an open letter to the Queen of England in August 2009, after the Queen had publicly posed the question, why economists had not foreseen the financial and economic crisis the world was facing. The following excerpt from their letter is most illuminating.

‘We believe that the narrow training of economists – which concentrates on mathematical techniques and the building of empirically uncontrolled formal models – has been a major reason for this failure in our profession. This defect is enhanced by the pursuit of mathematical technique for its own sake in many leading academic journals and departments of economics. There is a species of judgment, attainable through immersion in a literature or a history that cannot be adequately expressed in formal mathematical models. It’s an essential part of a serious education in economics, but has been stripped out of most leading graduate programs in economics in the world, including in the leading economics departments in the United Kingdom. Models and techniques are important. But given the complexity of the global economy, what is needed is a broader range of models and techniques governed by a far greater respect for substance, and much more attention to historical, institutional, psychological and other highly relevant factors … As trained economists and United Kingdom citizens we have warned of these problems that beset our profession. Unfortunately, at present, we find ourselves in a minority.’

We fully agree with this statement and asked ourselves whether the human mind is indeed not more creative than being restricted to defining economics as an either or between capitalism and communism – another expression of the ‘dualistic disease’ that we were lamenting at the beginning of the book. Was the world – in past and present, and across all cultures – not more inventive than that? We decided to do a thorough analysis and to use our integral and transcultural approach to analyse the economic situation of the world – in theory and in practice. This was the starting point for our work on Integral Economics, a book that we subtitled Releasing the Economic Genius of your Society. For, indeed, the wealth of economic diversity that we encountered made us hopeful that we collectively have the ability to reinvent economics. What is crucial though is that we surface this ‘wealth’, as it is largely hidden from economic classrooms and textbooks.

Towards an Integral Understanding of the Economy: Three Surprising Findings

Touring the world’s economic theory and practice in an integral manner, we had a couple of Eureka moments.

Firstly, we found that if we applied the four integral realms to map economic theory and practice we could clearly see that there was profound economic thinking in each of them. We also noticed that there was an overriding economic theme in each of the four realms, which led us to the following classification:

  • The ‘southern’ natural and communal realm promotes the ‘Self-Sufficient community-based Economy’.
  • The ‘eastern’ cultural and spiritual realm promotes a ‘Developmental culture-based Economy’.
  • The ‘northern’ scientific and technological realm promotes a ‘Social knowledge-based Economy’.
  • The ‘western’ realm was promoted in the past through a neoliberal market economy;

but below the surface we can recognise the gradual emergence of what we called a ‘Living life-based Economy’ – which is basically a creative revisiting of the Anglo-Saxon economic model with a strong focus on ecology and sustainability.


Integral Economics Overview Model

Secondly, while such rich economic diversity in theory and practice is arising, the mainstream western model is not only disconnected from this diversity, but is superimposing its model as a universal approach. Such domination of one world over the others leads from an integral perspective to an imbalance of the entire system. That is exactly what we are experiencing in this day and age. The superimposition of the western model, however, also leads to a total sidelining of all other approaches, which often don’t even find their way into the consciousness of seasoned economists. As a consequence, these approaches are not sufficiently interconnected to mutually inform and strengthen each other.

Thirdly, we found a wealth of new economic thinking emerging from the field of ‘religion and humanity’. We placed it in the centre of our model (see Figure), as it provided something like a moral core of economic thought and practice. More precisely, we found a wealth of literature on Indigenous economic thinking, Catholic Economics, Islamic Economics, Buddhist Economics, and on more generally humanistically oriented approaches to economics, among others. Given that present day debates on a required reorientation of economics often focus only on a ‘need for new values’, we tend to overlook that most of our societies are profoundly rooted in religious or humanistic philosophies that go far beyond an articulation of singular values.

The religious rooting is even significantly stronger in the so-called developing world than in the more secular geographic north-west of the world. Indeed, we find that the common (western) understanding of economics has effectively banned religion, humanistic philosophy or spirituality from its territory, unaware of the close original link between market economics and Protestantism. One may well make the point that the current economic system is footloose and lacks anchoring in cultural and societal layers that are deeper than moral codices, a set of values or outer regulations based on them. Furthermore, all of the latter seem to have little effect on overcoming the downsides of the current system. Any fundamental revisiting of economics, so we argue, would need to revisit the relationship between the economy and the moral core of a society, to enable the necessary alignment between the philosophical and ethical inner substance of a society and its practical, outer economic systems and activities.

Building an Integral Economy

The integral and transcultural approach enabled us to provide sufficient space for the rich diversity of innovative economic theory from all four integral realms – as well as from the moral core – that can now help us to gradually rebuild our economies as well as a global economic system. This space is not a closed one, as the body of the theory and practice is continuously evolving. We certainly were also not able to put every approach and their multiple variations on the integral map. Also, we are certainly aware, that any model – and so also ours – has inbuilt structuring principles around which its components are ordered. We thus emphasise, that the map is not the territory. But for the first time, to our mind, a map had been developed that surfaced a huge quantity of the economic variety that the world as a whole had to offer. This transdisciplinary and transcultural economic map allows economic students and social innovators to engage with a rich picture of the economic landscape – a landscape that is designed to stimulate comparison, critique, evolution and innovation as well as to encourage a purposeful rebuilding of our economies. Here we provide a detailed overview of the Integral Economic Map.


Integral Economics Map – Detailed Model

The map that we developed is not static. Rather we have developed a transformative rhythm that provides guidance in concretely rebuilding an economy. This so-called GENE-rhythm follows the four-fold transformational rhythm of grounding, emerging, navigating and effecting, designed to release economic gene-ius and is similar to the one we apply in Integral Development. In Integral Economics we illustrate that if we work purposefully through each of the four economic realms and gradually through all of them in a south-east-north-west fashion – informed by the wealth of the moral economic core – we arrive in each realm at practical applications that help us to translate new economic thinking into transformative practice. Here is an illustration of what we mean:

  • South: Working through the gene-ius of the ‘southern’ realm of a community-based self-sufficient economy we evolve ‘from profits to profiting society’, and we actively revisit the extent to which our own community or enterprise is participating in building a self-sufficient economy, and thereby contributing locally to alleviate poverty. The role model we surfaced in the ‘southern’ realm is the ‘social business’ and self-sufficiency movement, embodied by Grameen in Bangladesh.
  • East: Working through the gene-ius of the ‘eastern’ realm of a culture-based developmental economy we evolve ‘from survival to co-evolution’, and we actively revisit the extent to which our community or enterprise is co-evolving with its multiple stakeholders, thereby becoming an agent for a developmental economy. The role model we surfaced in the ‘eastern’ realm is the developmental enterprise, embodied by Canon in Japan as well as the development movement Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka.
  • North: Working through the gene-ius of the ‘northern’ realm of a knowledge-based social economy, we evolve ‘from hierarchy to democracy’, and we actively revisit the extent to which our community or enterprise responds to continuous technological change and social challenges in a cooperative and democratic manner. The role model we surfaced in the ‘northern’ realm is the cooperative enterprise, embodied by Mondragon in Spain, the world’s largest worker’s cooperative and a leader in the social-economic cooperative movement.
  • West: Working through the gene-ius of the ‘western’ realm of a life based living economy we evolve ‘from growth to sustainability’, and we actively revisit the extent to which our community or enterprise is modelled upon nature, thereby sustainable and restorative, building up human, natural and financial capital in parallel. The role model we surfaced in the ‘western’ realm is the ‘sustainable enterprise’, embodied by the case of Interface in the USA, a corporate leader within the sustainability movement.

Building on Practice: The Future has already begun

Each of the four integral economic realms helps us to revisit our own practice (the final ‘E’ of the GENE), building on the other three components (G + E + N) of our transformational rhythm.

We present case stories of organisations that integrally embody each particular realm. In our research into relevant practice, we found another astonishing fact. All of the organisations that embodied such new economic practice, engaged simultaneously in developing new theory and realising a new practice. We called them ‘mesa-organisations’ as we see them somewhere in between the micro and the macro economy. They provide powerful orientation for the design of whole new macro-economic systems. It is for that reason that we believe that the future is already in the making, and it is crucial that we simultaneously consult innovative theory and practice. All of the cases we introduce can be seen as developmental agents for society. It is for that reason that we briefly introduce them also in Integral Development, opening thereby the border between economics and development.

Building the Integral Economy: Five Recommendations

Rebuilding local economies – and in the wake contributing to rebuilding the global economy – remains a tall order of immense proportions. In an attempt to provide further guidance to local developmental agents we concluded Integral Economics with five critical success factors:

  • Implement an Integral Economic Laboratory as a local Catalyst: This laboratory is at the centre of economic renewal. Its task is to contribute to an integral understanding of economics and to engage itself with the rich diversity of economic theory and practice from all over the world (using the Integral Economic Map). It articulates the particular economic challenges of the specific society it is based in, and it needs to be interlinked with other similar laboratories from all over the world, to stimulate cross-fertilisation.
  • Focus on a real Burning Issue and decide on the most relevant of the four Realms to start with.
  • Maintain interconnected Focus: The economy does not work mechanically and in linear fashion, but resembles a highly complex living system. Hence, any approach towards economic renewal requires us to build and navigate within an interconnected web of macro and micro, local and global, individual and communal, academic and practical, elements.
  • Build an economic Ecosystem: It is important not to act in isolation, but to involve co-creators. It is recommended to build communities of co-creators around burning issues. These communities should be built up so that they form innovation ecosystems, providing the necessary ‘support structure’ for social and economic transformation. In Integral Economics we show, that such an ecosystem is comprised of stewards, catalysts, researchers and facilitators, as well as, what we called a ‘soul force’.
  • Join existing local and global Movements for Socio-Economic Transformation: This final success factor involves leveraging our individual, organisational and communal efforts by linking up with local and global movements that are relevant for the particular burning issues on which we are focussing. Such movements provide an important ‘energetic wave’ that we can build on in our efforts.

We notice, how the Integral Economy purposefully integrates the three levels of self, organisation and society: on the level of the self it invites individual transformation agents to concretely engage in the rebuilding of local economies; on the level of the organisation, it acknowledges the existence of so-called mesa-organisations (the cases mentioned above), that serve as living intimations of future economic models; and, on the level of society, it seeks to initiate and articulate new economic frameworks.

Outlook on the Integral Economy

Ultimately, we are required to renew our prevailing macro-economic system. Integral Economics can be regarded as a blueprint for such an endeavour. What makes it ‘practical’, is that the work of rebuilding the economy starts in our own particular contexts. From there we begin our engagement, from there we seek to transform locally and to contribute globally. With the practical cases we demonstrated that we do not need to start from scratch, but that almost all societies hold locally relevant impulses for economic renewal, on which we can build. Integral Economics is designed in that it interconnects innovative theory and practice in a manner that enables us to locally revisit our own theoretical and practical economic foundations, and to engage in a process of gradually releasing the economic gene-ius of our own community and society. Thereby it brings the task of rebuilding our global economy to each of our doorsteps.

