Feature Article: Palestine Speaks in Colors: Unraveling the Deep Cultural Codes and Designing Integral Solutions.

Feature Articles / March 2007

elza photoUsing his ground breaking experience in South Africa and his practical knowledge in dealing with the different mindsets in cultures, Dr. Don Beck offered a fresh start to the Palestinians and they responded with an overwhelming enthusiasm on our third trip to the region. Many of our contacts told me that Dr. Beck’s work in South Africa with political and community leaders sparked their initial attraction tohis work. Now that they have a deeper grasp of the SDi approach (see below for a brief SDi reminder) they think this conceptual framework will support their efforts to build a country for the many generations of Palestinians to come.

On our first trip to the West Bank Dr. Beck and I were there to listen and learn. We gave a presentation on the theoretical model and its application. We listened to Parliamentarians, governors, professors, and various leaders of women and youth organizations describe their views of the challenges facing their emerging state. Listening was our goal and being educated by Palestinians on the intricate realities of their daily challenges, as well as their vision of a successful Palestine, opened up the space for our participation as a partner in building Palestine. We did not go with preconceived strategies to impose on either side. We introduced a body of knowledge and methodologies that people can use to solve problems from a new and more complex system than the one in which these problems were created.

On our third trip in January 2007 Dr. Beck and I were asked to train 42 Leaders from the Fatah Movement in the West Bank. For this workshop, Nafiz Rifai—a highly respected Fatah leader who holds a Masters degree in Urban & Rural Planning and is the Chairman of the Bethlehem University Alumni Student Association—invited Fatahdistrict and committee leaders to attend a 2 day training on Spiral Dynamics Integral and MeshWorks. The participants came from Nablus, Tulkerum, Jericho, Ramallah, Beit Sahour, Al Khalil and other towns. Some of them had to leave their homes 6 hours earlier in order to get to the training on time. With checkpoints and delays, the drive from Nablus to Bethlehem that usually takes an hour can take up to 6 or 8 hours. Everyone who was invited came. They were eager to learn the theory that was applied in South Africa and meet the professor who applied it. The level of respect that Palestinians have for learning and knowledge is unparalleled especially under such forbidding conditions.

By the end of the second day of training participants were speaking in value-systems colors and codes. Hamas, Fatah, Likud and Kadima became Purple-Red, Red-Blue, and Blue-Orange, or flamethrowers, zealots, ideologues, moderates, pragmatists and conciliators. This understanding was deepened by the framework of the Assimilation-Contrast Effect (ACE) in which Dr. Beck explained the dynamics of polarization and social conflict within the same culture and same party before it is expressed against the “external enemy.” Flamethrowers in one culture think that moderates in that same culture are traitors or a sell out. And Ideologues/Absolutists may think that zealots and moderates think alike more than actually do. Participants saw clearly that this effect is at play on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides at different stages.

A very serious training in Palestine cannot happen without the added Arab sense of humor that I cherish as an Arab native. A question we asked at the end of the training sparked the funniest moment of the day:

What colors are you? Many said Blue, Red, Orange, Purple. One man shouted ‘I am Yellow!” To which a quick answer came from one of his dumbfounded friends, “If you’re Yellow, then the theory is wrong!!!” I have never seen Don laugh so hard since I have known him and he told the man that he can be as ‘Yellow’ as he thinks he is.

The participants’ perspective was broadened when they learned that they can memetically map out Palestine and Israel (Memetic mapping—assessing the various mindsets and value-systems in a culture). And that such mapping will support them in designing integral solutions that fit the memetic profiles. Agroup of young participants from Al-Najah University in Al-Khalil and Bethlehem University volunteered to do the value-systems mapping of the West Bank. They will run the questionnaires in their universities and their neighborhoods.

I do not suggest here that this is an easy process or that what we are offering is ‘The’ solution to a 4000 year conflict. However, based on the successful application of the model in South Africa and the Netherlands, and especially based on the Palestinians understanding of their situation and appreciation to this new wider and deeper conceptual model that they can test with large scale design and accessible methodologies, the potential is greater than ever.

