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By Boudewijn Magnus

Inspired and mostly quoting: The Heart of Social Change – How you can make a Difference in your world.’ from Marshall B.Rosenberg (NVC).- Puddle dancer Press 2005

‘Be the change you want for the World’ (Gandhi)

‘Behind right or wrong, there is a Field, i’ll meet you there’  (Rumi)

‘From the manner in which we communicate, to the intention we bring to every interaction and the organization structures we support, social change ‘begins with me’.

Marshall shows how Non violent Communication can help you create an internal culture of peace that will help you effect lasting social change.’

Striving for System Change.

Most people interested in ecovillage life/alternative intentional communities, have a common analysis about the current system we live in here in the West. It is about the ‘story’ we all live in, the story told to us by our parents, educators, society.

The current general ‘story’, also named a paradigm, goes back 6000 to 8000 years,  where people changed from a nomadic life to permanent settlements, and the need to protect these properties (safety). That requires a hierarchical structure, associated by male energy.

Before, there was a structure where the well-being and peace of the group members stood in the middle (as for instance still existed by nomadic indians in America), associated by female energy: people created a religion of unity of all in nature (pantheism), with the Goddess  ‘Gaia’ or Maya as the highest entity in the hierarchy of deities.

Later she was usurped by   a male God, Zeus, Yahweh etc…. who decided over good and bad, bringing in duality. It introduced the notion that man was superior to woman.  

So, who was  to decide about who is good or bad? Those who were supposed to be closer to God?….The ‘Kings’, principally  because having the most power (army, land, money….) involved the churches to define their divine rights….

Every hierarchical domination structure is based on this principle. The owner decides and henceforth we play God over each other…..

Real authority is the recognition of the people of  wisdom, for instance elders in some cultures. Such authority can’t be built on domination structures.

NVC PARADIGM: Life-Enriching

NVC suggests the next paradigm: Life. Enriching. every action comes out of an image of seeing how needs (human, animal, natural) would be met by the action. That is the vision that mobilizes everything. All work in an organization, comes out of this paradigm.

In a life enriching structure, nobody works for money. Money is a tool, no purpose.

We feel pleasure when needs are fulfilled, especially spiritual needs. Those are the most fun to fulfill. The bees and the flowers both meet each others needs; they don’t do it through any guilt, duty, or obligation, but naturally, in a natural system. all needs are connected, are one and the same. Seeing the oneness of it all, the beauty in that whole interdependent scheme of life.

Life-Enriching structures have as:

VISION: to serve life

MISSION: to meet and enrich the lives of people within and affected by the organization.

Those organizations give the workers the nurturing they need to live that mission.

The fuel necessary to keep people working in a life-enriching organization is to be very good at getting genuine, sincere gratitude to every worker

When you do so people can see how their efforts are instrumental too.

Each one’s first job is to create the quality of connection, to try to get both needs known and met. When the person trusts that I’m equally interested in their need as my own, 90% of the problem is over.


By spirituality Marshall means that, moment by moment, we’re staying connected to our own life and to the lives of others, with an open heart. We Question ourselves: What is a good life, what are we about? This quality of consciousness will help us to lead to a life-enriching spirituality.

We often are all politically sophisticated, we know all the dangerous structures out there. We’re very astute in seeing what’s wrong with the world, and we are going to change it.

If we do not make a radical spiritual change within ourselves we’re not going to be effective; in fact, we may even contribute to what’s already going on.

So yes, we are going to start with ourselves, but be careful because spirituality can be reactionary if we get people  to be so calm and accepting and loving that they tolerate the dangerous structures already in place. The spirituality that we need to develop for social change is one that mobilizes us into action!

Marshall summarizes what all religions have in common: ‘Don’t do anything that isn’t play*.

I  heard next : ‘Do with an other what you want the other doing with you’.

How to make life wonderful? Don’t do anything that isn’t play. and it will be play at the moment our full consciousness is on a life-enriching vision. Use your power for it. Here begins the social change.

We are mostly born and educated in a different view on good life: one that punishes bad people and pits good against bad i.e. duality.

Sharing the paradigm with others: it is important that each knows what the other feels and needs. Not having the objective to change them, but to get into a dialogue. It’s a holographic picture. Each step has to reflect our intention.


So we organize ourselves to live our common Story. All education is about that. In the current  ‘old’ story we learned a language of domination, that fits the hierarchical structures.

So you teach people moralistic judgment, to think in terms who is right, who is wrong?  Language is important: good, bad, right, wrong, normal, abnormal, healthy, sick, should, shouldn’t, have to, can’t- The key to controlling people is language. So you get duality everywhere: mentally healthy and sick people- You have to be worth things, to deserve it, to prove yourself. Without proving yourself you are nothing.

The use of power in a dominating structure, using  tactics like punishment, reward, guilt, shame, duty and obligation. The powerful one lords over the less powerful.


Rebellion is not the way. By rebellion and fighting we live again the same story, claiming the other power for ourselves..

Instead of that go for your own story where you believe, together with others, in educating yourselves and others in the way of the new story. And organize yourselves in forms that support the new paradigm.

It is essential first to let go the deep conditioning from our old education, to leave the old ways of thinking and talking and exercise all things related to the new life enriching paradigm,, It is fundamental to  exercise non-violent communication. Briefly: act out of facts, not out of interpretation and judgments. They never result in that even at least your own needs become fulfilled. And go for the needs hidden behind the feelings from both sides, and try to fulfill them mutually.

Give attention to radical objectives rather than peripheral (money, status).


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