To begin, tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Leida Schuringa. I am a sociologist and worked as a community worker, trainer/teacher and coach. Now, I am an entrepreneur and partner of Synnervate (www.synnervate.nl). I always was interested in the relation between people from different backgrounds. Maybe because my parents migrated from Drente in the north to Eindhoven, the Philips city. In the thirties of the last century, there was no work in Drente, so many people tried to find work in the Philips factories. They had another religion and dialect. When my mother went to an elderly house, she met many people from Drente again. I never felt at home in Eindhoven and was glad to go to study in Utrecht, in the middle of the country, where I still am living.
In the nineties I supported people who fled from the ex-yugoslavian war and I gave courses to refugee women who wanted to self-organise themselves. In 2006, my Somali friend Naima and I started the Quality Centre for Refugee women in Utrecht. This centre supported women who had a licence and sometimes already lived for many years in Utrecht. Nevertheless, it was difficult for them to find a place in society. We supported them with a coach-friend and organised network activities.
In 2005 I got to know Don Beck, author of the book Spiral Dynamics, in a meeting. He applied this theory to the murder upon Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film producer and I felt deeply impressed by the clarity that arose from this. In the Quality Centre I also experimented with applying Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi) and for 1,5 years I’ve written articles about refugees seen from the SDi perspective.
For our readers who may be unfamiliar, can you give us an summary of what the theory of Spiral Dynamics is?
The perspective from which I look at people, organisations and society is deeply influenced by Spiral Dynamics (see www.spiraldynamicsintegral.nl/en). Based on research by Clare Graves, Don Beck developed this method of analysing the world. Spiral Dynamics (SD) describes eight different perspectives (worldviews/ codes/value systems). These perspectives are like a DNA code within the brain and are developing in a specific order. For convenience, Beck assigned colours to these codes. The development of each individual proceeds through all the stages of these values systems (from birth, stage after stage). We can recognise the same value systems in organisations, society and in history (see diagram below). Spiral Dynamics gives you insight in the motives of people: why do they do what they do?
Living conditions are leading in this development. People change in response to their living conditions. They develop new perspectives in order to cope with new circumstances. The various value systems that you develop as a person, are a part of you and you can access them when needed like expressing love and give priority to your family (Purple) or being successful in your job (Orange). We also can observe in organisations if they are balanced in the various value systems (Purple = connection; Red = decisiveness; Blue = procedures; Orange = strategic thinking; Green = communication skills; Yellow = overview and innovation).
It is important to understand that from the integral perspective all these perspectives are in a way ‘true’ and we cannot dismiss one perspective as being ‘false’. Each value system has its healthy (positive) and unhealthy (negative) manifestations. In the integral approach, we want to include and honour all perspectives and work with all of them. Value systems are rooted firmly in people’s minds, but when living conditions are changing they can learn and become aware of other ways of looking at things. Respecting differences and discussing them leads to new solutions. Seeing and connecting seemingly contrary perspectives, all as pieces of one and the same puzzle, gives insight in and a way out of conflicts, while at the same respecting, appreciating and cooperating with all stakeholders.
Spiral dynamics. Adapted by Leida Schuringa from Beck, D.E., Cowan, C. (1996). Spiral dynamics: Mastering values, leadership, and change. United Kingdom: MPG Books Ltd.
How do you use the clarity you get from Spiral Dynamics with understanding the refugee crisis and your work helping people integrate?
Beforehand, it is important to make a difference between refugees (who flee from war or political oppression) and immigrants who look for a job and improvement of their life. Looking to the refugee crisis in Europe from SDi, we can see various things.
The countries the refugees flee from like Syria, are warzones (negative Red). They, their family, their house and other possessions are in direct danger of being destroyed. All people who personally might have developed into Blue/Orange, have to deal with this Red value system. The former Blue structures and certainties are vanished. The only thing they can do - apart from fighting - is trying to survive (Beige), Often they do that in the place they are still living, connected with family and neighbours (Purple). However, when the casualties increase, going away seems to be the only option.
The decision to flee is a heavy one. Nobody wants to leave home and leave behind all familiar people, places and things. The road towards more safety is a very dangerous one (Beige), as we know f.i. by the many people who are drowning during the passage over the Mediterranean Sea in shaky boats. The Somali-British poet Warsan Shire expresses it like this: “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark” and “You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”.
When people are so lucky to reach a country where they can get a license to stay, they have to process all their experiences, the losses, the fear, the grief and to build up a completely new life. This integration process takes time and expertise. How can we facilitate a good integration of refugees in society?
Through the Spiral Dynamics lens, what are steps you propose for helping refugees integrate into a new society?
