SELF-HELP ACTION
REBUILDING WELL-BEING IN THE
SE ASIA OCEANIA AUSTRALASIA REGION

Exploring Possibilities
For Small Generalisable Actions
Among Disadvantaged Indigenous &
Small Minority People

 

Written 10 Oct1997. Last Updated April 2014

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POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS

  • Supporting the focal people's very survival as individuals, a people, a culture, a way of life - in their place.
  • Peacehealing and rebuilding cross-cultural wellbeing following war
  • Supporting Torture and Trauma Survivors

 

Proposal prepared by Laceweb

The Laceweb Home Page

This paper is about energy linked to the Plan and the Wider Plan.

This paper is has 2 complimentary briefing papers:

This document is about local indigenous and disadvantage small minority people in the SE Asia Oceania Australasia Region taking specific action to improve their lives - what has been called Grassroots Wellbeing Action.

Small groups of people from these focal groups have been using these suggestions successfully for over thirty years. For example, an Intercultural Normative model Area (INMA) has been evolving among Indigenous, Disavantaged Small Minorities and Interculturals in Far North Queensland for over 20 years. Possibilities for a far wider adoption of these healing ways are briefly outlined.

This paper is expressed in very tentative terms because nothing contained herein could happen unless local disadvantaged indigenous and small minorities people want it.

The focal people have reason to be extremely sceptical and cautious. Many have experience of 'aid' and 'support' being less than useful. Sadly, we live in a World where trauma is used as a means of social control (consider recent East Timor history). Healing wellbeing can be deemed a subversive activity. Caution is warranted.

If locals do take up any of the suggestions in this document, possibilities for sharing Well-being Action may allow 'what works' to spread.

The following explores micro-action - small 'local people' based Actions for making life better. It is understood that support for torture and trauma survivors may be a paramount issue. Another may be reducing 'war zone' mentality. For other focal people, the central issue may be their very survival as individuals, a people, a culture, a way of life - in their place. Refer Key Indigenous Issues).

Grassroots Well-being Action may be an appropriate process for involving local grassroots people in having a voice about the shape of processes and content for normalising their lives, communities and their wider society. Action may stem from 'self help' rather than 'services' being 'delivered' by locals or outsiders.

Spreading healing Action may hold forth possibilities for rebuilding Well-being throughout the whole of a locale. It may be a model for the Grassroots people of the whole of the SE Asia Oceania Australasia region - Action supporting and rebuilding Well-being in all its forms.

This document uses a resonant framework to the one used by Bopp and Ahai, to address many of the issues outlined in their document 'Bougainville: From Talk to Action - 1994-1997 - A Needs Analysis and Three Year Provincial Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Social Development for the North Solomons Province (Bopp, M., & Ahai, N.).

The eight key processes in their document were:

  1. People centred approach;
  2. Holistic and integrated strategy;
  3. Spirituality at the centre;
  4. People's participation;
  5. Vision building;
  6. Learning centred approach;
  7. Building unity; and
  8. Sustainability

The ten objectives in their document were sustainable:

  1. Peace and good order
  2. Healing personal growth and reconciliation
  3. Spiritual development, including the development of sustainable values, morals and ethics
  4. Livelihood and economy
  5. Environment
  6. Health
  7. Social and cultural systems
  8. Peoples participation and governance
  9. Social justices and conflict resolution systems
  10. Learning

THE LACEWEB

The Laceweb has been evolving as an informal network of healers engaged in self-help Well-being Action within the SE Asia Oceania Australasia Region.

For over thirty years the network has been evolving through small local self-help among Australian Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders, Australian South Sea Islanders, Bougainvillians, East Timorese, as well as among other indigenous, Small Minority and Intercultural people in remote and rural areas of the Region

This informal wellbeing network is not associated with any political group, faction or religion. It respects spiritual, ethnic and cultural diversity. Laceweb socio-healers from the Region may offer support to locals seeking to take their own action in improving their lives.

Acknowledgment is given to the Indigenous and Small Minority people throughout the Region, whose actions over the past thirty years, in increasing their Well-being together, are continually refining these processes.

To support Action the Laceweb has recently begun non-compromising fundroving through Extegrity, a linked functional matrix. Extegrity also has begun informing potential funding bodies throughout the World of the unfolding Laceweb Action. It is early days, and funding for participatory self help action remains very problematic. Indigenous and disadvantaged small minority groups in the Region may link with Extegrity by the above email address.

