What Makes Us Human?
The Story of a Shared Dream
E-Book (available as ePub, Mobi, and PDF files)
"Me, I'm a gangster. The police know me. Until recently, my job was to rob banks and to rape girls. Now, I realise that my life is more important than that!" This is Kasure talking. He lives in Goroka, Papua New Guinea. What caused this change? When Jean-Louis Lamboray and 11 people from all continents launched the Constellation in 2004, they took the prism of our shared humanity to challenge the status quo. They dreamed of a world where communities would take charge of their own lives and connect for sharing and support. They would not teach nor preach but appreciate community strengths. They would not evaluate communities, but communities would assess themselves and learn from their actions. At the outset, Jean-Louis and his friends could only count on their own strengths to inch towards their dream. Now they celebrate a "positive epidemic" as in more than sixty countries thousands of communities mobilise their own strengths to address their concerns, shape their dream and act to fulfil it. Told with the simplicity of troubadours and of African storytellers this story of stories invites you to reflect and to trust in your own strengths as you join others to address collective challenges. And this is only the beginning of the journey... "Jean-Louis Lamboray is one of the world's most impressive public health doctors. Lamboray's ideas are original and brilliant, and they've worked in practice." Richard Preston, contributor to The New Yorker, currently working on a successor book to The Hot Zone. "At the Ministry of Health of Senegal, we try very hard to stimulate community ownership of health issues. Jean-Louis's book will help us take further action." Awa-Marie Coll-Seck, Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Senegal.
INTRODUCTION Me, I am a gangster. The police know me. Until recently, my job was to rob banks and to rape girls. Now, I realize that my life is more important than that!" This is Kasure talking. He lives in Goroka, Papua New Guinea. Someone asks: "What caused this change?" "For 20 years NGOs have come to tell us: "Abstain! Be faithful! Use condoms!" We barely listened. Then a team of the Constellation came and told me my strengths. Nobody had ever told me that I had strengths ... So now I use them!" Now Kasure visits people with AIDS and encourages young people to take responsibility for HIV. In December 2004, twelve people founded the Constellation because it was clear, that on their own, prevention and treatment programs had little effect on the pandemic. However, the epidemic was declining in a few places, for example, Northern Thailand, Uganda, and Brazil. Here, people had taken ownership of their AIDS problem. They had discussed the issue openly, reflected, and mobilized their own resources to respond to the challenge the pandemic posed to their communities. The Constellation was thus created to stimulate and connect local responses to AIDS, to complement existing prevention and treatment programs. At the time, we did not realize that we had embarked on a wonderful adventure. At the end of 2013, thousands of facilitators accompany more than one million people in 60 countries in Africa, America, Asia and Europe, on their response to AIDS and other concerns. Once communities realize how much they can do by themselves, they adapt the strengths-based approach to address other health issues such as malaria and diabetes and, gradually, move on to social issues such as gender-based violence, and exclusion of migrants. What, exactly, is the strengths-based approach? This is the central question that we will explore in this book. Do not, however, expect a ten point recipe! Because feedback from practice constantly enriches our approach, I‘ll try to explain how it evolved since the Constellation began. When we first started, some of us assumed that it would be sufficient to equip communities with a set of tools to help them act. But we gradually realized that the tools were secondary. The key lies in changing our own mindset from a "needs analysis" approach to one that appreciates, reveals and nurtures the strengths present in each person, family, and community, under all circumstances. Once people realize their strengths, they use them! This wonderful experience has been repeated over and over again, and we are still discovering the power that the change in approach brings to people. The appreciation of strengths dissolves preconceptions: That for each of our problems, there is a technological solution; that the western world is developed and therefore must develop the rest; that life at work can be separated from life at home; that people can be understood when sorted by categories. When preconceptions fade away, spaces open up for new and creative relations. Appreciating strengths challenges the belief that there is a technical solution to every one of our problems. Over and over again, we hear the question: "AIDS? Is there still a problem? Aren't there drugs now to treat this disease"? This belief in technical solutions is not limited to AIDS. Take malaria for example. The primary focus of international donors continues to be the large-scale distribution of insecticide-treated bed-nets and of antimalarial drugs. However, evidence shows that although 80% of African families received the bed-nets, only 30% use them consistently. And the rest? People use them as wedding veils or fishing nets or to protect cows from flies.... or just don't unpack them! This blind faith in technology is not limited to health. Take the example of security. We seem to believe that surveillance cameras are the answer, but every day we encounter new instances of violence. Another example is the extraction of water from the earth. This technology comes at the cost of producing more fossil energy, the use of which in turn is a major cause of climate change. Moreover, fossil energy enables users to continue lifestyles that consume more and more energy and to postpone much needed changes in energy consumption behavior. On their own, these technologies are not the solution; they must be combined with changes in human behavior for sustained impact. Another preconception is that Westerners believe that their countries are "developed" while the rest of the world is "developing", and that it is their duty to take care of the plight of the rest of humanity. But once we start appreciating the strengths of our Congolese, Indian, Thai, and other friends, the Westerners among us, by birth or by mind set, realize how much we can learn from them and celebrate life together. Appreciation also dissolves the separation we make between work and family. At first we conceived the Constellation as a non-profit consulting firm which would sell facilitation services. But we did not anticipate how the approach would impact our own lives! When we started looking at people through a different lens, their positive energy found its way into our own lives. Finally, we stop putting people into categories and enjoy the discovery of each other's strengths: city and slum dwellers, saints and sinners, straights and all the others, us and the vulnerable, natives and immigrants. When we categorize people, we let our preconceptions guide our attitudes and behaviors towards others. In contrast, when we enjoy the discovery of each other's strengths, we uncover the wonderful kaleidoscope of human qualities available for common action. As we free ourselves from our prejudices and place our trust in mankind, huge energy becomes available. Whether we are concerned about AIDS, about malaria, about climate change, or about the future of our planet, there is hope.
