insAniyat: a change catalyst prepares

insAniyat: a change catalyst prepares

We are happy to invite you to share in an exciting process that we have initiated in the Barefoot Academy of Governance. As part of our Diploma programme we are offering 4 labs. Gagandeep Singh and Vandana Menon will be joining me in facilitating these labs. We have completed the first one last month. The next one will be focusing on Systems Dynamics; the one after that will be focusing on Learning Theatre; the last one will be on Organization Transformation.

We realise that inviting people from fields other than the development sector will offer the participants a unique opportunity to understand the realities of the sector, its joys and struggles. It will offer the diploma students an insight into people from the organized sector. We will be opening out 12 seats for people who would like to join these labs. 

Write to me if you are interested in this unique opportunity- raghu@totallyalignedorganization.com

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-Raghu Ananthanarayan


There are many associations that form in ones mind when one contemplates the word insAniyat. It brings to mind behaviour, which is kind, and considerate, it evokes the idea of a person who is compassionate, one who resonates with another’s sadness and joy. One would imagine that insAniyat is something natural and inborn, something that is at once innocent and mature, something one ought to expect from another as an every day reality.

However, insAniyat is conspicuous by its absence in most areas of life as we experience today’s world. This absence leads to a more pervasive impact on our ways of living. It robs one of  autonomy and joyousness in families, in organizations and society. It therefore becomes necessary to enquire into the question “what is insAniyat?”

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Why is it important to enquire into the question of insAniyat?

The world seems to be moving into an inflexion point. There are issues like climate change, environmental destruction and economic disparity that have a very drastic impact especially on the less fortunate, but cannot be managed or circumvented locally. They have been created through a system that encourages narrow and extractive self-interest and that reinforces divisive belonging. The outcome of this is the proliferation of governance processes corrupted and controlled by elitist and extractive interests, religious atavism, market fundamentalism, wasteful industrial production, economics that converts human beings into consumers, communication that colludes with processes of “manufactured consent”, and so on. Most of the so-called “solutions” come from the same utilitarian and techno-commercial mind-sets that have created the problem and only serve to heighten the human crisis.

Unfortunately, when issues grow to critical proportions we tend to become anxious and get caught either with “more of the same” type of actions or with regressive patterns. Expecting a new way to emerge out of an anxious repetition of the same old ways is patently insane, since the current crisis is caused by the insufficiencies and dis-functionalities of the current mind-set! To discover a new way that is not caught within the old calls for an intense self-reflective process that enables oneself to become free of the conditioned patterns of thought feeling and action. These conditioned patterns could be sourced in conformity or in a counter-will.

Once one is relatively self-aware and allows the emergence of insAniyat within oneself, it becomes possible to examine how one is part of the problem and how one can be part of a human solution. It becomes possible to see how systemic design reinforces the crisis-creating processes. It becomes possible to create the new way that is neither “old wine in a new bottle” nor just a counter model without a creative core.

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The process of enquiry

The enquiry into the question “what is insAniyat?” cannot be an intellectual process, nor can it be discursive. The exploration has to be embodied and real, a here and now immersion  that helps each of us confront the many layers of defenses  that cover up our human core. We seem to hold our own vulnerability in such fear and anxiety that we don’t seem to realise that the very structures of thought feeling and action that we invest in to protect it are the very structures that imprison us. And in its turn these structures become our weapons; the dehumanizing instruments with which we engage with other people and with the world around us.

The key societal processes namely democracy, dignity and development are premised on our ability to nurture and foster insAniyat. In recognising the insAniyat in us and people around us, we uphold dignity; by respecting their autonomy in expressing their insAniyat we practice democracy; and in investing  in its growth we enable development.

To discover our insAniyat we have to peel off three layers of thought feeling and action that cover it up. The first is the way we construct the idea of ourselves, the second is the way we choose the role we play in our relationships and third is the socio-political world we create. Therefore, The Barefoot Academy of Governance offers a series of laboratory learning processes to enable change-catalysts to explore their inner world, unlock the authentic core of the self and prepare themselves to act with integrity:

  • The heart of the change-catalyst
  • The dynamics of systems
  • The theatre of action
  • The drama of collective transformation

Module 1: The Heart Of The Change-Catalyst

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Self-knowledge is the starting point of the exploration. When we can answer the questions “who am I? Where am I? And why am I here?” it is the key to choosing right action in any context. For a person who takes up the role of a change-catalyst it becomes critical to engage with these questions deeply and continuously. Through the laboratory learning process, one can explore into ones ways of listening, ones ways of interacting with the world, ones ways of making meaning and the ways one makes decisions. It is through the compassionate and intense observation of oneself that the many layers of conditioning and defense mechanisms can be peeled off.

Since many of these layers are built through our life experiences, they are energised and held in place by strong emotions and beliefs. The laboratory-learning context provides a safe space in which we can do the inner work necessary to rediscover our innocent, compassionate, vulnerable and original being. We can then experiment with new ways of expressing ourselves where we simultaneously respect and nurture our own humanness, autonomy and growth and that of others.

This module will enable the participant:

  • To be self reflective i.e., how to understand the nature of ones own thought, feeling and action
  • To understand the natural propensities one is gifted with
  • To understand and appreciate differences in the way individuals think feel and act
  • To understand and practice empathy and develop Emotional Intelligence
  • To understand and practice the process of nurturing others in their inner unfolding
  • To be aware of one’s own Shadow and to integrate it with one’s own notion of Self with compassion and integrity

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Module 2: The Dynamics of Systems

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The every-day experience of individuals who work in the various parts of the socio-economic reality is mediated by systems. However, the nature and dynamics of these systems are not very apparent. Some aspects of the dynamics of power are tangible; authority figures that control the processes are very visible. Organizations and institutions are also part of every day experience as intermediaries in the flow of resources.

