Integral Without Borders Event in Vancouver, 2011


"So, how did you actually go about that project?" "How did you know what methodology to use when?" "How could you assess what worldview was present at that meeting?" "Can't you just write a handbook that outlines the top 10 things to do for an integral project?"

These types of questions are warranted as we are learning more comprehensive ways to respond to complexity, and yet they also to some extent miss the point of integral praxis.

Rather than taking as a starting point a particular theme or a particular area of training one has skills in, with an integral approach we try to get a keen sense of what is going on in a certain area, in that particular moment. From that contextual moment, we assess where there is a blockage or a stasis in the otherwise spontaneous and natural flow of development. Using Integral Theory, we do our best to 'hook' the situation back into its own unfolding. Which may mean the focus includes good governance, or food security, or climate change adaptation, or greater participatory models, or a keener sense of psychological stages, or a focus on self-reflection and personal growth... But, we can't know what it might include at the outset. Those details arise through the process of attuning and assessing the context, culture and consciousness of that given moment.

Point being, that it's hard to write a handbook or a list of 'to do's' for such an approach. Most often, in fact, it is the practitioner's own self that becomes his or her greatest tool for change. Termed, 'self-as-instrument', the idea is that your own self--with your education and training, your self-awareness and level of consciousness, your ability to see and mitigate for your cultural assumptions, your sensitivity to others' around you, etc.--is the very instrument you end up relying on when in the heat of the moment.

In March 2011, Integral Without Borders hosted an event in Vancouver on this very topic. Attended by approximately 25 people from various subfields in international development and social change, we spent three engaging days exploring what this means in our own practice and lives.