Transforming a Society (Venezuela) Against All Odds – Part 3: March to April 2019

By Helio Borges and originally published on

This article is the third in a series of four that follow a five-month evolutionary journey of three dreamers, who in their effort to transform a society that is suffering the effects of a complex humanitarian emergency under a very authoritarian regime, are undertaking a transformation of their own.

EE Magazine’s republication as Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

March 2019. Co-Inspiring

During this month, you will transition from looking at the system from the outside to exploring what it looks and feels like from within. This will surface deeper leverage points for change and prototyping possibilities.” Presencing Institute.

u.lab-S Image: “Listen Deeply”. Olaf Baldini, Presencing Institute

Exploring The System From the Inside… The Hard Way

On March 7th we had met to give structure and sense of direction to our new Core and Extended teams. Laly Irazabal and Myren Lucia Lozada, members of our extended team, facilitated a Team Grid workshop, where we would work on: what we want and have (maintain), what we want and do not have (achieve), what we do not want and have (eliminate), what we do not want and do not have (avoid).

We completed the first part and agreed to meet again at a later date. We wouldn’t because a major disruption got in our way.

The Disruption.

Caracas at dusk during the blackout. Photo: @hborgespics

The following is an excerpt from my article 120 Hours Into Obscurantism, published on March 16 on Medium.

“At dusk, I noticed something odd. I have a privileged view of the eastern part of Caracas, which lights up at dusk just like any big city, but this time I sensed that something terribly wrong was happening when all that I could see was a huge, dark shadow where the city was supposed to be…”

On top of the political crisis, and the Complex Humanitarian Emergency that we were enduring, Venezuela had begun to experience the most prolonged total blackout in her history. For details, please refer to the article mentioned above.

Nevertheless, We Managed To…

… hold the space for our team and staged the next session on March 21st. Maria Antonieta Angarita had recently gone to a Social Presencing Theatreworkshop held in Bogotá, and she explained to us this concept of “The Village”, a Social Presencing Theatre practice. Consequently, the first part of our workshop, titled The Hikola Village, was a generative dialogue about the role of Proyecto Hikola as a team that was confronting the multisystemic calamity that the country was experiencing.

In the second half of the workshop, we held a Current Reality Movie about the Venezuelan political system, which is a sort of Gordian Knot that tangles the Venezuelan progress.

Current Reality Movie experience.

Because the Current Reality Movie revealed the crudeness and complexity of the Venezuelan disruption, we decided that for the 4D Mapping experience due in April, we would convene a broader audience and explore the Venezuelan reality at a deeper level.

Letting Our Work Be Known.

Proyecto Hikola was invited by the Professional Coaching Association of Venezuela to participate in the 3rd Venezuelan Coaching Congress, which was held in celebration of the 25 years of the coaching practice in the country. We titled our workshop, Impact of Theory U in Coaching and the Transformation of the Venezuelan Society.

In 45 minutes we managed to hold a workshop where the participants had an overview of the U methodology and had the chance to experience a Stuck Exercise. The workshop had great reviews, so much, that many of its participants assisted in the SPT experience that we held later in April.

April 2019. Co-Creating

4D Mapping. Making Sense of Chaos

According to the Presencing Institute, “4D Mapping explores how the highest aspiration in a system might come forward. We assume there is underlying wisdom –in spite of the diverse values or goals of stakeholders in a system — that could come to the surface and be visible as we move from Sculpture 1 to 2. Participants apply mindfulness of body and awareness of the surrounding space.

4D mapping is not about acting out pre-conceived ideas or concepts we have about a system, it is about the surfacing and noticing what shifts in a system that might be significant in going from current reality to an emerging future reality. Movement is based on what is actually emerging, not based on manipulation or what we think something should be”.

u.lab-S Image: “Presencing”, Olaf Baldini, Presencing Institute.

At Proyecto Hikola, we have been using 4D Mapping for analyzing complex systems since Dec. 2016, when we staged our first “Escucha a Venezuela” (Listen to Venezuela) experience, this would be our 5th time in which we analyzed the Venezuelan Social Field. This time we invited more than 40 people, most of them experienced coaches.

We had a total of 45 attendants, 25 of which represented a role in the complex Venezuelan social system, and the other 20 were citizens-observers. Due to the extreme polarity that the country is experiencing, every actor represented a role unknown to him/her, which only was revealed at the end of the exercise.

The initial sculptures, the positions held in the field, be it at the center, or at the margins, the movements made, the connections with others, the new positions in the field, the final sculptures, the surprise of everyone including the actors and the statements that they said when the role was revealed, the feelings, the body sensations, the images that come to the participants’ minds, everything was valuable data that revealed a very dynamic and rapidly evolving emerging future that was a true expression of the complexity of the Venezuelan social field. The experience shocked some, and surprised us all, as did the other past experiences of this kind.

SPT experience “Escucha a Venezuela” (Listen to Venezuela). Venue: Espacios Mil

As I am writing this paper, the reality of the field keeps changing, because time does not exist in the Social Field as we know it — linear. The Social Field expresses the emerging future as a possibility. It is up to us to act and make that emerging future an emerging reality. That is what we do at Proyecto Hikola.

The Disruption.

On Apr 30th, another major disruption happened. Here is an excerpt from the NY Times, “For more than three months, the Venezuela opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has been exhorting the armed forces to join his side in ousting President Nicolás Maduro. On Tuesday Mr. Guaidó made his plea at a military base in the heart of Caracas, the capital, raising speculation that the military might be ready to heed him. Clashes erupted outside the base and elsewhere… “.

The rebellion was crushed, and as I wrote in the article As Systems Collapse, People Rise? “At the end of the day, rocks, songs, and prayers, wouldn’t make it. 4 demonstrators died of gunshot wounds, two of them 14 and 16 year-old teenagers, one 27-year-old mother, 1 other youngster died of wounds when he was run over by an armored truck, hundreds were injured, more than 200 were illegally detained and very probably are being subjected to tortures as I write this note. After that brutal repression, the dictator is still in office, and the “Complex Humanitarian Emergency” is getting even worse”.

In Part 4 Helio Borges describes the Societal Transformation Lab process in May and draws his conclusions.

Republished with permission.

Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine, Image by chanwit whanset from Pixabay