In this article you will find the integral story of the Quality Centre Refugee Women. The Quality centre supports refugee women to discover and develop their talents in Dutch society. The preparation of this initiative started 5 years ago and in November 2007 we got financed by the Orange Foundation for a period of three years. It is really a challenge to tell the story from an observer’s perspective and to draw a whole picture (LR). I am one of the founding mothers and the leading person of the initiative. Then I became the manager half paid and half working as a volunteer during three years. At this moment in time we’re in a period of transition and I am still involved as volunteer manager. So you can imagine that it is rather difficult to tell the story from an outsider’s view. But of course there will be parts with my own experiences and feelings (UR and UL) and parts with LL stuff. I try to get the story in the four quadrants…..
When we speak about refugee women we mean women who already have a license to stay or even have Dutch nationality. Some are living in the Netherlands for more than 20 years. In fact we mean: women with a background as refugee. This background is influencing the life of the women no matter how integrated they are. The fact that most of them are non native Dutch speakers means that it is difficult to get a job where writing skills are important. Employers often are not aware of their prejudices and not speaking smoothly is seen by them like being stupid. Many refugee women had a good education or a good job before their departure. This expertise mostly is not valued in this new country. A medical specialist or bookkeeper from other countries has to start anew with her study. Women wearing a kerchief are treated with discrimination in many places. The atmosphere in the Netherlands has changed in a rather negative attitude towards people with another skin color or a Muslim background.
During her five years of existence and especially in the 3,5 years that is was possible to work with paid professionals , QC built up an active intercultural network of more than 100 active women. QC reached the following results (data till December 31th 2010):
|number of pairs
De coach: “De basis van ons contact is vertrouwen. Ik heb nu een goede balans gevonden tussen coachen en vriendschap. Ik heb veel geleerd over de Irakese cultuur en de verschillen met de Nederlandse cultuur. Het is leuk om haast ongemerkt een bijdrage te leveren aan de stappen die A. in haar leven zet. De deelneemster: “Ik voel het als een soort vriendschap. Mijn coach is helemaal geaccepteerd binnen mijn familie. We hebben bij elkaar gegeten, zijn naar de bieb geweest, hebben musea bezocht en ik ben heel erg ondersteund in mijn opleiding. Het QC is een van de beste stappen geweest die ik had kunnen zetten.”
QC had not been designed as an integral project, but became one. I met Don Beck in 2005 and was fascinated by his story and theories. So gradually when studying Spiral Dynamics and learning more about the Integral Model of Ken Wilber, I start thinking about applying integral theory to the Quality Centre. First I used it as a kind of study object and asked some friends to join in translating the theory to QC. From there we tried to implement (parts of ) the theory in policy making and daily performance. This article tells the journey of this quest.
2. Creating the Company
QC is based on friendship and relationship. The two founding mothers Leida en Naima got to know each other during a training for refugee women and became friends. They visited each other, talked a lot and Leida supported Naima in realizing her dream to restart her higher education and get a paid job. One day Naima said: “This is what refugee women really need, this kind of friendship and support based on what they themselves want to reach in work and life”. And so the two women decided to create a place to start with this work. The Foundation Quality Centre was set up in January 6th 2006. Core business was and is the matching of pairs: a refugee women is connected with another woman who knows the way in Dutch society. They work together at least for half a year but our goal is that they stay in contact after this period. Main reason for that is that refugee women lost most of their social networks and QC want to provide for more lasting and sustainable relationships.
The design of the project was based on standard social project management theory, but below the surface different principles were active shaping the real content and method of QC. At that moment some principles were evident, but others were more hidden. Looking back I can see the following principles :
• The start and functioning of QC is grounded in the need of refugee women themselves.
This is a leading principle in all we are doing. When women get a social allowance, they only get permission for a short term education (less than one year) and the pressure to take any kind of work is high no matter if it is fitting or not. QC supports the women in following their own chosen path. Sevil , a former lawyer in Turkey, had been put in prison for more than 9 years and was tortured, only because she defended a Kurdish person. She was freed with the help of Amnesty International and came to the Netherlands. Although her health was weak, the only thing she really wanted, was studying Dutch law to be able to also use her expertise in this country. First she studied secretly at a school for higher education. But then she had to go to work in a factory. She fought as a lion for her own rights and now she is nearly graduated at University as one of the quickest students of her year. We are very proud of her!