This task, however, is only manageable if we locally set up the necessary infrastructure, such as an Integral Economic Laboratory, supportive ecosystems and strong links with local-global movements as well as similar laboratories. If our local engagements are interconnected and if a growing number of people contributes to a new integral theory and practice, we have indeed an opportunity to transform the existing macroeconomic system. The initial map that Integral Economics provides is not the territory, but the more of us apply and evolve it, the more the creative interplay of the rich diversity of the world’s most innovative economic theory and practice can catalyse true change. Then, an integral economy can serve to bring about an Integral Society.

Note: This is a summary of our book Lessem & Schieffer, (2010). Integral Economics: Releasing the Economic Genius of Your Society.

Note: For a concrete application of Integral Economics to a Society, in this case Slovenia, we recommend to read: Piciga, Schieffer & Lessem (2016). Integral Green Slovenia.

4. Integral Enterprise Theory: Transforming the Enterprise into a Core Development Agent in Society

The role of business-in-society over the past two decades has come a long way from promoting general philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and corporate social investment. We have seen a gradual expansion of the traditional notion of private enterprise, whereby an increasing number of organisations are putting more and more emphasis on societal engagement. Corporations are reaching out towards culture, education, environment and other fields. Cross-sector partnerships are encouraged, and the term public-private-civic partnership is by now part of business vocabulary. Increasingly, business is reaching out to society at large, acknowledging that such engagement is vital in order to ensure its own survival and growth. It is in this context that we have been developing our work on the Integral Enterprise – a theory that is increasingly applied around the world.

Prelude: The Search for a new Understanding of the Enterprise embedded in, co-evolving with and serving Society

In our own work with organisational development and transformation we have long been struggling with the question of how organisations can be designed more sustainably, and in the process become more embedded in society. Thereby, the organisation would not only be responding much more directly to the real needs of society, it would also help to evolve society and to co-evolve with it. In other words, it would strengthen at one and the same time its own sustainable organisational functioning as well as the sustainable functioning of society. Such a perception would take the organisation out of its narrow and rather artificial institutional borders, and would place it as a living, interacting and continuously adapting entity within its equally living, interacting and ever changing societal environment.

The penny started to drop when we noticed the applicability of the integral model and its three levels of self, organisation and society to the enterprise. We then engaged in intensive research, examining organisational theory and advanced sustainable practice from all over the world. We gradually came up with a new organisational design, that enabled us to represent the organisation in an integral manner and to illustrate through advanced organisational practice that indeed a number of highly sustainable enterprises operate in an integral manner. We called such organisations Integral Enterprises. The process of consciously evolving an organisation into an Integral Enterprise we called Transformation Management, to indicate that the organisational functioning would have to undergo a fundamental transformation process. As we have described this approach at length in Transformation Management: Towards the Integral Enterprise, we focus at this stage on a short introduction to the core concept, as we feel that it can strongly contribute to a transformed understanding of an organisation as an agent for the development of society.

Hurdles on the Way towards an Integral Enterprise

According to the inner logic of our integral approach, whereby the four vectors and the centre represent the core functions of any social organism, so can the major functions of an enterprise be depicted in an integral manner. This is illustrated by Figure 20.2. The integral representation takes the organisation visually out of the conventional hierarchical or matrix format. We begin to envision the organisation more as a living organism, with the coordinating force (CEO, Managing Director, President), not on top of the organisation but in its very centre. Organised around this centre are the four core functions of the enterprise: Sales and Marketing; Human Resource Management and Organisational Development; Operations Management and IT; Financial Management and Accounting.


Conventional Business Functions – Integrally Visualised

However, what is crucial is that the functions operate in an integral and thereby transformational manner. In many of the private sector enterprises we worked with we noticed, among others, four major interconnected shortcomings that inhibit continuous transformation processes that are necessary for fast and purposeful inner development.

  • Disconnected Functions: The functions of the organisation are disconnected from each other, or at least do not sufficiently build on each other. What is required is that the organisational functions would need to build on each other and mutually reinforce each other.
  • North-Western Dominance: An overemphasis is given to the ‘northern’ and ‘western’ functions of the enterprise: operations and finance. As in conventional development theory and practice, we witness a privileging of the technological and financial dimension over the human and ecological dimension. In many private sector organisations we even come across a singular dominance of the financial function over the other functions. An example: If one follows organisational founding stories, we often find that at the origins of organisations like, for example, Unilever, Bodyshop, Grundig, or Avon, was a profound societal vision – an urge to respond to a societal predicament. Such organisations were deeply grounded in the societies they originated from. Many enterprises however lose this initial grounding in the course of their evolution and focus on ever more efficient operational processes (‘northern’ function) and on cash flow and return on investment (‘western’ function). Thereby the enterprise is in danger of becoming static, as the functions stop playing an equal role – interaction and continuous evolution of each of the organisational functions and thus of the organisation as a whole are inhibited. We find similar disturbing patterns in many development organisations. Though mandated to ‘serve the poor’, we see a majority of such organisations spending most of their time and resources on fundraising and project evaluation (‘West’) as well as gathering and preparing relevant statistics (‘North’). Thereby they lose touch with the communities they are supposed to serve (‘South’) and fail to understand and activate the cultural and spiritual context of their activity field (‘East’).
  • Limited Functional Definition: The understanding of the organisational functions is often very narrow. In such cases the functions do not reach out and connect to individual functioning and societal functioning. An example: the ‘southern’ sales and marketing function of an enterprise is often primarily focussing on the communication and distribution of products and services providing for individual wants, rather than being in touch with the nature and community of a society, and responding consequently – through products and services – to the developmental needs in society. Another Example: In such organisations, the individual becomes a mere ‘human resource’ (what a disrespecting term for the working human being), and consequently feels alienated from the organisation – a situation which many organisations face today.
  • Overall Closedness of the Organisation: All of the above shortcomings result in an internal and external closedness of the organisation, which leads to a limited flow – from within and without – of new perspectives. That diminishes the innovation potential of the organisation. An example: If we consider only the ideas and practices already introduced in Round 2 of Integral Development, we find enormous transdisciplinary stimulation for the organisation. Many organisations however don’t deal proactively with such new insights provided by other disciplines.

The Integral Enterprise seeks to overcome these shortcomings. Not only are the three levels of self, organisation and society interconnected, but, furthermore, the organisational functions are also interconnected among each other. In that process, each of the original function transforms and broadens its scope. 

Functional Transformation: Building the Integral Enterprise

The transformational process that each individual function has to undergo is complex. In our work we demonstrate what such transformation processes could look like. We are building on latest organisational theory and advanced practice that precedes such functional evolution – and which is well on its way, although as yet only in pockets. For example, the evolution of the function of marketing towards ‘relationship management’, ‘social marketing’ and ‘eco-marketing’, is a clear sign of a reorientation and broadening of the marketing function towards nature and community and to community building. Equally, concepts like ‘knowledge management’, ‘intellectual capital’, the ‘networked operation’ and the ‘virtual organisation’ signal a fundamental change of the northern function. Furthermore, new enterprise forms, such as social enterprise and the social business, illustrate a strong orientation towards community building and sustainable development.

So what we find are promising ‘pockets’ and ‘cases’, but not yet a fundamental redesign of the enterprise. What has not happened as yet is a redefinition and subsequently reintegration of the core organisational functions. Also, the business curricula have not all been changed towards a more integral organisational theory and practice – though what we find are lots of ‘add ons’, such as ‘corporate social responsibility’, ‘business ethics’ and ‘social business’.

With our theory on Integral Enterprise as well as in our own educational practice, we seek to promote such a transformational renewal of the enterprise functions. True to our ‘south-east-north-west’ rhythm we seek to transform the very functions of the enterprise in the following way:

  • South: We reground the enterprise and its products and services in nature and community, as well as in societal developmental needs, thereby promoting ‘Community Building’.
  • East: We relink the enterprise’s evolution to its own cultural and spiritual foundations and to those of its surrounding society thereby tapping into its creative resources and initiating a process of ‘Conscious Evolution’.
  • North: We rebuild and design organisational structures and processes based on developmental needs and co-evolutionary processes, thereby transforming the northern function from technocratic operations to ‘Knowledge Creation’.
  • West: We redefine the role of finance within the organisation as a supportive one to all other functions, and redesign it in a way that it supports the overall ‘Sustainable Development’ of the organisation and society.
  • Centre: The role of the centre is an inspiring, coordinating and overall transformational one. Strategy ceases to be implemented top-down by a governance unit on top of the hierarchy, but is seen rather as a central process of ‘Strategic Renewal’, that links and stimulates interaction between the different functions of the enterprise. Leadership is understood in a lateral and serving sense and contains a strong ethical component. The ‘leader’ is one who serves others to make a transformational difference in the organisation.

For each of the five functions we propose a transformational process, based on our GENE process.

In the following we provide an overview on the Integral Enterprise, its transformed functions and the transformational GENE-spiral in its centre.


The Integral Enterprise – An Overview

We maintain that any reconfiguration of the enterprise would need to come with an inbuilt transformation process, enabling each enterprise to continuously evolve its own theoretical base and organisational practice.

Note: In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the Integral Enterprise. We have been working with Deutsche Telekom on an integral enterprise design (see download below), and, to provide few additional examples, are actively supporting the UK bank Virgin Money , Egypt’s Sekem Group, Jordan’s MedLabs Group and Nigeria’s Paxherbals Group on their way of becoming an Integral Enterprise 

Note: This summary builds on Lessem, R. & Schieffer, A. (2010). Transformation Management: Towards the Integral Enterprise

Downloads: An Application of Integral Enterprise to Deutsche Telekom
deutsche-telekom-logo-1-300x74White Paper Deutsche Telekom by Trans4m

5. The Integrators Theory

Interestingly enough, leadership does represent some kind of evolution from pioneering entrepreneurship and “differentiated” management, so to speak. Yet this is only so if the individual leaders are ecosystemically aligned with an evolving form of “integrated” organization. We call those, duly aligned with their organisations and most especially with their societies, not entrepreneurs, nor managers, nor leaders, but organisational and societal integrators, each one personally and culturally distinctive.

Starting Point: Leadership Frustration

This development of the theory and practice of Integrators was born out of a particular frustration, on the one hand, and a glorious opportunity, on the other. And the two are connected. First comes the frustration. As a student, teacher and practitioner of, and consultant in, management over the last fifty years, in America (Harvard Business School in Cambridge), Britain (City University Business School in London), continental Europe (IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland), and South Africa (Wits Graduate Business School in Johannesburg) as well as Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe University Business School in Harare), I (Ronnie Lessem) was enormously frustrated by the recent eclipse of management, in favor of individual leadership.

