Friday, February 13, 2015

Unyoke Leaders Exchange 2015: An Opportunity to Invest in Peacebuilders

Webersburg Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 7-17 April 2015

What is Unyoke Leaders Exchange® (ULEx 2015)?
ULEx 2015 (7-17 April 2015) is a gathering of a diverse group of international peacebuilders and business leaders in who expressed a need for time and space to refine their strategies to achieve deeper impact in their local contexts. The exchange is designed as a proverbial pitstop or a “creative pause” where participants can “unyoke” exchange their best ideas, inspire one another to lead peacebuilding efforts more effectively and design concrete strategies as next steps. 

Who will be attending?
Academics, practitioners, NGO directors, programme managers, and business leaders have expressed an interest to attend. Amongst those who want to attend, for example, is a team of three prominent facilitators in the current political impasse in Nepal. 

What is the purpose?
The purpose is to achieve greater effectiveness and impact as peace practitioners. 
Why are we convening ULEx 2015?
Peace practitioners work in high-pressure, reactive environments with very little time to review their strategies and impact. ULEx 2015 is creating this space to reflect and share with peers on key lessons, challenges and innovations. One of the most important — if not the most important — investments that is required now is to support thoughtful practitioners who have the potential to change the trajectory of shifting and new emerging violent contexts. Those who build peace must become as strong, supported and resilient as never before, because they are the catalysts for creative interventions. At ULEx 2015 a community of practitioners will learn from one another as they seek to transform intractable conflicts around the world. 

What are the desired outcomes?
  • Deeper understanding of the challenges facing peacebuilding and corporate leaders and exploring creative ways to increase leadership effectiveness;
  • Deeper understanding of how to effectively sustain and support key leaders;
  • A re-vitalised and inspired team of practitioners who return to their contexts with a new vision of what is possible and concrete ideas to realise that vision.  
What are the concrete outputs?
  • A “Nuggets of Wisdom from the Field” paper on crucial insights into the challenges facing peacebuilders and business leaders at various levels and innovative ideas on how to respond appropriately to some of the challenges; 
  • Action-research on developing appropriate support systems for peacebuilding and business leaders;
  • A network of ULEx alumni, which will be connected to a world-wide network of peace practitioners.
Why Webersburg Wine Estate in South Africa?
The idea is to convene in a beautiful and serene environment that has access to the mountains, sea and nature. 

Why 8 days?
To allow for maximum space to write, reflect and share. 
What is theory of change? 
The theory of change behind the Unyoke Leaders Exchange® concept is the following: 
“When key leaders in the peacebuilding and corporate fields spend quality time alone and with others to reflect, share and learn in a relaxed and beautiful environment, they will be inspired and guided towards greater excellence and impact in their respective environments because they will have clearer visions and strategies for the future.”

What are the programme elements?
The focus will be on
  • Mutual learning through the sharing of key insights, challenges, and lessons—not on training or teaching
  • Tailored inputs by and networking with relevant South African resource persons and institutions;
  • Feedback on ideas and plans for the future;
  • One-on-one leadership coaching (optional).

Programme director and facilitator
The programme director and facilitator will be Chris Spies, Director: Dynamic Stability Consultancy; and 
Founder and Facilitator of Unyoke Leaders Exchange.
“Chris brings an extraordinary high level of integrity and sensitivity to the field. His respectful, yet creative facilitation ability is outstanding. His contribution to my own practice has been immeasurable.” Andries Odendaal, Conflict Transformation Specialist, South Africa.
“Chris is a thoughtful practitioner who is able to work at several different levels of peacebuilding and conflict resolution — both in planning effective strategy and as an excellent facilitator and consensus-builder. He has been a pleasure to work with as a colleague.” Diana Chigas, Professor of Practice at Fletcher School, Tufts University.
“Chris is working with the inner capacity of us, humans, to change. He is bringing in over-all, holistic and integrated perspectives where our purpose, linked to our own basic human values remain in the focus. Listening and common learning, in dialogue,  make a difference. He is a very efficient facilitator making accompaniment the main instrument for change of thinking leading to change of action. No quick fixes but consolidated quality action. Chris had a key role in the design and the development of the FBA training program on dialogue and mediation, now a basic element in training for UN Staff  dealing with Political Affairs and Peace-building.” Ambassador Ragnar Ă„ngeby, Founder and former Head of the Conflict Prevention in Practice Program of the Folke Bernadotte Academy, Sweden.
“Chris demonstrates a very high level of integrity in whatever he undertakes. He allows people to explore their own assumptions and perceptions in a way that people feel safe to express themselves. I also would like to mention his absolute talent to tell stories and exercise the necessary dose of humour. It has been a great personal and professional opportunity to work with someone like Chris.” Afke Bootsman, UNDP, Lebanon
“Chris is a superb team player with high quality international experience in the area of peacebuilding. He brings a personal style that is warm, serious and confidence-inspiring…Perhaps more critically, Chris takes the time to understand those he works with at a deep social/spiritual/cultural level. This aids trust and helps ensure the success of his work. In peacebuilding, he is a true master of the art.” Lawrence Lachmansingh, former programme manager at UNDP Guyana and former Peace and Development Advisor, Ghana.
“Chris Spies demonstrated what a wonderful facilitator can and should be…” Dr. Dinesh Prasain, Sociologist, Nepal.
Seldom have I met a person, who was able to meet people where they were, using his unique leadership skills to transform us from individuals to a movement with a higher purpose.” Tina Monberg, Mediator, Psychotherapist and Lawyer, Denmark.

