I have read a very interesting article recently on a concept called Tamkeen that is practised in Marokko. The article is called Beyond the magic – growing our understanding of societal metamorphosis and was written by Karima Kadaoui (Tamkeen Community Foundation for Human Development) and Louis Klein (European School of Governance – EUSG).
In the article, they describe Tamkeen as follows:
Tamkeen is referred to in many ways. There is the Tamkeen community foundation for human development, a registered Moroccan NGO with a team of facilitators coming mainly from the neighbourhoods of Tangier. … They co-create and co-facilitate the Tamkeen practice and approach with the partners of Tamkeen. Together with their partners, they preserve the essence of Tamkeen. Then there is Tamkeen as a societal development approach and practice which can be described as an experience-based, relationship-oriented, co-created, co-facilitated, process of inquiry, learning, and understanding, embedded in epistemic humility, trusting our human potential and our humanity, realising the existentiality of love. And finally, there is the meaning of the Arabic word Tamkeen. … Tamkeen could be thought of as the potential of a space or better a field to foster the desirable, immanent development of a seed. However, the meaning of the word Tamkeen transcends the immanence of the ecological niche and the seed.Tamkeen refers in a deeper sense to the desirable realisation of potential in a fostering field and the yielding mutually arising potential. In this Tamkeen seems to be the perfect term to describe the gentle confluence of co-creation and co-facilitation of the various partners in the emergence of Tamkeen as a societal development approach and practice, and the metamorphic transformation it realises. (Emphasis in the original.)
Interestingly, the idea of Tamkeen reminds me very strongly of Warm Data – there is no perfect overlap, but the aesthetics behind seem to be very similar.
Klein and the EUSG were involved in an evaluation of social innovation and the systemic impact of the Tamkeen approach and practice. In the context of this evaluation, the authors note that, “Addressing magic and the existentiality of love in the context of scientific research is a challenge.”
A question we always need ask when doing evaluation is: how would an improved situation look like? This is often answered in the form of a future vision connected to the now with a Theory of Change. In Tamkeen, that is not the way used. In the article, the authors quote one of the elders of a community Tamkeen has been working in as saying, “What you do is good if I feel in it the heart that I feel in my community.” Or in other words: we cannot predict how good looks like but once it is there we can know – and the ‘good’ is more in the doing than in the final product.
The idea of Tamkeen and the task of evaluating it challenges the traditional thinking about how we can define and know if something ‘worked’ and use this insight to generate new knowledge. Indeed, according to the authors of the article, the “focus shifts from knowledge to understanding.“
This is an interesting thought and it almost feels like a paradox. Can we know without understanding and understand without knowing? Are the two mutually exclusive even? Knowledge, at least in the common Western conception of it, somehow requires separation, distance, observation, objectivity. Understanding, on the other hand, requires connection, relationality, empathy.
Tamkeen does not serve as a study case, it is an invitation to participate in a co-created and co-facilitated research ecosystem. The role of the researcher changes, becoming a mirror to the mirror. Though systems and complexity sciences can serve as an additional meta-framework, epistemic humility prevails. This is not grounded theory. It is not about knowing and knowledge, it is about a process of inquiry, learning, and understanding. In this epistemic humility, Tamkeen is its own meta-process. It is growing our understanding of societal development and metamorphic transformation as well our understanding of our understanding.
And there is the link to Batesonian thinking again: becoming a mirror to the mirror and growing our understanding of our understanding. Second order cybernetics.
And even the Paradox of Agency shows up – in a way – in this article:
The joint research in Tamkeen … does not focus on outcomes and achievements. It explores the various manifestations of growing a shared understanding as embodied expressions of our human potential and our humanity. Tamkeen learns with its partners to remain in epistemic humility and does not arrive at any form of enlightenment or truth. Consequently, it is difficult to put Tamkeen in any box labelled project, neither a research project nor a development project. Tamkeen does not yield to the business logic of venture philanthropy.
In this way, Tamkeen challenges the perceived agency of what it calls venture philanthropy (but it might as well say all kinds of ‘development’ support) by not being concerned with achieving anything specific, pre-definable. It is able, however, to create true novelty of the kind that is not possible when approaching development and change with a purpose – as a purpose forces us to recreate the causal chains of how things work that are stored in our individual and also collective cultural minds.
A truly special article to explore. And an exciting realisation connected to it that at least one of the authors will be at next weeks Systems Innovation Conference in London, where I have the pleasure to co-host a Warm Data Lab and also be on a panel about Creating the Context for Systems Change.
A Haiku I wrote after my five-day embodiment retreat with Philip Shepherd:
Now carried by the present
Beech tree in the mist
Photo by Martin Zangerl on Unsplash