In the Quality Centre for Refugee Women we learned that the integration of refugees follows certain steps. After the survival stage, the steps are connecting, building self-confidence, learn the rules of the new country and going for new success. War refugees are not temporarily guests who will soon set off again. Having nowhere to go, they will stay and thus they need support to build a new existence. They have a strong drive to develop themselves, especially the women, and can play a big role in becoming a member of society if they are helped in what they need to do so.
During the war, the escape, the camps, and when they arrive in their new country, refugees are completely thrown back into the Survival stage (Beige). In their own country, they were functioning from different value systems. For instance, Syrian refugees are most familiar with Purple, Red and Blue (the traditional value systems) and some have developed into Orange. During their journey, people are completely disempowered and mainly need good care: shelter, food, clothing, medical and psychological help. A quick asylum procedure in the new country also is very important so people know what is next. Endless waiting and uncertainty might cause new trauma’s and put people behind. From the survival state refugees need to climb the spiral stairs again in their new country.
Integration process, refugees. From Refugees in the Netherlands as seen from Spiral Dynamics Integral. (Schuringa, 2016)
The first step is connection and security, feeling safe and be part of a (small) community (Purple). The best guarantee for this is when families, friends, people from the same town can live in close proximity of one another. Contact and connections can be made with local people in the vicinity. In various towns meetings have been and are being organized where refugees and settled people make food and eat together. Those contacts are vital in the process of integration, especially if the new comers can stay in their first housing place. To have to migrate six times or more is detrimental to developing a feeling of being at home. The best solution is to realize – also temporarily – housing and care for small groups of refugees and to involve local citizens in the organisation.
The second step is that people stay active and learn to be assertive in the new circumstances (Red). Refugees have shown much power and resilience in the decision to leave their home land and in their difficult journey. Often they are exhausted when they arrive, but nevertheless full of energy to jump into their new situation. This can be used in favour of all. Children have to go to school again as soon as possible, youngsters and adults need the opportunity to immediately start with learning Dutch and/or English. Anyone must be allowed to do volunteer work or – even better – to find (temporarily) paid jobs instead of just waiting in the asylum centre for years. Being involved in all kinds of activities and regaining their strengths facilitate a natural beginning of their own new life and is the best remedy against depression and other psychosomatic diseases.
The third step, for the people who are granted a licence to stay in a country, is getting to know country’s formal and informal rules, the procedures, the many institutions, and finding a balance between their familiar way of life and the norms and values of the new country. Within the Quality Centre each refugee woman was linked up with a coach, a mate, a friend to find her way through this complex societal structure (Blue).
The fourth step, only after having crawled through the Spiral once more, is the possibility and opportunity to become entrepreneurial and successful (Orange). Refugees need to build a new spiral foundation in this new country. Of course, this is easier for people who already could develop higher or more complex value systems than for those who didn’t get there in their country of origin. Most Syrian refugees can climb back up to the high levels they achieved earlier, but young refugees such as happened with those from Eritrea, often get stuck in their development and stay behind in passive Red/Blue because the gap with their past is so enormous.
There are a lot of perspectives on the refugee crisis. You’ve stated that from the integral perspective, all the perspectives have some validity. How do you make sense of the differing perspectives that natives have about refugees migrating into their communities?
In general you might say that people functioning from the modern (Orange) and the postmodern (Green) worldviews are open to change, globalization and new input, because it brings them profit, new opportunities, new learning and insights. From the entrepreneurial (Orange) view, new people mean more sales, more profit, the drive to produce new and other products. It means more choice in personnel, It means development towards flexibility and adaptivity. They like immigration when it brings well educated workers and innovation. In the Green worldview, you have to support people who need help anywhere in the world, not only your own group/country. So, it is their deep conviction that immigration, especially of refugees who flee from war and oppression, must be welcomed.
In general, people functioning from the traditional value systems (Purple, Red and Blue) are more honoring the past and stability. They don’t like change and are often afraid of development that seems to threaten their way of life. In the traditional worldviews, people who are other than you, are often mistrusted. People trust their own people: family, clan, believers in the same religion, people like them. They don't like strangers, refugees, immigrants, people who are not like them (highly educated people, the political elite, world citizens).
However, it is also very important to look at the state of the value system: is it closed, blocked or open? Closed and blocked value systems are not open to new information nor to new people. They have a more judging attitude and more fixed ideas/opinions. People who are living from an open value system are more curious, welcoming others and thinking about how to deal with new situations. So, people living from traditional value systems can also have a positive attitude towards immigration, e.g. when their church is stimulating this kind of hospitality.
Looking from the integral (Yellow) perspective, what can we learn from these different worldviews and attitudes towards immigration? Various next steps to realize integration can be formulated and implemented by policy makers and others, like:
Thank you Leida for taking time to share with us your work!
If you'd like to know more about Spiral Dynamics, check out the Spiral Dynamics Integral website. >>>
Also, you can find out more about Synnervate by visiting their website. >>>
Questions, comments or inquires? Drs. Leida Schuringa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org