Integral Worlds and Social Impact: Trans4m Workshop at University of Johannesburg

16 March 2018: Invited by the Postgraduate School of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Trans4m Co-Founder Alexander Schieffer introduced Trans4m’s Integral Worlds approach and the way how it is applied to postgraduate research, in order to result in social innovation.

In her opening remarks, host Dr. Pia Lamberti from the Postgraduate School spelled out the aspiration of UJ to revisit existing approaches to research supervision and the interest of the audience to learn, how Trans4m has reconfigured supervision to enable its PhD researchers to effectively address social imbalances.

Together with the audience, Alexander Schieffer reflected critically on systemic challenges that inhibit not only transformative supervision, but that also prevent most of today’s universities to be effective agencies for societal development.

Schieffer then put particular emphasis in the first half of the workshop on the necessary ontological shift towards a more holistic approach to development, as exemplified in the Integral Worlds approach. In the second part, Schieffer discussed the need to integrally transform research designs and processes, and illustrated that by introducing Trans4m’s Integral Research approach – as well as some of the key design elements of the Trans4m PhD for Integral Development, such as the 4C Process and the Innovation Ecosystem.

The lively discussion, which was also joined by Trans4m Fellows Marlene de Beer and Premie Naicker, demonstrated the keen interest of the audience in this field, and at the end of the workshop Dr. Lamberti expressed the intention to take the collaboration between the Postgraduate School and Trans4m further.


Reflection on the Workshop by participant MARLENE DE BEER, Lecturer, University of Johannesburg

We were fortunate to have Alexander at UJ again this year introducing and explaining of Trans4m models and process.  People attending varied from honours to postdoc students and staff from various faculties and some outside visitors like Premie Naicker. Besides Alexander sharing the richness of Trans4m, people attending also shared their experiences and struggles to introduce doing research differently.  The challenges for us attending is to take forward and integrate aspects of the Trans4m models and to continue the conservation and networking around efforts and to support each other with possible co-creating processes.  Thanks again Alexander!

Reflection on the Workshop by participant ANNA NDOVE (Social Policy Honours Degree / University of Johannesburg)

We were honoured to have Professor Alexander as our guest speaker. He is the co-founder of Trans4m model which was developed in 2006; he is working with Professor Ronnie Lessem. Their main purpose of developing this Trans4m model is to bring about Integral Development processes. Professor Alexander is passionate in bringing about transformation in the economic, social, cultural and spiritual sphere.

I have learnt that as a community facilitator it is very crucial to first make a research in a community before you can start bringing about development. When bringing about development it must be based on the burning issues of the community, the reason being that people should feel as part of that transformation. The whole aim is to empower the community so that they can be independent and be able to do things on their own. It very important to delegate task around the members of the community so that they can be able to participate and own the whole process development. As a community facilitator we need to take the community through all of the integral stages of development. It is very important to accept people differences and view them from their own frame of reference.

Moreover, through the Integral Research model we gain, firstly, understanding of how Social Science Research can actually be reinvented in order to truly lead to social innovation. Secondly, the approach invites us to probe into different research paths, that are suitable for our personal and institutional research dispositions adequate to address a particular development issue, and that can lead the researchers all the way from knowledge creation to implementation, from theory to action.

The presentation revived me a lot and also gave me more confidence because it helped me see on how to go about when working with communities. The presentation made me to be excited.

I will apply the Trans4m model when bringing about change because it is very important to start at the grassroot level which is the community and bring about change according to its needs. Working together in finding alternatives and solutions and, at the end of the day, to ensure that burning issue addressed is resolved.

What I need to improve is to read more books by Professor Ronnie Lessem and Professor Alexander Schieffer so that I can get more knowledge and understanding.

The Trans4m model also links to Appreciative Inquiry: According to Myers (1999) an appreciative stance enhances relationships. When people see the best in one another, when they share their dreams in affirming ways and when they listen to each other they become connected. Together they create not just new worlds but better worlds. Appreciative Inquiry therefore facilitates participation and relationships. It connects people and engages them on all levels in cooperative learning and co creation process in search of strengths, passion and life-giving forces that are found within every situation.

Reflection on the Workshop by participant OMPHILE SENYARELO (Social Policy Honours Degree / University of Johannesburg)

The workshop was very effective in understanding the Trans4m models and approaches more especially. What I particularly love about these models and approaches is that they are not restricted but they aim to incorporate all the four worlds which is the south, east, north and west and therefore making impact on the community which is a main aim of a Community Facilitator. The workshop made these models clear and relatable because of the examples that are used. The week before there was Trans4m Fellow Dr Loshnee Naidoo who has used the approaches as part of her Doctorate research.

Initially, I felt excluded as a student studying towards my Honors and being in the same room with people that have obtained their masters qualification or doctorate or that are even supervising students on their Honors year. It felt as if I was left outside and the experiences of others in the room through their research in many different organisations and places made me seem very inexperienced. But due to the fact that I am a very imaginative student who hopes to study further, it became possible for me to envision the possibility to be like others in the room who have achieved so much academically as well as personal growth in using these models and approaches. I know how much of a reward it is to make an impact to the community but I have never thought of spirituality and science as relevant dimensions, as usually the primary focus is on economics and community.

Even though there were moments I felt I did not belong, Prof Alexander Schieffer whom is a brilliant facilitator made us understand the work that is done by the Trans4m community, and thereby the model and how it works became very relatable and clear. I am keen in studying further and being able to complete my Masters and Doctorate using the Trans4m approaches especially in community development. Lastly it was with great excitement to have met an author from which we are using our books for our community projects, a person with great knowledge that is willing to share and most importantly someone that is not out of touch with the issues that people are facing because these models may be used in a very rich corporate business as well as be used in the poorest of communities. I really hope that Professor Schieffer will be invited again to a similar workshop or rather invite us to other talks that he will give whilst he is still in the country.