Over the decades virtually all Laceweb action has been unfunded. Local people take action to address wellbeing issues that require no funding.

People from the network who have supported themselves and other locals in self help on many occasions, may be available to support locals with self help Action.

The processes being suggested in this document typically commence in a micro way - with perhaps as few as 3 - 5 people. In one case one Islander woman personally took action that stopped late night property damage by a large number of young children in a village.

Experience has demonstrated that such small beginnings may evolve and spread. Subsequent flow-on changes may be on a broad spectrum of Well-being needs. Changes may emerge without the necessity for specific and/or additional funding beyond the initial energising of Well-being Action.

Outcomes of Action may fall into four broad categories, namely:

  1. changes to life-ways
    no funding needed (typical of Laceweb Action)
  2. specific initiatives
    no funding needed (typical of Laceweb Action)
  3. non income producing initiatives
    some funding needed (the Laceweb currently has no funding)
  4. income producing initiatives
    some funding needed (the Laceweb currently has no funding)

Laceweb Funding and Evaluation Protocols

Some local groups may have funding, or know of some sources who may be approached for funding. Guidelines for funding Laceweb involvement are as set out in the document, 'Self-Help Action Supporting Survivors of Torture and Trauma on Bougainville - Small Generalisable Actions', under the subheading, Laceweb Funding and Evaluation Protocols.


SELF HELP

This is not about 'token self help' under distant direction and control. The processes being outlined in the Plan place the shape and roll-out of unfunded outcomes completely in the hands of the local people. Uncompromising funding may be used that also place the shape and roll-out of funded outcomes in the hands of the local people.

Typically, four kinds of outcomes may emerge:

The first set of outcomes

    • A range of behaviour changes, capacities and well-being actions These may help re/build relationships and dissolve fear, distrust and conflict between members of their own communities and between the focal people's neighbours and oppressors. This action in turn may support the locals' viability and sustainability as individuals, a people, a culture, a way of life - in their place.

The second set of possible outcomes

    • Local self help well-being actions and initiatives (requiring no expensive 'service delivery by bureaucrat backed experts')

Note:

Action may be voluntary and happen as people go about their daily lives.

These actions and initiatives may require little set-up funding or on-going funding.

Possible examples (although local issues, needs and aspirations may be very different):

    • supporting survivors of torture and trauma
    • normalizing war zone mentality
    • renouncing payback
    • reducing rascal behavior, crime and civil unrest
    • extending mutual respect
    • becoming more sane
    • reducing/stopping domestic violence
    • sustaining a healthy life style (healthy eating habits, exercise etc.)
    • softening drug abuse
    • providing community-based family and individual well-being support
    • mediation therapy
    • community building - trust, respect, cooperation, sharing and the like

The third set of possible deliverables

    • actions/initiatives which require set-up funding and which are non-income producing.

Note:

Some of these actions/initiatives may require on-going funding that may be picked up by funding sources.

The outcomes could be 'well-formed proposals for approval by funding sources'.

Possible examples:

    • Food, clothing and shelter
    • Well-being enhancing housing and villages
    • Habitat improvement (paths, bridges, etc.)
    • Roads and tracks
    • Establishing sustainable gardens
    • Pure water storage and delivery
    • Schools
    • Children's educational resources
    • Water craft

The fourth set of possible outcomes

    • Income producing economic initiatives requiring funding support during set up, as well as on-going funding support till viable.

The outcomes may be 'well-formed 'economic proposals' for approval by funding sources'.

Possible examples:

    • cash cropping
    • fisheries
    • livestock husbandry
    • tourism and eco-tourism

DEFINING THE TERMS USED

Region means the SE Asia Oceania Australasia region

The Grassroots Well-being Action being described differs in many respects from traditional Non Government Organizations (NGO) and Community Based Organizations (CBO), both voluntary and non voluntary who almost invariably provide services. These differences are outlined throughout this document.

The term 'Action' is used to mean 'self-help' and 'community help and support' using Cultural healing for nurturing well-being (refer, Cultural Healing Action.

This 'Action' could be a Self Help micro-model for an alternative or complement to well-being Service Delivery, not only for places in the Region like Bougainville and East Timor, but also for wider indigenous and disadvantaged small minority contexts.