Having been immersed for decades in the inordinate richness of management and organizational literature, spanning not only all the variegated business functions but also the development of self, organization and society, I find the excessive focus on individual leadership today, bereft of the management of organizations, to be incredibly myopic. In fact, as the Dean of Harvard College, Professor Rakesh Khurana has put it, in his Higher Minds to Hired Hands :

“.. Eventually business schools began responding to the clarion call for developing leaders, not managers. In the 1990’s, for example, Harvard shifted from its emphasis on general management to “educating leaders who make a difference in the world”. One of the central features of a bone fide profession is a coherent body of expert knowledge built upon a well-developed theoretical foundation. The renowned American business executive and writer Chester Barnard in fact observed in the 1930’s that the “Great Man” view on leadership generated “an extraordinary amount of dogmatically stated nonsense”. Leadership, as such, lacks a usable body of knowledge to go with it.

Fellow Integrators’ Opportunity

The opportunity that has risen, for me especially over the course of the past two decades, more recently together with my Trans4m partner Alexander Schieffer, is that we have had the good fortune to work closely with some extraordinary integrators, from Africa, Europe and Asia, albeit all of us influenced by America.

These notable integrators, and their organisations, form the practical substance of this book, serving to embody, as we shall see, so called “spectral”, and “integral” theory, developed over the past four decades.

Embodying such, all close associates of ours to be introduced to you, we have Dr Ibrahim Abouleish as founder of the Sekem Group in Egypt; Father Arizemendi (sadly late, but well known to us in spirit) the co-founder of Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain; Dr Hassib Sayhoun, co-founder of Medlabs Laboratories in Jordan; Father Anselm Adodo, founder of Pax Herbals in Nigeria; Frans van der Colff, co-founder of Foodlovers spread across Africa; A.T. Ariyaratne, founder of Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka; Indy Johar, co-founder of the worldwide Impact Hubs; and notably Richard Branson, creator of the global Virgin Group, known to us through the inimitable CEO, and integrator, of Virgin Money, Jayne-Annne Gadhia. We are privileged then to be fellow travelers with these illustrious integrators, spread across, and duly embodying, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

Integrator and Integration

Entrepreneur to Integrator

As such we make the case for what we – that is my partner Alexander Schieffer and I as co-founders of Trans4m ) – term an “integral” approach, where personal origination, for one character or another, in one place/ society or another, is followed by managerial and organizational foundation. Thereafter, individual leadership has its subsequently emancipatory place, only when set within a developing self, and organization as well as a particular society. Finally and ultimately for us, integral transformation follows when all of such is not only differentiated but also integrated : self, organisation and society, set within a particular world, in relation to other worlds, psychologically and culturally.

As such, we give rise to the new notion of the “Integrator” in the 21st century. Such an integrator, emerges as a further evolution of personal entrepreneurship (or “intrapreneurship”) in the 19th century, management in the 20th, and leadership, in the 21st, centuries. Moreover, such an integrator, in each particular part of the world, only becomes fully such, by virtue of such differentiation and integration, to the extent that he or she gives rise to a newly evolved form of enterprise. Such an entity, in most cases transcending the corporate or organizational form as we know it today, has in fact already been anticipated in theory, as we shall see, but not yet, overall, been realized in practice, within particular societies. So the conventional business enterprise, and corporate institution, continue to rule the roost, around the world, whether it is appropriate or not, whether either is “pioneered”, “managed” or “led”.

Such differentiation and ultimately integration, that we are seeking then, arises out of both a personal individuation, that is self actualization, and of societal acculturation, or organizational-and-cultural evolution.

The Evolution of Enterprise

The late and great American management guru, Peter Drucker, who almost singlehandedly invented the discipline of management in the first half of last century, made the following critical point in his Management: Tasks, Analysis and Practices, published in the 1970’s:

“The change from a business which the owner-entrepreneur can run with “helpers” to a business that requires managers, is a sweeping change. It can be made only if basic concepts, basic principles, and individual vision are changed radically. You can compare two such different kinds of business to different kinds of organism: the insect, which is held together by a tough, hard skin, and the vertebrate animal, which has a skeleton. Land animals which are supported by a hard skin cannot grow beyond a few inches in size. To be larger, animals must have a skeleton. Yet the skeleton has not evolved out of the hard skin of an insect; for it is a different organ with different antecedents.“

So, from our point of view, rather than face up to the limitations of “skeletal management”, in Drucker’s terms, we all too simplistically “go back to the insect”, the entrepreneur or charismatic leader so to speak, for a new lease of life. The only difference now, in the new millennium is that such an insect as it were, as an entrepreneur definitively speaking, can be social as well as business oriented. Like Henry Ford said, “you can have any car as long as it’s black”. So, today, you can have any kind of person at the helm, of a social or economic, public or civic enterprise, as long as he or she is an “entrepreneur” or more especially now a “leader”. The fact that there can be much more to leadership (we are not throwing out the leading baby with the integrating bathwater!), if it is aligned with an evolved form of organization, has passed most people by. For we like to keep things simple, and we are also creatures of habit!

What then gets left out of account, at least in our view, as for Harvard based Khurana’s (see above) is three things. Firstly, an entrepreneur, and enterprise, should befit one kind of distinctive person, and indeed culture, or another. That is why I came up with the term Intrapreneurs, in the 1980’s, to reflect such a variegated spectrum of initiative-takers, from innovator to adventurer, as opposed to one singular type of “entrepreneur”, with many in between. Secondly, such pioneering enterprise, subsequently differentiated management and organization (see Lievegoed’s “Developing Organization” below), followed by would-be integrated leadership and organization – leadership being thereby a transitional rather than ultimate category – should follow each other developmentally, each inclusive of what has come before.

Moreover, most significantly, ultimate integration, and the integrator to go with it, transcends the very notion of an enterprise (entrepreneur), organization (management), or indeed leader (and the equivalent new “organization” form). We shall see all of such operationalized through the life, work and organizations of our integrators, each in their particular societies, in the practical chapters that follow the theory, manifested over the course of their individual and institutional development. What about, then, the initial theory that underlies such?

Developmental Management and the Developing Organisation

In the 1970’s and 1980’s in fact, a new breed of business academic emerged, with a view to taking management theory, and practice, onto a next level of its evolution, leadership at that point not having assumed its current-day dominance. Preeminent amongst these thinkers, for us, was Hollander Bernard Lievegoed who, in The Developing Organisation, argued that the next phase in an organization’s evolution, from pioneering (entrepreneurship or our intrapreneurship) and differentiation (scientific management) was that of Integration. In this phase, for him, it was crucial, that the organization develop a social (unfortunately he did not distinguish between different forms of “social” and cultural – be they in our case for example English or Palestinian, Nigerian or Sri Lankan) subsystem and integrate it with the already existing economic and technical subsystems. For Lievegoed this is a gradual process, but an essential one. The ultimately integrated organisation is characterized by the following :

  • Interlinked, smaller, relatively independent units are set up.
  • Self-planning, self-organisation and self-control ensue.
  • It rests on the conviction that every person can and wants to develop.
  • Personal fulfillment can be achieved in the work situation.

Sadly, Lievegoed’s integrated words of organisational wisdom were thereafter eclipsed by a personalized approach to leadership, whether “transformative” or otherwise. Yet his developmental approach was by no means a voice in the wilderness. In fact, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I co-evolved with the UK publisher Blackwell’s a whole series of books on what we then termed Developmental Management, involving the work of seminal theorists, spread across diverse cultures across the globe, with whom I had become personally associated, through our mutual academic and consulting circles. The likes of the Learing Organization (Senge), Spiral Dynamics (Beck and Cowan), Requisite Organisation (Jacques), and Transcultural Management (Koopman) are cases in point.

My own work at the time, in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, was based on Spectral Theory drawn from the seminal approach of British psychologist and social innovator Kevin Kingsland (see initial chapters to follow in this book). Such work of mine was first embodied in so called Intrapreneurship, which represented my variegated individual and cultural takes on the singular notion of entrepreneurship. Subsequently then, my Indian colleague Sudhanshu Palsule and I wrote a book on Managing in Four Worlds followed by my more academically based Management Development through Cultural Diversity, written in the 1990’s, combining the spectral now the integral (see below). Through this work I turned from a variegated spectrum of intrapreneurs to what I then considered to be more evolved managers, organizations, and leadership.

In the new millennium moreover, with the birth of Trans4m, together with Alexander Schieffer, our integral worlds came into being, applied to integral enterprise, economics, polity, research, development, and renewal amongst other things. Overall,  we brought together integral realities (south and east, north and west); realms (nature, culture, technology and economy), most especially for our purposes here integral rhythm (origination, foundation, emancipation and transformation), and ultimately integral rounds of self, organization, society and ultimately uni-versity.

What was missing until then, in individual person, was the notion of an integrator (see commonwealth to civic integrators below), serving to align the spectral and the integral, individually and institutionally, via thereby integration, in a particular part of the world, in specific relation to other worlds. Such an variegated integrator (integration) is both inclusive, but also a further accumulative evolution of, the intrapreneur (enterprise), the manager (organisation) and the leader (ecosystem). This then is what Integrators are about.

In the final analysis, while the evolution from enterprise to management was clear-cut, at least in its singular American context, the subsequent evolution of leadership, individually, was not matched, in practice, by a similarly coherent development of self-organization-society, ecosystemically. This is a matter we seek to address here, duly following our integral rhythm, from origination (entrepreneur) to foundation (manager), onto emancipation (leader) and ultimate transformation (fully fledged integrator), critically together with the organizational counterparts of each one. We then undertake such for each of eight individually and culturally differentiated kinds of integrator, and integration.

The end result of such a spectral and integral journey will be the cast of integrators, individually, and integration, institutionally, portrayed below, as Egyptian and Basque, Palestinian and Nigerian, South Africa and Sri Lankan, Anglo-American and Anglo-Indian, respectively :

  • Innovator Abouleish : Commonwealth Integrator : Sustainable Commonwealth
  • Enabler Arizmendi : Cooperative Integrator : Cooperative Association
  • Executive Sayhoun : Institutional Integrator : Integrated Organisation
  • Animateur Adodo : Communal Integrator : Communitalism
  • Entrepreneur Van der Colff: Corporate Integrator : Corporate Ecosystem
  • Adopter Ariyaratne : Individual-Societal Integrator : Collective Awakening
  • Adventurer Branson : Eco Integrator : Eco-service Provider
  • Change Agent Johar : Civic Integrator : Impact Hub

Note: This summary is based on Lessem R (2016). The Integrators: Beyond Leadership, Knowledge and Value Creation

6. Integral Research Theory: Research as Enabler for Individual Renewal and Social & Societal Innovation

Through the Integral Research model we gain firstly an understanding of how social science research can actually be reinvented in order to truly lead to social innovation. Secondly, the approach invites us to probe into different research paths, that are a) suitable to our personal/institutional research dispositions, b) adequate to address a particular developmental issue and c) that lead the researcher all the way from knowledge creation to implementation, from theory to action.