• The 50% rule.
In order to be able to apply this first principle it is very important that the experiences, views and insights of the refugee women are determining the policy of QC. Therefore QC strives to have a majority of refugee women in her board, paid staff and the volunteers. The consequence of this principle is that it is necessary to take time to listen to each other and to learn in intercultural communication. Also it is rather easy to find ‘white people’ who are capable to do specific jobs that are quite new for the refugee women. So educating, guidance, learning and asking questions are very crucial for our organization: it is a ‘learning organization’ by excellence for all involved people.
• Be friends and be equal.
Equivalence is the base of our cooperation and the functioning of the pairs. The women might learn a lot from each other. Leading is the coach topic of the refugee woman. QC isn’t a social welfare organization and doesn’t provide for professional care. QC is oriented on development. So refugee women who fit in our organization, have already sorted out many issues in their (practical) life. They have a place to live, an income, school for the kids or coped with severe trauma’s. They reached a certain state of wanting to develop themselves , in education, broadening their network or looking for a fitting (volunteer) work place. For the volunteer coaches this ambition of the refugee women is attracting. For them the challenge is to be patient following the tempo of the other and learn to communicate with people with other backgrounds and value systems .
• Be autonomous and self-dependent .
When looking for subsidies, always the question is asked: why are you doing this alone? They prefer to do business with bigger companies. QC decided not to become a part of a bigger organization (like a welfare or general refugee organization) because the risk of being deleted as a project in less prosperous times is rather high. Especially the refugee women were strongly convicted that autonomy was very important. And they were right!!!
• Building on existing relations.
Of course cooperation with colleague organizations and other partners is very important. In the first period of looking for finances we formed an Advisory Board for QC consisting of the most relevant organizations for cooperation. Our personal and business networks were used to find people who felt concerned and interested in our concept. Also in finding volunteer coaches and refugee women to become involved in QC especially personal contacts and networks were used. We have flyers, a website, we use social media, but personal relationships stay the most important source for building our QC company. In the starting period the school for higher education De Horst was an important supplier of students and teachers who got involved in QC. Later on the Center for Human Emergence (CHE-NL) became an important partner for support.
From the very beginning our attitude was: let’s see what is happening and possible and let’s adjust our route when needed. The adage was: just start, not waiting for money, because we believe in what we are doing. The first Board did all the work together with Leida who took the lead. During two years stagiaires Social Work did the matching of the first pairs. QC became creative in organizing without money. But of course only a limited amount of work could be done. So we were glad that in November 2007 QC had enough money to hire an office and paid personnel.
The Story of the Name
Why ‘quality centre’? Biking home on a Sunday afternoon in around 2004 from a warm meeting with different refugee women and having talked with the community worker about the situation of these women, a thought popped up: these women need a ‘quality centre’ to get information about new possibilities and to get the support they need. Once a month a meeting is not enough. In the preparations of the Foundation I came back to this name. I received it as a present from the universe.
Naima and I started this initiative together. Alas she moved to London to find a better future for her children and to reunite with her two sisters. With the group of people who was formed we continued the work. Sometimes I got depressive about the progress: it was very difficult to get money and I missed Naima. Happily there was a lot of support from the group and we succeeded!! My first idea was to hire a project manager as soon as we got financed, but when the time was there I stayed in the role I already had. It was in that time that I got more and more familiar with the Integral Model and was looking for applying it in the field of housing. Then during a CHE Confab I realized: why not fully dedicate myself to applying Integral to the Quality centre…
3. Applying the Integral Model to QC
The integral Model of Ken Wilber consists of the following elements:
- The 4 Quadrants
- Personal developmental lines: qualities and talents
- Stadia : value systems (Spiral Dynamics)
- Types: gender, ethnicity, intercultural
- States of awareness: fine tuning
In the period 2007-2008 I cooperated with different people to get more understanding about the implications of applying the integral Model in QC. This is a continuing process. I think we made a start with it, much more is to be discovered and surely much more can be implemented in a more systematic way. But I like to share our learnings so far.