Bio of Chris Spies, an Experienced International Facilitator and Conflict Transformation Practitioner 

Chris Spies is the founder and director of Dynamic Stability Consultancy in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.  

Chris is driven by the belief that people have the wisdom and can grow capacities to influence processes that affect their lives, especially where justice, freedom and civil liberties are at stake. These capacities are best enhanced in mutual learning spaces that are safe and respectful. It is possible to build those spaces with people rather than for them through engaging in relationships of trust, respect and support. 

He specialises in the design and facilitation of processes to build capacities for dialogue, mediation and collaborative leadership in socio-political conflict settings. He is currently a lead facilitator of international courses in dialogue and mediation for the Folke Bernadotte Academy in Sweden and various UN programmes and specialist retreats. 

Chris has been involved in Infrastructure for Peace (I4P) related initiatives and developed curriculum and training courses on Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue for Nepal, Kenya, Malawi and Myanmar. 

He was the coordinator of the Finding Ways to Walk Together dialogue initiative in South Africa in collaboration with the Shared Societies Project of the Club de Madrid, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Idasa, the Citizens’ Movement and the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust.

From 2003 to 2006 Chris served as the UN Peace and Development Advisor in Guyana, South America. This programme, with others, contributed to the first violence-free elections in more than fifty years. 

In the 1980s Chris worked as a pastor in disadvantaged and neglected rural communities in the  Eastern Cape in South Africa, where he joined hands with communities and activists to overcome the devastation caused by apartheid. 

Chris was deeply involved in peacebuilding in South Africa in the 1990s.  After the signing of the South African National Peace Accord in 1991 he served as the Regional Organiser of the Western Cape Regional Peace Committee from 1992-94. Thereafter he was a Senior Trainer and Researcher at the University of Cape Town-based Centre for Conflict Resolution. 

As a member of the National Land Reform Mediation Panel Chris mediated several land claims.

His full profile is available at, his blog address is and he can be followed on Twitter at @lukanani. He runs a Dialogue Ideas Facebook page at

Chris Spies

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Listen deeper and deeper!

Listening on Five Levels*
Chris Spies

The purpose of this model is to help us listen to more than words.  The five levels are: The head (thoughts or facts), heart (emotions), needs (stomach), clothes (culture), and intentions (feet).  Each of the levels is interconnected and interdependent.   

For example:  “When I heard you swearing at me it became clear to me that you did not respect and understand me.  That made me very depressed and angry because I don’t believe that that is how one should behave. What I would like you to do in future is to ask me for my side of the story.”  

The facts:  You swore at me
The emotions: Depressed and angry
The needs: Understanding, identity, protection
The culture: This is not how I believe one should behave
The intentions: To ask for a change in behaviour

This example shows that communication happens on various levels and through different types of dynamics. In order for us to be good listeners, it we need to to be clear about  the role we want to play:  
  • Am I a facilitator of understanding who helps the other see themselves and find their own answers and resolve conflicts? 
  • Am I a partner that listens with a view to build a new community together?
  • Am I an explorer that is interested in fact finding?
The speaker may or may not indicate to you which role he/she wants us to play.  Do not assume that the listener wants advice or direction. Listening on all five levels is a difficult, but an important empowering exercise for both the speaker and listener.
  1. Listening to the thoughts of the other is fairly easy.  All one has to do is to say back, in your own words, the facts our thoughts that you heard from the other person.  One has to “find out what’s happening in the other person’s head” as clearly as possible.  The listener basically has to help the speaker see the full picture of what that person is describing. You would often find that as you paraphrase the facts, the speaker will say: “Exactly! And what’s more, …”.  That is a good sign, because the person finds your reflections helpful and fill you in on details that matter to him/her.  Or, you may find that the person is saying: “No, not exactly that.  In fact, what happened was…”.  That is also a good sign, because the person is given an opportunity to make sure the two of you have the same understanding of the facts.

