I was born in the sixties in Amsterdam. My parents were on the periphery of the hippy movement; I remember the occasional pot smoking sit-ins in our living room and long-haired friends sleeping over on our sofa while I was getting ready for school. But the new age thinking showed mostly in the type of schools I went to. My secondary school was founded by an educational reformist in the 1920’s, Kees Boeke, who wanted children to grow up to ‘be who they are’. The school was called ‘The workshop’, students ‘workers’ and teachers ‘co-workers’. 6-8 hours a week were dedicated to ‘self-expression’ in which we, the workers, could decide how to spend our time; gardening, taking care of animals, cooking, working with textiles, doing arts and all imaginable crafts, making music or creating and acting in performances. And then there were lots of other instances where we could contribute our ideas and decide on the proceedings of the school.
This approach gave us such a sense of dignity and self-worth, that our intrinsic motivation to learn remained intact (and never left me).
Kees Boeke was the first to coin this way of working as ‘sociocracy’ and the school he founded was a great example of what we nowadays call progressive or next stage organizations in which ‘self-management’ and ‘decentralized decision making’ are popular approaches.
Needless to say, this education had an irreversible effect on my outlook on life.
It played out in my career in the way that I could not function in strictly hierarchical environments. Also, as a coach and trainer I have made a profession out of the need to re-create environments where people treat each other as equals and thus where human dignity and self-worth are safeguarded.
In one-to-one coaching this is a prerequisite, but in team sessions often the assumption arises that as the trainer or facilitator we know better than our participants. Just like a teacher in a mainstream school we are supposed to decide what needs to be learned and in what ways. And just like in these schools this takes away human dignity and self-worth of the participants. And just like in these schools this leaves people unmotivated and not taking responsibility for their learning.
In my opinion this is why most learning and development initiatives fail to deliver on lasting results and participants forget 80% of what they have learned within three months.
By entertaining thoughts in our minds that some people know or are better than others, we create hierarchies that take away human dignity and self-worth not only in our educational environments, but throughout our systems and organizations. This leaves a trail of unmotivated and disengaged people in our societies.
Our purpose is to support leaders in every part of society to love people for who they are, and thereby rediscover, or preserve their inherent dignity and self-worth, so that they take responsibility for their own and others development and wellbeing. Together they practice listening for, discovering and validating each other’s needs.