Notes from the Field: The Center for Human Emergence, UK

Notes from the Field / August 2009

Integral Brittania

keith riceThe Centre for Human Emergence UK (CHE-UK) was born on 26 June 2009 in a basement room of the Holiday Inn, Oxford Circus, London. It was formally launched the next day at the ‘Regent’s Summit on the Future of the UK’, a 2-day event (27-28 June) at Regent’s College. This is the story of that Summit.

CHE-UK is an umbrella entity that sponsors what are known as MeshWORKS solutions, a process that enables a grouping of people to tap into grassroots and other initiatives to design solutions to complex issues by mobilising all of the stakeholders to act in common cause. The intent is to replace ad hoc, piecemeal, and fragmented efforts with approaches that integrate, synergize, and align all the resources. “This,” according to Don Beck, co-developer of Spiral Dynamics and leader of the Spiral Dynamics Integral movement, “results in efforts that can focus their resources like laser beams on the steps, stages, and waves of human emergence. Further, it promotes a rich understanding of ways to enhance organisations, groups, and social structures in all domains and manifestations of scale. With the multiple worldviews and memetic codes that Spiral Dynamics Integral uniquely provides, we aim to create maps, design systems and structures, and craft natural habitats that enable the wisdom and collective intelligence necessary for focused actions to come through. This is how we best resolve the crises and dilemmas facing us at this current stage of our evolution, both nationally and globally. And, this is how we best design the future of any society, culture, nation-state, or even planet.”

SD Basic

The Basics of Spiral Dynamics, with Coping Systems Matched to Life Conditions

There were two main strands that led to that meeting at the Holiday Inn. The first was Don Beck’s strategic master plan for facilitating the development of Centres of Human Emergence in key spots all around the world. Beck has been launching these Centres for the past five to six years. The impetus to design one for the United Kingdom first occurred in an email conversation with Rachel Castagne in late 2008 within the context of the experience the Dutch were having in dealing with fundamentalism.

Each of the Centres depends heavily on local, indigenous leadership and management since it is assumed that these people both understand the unique problems in their society and, in addition, are the best equipped to create and implement effective solutions. The process depends on new ways to make collective decisions that have been adapted from the value engineering/value management process with additional insights from the work of Ichak Adizes.

Adizes introduced the concept of ‘CAPI’—Coalescing (bringing together) as a means of getting people with Authority, the representatives with the Power to implement or impede the decisions of those with Authority, and those who Influence how Authority and Power work together in a given context. With CAPI located around the same table, the process then involves looking up and down the ‘spine’ of the Spiral to determine the health of each of the worldviews in order to address their issues at those levels of complexity. Thus, the emphasis is not on the usual horse-trading in big power negotiation, or even softer social engineering and regeneration efforts, over which interests get to further their own agendas. This provides a fresh approach to actually solving real problems by a focus on what actually needs to be done. CAPI thinking will then assign the most competent at the various levels who can speak that language, and design solutions that actually fit the problems. This has led to what Don Beck describes as ‘2nd Tier thinkin’ and is used to address 1st Tier needs and issues.

Beck developed this entire process in part from his more than two decades of work applying the concepts of Clare W. Graves—now encapsulated in Spiral Dynamics—to loosening the log-jam of Apartheid in late 1980s/early 1990s South Africa. For a summary of Don’s work in that major transformation see

All of the Centres activated thus far are making a profound difference in their respective environments. Arguably the highest profile ones are The Netherlands and the Middle East. Substantial inroads have been made into the Dutch government, under the leadership of Peter Merry and a number of others in CHE-Netherlands. Merry and Beck organized a series of Dutch Summits on Fundamentalism and the final event attracted 900 Dutch leaders. The work of Elza Maalouf and Beck, in the Middle Eastern Centre, has resulted in a major project to uplift Palestine through a series of developmental programs and a major summit on February 2, 2008 in Bethlehem involving 700 Palestinian leaders. They have also been active with various groups in Israel since one must deal with the dance within both societies and between them as well. You can read about their efforts and For more on the CHEs in general, see

The second strand to 26 June was a dialogue Jon Freeman and I had been having since December 2007. Jon is a former IT Director turned change consultant and coach/trainer. He is also author of God’s Ecology, which he describes in SDi terms as “the science of the 2nd Tier”. After long training and certification in the Spiral Dynamics model, he wanted to set up some kind of network for those who use it to continue the impact of various training programs. It was at this point that he got in contact with me in Yorkshire where I was dividing my time between teaching academic psychology and carrying out consultancy and therapy activities based principally on SDi.