Jean-Louis works at the Constellation and is deeply shaped by the power of a positive outlook on people and on situations. Such power transformed his way of being in the world. As barriers between work and life shattered, he lives for a world where communities, families, and individuals become aware of their potential and fully deploy it to realise their dreams.
Absolutely captivating and inspiring piece! I was welcomed into the world where challenges are resolved through an internal strength and appreciation. Working as a tennis coach allows me to practice an active mindset everyday. Being active and taking charge of my own life is a choice that goes far beyond any physical effort. For me, to be active means to commit to a present moment with my every sense. Following book describes how different communities all around the world have indeed actively taken control over their own destiny and start to dream and act together in order to fulfill their goals. They are led by a clear shift of attention from challenges and external tools to internal possibilities and strengths. As energy starts to always flow in the area where the attention goes, the core strength of every human being can be released.
Moreover, the book widened my horizon with the idea that nothing is separate. As a result, I am starting to see the connections between my tennis practices and other areas of life. What a wonderful world, thank you.
The book tells the story about WHAT IS POSSIBLE. There is always a solution. You need to work hard, the result may be different from your best dream – but there is always a solution to live your full potential while facing the challenges on your way.
It is an example of resilience of people and communities. It describes through different stories what happens when we work from our own strengths and take action on WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR US. Small and big things.
Besides, it also clarifies the way of working of the Constellation. It’s the story of the Constellation told through stories of communities in the Constellation.”
I read the book before joining the Constellation, and in many ways it is because of it that I ended up joining. The biggest gift to me was inspiration: as little as I was I could connect with my profound aspirations, with others, and together we could effect the transformation we wished to see in the world around us. This wasn't yet another book complaining about what was wrong around us, rather it nudged the readers to find deep inside themselves where it is we could contribute to the world- being who we are and harboring the experience/talents/skills we have to offer. The book gives a lot of hope for people be they at the beginning of their journey (of "transforming themselves and thus the world") or well along.
JL at his confident best
A review of Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray’s book “WHAT MAKES US HUMAN? The story of a shared dream”, by Dr. Essa Mohamed Rafique
Dr. Jean Louis’ (JL) request to review his book made me kick myself. I should have offered before he asked me. I instantly and loudly agreed.
A distinction –setting it apart from the rest:
One thing that clearly stands out is that “What Makes Us Human?” is different from other books that take the appreciative inquiry and positive outlook approach. I illustrate this opinion with an example about my friend Mari Jo, who has translated the French and Spanish versions of the book. Mari Jo sets this tone of excellence when she attends her first meeting and says: “However, I found this particular meeting different. The focus of Community Life Competence Process (CLCP) is the local response, whereas till today, the general trend is to focus on the global response.” Thus, Mari Jo says that in CLCP she finally discovered the spirit and passion she was looking for in AIDS work!
Also, there is something distinctive about the Constellation, which has been existing since 2004. Mostly everyone works from home, thereby the organization’s infrastructure cost is literally zero.
You cannot put me down!
As the areas of brilliance are new, the book ignites our sense of discovery so keenly! Each new and meritorious technique, approach, knowledge, perspective, philosophy, skill or simple thought is always presented as an extract from a real-life experience and learning. This leads to a total loss of ability to stop or even pause while reading.
One point that the reader must note is that the Constellation, which is the organization promoting this strength-based approach, is in itself constantly changing too. At first conceived as a non-profit consulting firm, it continues to adapt and change based on the experience and consequent learning. This flexibility to question and test the present or existing perspectives, approaches and practices, and thus distill the inherent wisdom, is the work of all the Constellation members.
The Confidence of Success:
Dr. JL’s stories smack with the confidence of success. The inspiring stories are not only compelling (like the story of Kasure, who was a gangster robbing banks and raping girls), but also overflows with the contagious confidence brought by the success of CLCP in over a hundred countries.Thus, the tone that JL has used seems to convey that the reader can join him in the process of creating life competent communities, or he couldn’t care less! With these stories reeking of achievement, JL and the Constellation members are right in thinking because they already have the numbers to prove that CLCP works. Consequently, focusing on learning, which has proven to lead to the triumph of accomplishment and thus helping the world to be more life competent, is a far better treat than to argue with the skeptics.
Teach to fis
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