Starting Point: Our Frustration with Social Science Research

It has been our longstanding passion to conceive of learning and research in a transformational way. Learning should not primarily be geared toward recipients gaining factual knowledge, but should rather be liberating and transformational, for the individual and, by extension, for their societies. Equally research should not merely lead to yet another all too often irrelevant publication on the library shelf, but should indeed go all the way from theory to action, with the final objective being that of leading to transformation on the ground. In other words, social science research-and-innovation should generate relevant knowledge to address issues that truly matter in particular social and economic contexts.

Unfortunately, most of social science research that is produced today does not function that way. It is all too exclusively ‘northern’, rather than the ‘North’ and ‘West’ building on the ‘South’ and ‘East’. The fact that much of it does not lead to social innovation is an important reason for the multitude of severe social problems we are facing today – from an increasing lack of communal cohesion, to inefficient means of conflict resolution, from inappropriate education systems to dysfunctional economic and financial systems. The list is endless. Designing integrally oriented Masters and Doctoral Programs ourselves – always drawing on participants’ burning social issues within their contexts – we started to explore in more depth the underlying reasons for the predicament of today’s social science research. During this exploration we received three wake-up-calls, that we then responded to with the development of Integral Research – as a contribution to heal this predicament, so to say.

Towards a new Integral Research Paradigm: Three Wake-Up Calls

The more we wandered through the all too often desert-like landscapes of social science research, the more we saw emergent pictures of the promised land. It was the following three insights that gave us clues for the renewal of the existing research paradigm:

First Wake-Up Call = Social Science Research can lead to Social Innovation: We noticed increasingly that the majority of social researchers are totally oblivious to the rich and diverse portfolio of research methods. Instead, most social science research employs ‘western’ (read: American) case studies and survey methods, the latter characteristically using questionnaires and interviews. That’s it. These represent, however, only a limited number of research methods, reflecting in particular a pragmatic-experimental and rational-theorising approach to knowledge generation. What we saw as left out were all those more humanistically-descriptive and interpretively-narrative oriented research methods that could accommodate cultural regions where the predominant way of thinking is different to the western way. Employing exclusively ‘western’ methods almost invariably leads to a stifling lack of originality in research. In Europe and America, we noticed the difficulty students often have to methodologically reach out to other parts of the world and their worldviews; this is a core reason of the reasons for a continuous reinforcement of a one-sided way of knowledge generation.We concluded that a new approach to social science research would have to expose the researcher to culturally appropriate and relevant ways of doing research.

Second Wake-Up Call = We need to overcome our Blurred Perspective on Research Method and Research Methodology: We noticed that much of the literature on social science research confuses research method with research methodology. This phenomenon we witness over and over again also among researchers. While the term ‘research method’ points towards research techniques (like, e.g., experiment, survey, grounded theory), the term ‘research methodology’ points towards profound philosophical perspectives (like, e.g. Empiricism, Feminism, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Post-Modernism, Critical Rationalism). In other words, research methodology is all about challenging, evolving, and even revolutionising our view of the world and of our understanding of knowledge and its creation.

Each research methodology then represents an entirely different worldview, and seeing the diversity of these methodologies – or indeed paradigms or philosophies – helps us as researchers to position our own worldview while at the same time not neglecting all other perspectives. Research methodologies, however, are rarely seen in this revolutionary light, and furthermore, they are not purposefully connected with research method, thereby interlinking the more philosophical worldview with a concrete technique to enact the research. We also became aware that whereas Europeans have conceived of most research methodologies, most research methods come from the USA. In a nutshell, philosophy comes from Europe, while pragmatic translation of research comes from the US. The rest of the world has been left out, which leads, again, to a perpetuation of American-European perspectives, and inhibits other perspectives from participating. This is a matter of enormous importance, as the research methodologies and methods that are employed have become a powerful, but almost hidden, vehicle for the cementation of basically a combined European-American worldview. As we explained earlier, any domination is ultimately to the detriment of the dominator as well. A lack of diversity always kills the resilience of a social system and its capacity to adapt. A new integral research paradigm would have to not only integrate research method and research methodology in a new way, it would also have to allow the integral researcher to chose more freely from combinations of research methods and methodologies that the whole world has to offer.

Third Wake-Up Call = Research Needs Integration: The third agonising fact that we encountered in social science research is the rift between theory and action. In other words, not only does much of social science research never see the light of active day, but there is also a strong division between highly theoretically oriented social researchers, who are familiar with the depth of research methodologies but are often out of touch with concrete realities on the ground, and those social science researchers who work in more applied ways, but are out of touch with the philosophical roots of their research field. While the former fall short by not having any impact on the ground, the latter fail in contributing to a more radical revision of the underlying philosophy and worldview, which is so important for our time today.

Integral Research: A newly emergent Research Paradigm

Having received the three wake-up calls and having started to understand the inherent dilemmas in social science research in more depth, we gradually began to develop our approach to Integral Research and Innovation. Addressing all of those dilemmas, Integral Research allows the researcher to choose between four (or a combination of two or more) research paths that jointly fulfil the following criteria:

  • Integral Research paths reflect different modes of thinking and being (if not from all over the world, at least from all over Europe as well as America).
  • Integral Research paths are culturally rooted and relevant to the specific context to which they are applied.
  • Integral Research paths interconnect research method and methodology, action and research, thereby stretching over the full trajectory: leading from a burning social issue to transformative action on the ground.

In addition, what became a real discovery for us is that research method would now serve as a starting point and not at an end point of research. We see it as an access point to the research issue and context. That ensures that the research is from the very beginning practically and experientially rooted in a burning social issue on the ground.

Working with Integral Research

Let us have a look at the following Figure through which we provide a summary overview of the Integral Research realms (‘southern’, ‘eastern’, ‘northern’ and ‘western’ paths) and rhythms (four trajectories with Levels 1,2,3,4) that we distinguish within each research path:


Integral Research – Detailed Overview on Research Paths

According to Integral Research the researcher begins in the centre of the model by reflecting on his or her own personality, his or her burning research issue and desire, specific research context, cultural background, and personal research style. S/he then chooses a research path or even a combination of two or more paths.

Then the research is firstly grounded in a research method (Level 1) where the researcher gets really in touch with his or her issue, desire and context. Thereafter the integral researcher gradually builds up a theoretical foundation by applying Level 2 of the research path. On Level 2 he or she lays the foundation for new theory, primarily by working through one of the classical research methodologies, such as Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Critical Rationalism and Empiricism. This, however, is only a foundation, which then on Level 3 is to be radically challenged, by surfacing the shortcomings of the existing theory base. On this level the researcher works with one of the so-called emancipatory methodologies – such as Feminism, Critical Theory, Post-Modernism, or Critical Realism. The radical critique is not merely an intellectual exercise, but is then to be tested in practice through the application of Action Research on Level 4. On Level 4 we distinguish four different types of Action Research methodologies: Participatory Action Research, Cooperative Inquiry, Socio-Technical Design and the western original form for Action Research.

In conclusion, we start with an active engagement with the context (through applying research method on Level 1) and we end – having built a strong theory basis and developed a radical critique to its shortcomings – with Action Research (Level 4) that leads to transformative results on the ground within the given research context.

Note: Impressive Application of Integral Research Worldwide

By now quite a number of our masters and doctoral students have applied Integral Research in theory and practice. Bethel University in St. Paul in the USA has even made Integral Research a requirement for many of their doctoral classes. Among the most encouraging results was the research of our Zimbabwean Masters (and now Doctoral) students whose masters research led effectively to a sustainable project that delivered food security for over 100.000 people in rural Zimbabwe. Their research was firmly lodged within communal grounds and within Zimbabwe’s cultural and societal context. An excellent piece of Integral Research is also embodied in the work of Sam Rima. His research led him to the development of a theory on Spiritual Capital. A compelling example from the Middle East is that of Maqbouleh Hammoudeh, who developed through Integral Research a theory on Islamic Management that she is now putting into practice in collaboration with her clients through her consulting work in Jordan and the Middle East.

Note: Integral Research is also the guiding research framework of our international PhD program on Integral Development

Note: This summary is based on Lessem, R. & Schieffer, A. (2010) Integral Research and Innovation: Transforming Enterprise and Society

7. Integral University Theory: Re-inventing the Role of University in Society

Trans4m continuously “rethinks university”. Through our work on the Integral University we demonstrate how a university can authentically “Care” for the integral development of individuals, communities, organisations and societies. 

Introduction: The Integral University as an Agent for the Integral Development of Self, Organisation, Community and Society

Through our notion of an Integral University we draw on decades of research with transformative educational-developmental entities and processes in particular societies. These are altogether designed to address the burning issues that each society faces, by drawing on its own unique gifts, and are aligned with our Integral Worlds approach and the many subsequent works of ours, such as Integral Development, Integral Economics, Integral Research and Innovation, Integral Dynamics and Transformation Management.

We introduce here the core features of a prospective Integral University, altogether derived out of an evolution of existing key university functions: that is teaching, research, outreach and thought leadership. This results in four newly defined university functions – transformative individual (E)ducation, innovation-driven institutional (R)esearch, (C)ommunity activation and (A)wakening and catalysing societal consciousness. By combining these four “CARE” functions, we seek to renew the current understanding of the role and design of a thereby integral university.

The purpose of our integral work is to evolve the university into a prime instigator of self, organisational, community, and societal development. We thereby serve to address a number of problems with which many conventional universities are faced:

  • not being sufficiently grounded in the developmental needs, problems and opportunities of particular societies
  • not sufficiently drawing on the creative potential of the nature and culture of each society
  • remaining stand-alone “ivory towers” rather than becoming an integral part of a knowledge network, incorporating other developmental organisations
  • over-individualising education and research, in particular in the social sciences
  • becoming “degree factories”, rather then centres for individual and societal renewal

We argue that a university can engage – like no other institution in society – in long term in-depth development processes. That gives universities the potential to become major springboards for widespread individual and institutional, communal and societal development. Given the enormous challenges humanity is facing, we can no longer afford to leave this potential unused.

Four Functions of the Integral University

Prelude to the Integral University: From One or Two to Four Functions

We point out how Integral Worlds can help bringing about a new type of Integral University that can becomes a key player for the holistic development of self, organisation, community and society. Such a university embraces four different functions; it thereby evolves what are currently termed teaching courses into transformative education; research topics into innovation-driven research; outreach projects into community activation; and thought leadership into awakening consciousness and catalysing societal development, respectively. For all four functions we build on emerging trends that are visible in the global university landscape. Furthermore, we exemplify such trends through our own practice around the world.