Spiral Dynamics in the UK

The history of SD in the UK really began in 1998 with the former Business Link in Wakefield bringing Don Beck and his then business partner across from Texas to run their introductory SD-1 course. As a consequence of this, a number of people got involved with SD in varying degrees. For me personally, that SD-1 programme was a major turning point in my life. The ‘HemsMESH’ project eventually emerged from the consequences of that 1998 programme, using SD to look at youth employability issues in the former coalfields of South East Wakefield. Beck oversaw the project, which included myself and was led by Christopher ‘Cookie’ Cooke. Unfortunately, the project never got beyond its pilot phase, due to changes in UK government support for social regeneration and businesses, which ended our funding. For more on HemsMESH,

Rachael at Summit

Rachel at the Summit

Eventually a potential new focus began to emerge. My conversations with Jon about a possible UK conference converged with Rachel Castagne’s encouragement for Don to reinvigorate Spiral Dynamics training in the UK. Rachel, who was certified in SDi in 2005, brings the artistic sense of a designer/maker, along with years of experiences in collective decision-making (Scott Peck) and authentic communication, to the ‘Future of the UK’ project. She not only is becoming involved in many aspects of Spiral Dynamics, but has mentored Don and others in new expressions of spirituality and Holistic Health. Rachel and Jon had known each other for a decade, sporadically meeting on various courses (including SDi certifications). When Don and Rachel announced the plans for a one-day exploratory futures workshop on 14 March at EnlightenNext’s London Window venue, the efforts came together.

EnlightenNext and the Integral Circle did an excellent job of promoting the event, and a full house of nearly100 people crowded in at the Window. During the session, which had a strong focus on practical applications, Don threw down the gauntlet, challenging us to do something for our country in a time of crises. As a provocative stimulus, Don presented a music video by Norman Lear entitled ‘Born Again American.’ The theme dealt with the rediscovery of all that is best in being American. His challenge to us was: what would the British equivalent of ‘Born Again American’ be? At first many thought falsely that Beck, who is from Texas, was trying to promote Americanism. Rather, it was to serve as a model for what could be done in other cultures and societies before world centrism or even global views can be realised. Such was the passion in the room at the end of the day that Jon collected over 60 names of people who wanted to be involved in further activity. Within days Jon had set up the SD-UK yahoo groups e-list and began to plan for a more formal, two-day summit.

rachael jon don

Rachel, Jon and Don planning the Summit

Through their support for the event, and Rachel’s assistance at a course Don was delivering at Schumacher College the following week, a real trust and rapport developed and soon Don was talking about CHE-UK and the next stage in a five-event process. There were others involved. Rosemary Wilkie, a children’s author; had been writing articles and giving talks on SDi since 2004. In 2008 she and Jon had attended the ‘Training of Trainers’ run by Christopher Cooke in Switzerland.

Lynne Sedgmore CBE came via a slightly different route. The former CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL), with a profile that includes work as a consultant to the Downing Street Cabinet Office, she had simply decided that she needed Don Beck to help her organisation through a change process. A deep mutual respect developed from their working together.


Lynne at a No. 10 Gala

The last piece of the original jigsaw was Ian McDonald of the Cheshire-based Integral Life Centre and business partner of David Taylor who had been on the fringes of HemsMESH. Both Ian and David have run regular SDi events in Cheshire and Yorkshire. Ian feels strongly the time is now right to back the proliferation of SDi in the UK.

It was this sextet, which met with Don Beck in the Holiday Inn meeting room on 26 June and brought CHE-UK to life.

Regent’s College

In order to facilitate the experiences at Regents’c College, a three-part program was designed, one that follows classic Spiral Dynamics sequences: Life Conditions, Priority Codes, and Beliefs and Behaviours.

life conditions

Life Conditions related to Priority Codes related to Beliefs and Behaviour

Since 14 March Britain had learned the cost to the National Debt of the banks ‘bail-out’ in the Fall, that the American army was having to shore up the British army in Helmand province and that many of our politicians treated their expenses as additional income to be leveraged as advantageously as possible.

