MUTUAL HELP & SELF HELP ACTION
REBUILDING WELL-BEING IN THE
SE ASIA OCEANIA AUSTRALASIA REGION
For Small Generalisable Actions
Among Disadvantaged Indigenous &
Small Minority People
10 Oct1997. Last Updated April
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the focal people's very survival as individuals, a people, a culture, a
way of life - in their place.
and rebuilding cross-cultural wellbeing following war
Torture and Trauma Survivors
Mutual Help and Self Help Grups and Networks
prepared by Laceweb
The Laceweb Home Page
paper is about energy linked to the Plan and
the Wider Plan.
paper is has 2 complimentary briefing papers:
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.
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.
paper is expressed in very tentative terms because nothing contained herein
could happen unless local disadvantaged indigenous and small minorities
people want it.
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.
locals do take up any of the suggestions in this document, possibilities for
sharing Well-being Action may allow 'what works' to spread.
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).
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
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.
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.).
eight key processes in their document were:
and integrated strategy;
at the centre;
ten objectives in their document were sustainable:
and good order
personal growth and reconciliation
development, including the development of sustainable values, morals and
and cultural systems
participation and governance
justices and conflict resolution systems
Laceweb has been evolving as an informal
network of healers
engaged in self-help Well-being Action within the SE Asia Oceania Australasia
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
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.
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.
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.
the decades virtually all Laceweb action has been unfunded. Local people take action to
address wellbeing issues that require no funding.
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.
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.
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.
of Action may fall into four broad categories, namely:
no funding needed (typical of Laceweb Action)
no funding needed (typical of Laceweb Action)
income producing initiatives
some funding needed (the Laceweb currently has no funding)
some funding needed (the Laceweb currently has no funding)
Laceweb Funding and Evaluation
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
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
The first set of outcomes
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
self help well-being actions and initiatives (requiring no expensive
'service delivery by bureaucrat backed experts')
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):
survivors of torture and trauma
war zone mentality
rascal behavior, crime and civil unrest
a healthy life style (healthy eating habits, exercise etc.)
community-based family and individual well-being support
building - trust, respect, cooperation, sharing and the like
The third set of possible deliverables
which require set-up funding and which are non-income producing.
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'.
clothing and shelter
enhancing housing and villages
improvement (paths, bridges, etc.)
water storage and delivery
The fourth set of possible outcomes
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'.
DEFINING THE TERMS USED
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.
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.
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
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
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
Open Agenda based Action may have
three concurrent themes:
and nurturing Well-being
impediments to Well-being
those affected by impediments
Action may focus on:
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
Laceweb arranged United Nations funding for the Small Island, Coastal
and Estuarine People Gathering in NE Australia in 1994. Refer Report
to the UN.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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'
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
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
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
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'.
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:
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
Trauma Healing Workshop
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