The global context today is a challenging one. Successful non-profit organizations need to be flexible to on-going socioeconomic changes and responsible both socially and ecologically. They need to be responsive to emerging ideas throughout the organization, from the employees to the directors, and able to manage this flow of ideas in the services and projects delivered. Moreover, today's global context, every issue is multi-faceted and complex; the more interdisciplinary our approach is, the more likely we'll be able to meet the full complexity of ihe issues we face. Flexible, responsible, responsive, comprehensive - this is a tall order for any organization.
In meeting these challenges, the integral approach has much to offer. We've written here just some of the ways that this is so.
For example, there is no one "community development" process. In fact, in each community, there are strengths and challenges to development. Using the quadrants in community dialogues, we map the strengths and challenges, and locate the points of intervention. Simply put: this helps the community to see the many contributing factors to their own development, what strengths they have that they can build on, and what areas might need more focus and attention.
Drishti applies quadrants to analyze complex issues with both communities and organizations, and has so far found this to be illuminating and useful--a way to find some simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Another way that quadrants can be applied is in assessing the needs and points of intervention for a project. In what aspect is the project needing more attention and focus? For example, in a capacity building project, we can't assume the needs for a previous capacity building initiative are the same for all. Using the quadrants, we can more precisely assess where the greatest needs and leverage points are for developing the fullest range of capacities needed by an organization or community.
For example, an integral needs assessment might discover that the focus area for one organization might be improved advocacy and marketing skills (LR quadrant), whereas for another organization the focus area might be improved ability to work in a participatory way with communities (LL quadrant), whereas for a third organization the focus area might be an increased understanding of human psychology for more effective inter- and intra-personal engagement. The integral approach helps to hone in on the particular needs at this particular time. This can be a very empowering process, appreciatively acknowledging existing gifts and also exploring emerging challenges.
Applying an understanding of developmental stages or worldviews, practitioners can align themselves more authentically with the existing worldviews of their partners, communities, audiences, and other target groups. Evidence so far suggests that this helps to foster real dialogue and to build bridges between existing and emerging worldviews. Put simply: the benefit of learning about worldviews and how they develop through life, is to more fully be in relationship with others. With an understanding of worldviews, a practitioner is more able to meet others where they are most inspired and motivated--where life is most meaningful to them. For some, this means an enhanced ability to arrive at a shared vision in a partnership; for others, this means a more effective social marketing and campaign messaging; still others might find this helpful in managing conflicts and facilitating dialogue. In all cases, it helps facilitate the intricate dance of communication.
The integral approach assesses the societal context with a view both to exterior sociopolitical and economic phenomenon and to interior dimensions of culture and psychology. In planning and implementing projects, for example, it is useful to understand current economic trends and/or the political climate, as well as to understand how worldviews and values motivate people's decision-making and behavior. An integral approach can assist in deciding upon a course of action that acknowledges the existing context and poises your next move on the progressive cusp of change.
Today's complex issues are not solved easily if we are restrained to a single discipline. Rather, this is the age of interdisciplinary, or even transdisciplinary. Which means, while we may have studied a particular discipline, our locus of identify transcends that exclusive discipline, so that we're able to coordinate between many different perspectives on the issue in question. We can't lose the rigor of being a specialist, but we do want to find a way for disciplines to be in dialogue with each other. The integral approach practically enables this to happen. Both the quadrants and levels of integral theory help us to integrate perspectives. Quadrants bring disciplines (and their methodologies) together into a single framework, and levels enable us to see where different viewpoints (premodern, modern, postmodern) come from and how they are important to include.
Too often sustainable development efforts are plastered onto a region or community without full respect for what is already present and what is natural emerging. An integral approach asks the question: What is already happening here, what is already emerging that could be further supported? This appreciative, community-based way of approaching development is quite a different way to begin a project. Further, applying the evolutionary view that integral theory provides, we are able to get some sense of where a community, or a person, is presently coming from and what might best support this emerging potential. This approach can be applied to both groups and individuals, and essentially honors the inherent trajectory of evolution already occurring, and simply intends to support that as fully as possible.