3.1 The Four Quadrants
Each phenomenon has an individual and collective side just as an inner and an outer side. Together they form a matrix. Information about individuals can be put in quadrants I (the inner experience) and II (external characteristics and behavior). Information about structures, systems, policy and institutions can be found in quadrant IV. Quadrant III is meant for the ways groups are functioning and relate to society.
Wilber says: “Integral change will happen when all four quadrants will be seen and managed at the same time.” Therefore QC is focussing on all four quadrants in her analysis of the situation of refugee women and in the orientation for making policy for improvement. Analysis and Approach in all 4 quadrants:
|Refugee women: I- explore and develop qualities and talents- develop assertivity- develop self confidence and self-image
– develop intercultural awareness
– learning to think more integrally
– insight in the life conditions of refugees and the attitude of Dutch society
|Refugee women: II- road to education/study and (volunteer) work- developing capacities- participating in activities and projects- improving Dutch language- learning more direct communication- good CV
– develop intercultural competencies
– knowledge about social map
|Refugee women: III- broadening intercultural social networks- matching pairsSociety:– influencing negative stereotypes by showing talents of refugee women and informing the media
|Institutions: IV- cooperation/ meshworking- influencing local policySociety:– mentioning the obstructions for refugee women and the missed opportunities for society and looking for new solutions
At the start QC was focused mainly on the individual and social part: quadrants I, II and partly III (only the interaction inside QC). By applying the four quadrants the awareness about the importance of more attention for the structural aspects and of becoming more visible grew. The first impulse for action came from the “Quality Crew” (a group of coaches and refugee women) and led to the organisation of the Great Refugee Women Quality Show, the Quality Bus, involvement in policy decisions about ‘studying with social allowance’ and the organisation of the Utrecht Refugee Women Days in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The processes in the four quadrants are reinforcing each other. Refugee women involved in an active role in QC are feeling proud about the visible results in the outside World. This also influences their personal development: “that we did it as a group of women!”. Our contacts with officials effect their stereotyping resulting in a more positive attitude towards refugee women. Becoming more visible also attracts new coaches and refugee women. Attention for and development of all four quadrants results in positive accumulation of the different activities.
Sometimes we also used the four quadrants as a way of observing and clearing difficult conversations. People tend to talk from one of the four quadrants  and if you are able to address this in a difficult meeting, many discomfort and misunderstanding is disappearing like snow under the sun.
3.2 Personal Developmental Lines: Qualities and Talents
QC supports refugee women and volunteers to discover, develop and use their qualities or in other words the ‘personal developmental lines’ that are placed in quadrant I. At the start of QC attention for development of qualities was concentrated within the pairs. Also workshops, trainings and network meetings were organised.
Gradually as already described the focus changed to making the talents more visible to the outer world. In 2010 a mixed group of women tried to start a social enterprise called ‘Quality2Connect’. We organised a great presentation for a manager of a big company, but alas – at least at that moment in time – it appeared too difficult to find a unique common product to build on the enterprise.
3.3 Stadia: value systems
The third element of the Wilber model are the stadia. All personal lines can be developed from a low till a high level. Although some lines might be rather independent from others (e.g. an artistic line), mostly the development of lines is connected to each other. The cognitive line – well known from the Piaget research – forms a base for nearly all development. It is no guarantee but it is an important condition for individual growth. The gravity of the most important developmental lines often lies at an specific level. This stadium is very influential and crucial for persons. The different stadia that Ken Wilber discerned, are about the same as the levels of Spiral Dynamics that is concentrated on the development of value systems. Value systems or perspectives on the world are very important motivators in the behaviour of people.
QC makes use of the value systems in different ways:
- analyzing the situation and development of refugee women
- understanding communication frictions e.g. between refugee women and coaches or between the women and institutions; to stimulate this QC organizes 1 or 2 times a year a workshop Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi) for these two target groups; incidentally SD is used in the coaching of the pairs
- analyzing the internal functioning of QC (a lot of Green and Purple, partly inspired by Yellow, weak Blue and Orange and little Red); based on this analysis Blue structures and procedures and a more Orange approach (e.g. in preparing an own business)had been developed.