What is not easily understood is the connection between the inner structures of thought feeling and action, and the manifest systems in which we transact our daily lives. The patterns and undercurrents of political game play and their impact on the developmental processes and the autonomy (or lack of it) of people at various levels of society are also not well understood.

Through a laboratory learning process focusing on “systems dynamics” we will enable participants to reflect upon the visible and invisible patterns of the various systems they participate in. Also, the lab will provide opportunity for individuals to examine their own role-taking propensities and how these propensities are the internalised form of the systems that have conditioned their minds. These unconscious patterns then become the lens through which the dynamics of power and politics is interpreted. Explicating these lenses and having an insight and freeing oneself of the compulsions they create are a key outcome of this learning. Also an understanding of ones own frames of interpretation makes one aware of the kind of world one is really reinforcing while doing “developmental work” and “catalyzing change”.

This module will enable the participant:

  • To develop systems thinking and understand group dynamics
  • To understand the links between ones inner ways of being and outer actions
  • To understand systems as the outer manifestation of the valuing processes of individuals in the system
  • To understand the nature and structure of Power and Politics
  • To be able to assess and map the visible and invisible processes of influence that impact a community/ system
  • To design change programs that are not confined to the visible and tangible features but include an understanding of community and political dynamics
  • To explore the processes of initiative and autonomy in a systemic context and be aware of one’s own proclivities and resistances
  • To be aware of the Shadow of the systems in both the here and now work, as well as systems back home, and to create a compassionate lens that allow working with the dysfunctional processes within

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Module 3: The Theatre of Action

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Embodied knowledge is the key to spontaneous action that will reflect ones intent. Theatre and drama have been used from the earliest of times to enable embodied learning. Theatre was one of the most powerful tools used to liberate people. Theatre forms like the “Theatre of the Oppressed”, Augusto Boal’s “Rainbow of Desire” have been deployed in the developmental process with profound impact.

Our bodies hold the primary conditioned patterns while our thoughts reflect it. Therefore exploring our own patterns of thought, feeling and action through theatre is essential if we have to break away from our conditioning. Words and content are a very small part of communication. The tone of ones voice and the variations of body posture comprise a very large percentage of language. This mode can be understood only through enactment and sensitising of ones body.

Several of the methods used in theatre to prepare the actor are designed to bring into consciousness our hidden behaviours. We alternate between acting out and reflecting on our actions to create the learning context. Not only do we learn to become sensitive to our own body use and body language, we begin to sense the body language of others.

Theatre also deploys unconscious patterns that can be accessed through playing with our archetypes. The heroes and critical situations described in mythologies are a great treasure house of learning. They capture the psychological and cultural patterns very powerfully

This module will be based entirely on the “Learning Theatre” modality developed by Raghu. Inner work is harmonised with outer expression to enable a profound transformative journey, a sAdhana.

This module will enable the participant:

  • To internalize the learning about self and systems in an embodied way
  • To create community coherence through the use of culturally relevant participatory processes
  • To develop the capacity for presence and therefore to execute change programs
  • To understand role taking and role shaping and the impact of this on group dynamics
  • To design interventions and programs that use the experiential methodology
  • To design and execute community development programs using theatre and music

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Module 4: The Drama of Transformation

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The change-catalyst has made a commitment to engage with the reality around him/her and influence it for the better. The engagement with the collective processes that reinforce the current reality implies a confrontation with forces that are adept at using the structures, systems and institutions of the present to fulfill their agenda. The change-catalyst by definition finds this agenda having a negative impact on the dignity of the average person, throttling the democratic processes and hampering development. She not only needs to be constantly engaged in self-reflection and inner work, but also discover “skillful means” to make an impact in the outer world. Strategy for action has to be based on an astute understanding of the context and not just an outpouring of intent.

The first three modules offer the opportunity for the participant to understand their own inner processes, their shadows and biases. It also enables them to have an insight into the human dynamics that manifest as systems and tangible structures of resource control. The fourth module will focus on methods by which one can map the outer reality, explore its impact on the human being and design interventions. The means are the ends. The ways in which a change-catalyst brings about the change is the essence of the change; the tangible results are only a byproduct. To illustrate, it is possible to deepen water bodies, and induce village folk in an area to switch to organic agriculture by gaining access to the right source of funds and incentivising the process. It is also possible (as we have shown in many places) to bring people together in a dignified and democratic way and enable them to discover ways by which the issues that matter to them most are acted upon.

The Barefoot Academy of Governance has developed an array of methods that are founded on an honouring of the human being while enabling collective action to be conceptualised, designed and executed.  The fourth module will empower participants to internalise and deploy these methods.

This module will enable the participant:

  • To study and assess communities
  • To do a detailed diagnosis of the developmental capital that the community possesses
  • To asses the “assets and liabilities” of the community in the visible and the invisible dimensions of the capital
  • To map the community system dynamics at the visible and invisible levels
  • To nurture and foster long term developmental initiatives that have a real impact on the processes of Democracy and Dignity
  • To be able to understand the nature of resistance, bias, and prejudice that both enlivens and deaden the community, and to co-create new processes of replenishment and renewal.

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