A Positive ‘Epidemic’ of Communities Taking Ownership

A Positive ‘Epidemic’ of Communities Taking Ownership

This is a story of people coming together to rediscover what it means to be human: Jean Louis Lamboray

Wednesday this week they got up at 5:30 a.m. and spent the day visiting remote villages near Mahabalipuram, India where a strengths-based approach has taken root and is igniting new commitments by villagers to take ownership of the health and well-being of their communities.

“We got back at 10:30 at night and even still stayed up talking,” one delegate says with a chuckle via a Skype interview with Axiom News the morning after.

The long day and the interest in understanding what they’d observed through it speaks to the compelling force of this approach that has now been introduced in about 20 countries and was the reason for the gathering of about 130 people speaking 10 different languages in Mahabalipuram this week.

   Jean Louis Lamboray elabourates on the essence of the community life competence approach during the Nov. 20-24 event in India.

Jean Louis Lamboray is one of the founding fathers of the approach, now called community life competence, which in the past 30 years has been applied by communities to address issues such as HIV/AIDs, malaria, diabetes and community conflict, all with strong results.  

In the same Skype conversation Jean Louis shares what the gathering this week and the general approach is all about.

“It’s a story of people coming together from all over the world to rediscover what it means to be human and to find meaning in one’s life, connect with others and deal with the concerns we have,” he says.

He notes the visits to the villages were intended to be without protocol, just exchanges between people focused on appreciating strengths and trying to learn what can be transferred between one another.

“That’s the idea of community life competence,” he notes. “It’s a matter of reconnecting people and nature, and dealing with the issues as we see them.”

He has several stories to tell of the approach igniting change upon change.

In Congo, Africa, 245 villages committed to demonstrating progress in addressing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. They wanted to show themselves and the world they could reduce the spread, on their own, using existing resources and through small feasible actions. Eight months later, more than 600 communities had joined in taking a similar approach and were showing a reduction in the prevalence of the disease. This happened, says Jean Louis because as communities found success they wanted to share their achievements with others and did so.

So is this a movement?

What is a movement, Jean Louis wonders?

He prefers to call it an epidemic, a positive epidemic that he hopes and expects will continue affecting more and more communities.

The intention at the close of the gathering this week, the Global Learning Festival, is to draft a set of principles related to this philosophy that transcend the myriad of cultures involved, he says.

The community life competence process is being largely delivered through a network of individuals and organizations called the Constellation, of which Jean Louis is a co-founder.

The Constellation has noted other groups and approaches share its ways of thinking and working to some degree, including Socratic dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry and participatory action research. All have this in common:

- they stimulate the exchange of ideas based on positive thinking and compassion;
- they require from participants commitment, authenticity, attention to others and clear language;
- they seek to create change through collaborative decision making and sidetracking power games.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

Generative Journalist


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