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First step into ‘relational system transformation’

by Din van Helden & Michelle Holliday

In bringing more life-alignment to the work of Organizational Development, it is relatively easy to engage with organizations that are already on a clear path to positive impact. But what about the systems where there is an almost overwhelming amount of ground still to cover – sectors that are highly impacted by extraction and pollution, for example?

On a recent call to launch several Action Inquiry circles, it was with this question in mind – and heart – that Din van Helden proposed a circle to engage with the system of the largest emitter of planet-heating carbon dioxide in the Netherlands.

In particular, Din shared her interest in “a more relational disposition” both (1) to supporting life-aligned system change, and (2) to collaborative knowledge creation and sharing – leaning into the realm of possibility in a quest to become wiser together.

In response, there was excitement to participate in this action inquiry, with a flurry of ideas emerging immediately:

  • What if we can use ‘engaging with this ecosystem’ as a focal point to bring together the different lenses we are working with as life-aligned practitioners?

  • For example, what if this could help us compile a playbook of regenerative practices?

  • And what if we could develop an approach to hospicing and supporting declining systems to release their nutrients and energy to be in service to the new? Could this be a way to think about healing toxic relationships and regenerating Nature and communities?

Katherine Long stepped forward to propose that we begin by sensing the field. “Every story has many different sides,” she reminded us. By engaging with this system, she explained that we would be touching into:

  • “The particular ecosystem dynamics and especially neighboring villages, protests, lawsuits, environmental damage;

  • The pain of marginalized voices of Nature and people – both are seen as dispensable;

  • A universal pattern of exploitation that is as old as time;

  • A system from which we have all benefited, and which brings many ‘gifts’ that we rely on in our lives each day, but also many challenges;

  • And even the miracle of the natural cycling of Earth’s substances, from the iron ore and coal in the ground to the haemoglobin in our blood, ferritin in our organs, carbon chains that make up our bodies.”

To prepare to engage in relationship with such a multi-storied system, Katherine suggested beginning with a ceremony to:

  • "Cleanse our own energy first, doing our collective inner work in response to this ecosystem;

  • Honour the ancientness of this system with all the benefits and challenges that it has brought, the gift of Earth’s minerals and how they have shaped our lives;

  • Seek forgiveness and guidance from Nature;

  • Align our intentions to the highest and greatest good of all."

We will soon be inviting some regional representatives from that project ecosystem to join us in such a ceremony. If it continues, there will be other opportunities for ceremony and witnesses going forward.

In these ways, the intention is to help transform the fundamental nature of the relationship to one another, to the planet, to the world and to life itself through the vehicle of deep change.

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