Sunday, July 24, 2016


"Theory U, Leading from the Emerging Future" was the first module of our "Gospel-Filled Service" renewal program. It was a creative exploration of how individual and collective transformation occurs. 

The facilitator Yago Abeledo with the renewal program participants

The ongoing formation is an opportunity to renew oneself through a process of transformation and change. This process is enacted with THEORY U facilitated by Fr. Yago ABELEDO, a Missionary of Africa. It is not enough to recall that Theory U was introduced by the Scholar Otto SCHARMER in order to address the blind spot of our Time by leading from a Future as it emerges.

Exploring newness/change through transformation

So, for the transformation and the change to emerge as the result of this Ongoing Formation, Fr. ABELEDO, first has embarked us on the Cathartic writing. This has brought out of each of us the inner chatting happening within us. This showed that each one needs to control him/herself and to focus on ‘who he/she is’ in order to be in touch with her/his environment. Therefore the Theory U is a way of exploring the newness in us, a way to change through intellectual, emotional and spiritual transformation.

The need of a U-Turn

Fr. ABELEDO insisted that for the Theory U to be successful, there is a need of a U-turn in order to set a common intent for our transformation and change. To that extend participants went into their small groups and answer the question: as group can we find a common intent which can really motivate and unite us on this formation? After collecting the feedback from each group there emerge this common intent

“Rooted in Christ we rediscover ourselves for the joyful witness of the Gospel.

The levels of listening and fields of conversation

To explore different levels of listening (or qualities of conversation), Fr. ABELEDO led us through a coaching cycle. Thus he observed that the preferred fields of conversation that prompt listening is the dialogue. It is a reflective inquiry as much as a collective creativity (group dynamism) that generates ‘flow’ from my ‘ego’ to the communion with the other. Therefore each group was invited to analyze a case clinic and to apply the process of the generative dialogue to reach a common ground. Besides it was observed that without some tension reduction the generative dialogue would not be efficient or successful.

Small groups work exploring all the U process.

Tension Reduction Exercises or Trauma releasing exercises

Participants admitted that most of the time some stress could undermine a generative dialogue, especially in their ministry and community life. This stress stems from, among others, a lack of honesty, suspicion, cultural chock or fatigue. Fr. ABELEDO mentioned that we also can undergo traumatic experiences in life. Those ones can be of many kinds: primary trauma, secondary trauma, historical trauma, cultural trauma, perpetrator-induced trauma, developmental trauma, etc. Fr. ABELEDO stated that it can be a ‘grace’ when trauma is well processed: this generates post traumatic growth. Thus he advocated frequent Tension Reduction Exercises for participants to help develop body resilience. And then he led us through the 7 Tension Reduction Exercises that release tension and help us relax from anxiety. Yet stress or ‘trauma’ is not the only enemy of the generative dialogue.

The Theory U: the three enemies

To leading from a Future as it emerges, Fr ABELEDO taught that there is a need to overcome the three enemies (address our blind spot). They are as follow: the voice of judgment which paralyses the mind; the voice of cynicism that prevent to have an open heart and the voice of fear that stops our actions. So leading that way could mean LETTING GO (Voice of fear) to PRESENCING (Connecting to Source) and to LETTING COME (Crystalizing).

Time for creativity. Exploring ways to engage with what prevents transformation in our lives.

The Theory U: going down the – U

At this junction Fr. ABELEDO summed up the first part of the Theory – U in three steps. First, we have ‘Co-initiating’ (being bond by a common intent). Then second, there is ‘co-sensing’ (pointing out together the problem). And finally, we reach the level of ‘presencing’ (as a way of connecting to our source/humanity). At this level, one crosses the ‘THRESHOLD’ of the – U to go up and complete the Theory. Moreover crossing the ‘THRESHOLD’ requests to some extend the true ‘knowledge of self’.

The true self-knowledge: our 2 ‘selves’

It was noted that each one has 2 ‘selves’. The first ‘self’ is our current ‘self’ (our history from the past till now) and the second ‘self’ is the emerging future ‘self’ (my highest future that could happen). As the emerging future may not be easy to capture or apprehend, Fr. ABELEDO used the speeches of Pastor Martin LUTHER KING Jr and President Barak OBAMA as an example. Then he observed that what Martin Luther King Jr foresaw in his speech ‘I have a dream’ was actualized in the speech ‘Yes, we can’ of President Barak OBAMA at the National Democratic Convention in 2008. So he concluded that a Leader has to cross the ‘threshold’ first and lead the folks to the emerging future. And Barack OBAMA made that emerging future foretold to be possible through co-creating and prototyping. Here the second ‘self’ that is to emerge can be a ‘symbol’ (with a motto) that inspires to success.

Barck Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Emerging future (the advent of the second ‘self’): going up the – U

To help participants to go up the – U, Fr. ABELEDO has invited us to consider again our common intent stated at the beginning: “Rooted in Christ we rediscover ourselves for the joyful witness of the Gospel”. With this common intent as background we entered in the next stage: Presenting. We were invited to be attentive and mindful to whatever image or symbol would emerge as indicator  of our desired future for this renewal program. A meditative environment was created, also contributed every morning "Human" meditation

After sharing in groups all the images and symbols, the participants got as common symbol ‘a shooting plant from a sown seed' and the motto was ‘rooted, we bloom’. 

Thus, to actualize the future plant that will bear as fruit a joyful witness, we first need to co-create. The participants were invited to crystallised the motto "rooted we bloom" by a body sculpture. Then we explored together the very workshop we were in as a prototype of what we desired for the renewal program. We acknowledged the learning process as we evaluated the experience. Then we identified the relevant ground rules (principles) that will help all the participants to ‘be a joyful witness of the Gospel of Christ. These ground rules are: Unity, positive contribution, openness, confidentiality, availability, mutual support, simplicity, appreciation, flexibility, responsible freedom, mutual love, human community bond, relaxation, prayerfulness, willingness, trust, and faith among many others.

We concluded the workshop exploring the co-evolving stage. This is about creating a good quality soil were the dream of this renewal program will be accomplish. We identified the qualities of this soil. 

At the end of this module, each of us was very appreciative about how Fr. ABELEDO led us gradually to discover to learn this new Theory called THEORY – U.