Small wonder that some people expressed real anger at the current situation when Don initiated the Summit with a ‘What’s wrong?’ task-and-discussion.

Rachel and Jon assisted Don with leading the event and Lynne gave a ‘State of the Kingdom’ address, depicting a political leadership struggling to get beyond BLUE-ORANGE, with a Civil Service that was competitively RED and rule-bound BLUE and little capability in the system to manage any transition through healthy GREEN or into YELLOW complexity of thinking. Lynne also quoted the UK Minister for Justice Shahid Malik who had said last January, “It saddens me that some people are concerned that their pride in being English may be interpreted as being racist, while others want, in particular, non-white people to feel like they can’t truly be English or British. This type of political correctness and bigotry has no place in today’s Britain indeed it is detrimental to our very way of life. We should all feel we can proudly embrace Britishness and Englishness without any fear or anxiety.”

lynne kingdom

Lynne Making Her State of the Kingdom Address

About 50 people joined us to get a feel for what the real issues are confronting the UK and what we might do about them. The general consensus was that in the UK a lot of the positive influence of the BLUE vMEME has been diminished by the emergence of GREEN (a not-uncommon pattern in much of North America and Western Europe).

This weakening of BLUE has had a number of negative effects—ones especially noted were:

  • The lack of discipline in our culture, particularly amongst young people—resulting in RED excesses such as binge drinking and violent rowdiness on our city centre streets at weekends,
  • The collapse of effective regulation in our financial markets, resulting in toxic ORANGE taking the kind of foolish gambles on debt and investment which have brought the banking systems to their knees,
  • The RED, thoughtless greed of many politicians milking the expenses system to and beyond its limits—with some clearly having committed fraud.

The ‘expenses scandal’, it was generally agreed, served as the tipping point for so much anger amongst the general population that has been building up, suppressed and simmering, for so long. As a kingdom, we are humiliated, outraged and in one hell of a mess. These reflect the current Life Conditions and Challenges .

Interestingly, in our discussion groups the sense of an even deeper malaise began to emerge as we talked about what it mean to be British…the nature of the British identity. The source of that malaise, it was felt, was the loss of Empire. Britain through the16th-19th Centuries was an invader and a conqueror. With our Empire eventually stretching over a third of the habitable globe, much of the world’s story in that time was our story. There was belief in ourselves and the religions we espoused—all those Christian missionaries!—which fed a stream of great innovations, from the road building of Thomas Telford to the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, to the stabilising influence of John Wesley and “Method-ism,” too the astounding engineering feats of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A sense of: “We are British. We can do.”

It was at this point that Don began to introduce the Spiral Dynamics framework as a lens through which to perceive the problems, and possible solutions. Just as Einstein remarked that we cannot use the same system that produced the problems to solve them, Don began to lay out the SDi template through which to both understand the dynamics of decline in a society, as well as the pathway to emergence. This is the framework he used successful in 63 trips to South Africa and is presently using in the Middle East. These are the Priority Codes necessary in dealing with Life conditions and the Problems of Existence.

yellow glasses

Looking through Beck’s Yellow Glasses to See Colours

What made these discussions particularly astonishing were that there were people in the room from the former Empire—Asians, West Indians, etc.—whose grandparents and great-grandparents would have been subjects of British colonialism and its many indignities. But nobody got upset. Nobody got overly-emotional. Nobody wanted to decry the Empire and rake over the ‘evil coals’. Everybody was completely focussed on the collective character of the British psyche, where it was now and why and what needed to be done to lead that British character to a new
These were truly 2nd Tier discussions that transcended personality and history. Truly, truly remarkable! It was at this point that the group broke up into teams to list and identify the unique Beliefs & Behaviours that have produced so many successful developments within Great Britain.