One of the most profound feedbacks on this tripcame from a Fatah district leader who said that during the two-day training he saw Dr. Beck coming in out of the Turquoise systemwhere he fully embraced their hopes and dreams of a successful Palestine, while giving them practical and realistic solutions.

We will be back in May to train more than 180 members representing all the committees of Fatah.

Fatah training image

The Fatah Training Participants with Don Beck and Elza Maalouf

A Presentation to NGOs and Meetings with Community Leaders: Identifying Emergence Leaders and behind-the-scene systemic thinkers.

After every visit to Palestine and Israel, people in the US ask us if we had met with the well known political and community leaders. We usually do. However, Don and I believe that the true leaders are sometimes the behind the scenes systemic thinkers, especially the young leaders. A good representative of such leaders is our friend, Deema Shawa in Ramallah. Deema a well-cultured and educated young Palestinian leader, attended a previous presentation we gave in the West Bank where she thanked us profusely for offering such a framework in her country. She later contacted me and offered to organize a workshop on Spiral Dynamics, adding “I want to invite the kind of people who can really understand Dr. Beck’s complex model and who are ready to work with us to Build Palestine. I want to show Dr. Beck our appreciation to his great contribution to our country!”

The presentation in Ramallah was scheduled on January 21st, the day after the Muslim New Year day (AlSana Al Hijriah) and was attended by representatives of the major NGOs and young leaders in the West Bank. The young people were fascinated by the potential of an integral movement that can help them Build Palestine. They worked in different sectors such as IT, engineering, marketing and in the legal field. Many of them are part of a newly formed steering committee that is implementing the integral design in Palestine.

One of the highlights of this trip for Dr. Beck and myself was a powerful meeting with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, one of the most influential Palestinian leaders of our time. She is a woman who broke all Western and Middle Eastern stereotypes about Arab women. The first thing Dr. Ashrawi said to Don was that she is well aware of the theory and they both engaged in a fascinating conversation and planned on cooperating in the future.

Next Steps: Laying Down The Building Blocks

“Building Palestine Initiative For the Good of All,” the initiative launched in 2006, is moving from the systemic design phase to implementation and action. With our Palestinian partners we have identified several educational and enterprise initiatives supported by Palestinians from the Diaspora, Western and Middle Eastern entities.

Through our colleague Neri Bar-on we met Munir Bannoura, a Palestinian-American engineer working with Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Motorola) and a former colleague of Neri’s at Motorola-Israel. Neri, the president of Integral-Israel, is a wonderful human being who relentlessly works with Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans and others to identify a web of complex thinkers who can support this initiative and help these cultures emerge from where they are to where they need to be.

Through his company Munir has offered Bethlehem University a set of evaluation kits based on Freescale’s microcontrollers to provide professors the ability to develop hands-on lab experiments and teach students the cutting edge technology. Munir and I met with the president of Bethlehem University, Father Daniel Casey, to discuss the potential of creating a Masters degree program in engineering, specifically dealing with semiconductor technology to prepare engineers that can be hired by Freescale-Motorola or by other companies who are looking to outsource such jobs. Father Casey, being someone who understands the need for 21st century advances in Palestine, gave his unwavering support to the program and asked Munir to start the process with the Dean of the College of Computer Sciences.

On the business side of this initiative, Munir teamed up with Neri to start a Freescale business close to the West Bank that will employ engineers from Palestine. Dr. Pundak, the president of The Peres Peace Center is collaborating with the Palestinian and Israeli engineers, Munir and Neri, to make this project happen.

After a presentation on the Build Palestine Initiative that Dr. Beck gave at The Inside Edge Foundation for Education, the president of the Los Angeles Manufacturers Association who was attending the program offered to extend his association’s services to support Building Palestine.

In Palestine we are working with people from all parties and affiliations and just simply with Palestinian citizens who want to see their culture emerge as a strong, successful state.

Dr. Beck says: “Negotiation between Israel and Palestine is premature,we have to deal with the existingasymmetry between the twocultures firstin order to get them to negotiate at the same level. Building is the Key. Habitat design is the key. Mobilizing resources, uplifting people, building new dreams and visions for them for a better tomorrow, first in Palestine alone where it is most needed.”

