In my book Emerge! I spent a considerable amount of time articulating the importance of understanding the local intelligence, what motivates people, their value preferences and worldviews. If the US is to be respected as an effective facilitator of change, we have to understand this social science concept. Below is my description of it from my book Emerge!
Indigenous Intelligence is one of the most crucial elements of the MEMEtocracy model. Throughout his career, Beck has emphasized the importance of working with people who know the culture of the country they are working in. It wasn’t until I teamed up with him to create the CHE-Mideast that I discovered the need to further define his thinking on this particular subject. For someone who was born in Lebanon, I noticed certain events, behaviors, and phenomena in Middle Eastern cultures that were missed by most of my highly intelligent Western friends. This pattern of things lost or missed in translation kept repeating in higher frequency as our work progressed, making it necessary for me to conduct research into this area.
I began to develop my model after much analysis of field data and assessment of why development problems persist in spite of all the good intentions behind foreign aid and the noble work of non-governmental organizations.
Often the term “indigenous” is associated with native minorities and cultures of the developing world that have been marginalized by progress. In this context, I was looking to redefine the meaning of indigenous to include the “unique value-systems expression” of the complex intelligences within each culture. Those indigenous intelligences can offer their countries, and the world community creative solutions that meet the challenges facing our world today.
As I looked into the field of social sciences, nothing identified the general subject of local cultural knowledge as a separate and distinct field of intelligence or an area worthy of acknowledgment with its own unique characteristics. An Internet search for the term revealed results for a business entity organized to provide Native American veterans with jobs in consulting services. After spending many days in research and failing to find any definitive writings on the subject, I turned to the work of Howard Gardner as a last resort.
Gardner, a Harvard developmental psychologist, had pioneered the field of multiple intelligences. In his 1983 book Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he outlined a total of eight types of intelligences that included the original measure of cognitive intelligence. Since then, Gardner has updated his original findings to include many applications, but at the time I conducted my research this pioneer had not included the field of local cultural intelligence as a factor in his influential research the way Beck and I viewed it.
Based on my field experience and the extensive research I conducted in the areas of social psychology and world cultures, I came to define “indigenous intelligence” as follows:
Indigenous Intelligence (II) is the multidimensional capacity of an individual or a group in a specific society to interpret its value-system’s complexity to non-natives. It is represented in a cross section of any given society, from the Millennial Generation to women, community leaders and elders of the tribe. Unlike other intelligences, it provides rich and actionable culturally fit answers, to why certain individuals or groups act in certain ways. Why do they have certain preferences, priorities, beliefs and worldviews and why solutions need to be tailored for their specific value-structures.
Indigenous Intelligence informs governance by assessing the life conditions of the people and the challenges they face. II paints a more complete picture of the obstacles facing stakeholders in a society, not just the elite and the privileged. It always finds opportunities in the challenges facing a certain society and finds a silver lining through creative thinking. Economic development that is informed by II places the uniqueness of people’s capacities into a long-term development scheme that makes the culture move at an accelerated pace while building resilience and self-reliance at every stage.
Indigenous Intelligence Experts (IIEs)
Indigenous Intelligence is manifested in individuals as well as groups that are experts who exhibit the following characteristics:
• They are most likely natives of the territory who speak the language, know the customs, and understand the culture and the many subcultures within it.
• Their thinking is an open-system with high cognitive abilities. They can speak with ease to tribal leaders in their same colloquial tongue as well as to a national or Western politician and be fully aware of the value-structure distinctions of what is being said.
• He/she is shaped by the first-hand experience of his/her own transition from being zealots and flamethrowers. He/she has earned his/her dues in becoming a conciliator and pragmatist who thinks about future generations and their well being, rather than having a need for revenge, instant gratification, and traditional allegiances.
• IIEs, instinctively discern the complex patterns of their society by identifying developmental gaps and allowing for the process to evolve naturally. This is in stark contrast of how the West paints other societies with broad strokes through their people’s own prism of values, missing much of the local nuances.
• They understand the value-systems meaning of history through first-hand experience and can help Western organizations become more efficient in their fieldwork.
• They understand the complexity and the uniqueness of the indigenous challenges that brought the culture to its current status of desolation.
• They’re strategic and systemic in their thinking and believe in efforts that can be sustainable and resilient for generations to come.
• They look at Western organizations’ objectives for peace and prosperity and help them channel their efforts in order not to offend local stakeholders with historic grievances, while at the same time providing culturally-honed plans for distributing resources where they’re most needed.
• They are servant leaders who realize that functional alignment with the needs of their society is at the top of their agenda.
IIEs open the door to a culture from the inside in societies that would otherwise be hesitant to disclose any information to outsiders. They can move freely through the various value systems within their culture, knowing how to uncover the challenges facing the culture and repair the expression of every local vMEME (Value Systems Meme). In parts of the Middle East that have seen war and have gone through the Arab Spring, many IIEs gain respect due to their activism and sacrifice. At times these people served time in jail for their views and actions. The rest of the culture witnessed with admiration their transformation from tribal and feudal lords to pragmatic leaders and conciliators. They live in two worlds and cater to the traditional needs of the tribe while expressing with clarity and vision, the future needs of their nation.
In an intra-conflict they are the ones who most understand the different positions within their own party or clan because they shared that same journey. When it comes to inter-conflict issues, they understand the motivation and value systems of the enemy through pragmatic lenses, and they interpret the actions and decision making of their opponents through strategic thinking.
IIEs become the primary source for information in creating what we call Indigenous Design. The concept of Indigenous Design emerged at the same time when I was doing research on the Indigenous Intelligence concept. Because IIEs bring a richer and more resilient perspective to our attention, the nature of what we design has to reflect the uniqueness of the culture. This data becomes the blueprint that informs the design scheme that is specific to each society. It defines the content of each development program based on local need, and made more sustainable by the global knowledge of Integral Design Architects (IDAs). Indigenous Design is the fundamental component that makes the MEMEtocracy blueprint actionable.
In creating the blueprint for MEMEtocracy IIEs are the primary source of information for the Integral Design Architects who chart the large-scale scheme for the culture. It is only through the data that the IIEs gather from their societies that a large scale design expert can support a Seventh-Level Yellow politician or business leader to design functional solutions and create open systems for Purple, Red, Blue, and Orange. This is the uniqueness of the Indigenous Design approach. Data on local cultural trends collected by IIEs become memes that determine the indigenous content of every vMEME (Value Systems Meme). This, in turn, determines the meme stack of the entire society for which we are designing a functional system for governance. While IDAs can work in any given culture and continue to provide the big picture design, the presence of IIEs is an integral part of the MEMEtocracy framework. They are the only ones who understand the mindsets and belief systems of their own culture.