Example: Analyzing the Situation and Development of Refugee Women:
Many refugee women have been born in middle class families, are rather high-educated and often had a good job. They have an entrepreneurial attitude and a broad view on life. They took a lot of risks and had many bad experiences, often violent. Their endurance, power and ambition are high (In general Orange vMeme).
The flight was extremely difficult (regression to survival Beige) as is the period in the new country waiting till the decision to stay or to leave has been made, sometimes more than 7 years. After having got the license to stay life can start again. First in building up a more safe place to live in connection with others (Purple). Mostly their old social networks are broken (family, friends, colleagues) and they have to get to know new people they can trust. QC is supplying them with this kind of support to build a Purple ground. From there the women can become again more assertive and entrepreneurial (development of Red in the new society) and learn the strict rules, systems, structures and procedures of Dutch society (Blue). Only then there is created space to follow their ambitions and to develop their own new path in Holland (Orange).
Don Beck states that realising effects only is possible when:
- attuning to the (relevant) vMemes
- influencing life conditions of people in a way that they themselves take the next possible step in their development
One of our goals is to develop a powerful core of women from the different groups within QC that is able to operate from the Yellow vMeme.
Types is the fourth element of the Wilber model. Developmental stadia are universal, but not an explanation for all that is happening. There are many other differences between people influencing their life conditions, value profile and lifestyle. Partly these are caused by type characteristics. The Enneagram is a one of the ways you can describe and discern different types. The Myers Brigg test is another one. Other differences are influenced by gender and ethnic or cultural background.
QC made the conscious choice only to work with and for women. A female project has a special atmosphere and makes the emergence of intercultural networks more easy. A male project would look quite different: more sporting, more status, less talking. More and more the active role of the refugee women in QC is emerging. It is interesting that this seems to be part of a global movement:
Paula Fellingham, founder and CEO of the Women Information Network, said in June in Amsterdam: “In this, the dawn of the twenty-first century, there is an exciting global awakening and rising of women worldwide that is more fast-paced and far-reaching than anything the world has ever known. More women today are experiencing a transformation of consciousness and they’re finding new ways to use their inherent nurturing and creative gifts to provide solutions for the challenges we’re all experiencing in the world today. “
QC also is an intercultural organization with women of all backgrounds from all over the World. This diversity colours the interaction and requires continuing attention. Especially the communication between refugee women and native Dutch women can be difficult depending on their awareness of the differences and their ease and intercultural capacity to handle these differences. In such an international environment it is important to discern when misunderstanding is caused more by cultural or ethnic differences and when more by acting from different value systems.
3.5 States of consciousness
The fifth element in the integral Wilber model concerns the influence of different states of consciousness. People can sleep, dream or be awake. People can be more or less aware of the different frequencies and levels of energy in themselves, in others and in the environment.
For QC we translated the states into:
- attuning oneself to your inner being and to others around you (e.g. by using a ‘check-in’
- sensibility for atmosphere and energy
- the principle of ‘sensing and acting’. This means that we observe what is happening in ourselves and in the (wide) environment ‘reading’ the signals, needs, chances, possibilities, that what is emerging; give form to what is emerging ; evaluate and observe anew. This is a neverending circulating process.
4. Organisational Aspects
QC have been grown naturally starting with a group of enthusiastic and involved people. Few attention was given to systems and structures. Of course QC had a Board, an Advisory Group and a Team. The way of cooperation was rather informal and had been dominated by the volunteer manager. In 2008 in the two yearly policy meetings where the different parts of the organisation gathered , the issue of structure was brought in by different people and in 2009 QC decided to enhance its structure by ‘holacracy’.
Holacracy is based on ‘chaordic design’, an organizing principle introduced in postmodern organizations by Dee Hock. Chaordic design leads to a self-organizing, self governing, adaptive, nonlinear, complex system, the behaviour of which harmoniously blends characteristics of both chaos and order. Purpose and Principles are formulated by a core group and are leading for the actions of the individuals in the organisation, also attracting new people who resonate with these.
The Quality Centre Refugee Women is a sparkling intercultural organisation that supports refugee women to discover, develop and use their qualities in and on behalf of Dutch society, by creating sustainable social networks.