With 'Action Research', Community members act, evaluate, modify, discard and validate social and economic Action. 'Research' always follows Action - hence the term 'Action research'. Aspects of Action deemed to be very good and effective are upheld and sustained - become policy if you like. 'Ideas in action' evolves 'best practice' which is continually up for review.

If a 'situated anomaly' or 'local rupture' occurs that alters outcomes for the better or worse, change is introduced as appropriate. Over time, this consensually derived and intersubjectively validated 'best practice' becomes future community policy and part of the 'common stock of knowledge'. That is, 'policy' is 'that which works'.

Before 'best practice' is adopted as 'policy', it has been tested and validated as lived community life. It has consensual community acceptance and has already worked as a micro-model. It follows that 'community evolved policy' always works.

'Cultural Action' evolved among the indigenous people of the Pacific. All aspects of a people's culture - their storytelling, music, drama, art, drumming, song, sculpture, - their way of life - may be used to explore together ways of enriching their Well-being. Typically, people gain new competencies in the process of refining their Well-being together.

'Enablers' are people who have experienced others engaging in this Action many times. Enablers, as the name suggests, support locals in getting the process started. Enablers offer lots of possibilities that may be taken up by the locals if they want to do so. It is the locals who do the 'Self Help', not the visiting enablers. The locals decide what happens, not the enablers. Everything is in the locals' hands. Enablers may take 'catalyst' and 'enabler' roles and act as 'resource' people. They do not act as expert 'decision makers' and 'power brokers'.

The term 'Grassroots' is used in the sense of 'the common folk'. Often the people involved have never engaged in socio-cultural Action before - have never been on a 'committee', exercised any problem solving effectiveness or dreamed that they could have an effect.

'Mediation therapy' involves the use of cultural and intercultural healing ways. It involves being together in ways that heal communities - socio-therapy. It involves using mediation process which heal people and relationships. The processes set up contexts rich with possibilities. People rebuild relationships and co-heal well-being as they acknowledge differences, explore their shared and differing meaning and accept, respect, celebrate, and resolve those differences.

The term 'Well-being' is used in the widest possible sense and covers the nurturing healing aspects of human living. This includes physical, socio-emotional, mental, mindbody, spiritual, relational, family, communal, cultural, environmental, intercultural, habitat and economic. 'Nurturing Cultural Action' implies 'healing' in its widest sense. It includes health, education, and economic development.

Healing gatherings are gatherings of locals with or without Laceweb enablers during which healing ways and Action are shared.

A SUMMARISING OF SUGGESTIONS

It is suggested that self-help Well-being Action may be explored as one possible process for rebuilding local Well-being in the Region.

The Action may be 'local people' centred rather than having distant outside experts deciding action.

'What works' may be consensually validated by locals. In this, process research may follow Action based on local knowing.

If desired by the local people, they may have support from Laceweb enablers in evolving Well-being 'deliverables'.

Enablers may also help set up 'Well-being' as a frame of reference for action.

Enablers may support local people in creating both structured and unstructured contexts and experiences - healing gatherings. These may occur during arranged and spontaneous gatherings and events, and as villagers go about their daily lives.

There may be a dynamic open Well-being agenda. In keeping with the 'villager centred' approach, agendas may emerge from, and change according to unfolding local operative needs and aspirations.

Open Agenda based Action may have three concurrent themes:

    • Generating and nurturing Well-being
    • Preventing impediments to Well-being
    • Curing those affected by impediments

Action may focus on:

    • Increasing Well-being,
    • Sustaining prevention, and
    • Decreasing the need to cure.

The process typically commences with establishing relationships and storytelling within a 'Well-being frame' (for example, 'What is missing in our Well-being?' 'What would enrich it?'). This may lead into an eclectic process called Cultural Action which includes storytelling, brainstorming, small group discussion, model building, drama, role-play and the like.

In addition to their existing abilities, Villagers may develop specific competences and behaviour shifts that they require to effect change. Typically, this happens as a by-product of the processes they use to identify and evolve Well-being Action and initiative development.

The process may have locals reflecting on their own needs and have this running in tandem with low-risk self-help change processes. This, in turn may have the advantage of profoundly absorbing the local people in their own healing process. Villagers may begin receiving the benefit of these deliverables immediately.

The deliverables mentioned above may 'cascade' out of the above process.

