Intuition is an important pillar of the Humanium approach

Posted on Posted in Life at Humanium

Author: Arndt Soret


Recently, I was asked, “how do you do what you do?”, as I was talking about the Humanium approach.  “Wow… No idea…”, was the first thing I thought.

Intuition is what I wanted to say. But I hesitated. Can I use that word when I am presenting to potential sponsors? Don’t sponsors want methods, numbers and facts on why Humanium is the sensible place to donate their money? Sure. But they also want to know what makes the Humanium operation so sustainable and successful. And that is why is decided to say ‘intuition’ and then to explain our approach in depth.   And this explanation is very interesting. That is why I would like to share it with you.  

We at Humanium are convinced, that knowledge can only go so far, and that techniques and methods are not the be all and end all, because ultimately, we are dealing with individuals.


The three pillars of the Humanium approach

With this conviction and from 11 years’ worth of project experience, we have developed an approach that is built on three pillars.

Pillar 1 is to protect human rights – in particular relating to children’s rights and to educate people on this subject. Humanium’s world map of Children’s Rights can be used in every school during classes and our helpline supports people all over the world and to defend children’s rights. Many of Humanium’s employees are lawyers, as am I, and the Alliance of Lawyers for Human Rights (L´AADH, “Alliance des Avocats pour les Droits de l’Homme”), is one of our most important partners.

Pillar 2 is a coaching model. That consists of group sessions ‘in the field’, combining our knowledge of trauma therapy and psychology to make Children’s Rights something tangible, not simple an intellectual concept. This process changes people’s perception and influences their behavior. This creates a positive cycle, because Humanium is building local leaders with its groupwork, under the model ‘Everyone is a Leader’. Their awareness and strength attracts others and creates a motivational force to develop positive change.

Pillar 3 is where intuition comes in.

These pillars are equal and that is unique, as Western development programs are often based on the attitude “We know what is best for you”. But it is rarely built on intuition. Why?


What is intuition?

Intuition and instinct are closely connected and always arise from the unconscious or subconscious, not discursive, not methodical. Intuitive action or decision making without profound pondering. They are suddenly there, and develop an understanding of a situation, or a counterpart. Intuition is the ability to give this feeling the same amount of head space.  Intuition is quicker and more situational than pondering, because it happens without weighing the pros and cons. Rather, intuition comes to us out of nothing. Our gut instinct serves us, not from our conscious thoughts, rather our unconscious treasure trove of experience.


Cogito, ergo sum

We are very much head people. I think, therefore I am. But thinking is only one part of truth. Our thinking comes from our minds, our knowledge, and are always influenced by our personal, individual view of the world. Thinking is experience, and knowledge of the facts. It shuts out the spontaneity of instinct. When we reflect on things, we combine our knowledge and the information before us together and project it onto our thoughts about a new situation. In that way, thinking is perfect when it is needed. For example, planning projects, organizing, and evaluating which methods are successful. Furthermore, our knowledge as lawyers, coaches and psychologists is perfect, in developing strategies such as the collecting trauma therapy in Rwanda. This knowledge is the basis of our actions and decisions. But there is also more.

The moment you arrive at Humanium, you have to flick a switch, because our experience as Westerners is not always relevant to our work in the field. What helps us here is intuition, because that is what honors the importance of the fleeting moment. Intuition is connective. I understand what you are feeling and can change my actions appropriately. Thinking, on the other hand, often has something divisive, distinguishing between “you” and “I”, between “we” and “the”.  

Intuition is an equalizer. It brings us on par with local people. This insight fundamentally changes the development cooperation.  Who are we, when we stand eye to eye with others? Are we no longer a privileged helper, if sometimes we have to admit that we have no idea?  Who are we when, in the middle of a coaching session, we ask our counterparts for help? “I just do not know what to do, tell me what we should do now.” Then we are human beings, just people. This acceptance of humanity is, I believe, the thing that makes Humanium so successful. It means that so much faith is invested in our interventions. People, for example in Rwanda, travel many kilometers to visit us when we are there. They regularly visit the group meetings organized by our partner organizations. At eye level, local people really take into account what is being said – even when it’s new, hard and challenging worldviews. Because it is intuitive, it can be understood intuitively.


Translated by Jacob Davies