Community Strengths and What Makes Us Human, With Jean-Louis Lamboray – PS015

My guest, Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray, is Co-founder of Constellation, a non-profit global community development organization. Jean-Louis’ passion is to stimulate local responses where people realize their strengths, their collective capacities and begin to take action toward their dreams. It’s a strength-based, positive approach with the emphasis on real experiences, practice, and people doing it for themselves.

Episode Overview – Community Strengths and What Makes us Human

Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray in episode 15, "What Makes Us Himan"Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray co-founded a global organization, called Constellation 10 years ago.  It’s a Belgian NGO working around the world to stimulate, empower and connect communities.

Since co-founding Constellation, Jean-Louis has co-created a strengths-based approach to community development called Community Life Competence. The organization is a non-hierarchical network of people and organizations delivering strength-based approaches where learning emerges from within the community and is transferred to others outside.  (Please note, I use the term “community” throughout,  yet this work applies equally to all organizations).

Strength-based Community Development

What Constellation does best is to show that when a community discovers its strengths, it takes ownership, it starts to act and mysterious things happen.  In this episode, I invite Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray to comment on his own beautiful words inserted below. If you want to be inspired, and if you like good stories, you will absolutely enjoy my interview with Jean-Louis.

For some mysterious reason, I have always felt that at their core, people were good, and that they could achieve a lot if they were engulfed with trust. I keep being amazed by the power of a positive outlook on people and situations. That power not only transforms the situation, it has transformed me.

Program Failure Births a Positive Epidemic

Jean-Louis starts with a story when, as a medical doctor, he was working at the World Bank and together with UNAIDS, he co-founded a program to deal with the AIDs epidemic in a region in Thailand.  He considers the failure of that project – after 5 years of success at arresting the epidemic through local responses, there were no changes in the program’s policy at the institutional level to deal with epidemics at the local level – provoked him to change his own actions.

What actually happened is that he learnt so much from the communities who were able to deal with adversity successfully that he eventually founded Constellation in 2004.  Since then, he has worked on most continents co-creating with communities the process that has become the Community Competence Cycle.  The cycle is SALT, and it stands for:

Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn,Transfer

The cycle starts when Constellation facilitators  visit with a community.  They visit to learn through stimulating conversations with the community.  They truly appreciate what is going on.  Dr. Lombray stresses appreciate in the SALT cycle is not an analytical process.  It is not an audit of assets.  Appreciate is a behavior where they stop and let the mind stand still, so they truly notice what is going on in the present moment. Learning emerges from the conversations and the actions that are actually making a difference.  The community members learn themselves into resourceful actions. The transfer occurs when people talk to each other and they pass on their insights and learnings to their neighboring communities and it multiplies over and over.

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How to Start a Positive Epidemic

With this appreciative disposition, we create neither sinners nor saints. We appreciate that people are good at the core.  We observe their strengths and their competencies.

By looking for what’s working in communities, these three things happen at minimum:

  1. the way we ask ourselves questions and reflect together enables us to learn to recognize our own strengths, allowing us to continue doing what works
  2. by tapping into our own resources to collectively address community concerns, we learn what more is possible
  3. we are transformed by those conversations and learnings which then multiply over and over. An excellent indicator of success is the transfer.  It comes after the community realizes that we can do it by ourselves.

Thereby, a positive epidemic is unleashed. The process is generic. Every group has within the essential resources to carry out action towards a dream.

What Makes Us Human

Dr. Lamboray’s book, What Makes Us Human is available in French and Spanish and English.    It’s a book that tells the story of Constellation and the SALT cycle.  It verifies that, as humans co-existing on this plant we are all in this together.  The most appropriate metaphor for organizational life comes from nature, not from machines.  Our organizations are evolving.  That’s a beautiful thing.

What makes us human is our connection with others, with nature, with our innate gifts; and, as humans, our aspirations are similar the world over: we want to be free to have dreams; we want to find ways to work together, to be truly happy at work, and most of us are in service of a higher purpose.

This is a longish podcast.  If you’re interested in life-centric change, community engagement, positivity, empowerment, how to unlearn and move out of the cage of rigid constructs, you will truly enjoy listening to Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Community Life Competence

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

What Makes Us Human

What Makes us Human - in French

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

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