We begin by revisiting the most well-known university functions – education and research – and thereafter the lesser known functions – project-based outreach and thought leadership. Following the integral logic, we seek to show how the four functions together can contribute to a richer conception of a university. We argue that such a new conception is necessary in order to evolve universities into veritable agents of transformation. We now introduce each of the four functions, as well as their necessary evolution.

University Function 1 = Education: From Teaching Courses to Transformative Education

Background: Education Conventionally Limited to Teaching Courses

Of course, we have no problem in identifying a preeminent university institution focussing on individual education and individual research but often our imagination stops there. Looking back, we notice that many such universities emerged originally out of a liberal arts heritage, carrying a strong societal vision. Initially, they saw themselves as a seedbed for individual capacity building and learning for the common good. This original impulse has been widely lost in most cases, as, for example, US educational philosopher Allan Bloom critiques in his Closing of the American Mind (2012) and Rakesh Khurana illustrates in From Higher Aims to Hired Hands (2007). Khurana, a Professor of Management at Harvard Business School, uses the case of business education in the USA to show how the original idea of the Research University, after taking successful roots in the USA, gradually degraded. His insights are particularly helpful, given the all-pervasive impact that the focus on individual, invariably “westernised” leadership and entrepreneurship – promoted by the MBA, the flagship of Anglo-Saxon business education – has across the world, not only on business, but also on the fields of education and development.

Hence, most of today’s universities with a primarily educational focus are disconnected, at least in a direct sense, from their society’s most burning issues. What we witness, is that many of such universities emphasise on “education for the job market”, seeking to churn out a large number of “qualified degree holders”, whereby these qualifications may well be relatively irrelevant to engage with today’s key socio-environmental-economic issues. While such an education may still serve to get a job, we question the sustainability of this approach in the long run. We argue, that the focus on skills and capacity building needs to be directed to the real-life problems societies are facing, as only then can we create long-term sustainable livelihoods. That brings us to the renewal of the educational function.

Renewing of the Education Function: Towards Transformative Education

Picking up the original thread of seeing universities as seedbeds for individual capacity building and learning for the common good, we observe widespread impulses of renewal around the world. Often, these impulses do not come from within the conventional university world, but rather are expressed through new forms for transformative education. Such new programs and entities seek to develop individual capacities that allow individuals to actively contribute to real life problem solving. As an overarching theme, they thereby foster the development of sustainable livelihoods, enabling individuals to create new forms of enterprise and livelihood.

The UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (2005 to 2014) is perhaps the best example for this global development, intending to turn existing educational programs into catalytic seedbeds for active, positive change. On a global level, UNESCO has become the lead agency for this initiative, seeking to mobilise the world’s educational resources to build a sustainable future. For UNESCO, such Education for Sustainable Development “allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. Education for Sustainable Development means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning.” A particular emphasis is given on “participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development” (

Overall, a large number of highly innovative educational initiatives have been emerging recently, all of which engage the individual with his or her society, among them:

  • Gaia University: a self-declared un-learning educational-developmental institution promoting an ecosocial economy (
  • Giordano Bruno Global Shift University: promoting a whole life educational experience (
  • Findhorn Foundation and Findhorn Foundation College: promoting holistic education for sustainable living (
  • Ubiquity University: focusing on “whole brain whole systems” learning, seeking to “ignite, nurture and amplify the profound genius” of each student (

Many of these initiatives aspire to combine inner growth with outer action through programs and courses in further and higher education and professional development. Often there is a simultaneous focus on personal and spiritual development as well as on valuable life and work skills. Also, many of them are also geared for adult learners, contributing to a life-orientated evolution of this first function towards transformative education.

University Function 2 = Research: From Topic-Based to Innovation-Driven Research

Background: Conventional Research Limited to Individuals Collecting Data

Research, the second function of a university, received a major evolutionary thrust towards innovation driven, institutional knowledge creation in the 1990s with the publication of The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies (Gibbons et al, 1994). This was a far cry from individuals pursuing research-as-data-processing.

For the authors, Michael Gibbons, Helga Nowotny, Camille Limoges and others, so-called Mode 2 knowledge production was different in nearly every respect from conventional (so-called Mode 1) universities. For the latter was a form of knowledge production – a complex of ideas, methods, values and norms – that perpetrated a Newtonian model of classical, analytic, scientific method to more and more fields of enquiry. Within Mode 2, knowledge generation is carried out in an applied context, in transdisciplinary guise. It involves the close interaction of many actors, not just academics. In particular, it engages with organisations and their real-life work based challenges. The emergence of Mode 2 was a profound development. It called into question the adequacy of familiar knowledge producing institutions, whether universities, government research establishments, or corporate laboratories.

In Mode 2, the self-contained, conventional university with a primary focus on the teaching of courses is anathema. Knowledge production rather had to be understood as a socially distributed process.

Evolving the Research Function: Towards Innovation-Driven Institutional Research

When we turn to current day Mode 2 universities, we notice that they are virtually invisible in practice. Furthermore, the rather rare examples, like Warwick University School of Engineering in the UK or Da Vinci Institute in South Africa are very much a halfway house between individual and organisation, because the workplace challenges that they focus on remain primarily individual rather than group or organisational challenges. They thereby remain somewhat removed from a full-fledged knowledge creating organisation. Why? Because, once we move onto organisational knowledge creation – which the Japanese organisational sociologists Nonaka and Takeuchi have so astutely identified in such institutions as Canon and Sharp, Toyota and Toshiba (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995) – we tend to look rather to manufacturing corporations than to universities.

However, we increasingly see opportunities to align such organisational knowledge creation with an authentic Mode 2 university. We are currently engaged with two real life cases – the Da Vinci Institute in South Africa and Deutsche Telekom in Germany – that demonstrate the further evolution of Mode 2 and hence of the research function as a whole. As an example, we focus on Deutsche Telekom:

  • Deutsche Telekom, Germany: The establishment of its department of “Group Transformational Change” in 2013 marks the commitment of Germany’s telecommunication giant to significantly evolve its organisational knowledge creation potential. Head of the Department is Reza Moussavian, who completed his PhD within our (Trans4m and Da Vinci) international doctoral program on Integral Development. His “Mode 2” thesis (2014) focused on Integral Telekoms and resulted not only in a new conceptual approach to telecommunication, but also in the practical application of the integral concept with Telkom-providers around the world, primarily via Detecon International, Deutsche Telekom’s international consulting arm with which Moussavian was previously a senior partner. Together with his team, he is now creating a knowledge creation platform called “Shareground” that links international employees, departments, affiliates and external institutions (think tanks, universities etc.) within a knowledge creation network. This is a process to which we are actively contributing, for example through an internal discussion paper on Integral Deutsche Telekom.

University Function 3 = Community Activation: From Project-Based Outreach to Community Activation

Community Activation via universities or university-based programs has gradually emerged in recent years. A number of universities worldwide engage in so-called project-based outreach.

What we encounter, however, are two problems. Either, such community activation is disconnected from university-based knowledge creation and hence does not feed back into the renewal of curricula. Or, universities engage actively in project-based outreach programs, thereby intimately involve with communities, but then these projects are not sustainably owned by the community itself, and gradually lose their initial impact.

Major examples of the emergence of Community Activation via university(like) programs are the Barefoot College in Rajastan in India, founded by Sanjit Bunker Roy (, the Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca in Mexico, founded by development economist Gustavo Esteva (Prakash & Esteva, 1998), the Earth University “Bija Vidyapeeth” in North India’s Dehradun, founded by eco-feminist Vandana Shiva in partnership with the UK based Schumacher College (, and the Intercultural University Amawtay Wasi in Ecuador (, calling itself an “integral university”.

All these cases have started out by setting up research and/or educational programs and processes. The major challenge that comes with a more formal institutionalisation of this third university function is not to lose its original transformative impact. Official Higher Education standards often oblige new institutions to adopting conventional curricula and educational processes that are not geared towards effective community development.

University Function 4 = Awakening Consciousness and Developmental Catalysation: From Thought Leadership to Catalysing Conscious Development in Society

Awakened Societal Development is, for us, almost a culminating stage for a university. Here the institution begins to creatively engage with the development of society as a whole. We find intimations of such a catalytic function within a university in its conventional role of providing thought leadership to society, usually associated with individual “gurus”. While this is still taking place, we recognise the huge gap between philosophy and theory, on the one hand, and transformative, developmental practice on the other. If thought leadership can be evolved towards active catalysation, an enormous developmental potential can be unleashed for the benefit of society. In other words, innovative thinking needs to relate more strongly to society’s developmental needs; it has to be measured also for its practical contribution.

Awakened Societal Development is, like Community Activation, still an emergent function and has, like the latter, a strong grounding in context and community. Its main focus though transcends individual communities and is about societal learning and consciousness raising. To achieve that, it needs to build on the cultural-spiritual foundation of a society, engaging in meaning generation processes. Such Awakened Societal Development helps the society to advance to a new evolutionary stage.

A highly descriptive example for developmental catalysation on a societal level is FUNDAEC University Center for Rural Well-Being in Colombia (, that “dedicated itself to the creation of the University for Integral Development …, which was defined as a social space in which the inhabitants of a given region learn to choose and walk the paths of their own communities’ development” (Harper, 2000).

We conclude with an example from our own community of practice:

  • Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, Sri Lanka: Perhaps the best case for Awakened Societal Development is our own partner organisation Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka, one of the most remarkable development initiatives in the world. Its development theory and practice deeply grounds itself in the particular cultural and spiritual context of Sri Lanka. It combines a strong Buddhist rooting with Gandhian philosophy. The main focus of Sarvodaya (meaning: Awakening of All) is the co-development of individual, community and society. It engages with over 15.000 villages in Sri Lanka, comprising almost half of the country’s population. The most significant theme that Sarvodaya aspires to contribute to the global dialogue is that of development based on spiritual consciousness. Although Sarvodaya has aimed for a balanced development that integrates social, economic, political and spiritual elements, the key to its integrated system is spirituality. As a network-centric movement, Sarvodaya sees as one of its main tasks for the next decades its own transformation into a community-oriented university with a catalytic developmental orientation reaching society as a whole. Significant groundwork has been done through the establishment of Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning, driven by Sarvodaya’s General Secretary (and Trans4m Global Wisdom Council member) Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne. Together, we seek to design and implement integral educational-developmental processes and programs that can support and stimulate the agenda of societal awakening, as well as the development of economic and political macro-alternatives.

Integrating this fourth function into the university is a massive task. The same initial disconnect we faced between Community Activation and the conventional understanding of a university, we encountered also between the Awakened Catalysation of societal development and the individualised university format. It is indeed in these two activational and awakening, catalytic university functions where most evolution is needed.

Integrating the Four Functions: Towards the Integral University

We have argued that each of the four university functions has a particular emphasis, despite the clear overlapping between all functions. The following figure illustrates the interdependent nature of all four functions. The “turbine” in its center conveys the dynamism within this integral entity. The culminating challenge for the Integral University is to not only differentiate but also integrate all four functions.


