The Refugee Issue Seen from Spiral Dynamics Integral

The Refugee Issue Seen from Spiral Dynamics Integral


– Article written by Leida Schuringa, Synnervate/Center for Human Emergence NL-


“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark”

For more than 20 years I am involved in supporting refugees in The Netherlands to find their place in society. I use Spiral Dynamics integral (SDi) since 2006, leading to many insights and perspectives for acting. Now the issue has become even more overwhelming, so how can Spiral Dynamics help us on a multi-country scale and reveal and explain what is happening?  

Due to various reasons like civil war in Syria, the effects of devastating international politics in the Middle East leading to the emergence of IS and lack of (financial) support to diminish poverty and build (Blue) structures in developing countries, millions of people are on the run. In their despair, many of them take dangerous and very expensive escape routes over sea towards Europe. Europe was completely taken aback by the numbers of refugees and the (Red) chaos. Now they try to design (Blue) procedures like the Covenant with Turkey to take more control of the situation.

In Europe we can see various reactions to the refugee issue. For example, the general attitude of Hungary and The Netherlands is different, becoming apparent in border policy (Hungary closing border with barbed wire fence), the number of policy makers who do their best to organize asylum centers and the emergence of private initiatives to support refugees. The SD-lens shows us a different distribution of the value systems in these two countries, a different ‘vMEME Barcode’[2]. This insight elucidates these differences as well as the next evolutionary steps that are needed in the various European countries.

In my IEC presentation  I will especially focus on the next three themes:

  • the non-existence of ‘our’ values and norms: in general people, organizations, policy makers, media react on the new comers and any conflict that arise with that, with the judgment: ‘they’ have to adjust to our values, norms and way of life,
  • how to deal with Red and
  • a strategy towards integration of refugees into society.

It would be great if we could create in Hungary a European network around this refugee issue.


“you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land” 

[1] From a poem written by the Somalian-British poet Warsan Shire

[2] See Elza Maalouf: Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East, p. 188

“Our Community Got Back Its Soul”


– excerpt from an article written by Leida –

The change from a reactive towards a proactive attitude means something different in the various value systems. Development can be seen as a staircase. In each vMeme the focus for interventions will be different:


Change The Content Of The Codes

How can we influence the change from a passive or closed attitude to an active and open attitude? One of the tools that Don Beck gave us, is to change the content of the codes. People have the perspective they have and we have to respect that. But the content may change. Don told a story about a Palestine man who still kept the key of his grandfather’s house now situated in Israel. He felt proud about his forefathers and wanted to honour them by going back to the house. He felt he had to do so for the honour of the family. Don talked to him and said, “Suppose you were to build a school here for your grandchildren and the school would have the name of your grandfather, wouldn’t that honour him and your family even more than going back?” The man was doubtful… and then he changed his mind. After some time he really built a school named after his grandfather.

A good SDi (Spiral Dynamics Integral) analysis is needed to find out from which vMeme people are operating and where blockades and opportunities for change are present. This informs us about the focus of the interventions. In general someone is “floating” between three stages. So, when you meet a person who functions from dominant unhealthy Red, the next four interventions are available to deal with this person:

  • Strengthen the Purple base. Pay attention to the relation with family and the basic life situation and create a “home”.
  • Quick and clear punishment of negative Red (like criminal activities or violence).
  • Stimulate positive Red. Create space for action and short-term results like in sports and martial arts and space for expression like music and theatre.
  • Develop Blue. Implement structure and meaning by attending school (again), participating in a football team or in organizational activities. Involve this person in finding attractive activities.

Don’t expect this person to start a business (Orange) or to have a deep conversation about feelings (Green). However, it is necessary to include a little bit of tickling of the next vMeme (in this case the Blue structure). Don Beck, “Know that the shift must include the next Color of Thinking and that skipping by a color ultimately weakens the Spiral”


Much of the tension and strife in the world is the result of the clash between different perspectives and felt interests. Example: Poor countries looking for loans or donations from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), have to meet requirements, which the IMF views as necessary (e.g. devaluation of the Malawian kwacha), but are not acceptable for the receiving country (more difficult for people to buy enough food).

From the Integral stance all these perspectives are in a way “true” and we cannot dismiss one perspective as being “false”. The Yellow Integral approach includes and honours all vMemes and works with all of them. Perspectives are rooted firmly in people’s minds, but if Life Conditions change they can learn and become aware of other views. New solutions emerge when we respect and discuss differences and appreciate and cooperate with all stakeholders. Seeing and connecting seemingly contrary perspectives, all as pieces of one and the same puzzle, gives insight into and a way out of conflicts. 

Dowloand the whole article here:

Our Community Got Back Its Soul 2016


Leida Schuringa: I work as a partner of Synnervate (connected with CHE-NL). I am a sociologist, Integral Master Coach, trainer and author of books on Project management, Managing diversity and Community Empowerment. I worked with refugee women and support projects in Malawi and community work with Roma in Czech Republic. My passion is supporting people, organizations and societies in achieving their potential. At this moment I am writing articles about the refugee issue seen from Spiral Dynamics Integral.

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