We have found in our work with communities that capacity building must be “integral” in its structuring of components. Integral means comprehensive, inclusive, balanced – not leaving anything out. The Integral approach brings together a myriad of disciplines and strategies into a dynamic whole, such that they inform and complement each other from an integrative point of view. This approach also integrates the ‘exterior’, practical aspects of life (such as ecology, economics and social systems) with the ‘interior’, subtle aspects of humanity (like psychology, culture and spirituality). By uniting disciplines and by acknowledging the role of interiority in society, the integral approach includes more of reality in its embrace. Thus, it offers a more comprehensive framework for understanding coupled human-nature issues and more appropriate methods of working with such issues.
Employing an integral approach to the development of planning strategies in our activities has offered the following to clients with whom we have worked.
- It helps them to see from the whole.
- It’s a way to address the whole person within the whole community.
- It illuminates the big picture and the details.
- It addresses multiple determinants of health, well-being and human development, and their interconnections.
- It acts as a map, making sure they don’t leave out any important territory.
- It acts as a container, a more comprehensive, inclusive, comprehensive and balanced “bucket” for holding and growing people’s capacity building thinking and practice.
- It offers a way to think about potential (and not just problems).
- It acts as a catalyst for optimum human development.
We have used “integral mapping” (see example diagram below) to assist our work with many communities because this process helps us and stakeholders to see the many determinants of community dynamics more holistically and with greater complexity. Capacity building applying an integral perspective is a process that not only promotes systemic change but also fosters collective and personal change. In other words, community buy-in can be achieved toward the development of change strategies through an integral approach.