Integral University – Overview

In reviewing our journey, we gradually become able to transcend the existing focus on (primarily) education and (secondarily) research. Further evolution is required for both functions – education to be aligned more closely with a more contemporary, transformative approach to education and learning; and research to be aligned more closely with innovation. Then, we suggest adding two additional functions that reflect community-based and societal learning. We maintain that the third function is already intimated through the rise of Community Activation, and the fourth function is preceded by the emergence of Awakening Consciousness and Developmental Catalysation, the latter almost as a further evolution of development agencies or NGO’s. In that sense, all four functions are building on somehow established grounds.

By integrating the four functions of Education (E), Research (R), Community Activation (C) and Awakening Consciousness (C) in a new way, we arrive at a “CARE-ing” University. The following figure summarises these four functions and shows how they jointly cover the full spectrum from individual, to organisation, to community, to society.


Integral University – Functions and Outcome

While each function reaches out to all social levels (from self to society), each has a primary emphasis. Finally, we align each of the functions with specific university outcomes, required to lead towards contributing to key developmental objectives of a society.

Reality Check – Emerging Cases of Integral Universities

Relevant Practical Background

The Integral Worlds approach and the notion of an Integral University is at the heart of the transformative educational and research programs that we have designed and run since 2005, together with partnering accrediting universities. Framed mainly as Masters and PhD programs, each one of them is geared to addressing burning socio-economic issues in the societal and cultural contexts of the participants. These programs incorporate the Integral Worlds knowledge base, and support participants in generating and applying new knowledge relevant to their burning issues.

Each transformative journey evokes the “local identity” of participant and context, links local and global knowledge sources, and seeks to develop solutions to local problems, that are locally relevant and globally resonant. In every case, we aspire to bring forth the rich contribution of each local world to the many worlds we collectively inhabit.

Our programs can be regarded as seedbeds for Integral Universities, in two ways: firstly, we seek to embody core structural and processal principles of an Integral University; secondly, the programs themselves are catalytic not only so as to address burning issues on the ground, but also to help participants to institutionalise spaces that integrate all four university functions to provide platforms of Integral Development accessible to a wide range of local transformation agents.

We now share one case in Egypt, where we have actively worked with our partners towards co-evolving an Integral University. We conclude, briefly, with two further cases, one in Slovenia, the other in Nigeria, where the seeds for similar developments have been planted.

Egypt: Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development as an Integral University

With the case of Sekem and Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development in Egypt, both of them partnering organisations of Trans4m, we introduce a fascinating educational-developmental venture that is committed to become an Integral University. Here we are building on the legacy of Sekem – awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2003 – as an international role model for sustainable development. The process towards an Integral University is stewarded by Sekem’s founder Ibrahim Abouleish and his son Helmy, and backed by a committed group of innovative faculty at the university and transformatively oriented Sekem practitioners.

In combination, both institutions, Sekem and Heliopolis University, have made significant inroads into all four Integral University functions:

  • Transformative Education via Heliopolis University: Heliopolis University is engaged in processes towards evolving “educational courses” in Education for Sustainable Development, building, among others, on UNESCO programs (e.g. RUCAS: Reorient University Curricula to Address Sustainability). Such transformative education is targeted not only at undergraduate students, officially enrolled in the programs offered by Heliopolis University, but also reaches out to management and professionals at Sekem. Another example is the EU TEMPUS project and related center of excellence at the university where teachers from all over Egypt are trained and equipped with learning materials for mainstreaming sustainable development content into the existing primary education. Furthermore, together with Heliopolis University’s business and economics faculty we are developing a new people-centred curriculum. Applying the CARE model, we are evolving the Human Resources curriculum into an integrated “CARE 4 People” course-track that will result in a Human Development major for undergraduate students that is unique in Egypt. It combines conventional content from special Human Resource Management functions with newly created courses like Integral Human Development and other fields such as Leadership, Social and Business Psychology, Organization Design Theory and Knowledge & Innovation Management.This curriculum transformation is, in turn, aligned with the enterprise transformation of Sekem itself that seeks to develop, through this parallel process, its own corporate HR function into an integral “CARE 4 People” function.
  • Innovation-Driven Research via a Social Innovation Center: Sekem and Heliopolis University have established a Social Innovation Center with the intention of aligning what is termed the integral Core Program for Heliopolis University – focusing on Nature and Community, Culture and Spirituality, Technology and Society, Economics and Environment – with specialist engineering, pharmacological, as well as business and economics programs. Furthermore, the center helps identifying and understanding burning societal needs and directing the research capacities of the university to find, implement and upscale solutions together with the Sekem initiative and other local and global stakeholders. To evaluate relevant research initiatives and projects the center is using an Integral Scorecard, taking ecological, cultural, technological and economic factors into account. The scorecard has been developed together with a group of students, participating in an Integral Development course at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, that one of us is directing.
  • Community Activation via Sekem: Sekem itself has a longstanding history of activating Egyptian communities in reclaiming desert land, and engaging in renewable energy and water efficiency projects. Over time students at Heliopolis University will be progressively exposed to such, to the point of co-engaging in such community activation themselves.
  • Catalysing Development via a Human Development Center: Interlinking Sekem and Heliopolis University is a new Human Development Center, serving to bring together courses involving initially self development, followed by organizational development processes. A participant on our PhD, Maximilian Abouleish, is driving the “human development agenda” together with his colleagues, using the PhD to catalyse relevant development processes in both institutions. Starting point for the human development center is the above-mentioned agenda to evolving human resources into a full-fledged “CARE 4 People” curriculum (on the university level) and function (on the enterprise level). That includes the development of existing and future employees for transformative enterprise practice.

The challenge ahead for Heliopolis University is to continue the functional evolution: a difficult task, not only because of existing institutional hurdles, but also as it takes place within a highly conservative Egyptian educational environment, often inhibited by change-resistant mindsets.

Nigeria and Slovenia: Initial Developments

  • Nigeria: In 2011, Basheer Oshodi (2013), a former participant on our PhD program, founded, together with a group of Nigerian Doctoral Researchers, CISER (Center for Integral Social and Economic Research) Nigeria. The institute seeks to address poverty alleviation through promotion of sustainable livelihoods and enterprises. To achieve this goal, the center enables collaboration between local researchers and policy makers. The intention is to draw in a wide network of national, regional African and international transformation agents to make the center a catalytic entity for knowledge production processes. CISER Nigeria sees itself as a stepping-stone towards an integral university for Africa, one that is focussing on community development, societal learning, and organisational knowledge creation, for the continent.
  • Slovenia: In Slovenia we began cooperation in 2011 with educational specialist Darja Piciga – a member of the former Government Office of Climate Change, now senior expert at the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning – who is employing an integral economic and development approach to national policy planning in Slovenia as well as to educational programs that focus on sustainable development. At this stage, she is pursuing the application of the framework of Integral Economics and Integral Development to an “Integral Green Economy and Society in Slovenia”. In September 2011, her office submitted a strategy for the transition of Slovenia to a Low-Carbon Society by 2050 for public consultation. It provides a vision of Slovenia in 2050 as a highly integrated and inclusive society with business focusing on promoting sustainability through an enhanced quality of life and natural environment (Bećić et al, 2013). Piciga managed to mobilize a wide network of Slovenian transformation agents from all sectors of society. In spring 2013, they started to develop a Citizens’ Initiative for an Integral Green Slovenia and a few months later this process resulted in the first international conference on Integral Green Economy. Theconference was co-organised by BC Naklo, an innovative tertiary education provider in Slovenia and one of the key supporters of the initiative. The vision of the Citizens’ Initiative and of BC Naklo both embrace the CARE approach introduced here.

These pioneering cases have still a long way to go. Though still fragile, the cases demonstrate the attempt of building integral processes and structures that link education, research, activation and catalysation, thereby becoming “Care-ing” Universities.

Summary and Outlook: The Necessary (R)evolution – Towards a “CARE-ing” Uni-Versity

The Integral University is not just a conceptual-theoretical innovation, but, much more, an emergent institutional form, born out of many years of research and practice, together with a wide range of co-researchers and social innovators from around the world. It builds on the philosophy and praxis of the Integral Worlds approach, introduced at the beginning of this article.

The Integral University differentiates and integrates the four evolved university functions of Transformative Individual Education (E), Innovation-driven Institutional Research (R), Community Activation (C) and Societally based Awakening of Consciousness (A). Combined, that makes it a “CARE-ing” University, one that contributes to bring about a Caring Individual, Organisation, Community and Society. Spanning all these four levels, the university is fully extricated from its “ivory tower” and brought into the heart of society.

Through the emergent philosophy and praxis of the Integral University, we respond to the need for new spaces in society, that are able to creatively address the burning issues individuals, organisations, communities and societies face, in naturally and culturally resonant ways. Actualising this potential, we see the Integral University as one of the most potent vehicles that we can co-create to purposefully engage with the evolutionary shift that humanity is facing.

By drawing on the best that each social and cultural context has to offer, an Integral University is designed to bring about “unity in diversity”. This is a most urgent task, bringing an entirely new perspective on the very notion of a “Uni-Versity”. In the term of Peter Senge, the renowned organisational developer and educator, it is a “necessary revolution”. 

NOTE: This text is largely extracted from an article we wrote for Unesco’s publication PROSPECTS, in a special edition on education for the 21st Century (full download below)

Downloads: Integral University – Schieffer & Lessem – Prospects UNESCO 2014 12

8. Integral Advantage Theory: An Integral View on Emerging Economies & Societies

“Integral Advantage” – Theory is turning conventional economic wisdom on its head, specifically in relation to emerging markets, that is the BRICS countries. To that extent, we shall be arguing, that both Smith (capitalism) and Marx (communism) got it wrong. Neither the division of labor (Smith) nor economic determinism (Marx) offer a viable way forward. In fact the whole idea of “progress”, for us, is a misnoma, and we have as much, if not more, to learn from the past than we can learn from the present and future.

From Comparative Advantage to Integral Advantage

Through Integral Advantage, we argue, firstly and paradoxically, that we have as much to learn from an emerging Russia straddling “east-west” than from the established Anglo-Saxon, capitalist “west-north”, so to speak. Moreover, to the extent that we can learn from America, it is South America, specifically Brazil in the “south-west” that leads the emerging 21st century way. Secondly, perhaps even more surprisingly, we reckon we have as much to learn from an African “north-south”, than from a European “north-west”, the latter aligned with Marxism or socialism hitherto.

That said, our overall contention is not that one society is any better than another, but that all societies – in their nature and their culture, in their technology and their economy – have something potentially unique to contribute as an integral whole.