The Eight Stage of Social Development: A quick reminder …

The Levels of Existence: Spiral Dynamics integral Levels in Color.

Spiral Dynamics Integral, or SDi for short, concerns itself with the deep complexity codes that shape our many worlds. The model describes and makes sense of the enormous complexity of human existence, and then shows how to craft elegant, systemic problem-solutions that meet people and address situations where they are. SDi identified eight of social development and the colors associated with these stages for the ease of use:

Level 1- Beige: Survival Sense, Staying Alive. Lives in bands and clans. Biological impulses and memories.

Level 2- Purple: Tribal Order. Safety and Security-Driven. The customary ways of the ancestors are interpreted by elders and chieftains so as to define specific roles and kinship relations.

Level 3- Red: Power-Driven. Exploitative Empire. Leaders have the most power because they are stronger and tougher.

Level 4- Blue: Authoritarian Structure. Order-Driven. Seniority and right position in the formal structure determines who leads whom.

Level 5- Orange: Strategic Enterprise. Achievement-Driven. Those who can demonstrate success set the standard to beat and give out incentives for improvement to the winners.

Level 6- Green: Social Network. People-Driven. Egalitarian. All must share equally in leadership and building consensus since no individual is better than other.

Level 7- Yellow: Systemic Flow. Process-Oriented. The work to be done leads the most competent person(s) to guide tasks and functions through use of appropriate intelligences. There is little fear and no status, power, image or emotional traps.

Level 8- Turquoise: Holistic. Everything Connects. Global reach. Lives responsible to sustain all life. Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit.

A Fresh Approach…

One of our young and vibrant hosts, who proudly introduced us to prominent politicians in the West Bank, suggested that he photograph Dr. Beck next to the wall to show the world the kind of confinement the Palestinians are subjected to.

I told him thatwe hold their situation dear to our hearts and that our focus is the future, while being sensitive to the painful past and theshaky present. Hiseyes lit up when he heardthat we want toemphasizethe part thatthe world does not see much of in the media reports from Palestine: brilliant, educated young men and women with the kind of resilience and spirit that is rarely seen in other parts of the Arab countries and in the world. We also want to reporton innovations in science that is being pioneered in Palestinian Universities, a heroic effort for a country that is still struggling for its sovereignty and identity.

Since we launched this initiative, my focus has been to align, integrate and synergize the efforts of all participants in this endeavor to serve the emergence of a culture that is near and dear to me and ultimately to serve the emergence of the rest of humanity. All along my work on this initiative has supported my own emergence, beyond my expectations. Faced with outer challenges I had to turn within to embrace parts of myself and learn to value all levels of existence and of myself.

Which leads me to this question: Can Integral thinking fully mature in us unless it is tested under greatly limiting life conditions?

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Elza Maalouf is the co-founder and CEO of the Center for Human Emergence-Middle East, a non-profit research and strategic design center that integrates different modes of thought and value-system priorities with geo-economic elements within the Arab world. She is leading innovation within the Islamic Arab world to identify complex thinking that will unblock many of the stalemates and facilitate the emergence of Arabs into their 21st century Renaissance. Elza was born in Lebanon and is a former attorney, a member of the Beirut Bar Association since 1987. She was appointed in 2005 as a research affiliate at Northeastern University’s Middle East Center, Boston. Currently, she is a visiting lecturer at Arizona State University, College of Interdisciplinary Studies. Elza is partnering with Dr. Don Beck on various integral initiatives in Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait and Dubai.


This article and the approach taken by Don Beck and Elza Maalouf is one of the most hope-producing pieces I’ve read on the Middle East conflicts. I look forward to learning more about how the workshop participants are able to put SDi into practice in their daily lives and the impact this has on reducing the violence in that area.

Rey Carr, rcarr@islandnet.com

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Thanks for this insight into your efforts. Clearly there is no utopian approach; realistic expectations led to real results. This is one baby step.

Habib, habib@change-facilitation.org

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I am a Jewish man living in London. I live deep in the Jewish community in Hendon and was fascinated by your approach. it seems mature and different. I guess I just wonder how it can be brought into the area.

Danny Shine, danny@neshama-music.co.uk