- 50% refugee women in active roles
- Looking to qualities
- Looking to possibilities
- The power of diversity
The holacratic way of working depends on consent instead of consensus and representative decision making in a hierarchical structure. The holacratic organisation is considered to be a living and evolving entity where effectiveness for the system as a whole (communion) is leading as is resilience of the particles (autonomy). Holacracy is a practice with tools for effective governance, dynamic steering and an agile organisation.
Important elements for QC were:
- the structure of the organisation consists of ‘circles’ each with a specific goal and connected with each other, e.g. the Board and the Team
- each active person in the organisation has one or more ‘roles’ with specific responsibilities
- a circle has three kinds of meetings:
- the weekly Operational meeting in which the most important question is: what is the next step?
- Role meetings when needed , to formulate roles and policies following a strict procedure
- Strategic meetings once a year to evaluate and formulate new goals, approaches and ways to organise
QC chose for this organisation principle and design to be flexible and prepared for unexpected developments being aware of the saying of Niels Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”.
De lead-link: “Ik was gewend om veel toelichting te geven bij bepaalde agendapunten en ook mijn eigen ideeën al snel te ventileren. Nu gaf degene die een agendapunt in bracht, zelf de toelichting en ik vroeg haar ook om een mogelijke oplossing. Dat kwam meestal sterk in de buurt wat ik zelf bedacht had. En soms was het erg verrassend anders. Het team werd veel gelijkwaardiger en mijn rol minder centraal!”
4.2 QC Development Accellerating…
The years 2009 and 2010 were fruitful ones:
- Staff was expanded with office management and communications skills
- More financial sources were found
- A new house style was developed
- The website had been renewed, QC got a mash-up and started to use social media
- The holacracy was implemented
- The team was very committed tot their work and cooperated in an intense way
- The method of matching and coaching had been refined and evaluated
- Research about the effectiveness of the QC method had been done by the University of Utrecht; the results were presented to the mayor of Utrecht and our main sponsor
- Purpose, principles and mission were formulated by a mixed group of about 15 women.
- Many different internal and external activities were organised
- The preparations of a social business called Quality2 Connect had been made with strong committment of a group of about 10 women.
- A new experiment Cooking2 Connect started succesfully offering food and information about refugee countries to interested paying guests
And most important: many refugee women were supported and could develop themselves.
5. Chaos and Crisis
In the summer of 2010 signals of an upcoming crisis became visible:
- The policies of the new right wing Central government caused a stop in subsidies by local government in the realm of social and intercultural supportive activities while QC had expected and verbily was promised a more intensive support
- As a solution QC chose to write different project proposals to sponsors to find money to continue the basic work of coaching and networking, but financers were changing their policies and to get basic finance for an organisation became rather difficult. Only to get some money for sub projects appeared possible
- The Boardmembers of QC changed and more questions were raised by new members about accountability, track records and new strategies
- Quality2Connect failed in finding a promising product and to get money to start a social business
Gradually it became clear that it was quite unsure if there would be any money at January 1th 2011….
And QC found herself more and more in the Chaos ….. forced to let go the Old, trying to make space for and let come the New.
In this Chaos period many different things happened like:
- In the last 2 months of 2010 the organisation and especially the Team said goodbye to the QC as it was till that moment, in an impressive way.
- In 2011 the QC work is continued by a team of about 20 volunteers, many of them refugee women. The organisation is based on role descriptions including responsibilities.
- QC got some money from local government and private donateurs enough to pay the basic organisational costs till the end of 2011.
- Many tensions around different visions about organising were arising e.g. about the role of the Board, Planning and Control , Strategic planning and Management tools, first culminating in a conflict about a Grundtvig subsidy for an exchange project with refugee women from four different countries . QC board was not clearly involved in the decision making process (what was not right). But underneath a conflict was smouldering between the more traditional approach of ‘planning and control’ and the more chaordic approach of ‘flexibilty and following the energy of the system’.
- The tension between being lead by fear or by trust became bigger and bigger culminating in a conflict in May between especially one Board Members and the volunteer manager .
- In May QC got some money for the project coaching of refugee girls resulting in a timely job for one of the refugee women. In July QC got the subsidy for the exchange project.
- In June QC got an Award from the Global Women Summit and a Nomination for the Volunteer Award ont the issue of Connection.