We reject the classical economic notion of “comparative advantage”, because it focuses exclusively on economic advantage, in isolation of nature, culture and society, and what we term an all round “polity” that serves to align each of such, altogether. It is that individual and societal all-roundedness that we will allude to, as integral advantage, bearing in mind that, on the one hand, the west needs the east, the north needs the south, and they need each other, altogether; and on the other hand each and every society needs to build on its own local grounds, albeit that thereafter, in order to evolve, the local and the global need to interact. That is what we mean by integral advantage.

What’s Wrong with “Emerging” Markets ?

Ironically, while our major focus in this work is on the emerging markets and societies, specifically the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – most especially as we shall see on Russia and South Africa – we reject the conventional “growth map” underlying “emerging markets” as a partial truth at best. For the very notion of “emergence”, as we shall see later in chapter 2, implies that something fundamentally new needs to come into being, new life so to speak. This new life is born out of a meeting between different worlds, rather than through competition between one and another. Compare such with what the originator of the notion of BRICs, Jim O’Neill, in his 2011 book on The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity n the BRICS and Beyond, as a senior executive of Goldman Sachs at the time of writing, had to say :

“Tens of millions of people from the BRICs and beyond are being taken out of poverty by the growth of their economies. While it is easy to focus on the fact that China has created so many billionaires, it should not be forgotten that in the past 15 years or so, 300 million or more Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. In India the lives of many tens of millions have similarly improved, and perhaps 300 million or more will join them in the next decade or two. Vast swathes of mankind are having their chance to enjoy the fruits of wealth creation. That is the big story.“

Well it may be a “big” story, and it is “new”, but only in a merely quantitative sense. There is nothing qualitatively new in there being many more Chinese billionaires or Indians “lifted out of poverty”, economically so to speak. In fact, through Integral Advantage we expose the downsides of economic “development”, in India and China, as well as the upsides! Meanwhile what is emerging is a further encroachment of “western-northern” capitalism on the “south-east” (India) and “north-east” (China), albeit with some BRIC variations on such an underlying capitalist theme. Moreover the theme is a singularly economic, not an integral – natural and cultural, societal as well as economic – one. In other words little substantively and qualitatively new then is emerging from O’Neill’s Growth Map. That’s what, for us, is “wrong” with such an allegation of emerging BRICS economies, in isolation of their societies.

Releasing a Society’s Genius

What, in Integral Advantage then, is qualitatively new, and thereby truly emergent, can only be found if we go beyond economics per se, and if you like the comparative economic advantage of each BRICS nation. In effect, we need to uncover the integral advantage underlying each. In other words, we need to reveal the emerging nature, culture, society and economy of each “polity” as a whole, that is, for us, the source of its overall integrity. So the fate of Greece or Spain in Europe today, or indeed Libya or Iraq within the Middle East, is determined, by and large, by the extent to which each can be enabled to pursue what we term its integral rhythm, locally and naturally grounding, locally-globally and culturally emerging, newly globally and socially-scientifically navigating, and thereafter globally-locally economically effecting: altogether then serving to release its genius. That is no easy task, and currently there is no field of study, or agency in society, to integrally promote such integral development. Hence the need for a body of theory such as this, and a developmental agency to follow.

Therefore, the pursuit of integral advantage is not dependent on relative factor costs, and thereby economic specialisation that follows (see below), but on the overall uniqueness, and authenticity, of each society, in itself and in relation to the wider world. Most if not all societies are inhibited, both internally and externally, from realizing such. Instead, one society tends to dominate over another, and prevent itself, or the other, from realizing itself as whole. Alternatively one part of a particular society is dominant over others, whereby development, as whole, is inhibited. As a result you might have poverty, autocracy, environmental decay, or another such malfunction, as such a part dominates the whole, both internally and/or externally. In short, the society, altogether, is disintegrating, to some degree or another.

Moreover, because all too often “western-northern” concepts and institutions – set apart from while dominating over the world as a whole – like free markets or liberal democracy have become so all pervasive, a particular society, be it Egypt or Ireland, is inhibited from emerging. Integral development, centered in middle-up-down-across guise, needs to arise initially and locally from the ground up : naturally and communally as such, and subsequently develop, culturally and spiritually and locally-globally so to speak, outgrowing its prior parochial self. So Libya or Iraq disintegrate on the one hand, once supposedly released from its despotic shackles, because each is not enabled to emerge in such integral guise. Greece and Spain implode on the other hand, as each has done of late, because austerity may bite, and such austerity does nothing to help each uncover and release their overall, societally based integral advantage. Indeed, there is no integral agency – certainly neither for example IMF nor EU – to promote such.

Integral BRICS

We point to such an emerging integral BRICS Advantage, in relation to each of the five economies and societies, generally – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – and in relation to two of these, Russia and South Africa, most specifically. Why then do these two countries assume pride of place in our integral context.

True to our integral realities, spanning east and west, north and south, we chose two countries whose reason for being spans, respectively, those geographical and psychological polarities, that is Russia spiritually and materially (east/west) and South Africa in terms of nature or wilderness and humankind (south/north). Moreover, because our concerns are integral, rather than merely economic, these two countries are, for us, of major existential concern: South Africa, not only the place of humankind’s origins, but also renowned for its “long walk to freedom” between the 1960’s and 1990’s, leading to the fall of “apartheid”, and Russia, because it was, for a long time, the major counter-force, socio-politically, to the all pervasive capitalist “west”, and today, geographically, straddles “east-west”.

Alongside these Russian and South African two then, and positioned integrally, Brazil “south-west”, India “south-east”, China “north-east”, and the conventional BRICS wisdom as formulated by the US/UK in the “west-north” (see above).

Note: This summary is based on Lessem R (2015) Integral Advantage : Emerging Economies and Societies.

9. Integral Polity Theory: Aligning Nature, Culture, Society and Economy

Through the conceptual body underlying Integral Polity, we are seeking after harmony, like the ancient Egyptians did through their goddess Maat, and the ancient Greeks through their Polis. In effect, an integral polity serves to harmonize nature and culture, society and economy. Alternately, again harking back to the ancient Greeks and to Plato, it serves to recognise and to interconnect truth, goodness and beauty. Indeed, such an overall, integrated pursuit, characterises the core to our approach to our Integral Worlds.

Starting with the Core

Integral spirituality, integral philosophy and the integral age, standing for an overall, holistic level of consciousness, so to speak, over the course of the last half century, has become a strong enough idea to form some kind of movement. As a philosophy and worldview,  it is indeed coming of age. The contribution of Trans4m movement, in that respect, has been threefold. Firstly, it has brought such an “integral” notion into the realms of economics and enterprise, where it has hitherto been somewhat absent. Secondly, it has aligned such “integrality” with,different “southern” and “eastern”, “northern” and “western” worlds. In other words, at least as far as we are concerned, an integral approach in India is different from that in Indonesia, or Iceland, and, what is even more important, they prospectively complement one another. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our purposes here, we have developed an integral approach to releasing the genius, so to speak, of an individual, an enterprise and a community, in a particular world, starting from nature, through culture, onto society and economy: what we will term an all round integral polity standing at the centre.

Aligning South, East, North and West

In our approach to Integral Polity, then, we – Ronnie Lessem (Trans4m) an economist from the Zimbabwean South, Ibrahim Abouleish (Sekem) as a natural and spiritual scientist from the Egyptian Middle East, Marko Pogacnik (Sacred Geography) as an artist and geomancer from the Slovenian North, and Louis Herman (University of Hawaii) as a political scientist and philosopher from the Hawaiian West (albeit that all of us are somewhat mixed breeds) – have combined our trans-cultural and trans-disciplinary forces. We use the term “polity”, rather than politics, because for us, as originally for Aristotle in his ancient Greek polis, it represented the embodiment of nature and culture, society and economy, rather than the political realm on its segmented own. In fact we argue that it is this very fragmentation of the political systems from the other such altogether integral realms, which has given “politics”, all round the world, increasingly today, a bad name. So what is the approach that we have been undertaking to such Integral Polity?

In Pursuit of Integrity

Conventional wisdom has it that the “west” leads the way and the “rest” follow, whether in business or economics, politics or even the environment. In our view, this is exactly what has gotten us in today’s mess. Conversely, we argue that, in the 21st century at least, societally as a whole if not economically in part, it is the “south” and the “east” that need to be taking the lead, and it is for the “north” and the “west” to follow.

Our integral approach, as our kind of “mandala” then, combines those four humanistic (southern), holistic (eastern), rational “northern) and pragmatic (western) elements in thereby integral turn. “Integral Polity” is aimed at environmentalists and agriculturalists, economists and political scientists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as all round community activists, who believe that a fundamentally new, what we term integral approach is required to deal with today’s local and global issues, and that we have to learn, as such, from the world as a whole, rather just from Western Europe and America, if not now, also, India and China. It also serves, as a core integrating program for an undergraduate degree in sustainable development.

Hitherto, we at Trans4m have focused up to now on what we have termed integral research and development, and content-wise on economics and enterprise, drawing upon concepts and application from North and South, East and West. From a content perspective, we have argued that, in today’s day and age, capitalism, as we know it, is on its last legs, and communism, as conventionally conceived, has had its day. As a consequence, not only is free enterprise and centralised planning “old hat”, so to speak, at a macro economic level, but, at a micro enterprise one, marketing and operations, human resources and finance, the bread and butter of every MBA program, have passed their “sell by” date, at least from an integral perspective. Indeed they are altogether the cause of, rather than the solution to, our current economic problems. Moreover, neither leadership nor entrepreneurship, as conventionally perceived, is the way forward. So what, integrally, might take each of their place?

Up to this point, we maintain that:

  • consumer oriented marketing and resource based growth need to be replaced by community building, enterprise-wise on the one hand, and community based self sufficiency, economically on the other
  • an orientation to human resources and to development economics needs to be supplanted by what we term conscious evolution, enterprise-wise, and a culturally based, developmental economy, economically speaking
  • a focus on business operations and welfare economics needs to be replaced by knowledge creation, enterprise-wise, and by a knowledge based, social economy, on the other macro economic one, and finally
  • finance and accounting and accompanying economic growth needs to be supplanted by sustainable development, enterprise-wise on the one hand, and by a life based, living economy, macro-wise on the other hand.

So far so good, but as we have recently come to realise, so bad! For we have discovered, in our socially and economically transformative activities in, for example, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, Slovenia and Germany, as well as the U.S., that economic transformation cannot take place without political transformation, and indeed vice versa. We are hence returning to the eighteenth century view of “political economy” with a contemporary difference, that is through our integral polity, aligning nature and culture, society and economy, as an underlying integral and trans-disciplinary core.

Moreover, and this may come to you as a surprise, we have come to realize that not only does such a reciprocal micro-macro transformation need to occur, as we shall be illustrating, “middle-up-down”, rather than top down or bottom up, but that the real seeds of such transformation lie in unlikely places. In other words, the “basket cases” of the world, ranging from Zimbabwe and Nigeria, Somalia and Eritrea to Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and indeed currently Southern and Eastern Europe, hold the real potential to promote integrity, albeit alongside the likes of France and Germany, the US and the BRIC countries.