    Be very careful not to allow your curiosity to take the upper hand.  It is not your story.  So, stay away from asking questions that would satisfy your curiosity.  Allow the other person to share what he or she wants to share.
  2. Listening to the emotions is more difficult.  Many people find it difficult to show or talk about how they feel.  If someone says:  “I feel that Mary was wrong when she said…” or “I feel that things are going to get worse…”, you should know that the person has not expressed an emotion or feeling.  Rather, the person has expressed a thought.

    It is very important that the listener helps the speaker to name his/her emotions.  If people don’t express how they feel, the feelings build up and cause people to lose their ability to think clearly.  That could lead to actions such violence or suicide.  On the other hand, connecting to and expressing emotions serves as a safety valve and relief.

    When needs are being met are people feel confident, excited, grateful, hopeful, inspired, joyful, peaceful, refreshed, etc.

    When needs are not being met people may feel afraid, angry, irritated, appalled, confused, hesitant, disconnected, disturbed, uncomfortable, embarrassed, burnt out, devastated, hurt, lonely, miserable, remorseful, sad, depressed, disappointed, unhappy, hopeless, tense, bitter, edgy, nervous, overwhelmed, restless, stressed out, vulnerable, envious, jealous, etc.
  3. Listening to the stomach refers to listening to the needs. The stomach reminds us of unmet needs like hunger, thirst, etc.  But there are many more needs that people are not even aware of.  Manfred Max-Neef has developed a list of 9 fundamental human needs:  Subsistence, Protection, Affection, Understanding, Participation, Leisure, Creation, Identity, and Freedom.  These needs, if not met, drive conflict and determine our behaviour.  For instance:  If someone discriminates against me, my needs for identity, understanding and freedom are seriously frustrated and I will probably confront that person and something ugly can happen.  If we understand, however, that all human beings have the same needs but they choose different satisfiers, we would be better able to understand and empathise with others.  The conflict is about the satisfiers—not the needs.  Dialogue is a powerful approach to express needs and talk about constructive ways to achieve win-win solutions. Some satisfiers may look like satisfiers, but in fact they are destroyers.  For example: When someone is stressed out there is a need for understanding, leisure and freedom.  If the the person chooses satisfiers such as chain smoking, drink alcohol excessively or take harmful medication all the time, these satisfiers are in fact destroying the needs for subsistence, protection, freedom and identity.  In the listening process, the listener should help the speaker identify the needs and explore the range of possible alternative satisfiers that satisfy a combination of needs.  Then the conversation can move on to the next phase of uncovering the intentions or will.
  4. Listening to the intentions or will means that the listener helps the speaker get clarity on what is the next step for him or her.  What does the person want to do about the situation?  And what would the speaker want to see happening?  It is important to stay clear from the temptation to give advice.  The person who presents the problem has to take the lead in finding and owning solutions to the problem.  
  5. The clothes represent the culture, values and beliefsThe listener should attempt to understand where the views and beliefs of the speaker come from.  For example, a police person coming from a “police culture” will describe a conflict differently from a university lecturer who comes from an “academic or university culture”; men and women, young people and the older generation, employees and employers, generally speaking, express themselves differently in many ways.  Each group—whether it be the civil servants, NGOs, the UN, private sector, opposition, government, and the rest—understands “the way we do things around here”.  Members of these “cultures” are not necessary aware of how they think and behave.  The listener can help the speaker to become more aware of how culture, values and beliefs have shaped him/her.

The task of the listener is to listen and explore at all five levels—not to advise and to hijack the agenda of the speaker. 

* Hamo Hammond of Catalyst Consulting ( has generously shared his wisdom, contributing to sharpen the ideas. The Five Level Listening Model is an expansion of the module Levels Of Listening: a few helps and hindrances in a "facilitating organizational development" training course.