Notes from the Field: Natural Design Solutions for Indigenous Cultures ~ The Next Frontier in Geo-Political Strategy

Said E. Dawlabani

“The FBI will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and I would have to say that the interview with Saddam Hussein is one of the top accomplishments in our agency’s history.” ~
FBI Assistant Director Joe Persichini

Dalawi 1This statement was made to the CBS news program 60 minutes about the work of one George Piro, a young FBI agent who had Saddam in a few short months after his capture divulging the secrets of his rein of terror. From the fate of his WMD’s to the gassing of thousands of Kurds, these were the type of secrets that most sophisticated intelligence agencies around the world couldn’t get their hands on in over 30 years. How did the FBI do it? Agent Piro is a native of the Middle East who understood the importance of every cultural nuance that, more often than not, does not register in Western minds or on their radar screens. The simple act of allowing Saddam to write and recite poetry, the pretence of showing him the respect he once commanded, and the simplest of acts of bringing him home cooked Lebanese food made by Piro’s mother were among the top weapons used by the FBI to extract the deepest secrets from the man posing the greatest danger to world security.

This is a simplistic but real example of how understanding culture can contribute to the success of anything we do in the Middle East from questioning a terror suspect to achieving a significantly higher rate of success in international diplomacy. Uncovering the cultural codes that are deeply imbedded in the collective mind of the Middle East is the next frontier that must be understood by the West and encouraged to emerge in order for the region to turn away from destruction and contribute positively to sustainable development. This vision is the motivating force behind the work of the Center for Human Emergence Middle East in Palestine.

In 2005, acting on an invitation from the region, geo-political expert Dr. Don Beck, Founder of the Global Center for Human Emergence along with Elza Maalouf, The Arab-American CEO of the CHE-Mideast, made their first exploratory visit to the region. Most observers were expecting their findings to be of little or no variation from a surface assessment of the victim and the aggressor, and of us vs. them. Instead their focus turned to understanding the codes that lie beneath the surface that were preventing true peace and stability from taking hold. This platform from which they launched their ambitious framework is the brainchild of Dr. Beck who co-authored the theory of Spiral Dynamics that has been transforming the way we see culture for over 30 years. From South Africa’s transition from apartheid to recent governmental reforms in the Netherlands, Spiral Dynamics integral (SDi) and Natural Design are becoming the tools of choice for transcending political stalemates, moving from partisan bickering to “Transpartisan” solutions that carry a third win, to designing a modern nation empowered by the unique resources of its indigenous culture.

Once the predominant SDi developmental levels of a culture are identified, designing solutions that fit the needs of that culture becomes of paramount importance. This is where Western-designed solutions cease to exist and indigenous designs start to emerge. In its simplest form Natural Design asks the following question: HOW does WHO lead/manage/teach WHOM to do WHAT and WHERE.

Armed with this conceptual framework, the social scientist and the cultural translator together became a deadly weapon that pierced through the thick wall that was perpetuating the status quo. Like true scientists committed to the integrity of their research, Beck and Maalouf knew the importance of non-traditional sources of data and used it in combination with the official by-lines of government, readily available data from NGO’s and the Palestinian record of vital statistics. Through their extensive research and continuous interaction with Palestinians across all demographics, it became apparent to them that a huge asymmetry exists between Israeli and Palestinian cultures and this was the main cause of breakdown in any negotiations. While Israel was a first world culture that enforced the rule of law and promoted technological advancement, (BLUE and ORANGE), Palestine has remained—for many reasons—underdeveloped with non-functioning institutions and feudal power lords running the affairs of its people (PURPLE-RED with some Blue-Orange in education and business). The focus then shifted from the hugely perceived inter-conflict between Israel and Palestine to the intra-conflict among Palestinians to identify the internal forces that were keeping the culture and its people behind. Beck and Maalouf then embarked on a far-reaching program designed to build up the capacities within Palestine that will eventually level the asymmetry between Israel and an emerging Palestinian state. It became known as the “Build Palestine Initiative.”(BPI)

At the beginning few people understood the goals of the BPI. It wasn’t offering handouts like many NGO’s were. Instead it was insisting that Palestinians start building their own capacities and take responsibility for building institutions designed with input from their own people, instead of using Western models fashioned by think tanks anxious to claim credit for resolving a conflict of historic proportions. The biggest challenge for the CHE-Mideast was to find systemic thinkers who believed in such pioneering and evolutionary thinking: the George Piros of Palestine who needed to be fully aware of what the goals of the conceptual framework were and more importantly how to relay them to the people in a cultural context that causes them to act in their own national interest and slowly move away from the victimized dependence on others. This had to be a Palestinian effort designed by informed Palestinians who have a wider vision and a deeper understanding of the codes of developing societies. It was the CHE Mideast’s job to find and equip these individuals with the understanding of WHY such large scale thinking needed to emerge.