HOW THE SUGGESTED PROCESS MAY WORK

The following section is suggestive:

    • As an example, energy is evolving for intercultural healing gatherings in the Atherton Tablelands with the following participants: Bougainvillians, East Timorese, West Papuans and Hmong people from Laos. Laceweb enablers are available to support this gathering - refer the Micro-Proposal.
    • Ideas are emerging for experienced sociotherapists and psychotherapists from within the Laceweb to carry out an enabling role in supporting the evolving of a self-help trauma support network in the region. The document Self-Help Action Supporting Survivors of Torture and Trauma on Bougainville - Small Generalisable Actions contains a list of healing themes, processes and skills that may be explored.
    • Local nurturers may experience and adapt these to suit local healing ways and sensibilities. A workshop series has been prepared as a framework for sharing the above healing ways.
    • Action building support for torture and trauma survivors may potentially be fully integrated with and complement the other community Well-being Action being suggested in this document.
    • The Laceweb arranged United Nations funding for the Small Island, Coastal and Estuarine People Gathering in NE Australia in 1994. Refer Report to the UN.
    • Grassroots Well-being Action people attended from across the remote regions of Northern Australia and the SE Asia Pacific region. Plans are evolving for similar healing gatherings.
    • A ground-swell of people is cooperating in taking their own responsibility to resolve an extensive range of cultural Well-being issues. In the past, these Well-being issues have fallen to governments to resolve because no other entity had the capacity to have an impact.
    • While socio-emotional and trauma support may be high or a first priority, the Well-being Action extends possibilities for rebuilding economic Well-being through income generating Action.
    • Enablers from within the Laceweb may be a source of influence, confluence and understanding. Enablers may support locals linking up contexts, issues and peoples' energies in sustaining local and laterally linked networks of Action.

If Grassroots community nurturing Action continues its exponential growth, the potential to lower the present cost involved in service delivery is immense. The role of governments, for large sections of the Well-being agenda, has scope to change from 'deliver of services' to that of 'facilitator of local Cultural nurturing Action' - refer Government and the Facilitation of Grassroots Action.

THE ROLE OF ENABLERS

Given that the local people take up any of the suggestions in this document, the Action may be supported by Laceweb enablers. Enablers are skilled at identifying 'natural nurturers' - well-being types who are already 'self starters'. Finding the local self starters is a crucial step for enablers. Together with active locals, enablers may create opportunities for the locals to do something for themselves and others. Some locals may desire to become enablers and hence spread the process more widely.

One aspect of the enabling role is being a catalyst - supporting getting things started. Enabling is both transparent and virtually invisible once the process is under way. Ideally, the enabling may continue as a 'safety net' and 'catalyst' until Action is soundly established. In the current context it may last beyond two to three years.

The process is also centred around the notion of 'context'. Enablers are skilled in assisting the villagers set up specific contexts. These contexts may have a Well-being 'frame'. Contexts may be constituted so they are rich with possibilities - possibilities for drawing upon the wisdom of the locals - the local knowings of what works - for reflecting, enriching, being curious, creating, exploring, rehearsing, learning and trying new ways.

The Enablers are highly refined 'process' observers (how things happen) and are skilled in passing on this ability to others. Initially, one of the enablers' roles may be the recording of the process and the unfolding outcomes so rumours of what works may be spread in the network. The word 'rumours' is used in the sense of 'check this out for yourselves and see if it works for you.'

This is done in ways that do not interrupt or limit the process. Increasingly, all involved may become the custodians of the 'knowledge of the unfolding way'. Participants may take on 'process observing' and 'enabling' roles.

INVOLVING THE COMMUNITY

Whole communities may become involved. At times groups of different size may form and reform and share their outcomes with other sub-groups, or the whole village, or groups of villages. Local self-help Actions may meet, complement and facilitate other local Grassroots Actions in other villages and regions.

People may act together to support each other at appropriate times. Action may start with only a few people involved. At times many people may come together for specific events, healing gatherings, celebrations and healing actions. It may be possible for hundreds, sometimes thousands to be involved - collective healing action. As well, throughout every day, Grassroots people may be involved in myriads of significant, trivial Well-being acts.

In many cases it is the women who may take the initiative. It may revolve around both cultural healing and intercultural reconciliation. Mediation therapy skills may emerge out of group process.

Action may expand links among individuals and families and turn strangers into friends. It may build communing villages. It may permeate through everyday life. It may 'village' the village.

