Notes from the Field: Human Emergence Confab The Netherlands – 28-30 September 2007

Helen Titchen Beeth

Helen Tichen BeethHosted by the Dutch chapter of the Center for Human Emergence (CHE), organised by Peter Merry, Anita Floris and Anne-Marie Voorhoeve, with participants from the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, Israel, the UK, USA, and Switzerland. We were sorry that our spiritual father, Don Beck, was prevented from attending by a vicious bout of flu. But we did him proud by going ahead without him, creating a buzzing and blooming learning environment that never wavered in intensity.

The Dutch Human Emergence family knows more than most about collective, Integral Leadership. They are quite a small core team of individuals working together in different combinations inside different teams and communities, bringing spiritual depth and integral awareness into different spheres of public and civic life (for more details, see their website:

This three-day event was a balance between plenary sessions and self-organising open-space breakout groups, with plenty of space in between for networking and intense one-on-one bonding and collaboration.

The plenary sessions really showed how Spiral Dynamics and integral practice are gaining ground in mainstream Dutch and European society, with speakers and facilitators from IBM, the Dutch Police Academy, the European Commission, and the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. On the first evening we had an interactive world café to explore the meaning of European citizenship. Elza Maalouf showed up by Skype to share what’s cooking in Palestine – with Neri Bar-On, present with us in Holland, to fill us in on the Israeli perspective. All topped off by a Saturday-night bop-till-you-drop with a difference: an eight-zone experiential journey around the quadrants guided by an integral dance master.

The parallel sessions were so mouth-watering that I yearned to split myself three or four ways so I could attend them all. Participants stepped up to ask for thinking partners to help them crack the challenges at their learning edge:

In case it’s not clear what these have to do with leadership, let’s take a closer look at the meshworking project with Millenium Development Goal 5. The project is part of the Dutch government’s drive to mobilise its country’s contribution to the Millenium Development Goals. In this instance, it is supporting a groundbreaking approach to public/private partnership which we can hope will be a prototype for other such complex projects throughout the world in future. The CHE itself has the leadership role here, initiating and supporting the project organisation in the form of a “meshwork” of the 20 participating organisations (spanning the spectrum of the maternal health sector). Where a network exists to enhance its individual members, what is primary then becomes the collective purpose. Creating an effective meshwork involves aligning the parts to their collective purpose. The meshwork can be said to be the “organising form of life force in its turquoise manifestation” (to quote Peter Merry).

The CHE team is facilitating the contribution of each participating organisation from an evolutionary perspective. So far, the work has been to lead the participants step by step through Otto Scharmer’s U process to surface the collective purpose:

This kind of deep collective inquiry is already working its developmental magic on the consciousness of the participants, helping them to break free from their individual perspective and move towards an overarching set of principles from which can be born initiatives that are resilient, interconnected and vitalising.

The pattern that emerged for me throughout the Confab was that each of these real and inspiring case studies was born from an act of individual vision and leadership. Men and women coming up against the edge of meaning in their lives and stepping out into the emergent void to become someone unknown in their known—and often threatening and hostile—environment. Not all of them are ‘leaders’ in the traditional sense of ‘CEOs’ and top managers. But each one has dared to embody and enact the new world they envision, with the courage to face the incomprehension and fear of their communities and provide a vision and a compelling experience for those they seek to persuade to step with them into the unknown.

It’s always a thrill to congregate with a group of peer spirits. Coming together with some of the shakers and movers at the leading edge of human emergence in one of the world’s most advanced democracies—as well as a number of players on the global stage—was nothing short of breathtaking. I came away intensely stimulated and exhausted, but above all open-hearted and full of hope.

Helen Tichen Beeth is a professional linguist, mother and full-time evolutionary agent, consciously living and working in Brussels, Belgium.