The Anatomy of Natural Design in Palestine

As the word about the BPI spread it attracted the attention of younger leaders all over the West Bank, especially the Third and Fourth Generation leaders of the Fatah Movement. These Fatah leaders, who spent more time with books than with guns, were searching for innovative ways to reclaim power after their party’s resounding defeat to Hamas and Hamas’ subsequent and violent takeover of Gaza. Moreover they wanted to find ways to communicate a vision of a new Fatah to the powerful Revolutionary Guard, and the President’s inner circle. The entire party had come to the inevitable realization that corruption, lack of transparency, and denying people the most basic of services were the leading causes of their demise.

Nafiz al-Rifaei and Adbul Majid Suwaiti were thought leaders among the Third Generation who quickly understood and embraced the SDi and Natural Design methodologies. The respect these men commanded among the younger Fatah generation and Palestinians from all walks of life throughout the West Bank was the assurance that Beck and Maalouf needed to proceed with this grass-roots movement. With that assurance in hand Beck and Maalouf went about to design their large-scale framework that will become the foundation for a nation-building movement.

Create a Super-Ordinate Goal.

Sensing the desperate need for a new perspective, the CHE-Mideast team proceeded to design an overarching vision that will make Palestine the “Dubai of the Levant” by painting a positive picture of what a developed Palestine would look like, i.e. transportation systems, new economic policies, job creation, healthcare systems, educational systems etc…These activities will leap frog what has happened in Gaza with a much more substantial cultural development program. Such a program will demonstrate how the approach for the emerging leadership is more powerful, positive, and obtainable than what others produce. Imbedded in the design framework was this super-ordinate goal.

Establish a Code of Ethics.

All emerging leaders are to sign a Statement of Independence declaring transparency in all their dealings and issuing annual financial statements that will help in combating corruption.

Hold a Full-Court Press on “NEW VISION”

Under the guidance of the CHE Mideast, Rifaie and Suwaiti moved quickly to open up dialogue with individuals, community leaders, and other such population groupings in every village, city, town and neighborhood throughout the West Bank. This was done after Beck and Maalouf trained hundreds of these men and women in SDi and Natural Design to become well versed in the language of cultural systems. Thus being able to assess their own value-systems as well as the groups’ value-systems they are appealing to. This helped the movement in meeting the people where they are and engage them in the NEW VISION of a successful Palestine.

Establish a Palestinian Think Tank.

A 50-member Palestinian think tank made up of academicians, business and civic leaders from all political parties across Palestine who will be well versed in the CHE methodologies is in the process of being formed. It is crucial for this group to be open to new models of development that transcend religion, ethnicity, political preference and other categories that result in stereotypes, stigmas, and polarization. This think tank will also introduce the processes for dealing with conflict, extremism, and other disruptive forces in the group all the time keeping its sights on the superordinate goal.

Develop Vital Signs Monitors (VSM) and Other Assessments Tools.

This cultural mapping approach is based on Dr. Beck’s theory and pioneered by his partners, the Arlington Institute, and in Singapore sponsored by the government of Singapore. This technology will be designed specifically for the West Bank and Gaza to track the critical indicators in the culture and will document and quantify—with Global Information Systems (GIS) technology—the patterns of development, economic well being, crime, social projects and many other vital statistics that are deemed of importance to Palestinian society. Consider an operations-type room with floor to ceiling video screens where the critical indicators are displayed and overlaid on top of each other. Such a monitor can search for the deepest trends, major value-systems conflicts in the making, serious sink-holes in development projects, and the general health and well-being of the culture. In June 2007 Beck and Maalouf met with Palestine’s Planning Minister, Prof. Sameer Abu Eisheh, and covered the use of GIS systems already being used by the Ministry and how it could be applied to support the new technology of VSM. Ideally, this mapping approach will be located at one of the Palestinian Universities.

Create a Center for Integral Strategy.

This will be a clearing house for all of the more than 3,200 NGOs currently licensed in Palestine so that Palestinian leadership can take control of these activities, rather than simply accept what is given. This will happen by developing the insight to know how to integrate, align, and synergize all of these efforts, thus creating critical mass. This is how more can be done more quickly to win over the hearts and minds of Palestinians. Otherwise, efforts are piecemeal, competitive, ad-hoc, and fragmented. Further, some of the good efforts are contrary to the needs of the Palestinian people, or to their respective levels of development.