The key to unlocking such integral potential, now politically, as well as economically, is to selectively recognize and release what we term the GENE-IUS of a particular society. In fact the whole format of this book on Integral Polity will be organized both trans-culturally, that is spanning South and East, North and West, and trans-formationally, serving, in each case to release genius by respective Grounding and Emergence, navigation and Effect. In other words, we :

  • ground our approach in particular, local and natural soils, thereafter
  • focusing on actual or potential culturally and spiritually based emergence
  • building up towards home grown socio-technical navigation
  • ultimately lead on to effecting transformation, economically, altogether
  • involving origination to transformation through an integral polity.

Realising an Integral Polity

In realising an integral polity,  we have focused on Africa and Asia, Europe and America, as well as the Middle East, but in order to illustrate the overall approach , we take Africa as one such integral example.

Natural Grounding: Original African Constitution – Birth of Democracy

African American historian Chancellor Williams took some sixteen years in all, during the course of the 1960’s and 1970’s to explore African history, with a view to ultimately releasing the genius of African societies. In fact, for Williams, the traditional worldview of the African contained the seeds within it for an ultimately integral perspective, which, for his perspective, was contained within cooperative democracy. A traditional African society, as Williams discovered in Ghana:

  • retained a highly civilised scheme of political and social organisation
  • had a very definite form of education
  • had a religion that involved brotherhood and cooperation
  • had proverbs which were rich in philosophy of life, as well as poetry
  • prized character formation as the primary purpose of education
  • had a concept of universal brotherhood alongside their tribal values.

For William’s, the renewal of such principles in our contemporary times would lead to the type of cooperative democracy Africa needs, which:

  • receives its fullest expression not at a national level, but in the way people live day by day in their farms, villages, and towns
  • is the way people locally unite to carry forward the work of the community, discover its needs, and plan their programs to meet these
  • is the way people unite locally to promote the economic welfare of their communities, developing local farming, enterprises and industries, all through group action, building on family ties
  • is the way people locally develop closer human relations
  • is most alive, most real, in the local community, in people’s participation and care for such
  • is the way the ablest members of the group carry out their leadership responsibilities at a village, district or national level.

Natural Emergence: Tradition and Modernity : Reflections on Africa

Kwame Gyekye, one of a significant band of contemporary Ghanean philosophers, takes on from where Williams has historically left off. The conception of democracy, in Western political thought, for him indeed, places a premium on political rights, but has failed to elevate social and economic rights to the same level of concern. Hence the fulfillment of social and economic needs is left to the private sphere. Democracy, is therefore confined to protecting and furthering such political rights. This, for Gyekye, is a narrow approach to democracy that needs to be broadened.

What needs to be done, he says, in pursuit of democracy and political stability, is to find ingenious ways and means of hammering the indigenous democratic elements – together with exogenous ones – on the anvil of prudence, common sense, imagination, creative spirit and a sense of history in the setting of the modern world. African culture may yet bring much needed political salvation. Between the two capitalist and socialist concepts, there is a division of emphasis between, on the one hand, individuality and, on the other, social equality. The two values should not be held as incompatible. This was the great problem during the so called “socialist interlude”, where one ideology was pursued in isolation of the other, as a kind of post-colonial reaction to the colonial regimes that had come before. In fact the core concept, which seemingly links the individual with the social, enterprise with community, is “auto-centricism”. For such we turn to Nigeria’s Claude Ake.

Natural & Communal Navigation : Democracy, Development, Autocentricity

Claude Ake was perhaps Nigeria’s – if not Africa’s – most notable political scientist before he was sadly killed in a plane crash in 1995. Three decades of preoccupation with development in Africa, he maintained, have yielded meager returns. African economies have been stagnating or regressing. For most Africans, real incomes are lower than they were two decades ago (Ake was writing in 1995), health prospects are poorer, malnourishment is widespread, and infrastructure is breaking down, as are some social institutions.

Culture, like the institutional framework, has been largely ignored as if it, too, had no serious implications for the success of development strategies. For him

  • development is not the same as economic growth
  • development is not a project but a process
  • development is the process by which people create and recreate themselves and their life circumstances to realise higher levels of civilization in accordance with their own choices and values
  • Africa and the global environment are to be taken as they are and not as they ought to be; what the paradigm contributes is what they can be.

We finally, and with a view to developing a self sufficient polity and economy, turn to the actual case of Chinyika.

Natural and Communal Effect: Food Security at Chinyika

When Zimbabweans Chidara Muchineripi and Steve Kada joined a Masters in Social and Economic Transformation program run by Trans4m in South Africa, early in the new millennium, their people were starving. Introduced at the time to our so called GENE cycle of transformation, the Chinyika journey, in rural Zimbabwe, to self sufficiency, began with Grounding and Activation of the indigenous soil. Second, it involved Emergence and Co-Development, through a process of Communal Learning, in partnership with Cairns Food – Kada was the Human Resource Director of this food processing company – and its agronomists.

At the same time, Cairns Food itself was awakened to its African heritage, which led to a culturally more authentic approach to do business. Thirdly then, a Navigational and Knowledge Creation (conceptualising) role was played by the government’s agricultural extension officers, by the agronomists from Cairns, and, indirectly perhaps, by Trans4m. Finally an actualising Effect was brought about by the Chinyika people themselves. The ultimate effect, at first for 5,000 and ultimately for up to 300,000 villagers, was the realisation of food security. All of that happened over the course of seven years.

Note: to explore Integral Polity theory further, turn to Lessem R, Abouleish I, Pogacnik M and Herman L (2014) Integral Polity : Aligning Nature, Culture, Society and Economy.

10. Our Process: Releasing Gene-ius with “C+A+R+E”

Embedded in our Integral Worlds approach are powerful processes of transformation that activate and guide the integral development of individuals, organisations, communities and societies. Two of these processes stand out, and are underpinning all our transformative engagements around the world: the GENE-process, geared to release the GENE-ius of a human system, and the CARE-process, assisting to fully embody and sustain the integral innovation that stem from our work.



Releasing GENE-ius: The transformative Rhythm of the Integral Worlds Approach

With every human system being in continuous evolution, so does Integral Worlds incorporate an inbuilt transformational rhythm, which makes the entire approach dynamic. It is a rhythm that we could equally trace back to natural and cultural systems and their respective evolution. We call this rhythm the GENE (an acronym for Grounding, Emerging, Navigating, Effecting), representing a fourfold spiralling force, activating the entire Integral Worlds model.

The GENE rhythm is embedded in the diverse reality views and knowledge realms of the Integral Worlds, bringing them all together in transformative interaction. While we see the GENE as a spiralling, iterative, ever-unfolding force, we nevertheless start most of our transformational processes in the South, thereby beginning with a conscious grounding in a given context and issue, before we then engage in its transformation.

The fourfold GENE rhythm flows as follows:

  • “Southern” Grounding: The issue at hand and the people involved are grounded in a particular nature and community, which need to be fully understood. For any living system, the southern grounds represent its “local identity” and its connection to a common source of life. Southern grounding is about “being” in as well as feeling and “experiencing” a particular life world. It is seeking to activate the relational “feeling” or “heart”-level of a human system as well as participation and engagement. This is the “formative” part of the transformation process.
  • “Eastern” Emergence: Moving to “eastern” emergence “lifts” the issue and the people involved to deeper insights into the unfolding nature of the issue. Here the people and issue engage in dialectic processes with others, thereby co-evolving to new insights. Such a process always includes a “stepping into the unknown” and “letting go” of some of the previous assumptions. It therefore requires us to consciously transcend our prior life world. New insights – often in forms or images and visions – emerge, that provide clues for the transformative process. “Eastern” emergence is hence about “becoming”. It deals with “intuiting” and “imagining” the new form that is emerging. Here the “local” perspective of the southern grounds evolves to “local-global” viewpoints. This is the “reformative” part of the transformation process. Here, we seek to activate “inspiration” or the “spirit”-level of a human system.
  • “Northern” Navigation: The move to “northern” navigation requires that the new insights (images, visions) gained are translated – in a structured and systematic manner – into new concepts, new knowledge. “Northern” navigation is hence about “knowing” and about “making explicit” what hitherto had been rather implicit. Now, the “local global” viewpoint is turned into a more general, abstract “global” viewpoint. New “norms”, related to the issue at hand, are developed. Northern “navigation” is about activating the “mind”-level, the conceptualising prowess of the human system at hand. This is the “normative” part of the transformation process.
  • “Western” Effect: Moving to “western” effect is now requiring us to put all prior three levels into integrated action. It is about pragmatically applying the new knowledge that has been developed, thereby actualising the innovation that it contains. “Western” effect is hence about “doing” and “making it happen”. Now the “global” viewpoint is turned into a “global local” standpoint, whereby what has been globally developed is locally implemented. We call it “global local”, as the local application is taking place with the larger “global” perspective in mind. This is the ultimate “transformative” level of the GENE-process, activating, metaphorically, the “body” or “hand”. However, the process does not stop here. Rather, it continuously moves on. Any transformative, active effect has to be continuously revisited, exploring whether it remains resonant with the “southern” grounds it seeks to serve. Any solution is considered a temporary one. Evolution is infinite.

By continuously engaging in the GENE rhythm, thereby addressing imbalances within the larger system on an ongoing basis, we can consciously contribute to the evolution of ourselves and of the human systems (from organisations to society, from economics to development) that we bring forth. We thereby release the “GENE-i-us” of a system: individual gene-i-us (“i”) and collective gene-i-us (“us”).


With the GENE-process as our overarching transformational rhythm, we developed two further parallel trajectories that assist each agent of transformation to successfully undertake the transformation journey and to transcend the individual contribution towards a collective embodiment of an integral innovation. The ultimate objective is to go beyond a singular and individual impulse of renewal, but rather arrive at collective and, ideally, institutionalized action to sustain this impulse on a long-term basis.

The initial trajectory with a focus on a personal contribution follows the “4Cs”:

  • Call: Discover your Call
  • Context: Understand your Self-in-Society Context
  • Co-Creation: Transform your Reality
  • Contribution: Leverage your transformation.

In parallel, the agent of transformation works towards “full CARE” – a process and acronym representing:

  • C = Community Activation
  • A = Awakening of Awareness
  • R = Research-to-Innovation
  • E = Embodied Action (E).

The figure illustrates how both integral rhythms run in parallel, working towards a singular contribution on the one hand, and a full-fledged collective and embodied action on the other hand.


CARE Process aligned with the 4C’s

Both trajectories (4Cs and CARE) mutually reinforce each other. Both follow also the GENE logic – a fact that also demonstrates that the integral fourfold rhythm is continuously, and holographically, present. Thereby each of such processes supports the full activation and healing of a living system.

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