#BuildingCapacity - what we learnt about accompaniment and capacity building

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 14.02.03In one of the series of pre-event learning session Nabil Elias, Business Faculty Emeritus from the University of North Carolina gave a beautifully tempered presentation on Accompaniment as a powerful tool for #CapacityBuilding.  Participants joining the call came from Italy, Croatia, Romania, England, Portugal, Scotland and the USA. Below are some of what we learnt in that interactive online session.

Check out here the next online learning session you can attend

What is Accompaniment?

Accompaniment envisions at least two friends, with different levels of experience in a specific area of action, learning together. What Nabil Elias described as taking “a posture of collective learning” that endows #BuildingCapacity with new meaning.

Whether talking about #BuildingCapacity in Non-Profit Organisations wanting to achieve their service mission or in For-Profit Businesses setting out to meet demand and build operational capacity, it is Accompaniment which is the foundation of all successful #BuildingCapacity.

What makes Accompaniment different to Training and Mentoring?

Read More …

“Of course, it is not provision for training by itself that brings about progress.  Efforts to build capacity fall short if arrangements are not made to accompany individuals in the arena of service” [1]

Accompaniment therefore exists within a paradigm where mission/profit and service become complementary to the total sphere of action. Nabil Elias suggested that false dichotomies such as profit versus service can give way to a new matrix of relationships between the individual, their organisation and wider society served to be optimised in ways not necessarily understood, recognised or activated beforehand. In terms of ethical business of the future, Accompaniment clearly has a role to play:

“An adequate level of support extends far beyond encouraging words. When preparing to take on an unfamiliar task, working alongside a person with some experience increases consciousness of what is possible.” [2]

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How to get started with Accompaniment?

Some of the items that came up during that online learning call were concepts for getting into a mindshift.
For example, we talked about becoming part of a new culture of learning, doing, reflecting, consulting and revision. Recognising our teams are expandable to include more and more people who are on the one hand united in action and yet moving forward at their individual pace. Building on fundamental concepts of cooperation and reciprocity with an awareness of the power a posture of humility lends to the progress of everyone, including ourselves, as part of the whole. All this becomes possible by lifting the spotlight off us and “becoming forgetful of self” and to start “delighting in the progress and services of others”.

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How is Accompaniment is changing the world of business and social innovation?

While being aware that accompaniment is often well developed in Non Profits, Nabil observed that in For Profits, new possibilities can become available when and as we grasp the significance of Accompaniment as the foundation of #CapacityBuilding.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 14.14.30

Nabil Elias at a recent ebbf event


In Bucharest 6-9 Oct, Nabil will continue helping us to explore this new mindset
and begin to ferment our thinking by posing these questions:

  • If profit and service are seen as complementary, how is service defined in For-Profit?

  • What does a posture of learning look like in For-Profit environments?

  • Who accompanies who?

  • What is the role of the individual, organisation, community?

  • Is a posture of humility possible in a For-Profit Organisation?

  • Is it possible to decouple power and financial incentives from walking a path of service?

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How can accompaniment lead us to greater insights and inspire new action?

Effortlessly, Nabil then took the group into reflection on the deeper qualities of relationship between individuals which Accompaniment can nurture and develop.

He gave the example how an individual is called to detach from personal preference as their innate ability to walk a path of service in the company of others is evoked.  He went on to explain how this gives opportunity to many other qualities of volition, hope, morality, willingness to make choices, kindness, openness, perseverance and flexibility as desire for joyful service and learning is awakened. Negative behaviours such as apathy, possessiveness, paternalism, competitiveness may spontaneously recede since these are not the behaviours that bring forth the results being sought.

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Accompaniment as walking together on the same path for success

Nabil identifies six facets in #BuildingCapacity that need to be balanced: financial, physical, human, intellectual, organisational and social capacities. He suggested that Accompaniment undertaken, within all six areas, will create a cooperative organizational culture that excels by competing against itself.  He did note that there must also be a genuine commitment from the organisation to the human values of trustworthiness and fairness.

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Quality of relationship and realizing greatness of purpose

Participants were also encouraged to carefully evaluate where in their organisation they could – with most ease and effectiveness – start to introduce Accompaniment, working with it step by step, for gradual and realistic transformation.

“An assurance of practical help can give a tentative venturer the courage to initiate an activity for the first time.” [3]

Accompaniment encourages collective and transformational learning whilst providing resources and facilitates on the path of service together. It encourages parts of the organisation to engage in their common enterprise. Together they develop an organic dynamic process. This elevates the quality of both individual and collective lives within the organisation and its wider community:

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Accompaniment as a social channel to spread current knowledge

Nabil suggested that the interactions of individuals take place non-hierarchical relationships to their roles is to be preferred to a hierarchy of individuals.

“Souls then advance their understanding together, humbly sharing the insights each possesses at a given moment and eagerly seeking to learn from fellow wayfarers on the path of service.” [4]

However, within organizations, hierarchies (For-Profit or NPO) are useful and enable service to and the wider community and support the individuals who serve them.

“Hesitation recedes and capacity develops to the point where an individual can carry out activities independently and, in turn, accompany others on the same path.” [5]

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Creating buzz with Accompaniment

Nabil helped us appreciate the inherent power of Accompaniment to create new possibilities.  This is especially true, “as we relinquish excessive demands and undue expectations in favour for new contexts in which friendship and love can flourish”.  His statement was met, at first, with surprise among participants because ‘love’ and ‘business’ are not often words linked in the same sentence.  This reaction was quickly followed by a burst enthusiasm prompted by the group’s recognition of deeper truths within their own experiences that concur with his statement.

One participant from the US retold an anecdote from her childhood, having grown up in a poorer neighbourhood, and where out of necessity, everyone had a talent that was recognised to be of service to the greater whole. There was a woman who had feet that could fit into any shoe size and became known as the ‘shoe stretcher’! A feeling of warmth and generosity grew within the group as the discussion continued and it became apparent that we can develop the Accompanying mindset in all kinds of meaningful circumstances and organisations, not just those faced with lack and hardship or organisations engaged in building community assets and social benefit.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015

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Find out more about Nabil Elias research in the area of accompaniment and capacity building

Arlette George

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