Culmination of 3 ½ Years of Work

On February 2, 2008 over 3 years of work at the grass roots level all came together in a Nation-Building Convention at the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem. The Build Palestine Initiative had become an unstoppable movement that’s giving justified hope and pride to all who came in touch with it. In the words of one Palestinian leader “this event was an earthquake that shook the ground in Palestine. We must now deal with the crucial after shocks that will propel the Palestinian people towards true Nationhood.” Over 700 community and political leaders came from Jericho, Qalqyliah, Tulkarm, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Silfit, and Jerusalem, spending long hours at checkpoints throughout the West Bank to be part of something historic that they named “Palestine 21”. The speeches focused on addressing political, social and economic injustices brought about by the dysfunction and inefficiencies inherent in their own culture and government. All recommendations that were given took into account the framework that was laid out by Dr. Beck and Ms. Maalouf.

In his speech entitled “Ana Falistini” (I am Palestinian) that is circulating on YouTube, Dr. Beck said “For the political Road Map involving Israel and Palestine to be successful, thePalestinian Development Map must first be implemented…”

In his speech Nafiz Rifaie reminded participants “Our image around the world is ugly. They say he’s Palestinian then he must be a terrorist ready to blow himself up. We must get rid of that image. This Palestinian will participate in world emergence, dreams of freedom, and is ready to lead his society into excellence…To liberate Palestine is To build Palestine.”

Elza Maalouf emphasized the critical role that the CHE-Mideast is playing in the region saying, “ The mission of the Center for Human Emergence-Middle East is to enable transformation and emergence in our Arab reality. Our goal is to support Arab thought leaders and innovators who are activating new ways of thinking and doing, opening up the space for new possibilities for themselves, their communities, their countries and the region as a whole.”

A book containing the recommendation of participants is now being published and will be presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, President Perez, President George W. Bush, Special Envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair, and the United Nations.

Future Activities

The CHE Mideast will continue to lead this movement and give it the indigenous character that it must have. As we await new sources of funding our work is reaching a critical tipping point. Our Palestinian partners in the newly formed CHE Palestine have asked us to help train as many as 200,000 people in the SDi and Natural Design methodologies. Once funding is available the final selections to the Palestinian think tank will be made and an intensive training of its members by Dr. Beck and Ms. Maalouf will take place. In addition, we’re in the process of developing our own assessments that will form the basis on which much of our Vital Signs Monitors technology will rely.

As the political situation on the ground changes day by day, we remain eternally optimistic about a technology that uncovers in every human the undeniable birthright of self-reliance.

Spiral Dynamics integral concerns itselfwith eight identified stages of social development. Here’s a brief overview:

The Eight Stages of Social Development:

Spiral Dynamics Integral, or SDi for short, concerns itself with the deep complexity codes that shape our many worlds. The model describes and makes sense of the enormous complexity of human existence, and then shows how to craft elegant, systemic solutions that meet people and address situations where they are. SDi identified eight levels of social development and the colors associated with these stages for the ease of use:

Level 1- Beige: Survival Sense, Staying Alive. Lives in bands and clans. Biological impulses and memories.

Level 2- Purple: Tribal Order. Safety and Security-Driven. The customary ways of the ancestors are interpreted by elders and chieftains so as to define specific roles and kinship relations.

Level 3- Red: Power-Driven. Exploitative Empire. Leaders have the most power because they are stronger and tougher.

Level 4- Blue: Authoritarian Structure. Order-Driven. Seniority and right position in the formal structure determines who leads whom.

Level 5- Orange: Strategic Enterprise. Achievement-Driven. Those who can demonstrate success set the standard to beat and give out incentives for improvement to the winners.

Level 6- Green: Social Network. People-Driven. Egalitarian. All must share equally in leadership and building consensus since no individual is better than other.

Level 7- Yellow: Systemic Flow. Process-Oriented. The work to be done leads the most competent person(s) to guide tasks and functions through use of appropriate intelligences. There is little fear and no status, power, image or emotional traps.

Level 8- Turquoise: Holistic. Everything Connects. Global reach. Lives responsible to sustain all life. Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit.

Said E. Dawlabani is Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Human Emergence Middle East. A real estate developer turned social entrepreneur. He has a prominent 25-year career in the brokerage, development and investment counseling sectors of the real estate industry in Boston, Scottsdale, and San Diego. In recent years he’s been applying his vision to build sustainable capacities in people as well as sustainable habitats. He studied the Integral approach to solving world problems for years and has been an advocate of Dr. Don Beck’s work world wide and in the Middle East, specifically, as he sees his theoretical framework as the only comprehensive approach that will bring lasting peace and prosperity to the region. To reach Mr. Dawlabani or for additional information about the CHE-Mideast’s work go to