In discussing the nature of the British character, we also identified many positives. We are and remain:

  • Leaders in many, many ways
  • Great innovators
  • Quirky and eccentric—often precursors to innovation
  • Resilient and supportive of each other in face of external threat—e.g., the ‘Blitz Spirit’ being rediscovered in the aftermath of the 2005 terrorist bombs in London. Under pressure, the identity of the tribe expands to include all on our side.
  • Humour-full—we can usually see the humour and irony in most things and we don’t usually take ourselves too seriously
  • At the centre of the world, a bridge between Europe, America and the Commonwealth—as Don Beck pointed out, this is in language and culture as well as geography

Jon Freeman commented later that he thought there was a stronger than usual sense of emergent TURQUOISE in the room. He particularly drew attention to the need to rediscover honourable behaviour after the expenses scandal— a search for our spiritual roots in the myths of Camelot, the Round Table and the Quest for the Holy Grail. Don’s use of movie ‘Chariots of Fire’ as teaching example also brought echoes of Blake’s poem, “Jerusalem”, with England’s “mountains green” as a place for the Divine Countenance. This experience cut deeply into many especially the song “I am an Englishman” that was sung by Harold Abraham, who was Jewish, indicating that one need not be from the Anglo-Saxon roots to be truly “British.” This generated a fascinating and rich conversation as to what is the nature of “British Blue,” and that one of the unique and powerful aspect of “this land” is that many can own it, or be owned by it, who express many diverse genetic or cultural background and origins. Being “English” or “British” means that specific value systems are embraced, that can run throughout the Commonwealth, and extend even into English speaking worlds. These are the essential codes that emanated from this small island and extend around the world. In this sense, “The sun never sets on the British soul.”

These exercises gave us the sense that there is still much Britain has to give the world but, to do that, we have to sort out our current problems and believe in ourselves again. As Rosemary Wilkie put it: “We have had a great story. Now we need a new great story.”

But our new story has no place for the prejudices, discriminations and abuses that have sometimes sullied our past. One of the most interesting tales of the weekend was one with which Rachel Castagne effectively closed the summit. She had been to a folk festival recently. One of the performers, the traditional singing legend June Tabor, had asked the audience what it meant to be English. After some repartee and banter, Tabor answered her own question: “If you love this land, then you’re English.” Here, CHE-UK extends that concept to encompass ‘British’.

What’s Next?

At the end of the 2 days, we hadn’t come up with magic solutions. We didn’t have an agenda to present to Government. Those things will come in time, but we have made a start on serious work to be followed through in collaborative ventures and further summits.

CHE-UK will host the 4th Annual EuroConfab at Gatwick on the outskirts of London 23-25 October 2009, with Don and others facilitating an SDi-1 in the 3 days before. The first 3 EuroConfabs were held in The Hague and CHE-NL are giving us much support. We expect a number of them and various other continental cousins to join us at Gatwick. As Rachel puts it: “CHE-UK can link with and tap into the experience of CHE Netherlands and other MeshWORKSs worldwide, building on something that has already begun.” Rachel concluded Summit-1with a reference to the spirituality of the calling which transcends the materialistic and exists as an element within the “field” itself. Many were truly inspired with her words.

Several leading members of CHE-UK are committed to activities promoting SDi as preliminaries to October. Indeed, since the Summit Rosemary Wilkie has already run a one-day introductory workshop and has more in the pipeline!

In support of the collaborative work, the SD-UK yahoo list is giving way to the Centre of Human Emergence Ning site. This is helmed by Willa Geertsma, a Dutch-American resident in the UK who believes in the British and their potential. An open-access public web site,, is being created to promote the work of CHE-UK.

These are turbulent times in the UK and they will bring change. After the crises and scandals, the general election next year will be one of the most open and unpredictable in decades. We expect many new faces in Parliament ready and wanting to do business with ‘Change’. With the quality of people getting to grips with Spiral Dynamics in CHE-UK, we anticipate influencing that ‘Change’ in many ways and at many levels and hope for many more to join us in doing so.

As the great social anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said: “A small group of thoughtful people can change the world, Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Watch this space!

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Part-time teacher, consultant, trainer and therapist Keith E Rice is author of Knowing Me, Knowing You: an Integrated SocioPsychology Guide to Personal Fulfilment & Better Relationships (Trafford, 2006). He runs and has been working with Spiral Dynamics and related technologies since 1998.

Thanks to Jon Freeman, Rachel Castagne and Don Beck for their substantial input. Thanks also to Rosemary Wilkie, Lynne Sedgmore and Ian McDonald for their contributions.