First it is interesting to look to the conflict between the Board member and the volunteer manager from an integral perspective:
|Focused on the right quadrants, looking for measurable targets
|Focused on the left quadrants, looking to development, process and relations (although orienting most from UR and LR)
|High in cognitive and moral lines
|High in emotional, interpersonal and spritual lines
|Blue/Orange perspective; rejection on Green; in conflict regression to Red (rage)
|Yellow/Green perspective; rejection on Blue; in conflict using Red from Yellow perspective (power)
|Enneagram 8Gender: Static Masculine
|Enneagram 6Gender: Dynamic Feminine
|Subtle realm: attuning/sensing and acting
In fact this was not a personal conflict but a struggle between different levels, perspectives, views and approaches. To be able to see it like this from a multisided integral perspective is very supportive and powerful. The conflict had been in fact very useful to see the missing pieces in QC as to management and track records. The volunteer manager is more an inspiring leader in pioneering organisations than a strong managing person and she admitted that a lot can be improved. But looking to the conflict and the chaos from a higher and integral perspective succeeded in fighting the right point.
The outcome is rather uncertain but in the ‘not knowing’ new things are arising like:
- Renewed attention for developing qualities, now in the form of becoming a volunteer in QC
- Chaordic design and Holacracy being a new possibility of organising volunteers or a mixed organisation of professionals and volunteers
- Starting with a new interim Board that supports the view of the volunteer manager
- Forming a Thinktank to develop a new strategy, new ways for financial base, new ways for organising, new ways for management and new profile for a new Board in november.
- The exchange project will be an attractor for people, activities, publicity, new inspiratyions, new and renewed contacts and international connections as well a possibility for cooperation with the Free University of Amsterdam
- The Awards can be used for arising more publicity
- The network activities will be changed into salons with women speakers inviting and attracting more different women
- Cooking2Connect will get a more professional start
Website Global Women Summit: http://globalwomenssummits.com/amsterdam-netherlands
I believe women will take the lead in really initiate CHANGE!” Leida comes from a background of sociology and started her career as a community worker in urban renewal areas. She works in a very multicultural environment. This is where her passion started: She loved working with people from all different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Leida sees diversity as an asset to the society, to companies and communities. By becoming aware of the fact that what we see as natural might be very unnatural to others, we can only grow as a community and a person…..
Leida still has a lot of dreams she really wants to realize. The group of refugee women will only grow in the future and there is a lot of work to be done. As many of these organizations they are struggling with financial issues. Government grants have been stopped so they have to find new sources of income…….
Right now Leida would like to interest a few businesses to support her basis. She needs 100.000 euro a year to have an office and some professional support. The rest of the activities are done by volunteers or find specific funding. If 20 businesses are open for cooperation and will pay 5000 euro a year during 3 years, they can move forward. In return Quality Centre might offer e.g. information sessions about the situation of refugee women, catering from world kitchen (the Cooking2connect project) or access to qualified workers. More info: www.qcnetwerk.nl
 See e.g.
 Laura Divine: Looking AT and looking AS the client: the quadrants as a type structure lens, Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, spring 2009, p. 21 – 40
 See e.g. Don Beck and Chris Cowan: Spiral Dynamics”,
About the Author
Alain Volz M.Sc.(1969) has studied Business Administration and Organisational Psychology. He started his career with Royal Dutch Ahold and has worked with IPMMC and TC&O. For the last 10 years Alain has been working with Twynstra Gudde Consultants and Managers as senior consultant Human Talent & Change Management. He is the founder / Synnervator, ATMA – Authenticity Talent & Management Advice.
Currently Alain is co-director of the Center for Human Emergence in the Netherlands and founder of the School of Synnervation. CHE-NL is a network organization with approximately 350 volunteers who are organized in constellations. Alain supports the constellations with organising according to holacratic principles and is responsible for the alignment with CHE purpose and principles. The school of Synnervation wants to become a leading institute in research, development and education of human behavior and integral resilience. Its objective is to study tools and best practices that contribute to health life conditions and share them to support a sustainable planetary growth. CHE-NL is one of the practices to be studied and the school offers several leadership development programs. Alainvolz@atma.nu or Alain@humanemergence.nl