HOLISTIC AND INTEGRATED

Local Healing Action may simultaneously address everything undermining Well-being. It may be both pervasively holistic, and detailed in its holism. Actions may have integrity built in. This contrasts with the typical structure of government agencies which divides the world and the wellbeing agenda into departments, sectors and programs, with little or no cooperation between the parts.

Bopp and Ahai stressed the appropriateness of evolving a shift towards holistic and integrated approaches in Bougainville governance, 'This integrative approach will require an integrated management and implementation structure that contributes to a gradual change in the cooperative culture of government' (Bopp & Ahai).

What works in one village may, subject to local openness, be taken to and shared with other villages. Whole villages may join in Action with other villages. Action may be focused on all the inter-related issues involved -simultaneously working on impediments to, for example, economic, socio-emotional and habitat Well-being.

Because of the multifaceted nature of nurturing Action, it tends to have simultaneous multiple positive consequences. For example, a range of psycho-social and emotional issues may be resolving during the process of exploring economic opportunities.

The process allows for the integrating of initiatives in ways that minimizes funding requirements and maximizes overall effectiveness. Because of this, the timing and specifics of the cascade of initiatives and change is a function of local needs and aspirations.

VILLAGE BASED EVALUATING PROCESSES

Villagers may carry out evaluation processes at the local village level. This may proceed in tandem with Action Programs. Actions that 'work' may be passed on to other locals, consensually validated and adopted as policy at the local level.

Action and evaluation may combine the structured and the general, the formal and the informal. Action may creatively and positively use the community grapevines for passing on what works. It may have self-sustaining energy. Both specific and general programs may evolve out of Action. In all of this, Action may be generative. It may be a dynamic, expanding process that continually subjects its own Action to review.

Another important feature is that it typically starts with Action based on consensually valid local knowledge. It typically commences with self-starters. In the early stages these self starters may often be identified and energized by visiting enablers.

Laceweb experience is that identifying the local natural nurturers who are self starters is the single most potent contributor to local self help action getting under way.

Increasingly these local self starters may start doing Well-being Action themselves and demonstrating to others that things can be done. They may get others involved who follow and extend their example. Older locals tend to identify Self Help Action as like the old traditional ways.

In contrast to the typical Western processes, with 'Local Grassroots nurturing Action', local people are very familiar with local issues and may immediately get on with the job in hand. Action people are not dependent on constantly seeking anyone's permission or approval, especially the approval of experts.

Typically, in Western processes, nothing can start until lots of research takes place. In the processes being described in this document, action gets under way directly. Things may be in no way certain. People may have little or no idea how things will unfold. This tentativeness is in marked contrast with mainstreams preoccupation with 'certainty' so controllers can predict and control.

With self help Action, a key feature is that the starting point is 'local wisdom guiding both Action and evaluating'. Action, evaluating and research proceed in tandem. It is a holistic process, not a step by step process as in Western ways.

Local needs are resolved by Grassroots people for and on their own behalf. They discuss the communal lived life experience of their Action, especially their successes. They drop or modify what they do not want and keep exploring and testing as fits the need. In this way, rigorous evaluating is built into the unfolding Action. Local Well-being criteria are benchmarks for this evaluating. Evaluating is thus culturally appropriate to local context. What emerges are 'Actions that work'.

Different communities may vary markedly as to what constitutes their Well-being culture. Action is about the local community exploring and making consensual decisions about what they need and want for their own Well-being; taking the necessary steps themselves to attain their Well-being and deciding themselves when they have not got it. Only they know this. The local wisdom is with the local people. Typically, so are most of the skills. Increasingly the people involved are saying, 'We do not want outsiders trying to provide our Well-being, or deciding our Well-being for us'.

CONCLUDING

Around the world there seems to be a consensus between governments of all persuasions about the value of reducing the size of government expenditure and of getting better value for the public dollar. Nurturing Cultural Action for Well-being may be a vehicle which could contribute to both these aims. National, provincial and local governments as well as Global and Regional funding bodies may be well placed to support Grassroots Action. There is also substantial scope for multinational and transnational companies to play a non compromising philanthropic role.

Complimentary briefing papers:

Links:

Laceweb Home Page

Laceweb - Self-Help Action Supporting Survivors of Torture and Trauma in Se Asia, Oceania and Australasia - Small Generalisable Actions

Short Version of Previous Page.

Trauma Healing Workshop Manual

 

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