Prisoner Reintegration & Presence Practices in Holland

While many organizations in the Netherlands embrace social innovation, leadership transformation, and responsible business practices, their efforts seem inadequate relative to the scale and urgency of the country’s economic, social, and environmental challenges.

Two stories from Holland come to mind.  The first is from PLUK, a platform designed to support leaders from a variety of sectors meet, build relationships and partnerships, and work together for larger shifts in their issue areas.

One of the groups with whom we worked was focused on prisoner reintegration: when people rejoin society after a prison term, they are often stigmatized, and have a hard time reintegrating.  One passionate leader endured many struggles — forming teams that fell apart, not getting the support he needed, and so on.  

In the second year of the platform, he won through: a prominent police expert joined his team and started to pull some strings.  The preparatory and creative work he had previously led meant that his efforts could now unfold at speed — and they did.  The takeaway: keep at it, even if you can’t see how it will turn out.  Create enough substance and momentum, and the people you need will show up.    

Another of our favorite moments was completely unexpected and very different.  We were asked to lead a small group of leaders in “presencing” practices — exercises to help them experience and strengthen their highest creative potentials.  What actually happened instead was far better: we had a conversation, the only “rule” being to speak only when we could speak from our real and deepest truth.  

The conversation was so powerful, we decided to come back the next day and repeat the exercise again.  Both times this experience was very illuminating.  There are moments when the human spirit reveals its nature and potential, and this was one.  Our big lesson: sometimes the “mere” presence of self and others combines to nourish, heal, touch, reawaken, and inspire.  

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