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The COEUR Model: Facilitating Transformation By Martha Lasley


It takes a lot of heart and fierceness to facilitate groups that seek social change. At the root of the French word coeur (heart) is the word courage.


It takes a lot of heart and fierceness to facilitate groups that seek social change. At the root of the French word coeur (heart) is the word courage. It takes courage to sit in the fire with people as they uncover their passion and rage, and rise out of the ashes to co-create a better future. We start by creating a safe place for people to come together to connect across differences and make choices that benefit all of us. I trust that people want to open their hearts to each other, even when they claim they don’t. This is not business as usual, because we engage people at a deep level, using more than just their brains. We breathe magic into the process just by focusing on the wisdom of our hearts.

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Our role as facilitators is to step into the fire by creating opportunities to:

Connect – create awareness of our shared humanity

Objective – clarify the shared purpose or aim

Empathize – discover the feelings and needs of each contributor

Unify – open to the collective desire for transformation

Respond – take actions that meet the needs of the group

Connect: How do we create awareness of each and every person’s full humanity? Our role as facilitators is to open the group to their innate wisdom, so that we can appreciate the essence of each soul and open to the magic of the group process. We start with self-connection which makes it much easier to connect to the aliveness of each individual in the group. Becoming grounded and attentive to what’s alive in every moment helps us facilitate deeper connections. From that place we generate curiosity, trust and openness. Even when a group member is deeply conflicted, wants to leave the group, or is filled with anger, we can hold the tension as an expression of passion and a desire to connect. Some of the things we do as facilitators are:

Use breath work to notice that we all share the same air and the same universal desires

Create safe space to practice radical self-honesty in every moment

Do the inner work and the outer work simultaneously

Tear our hearts open to the people we find most challenging

Transform judgment into compassion

Objective: How do clarify the shared purpose and open the group to their shared vision? In this stage, we break things wide open by helping people express their passion, determine their desired direction and clarify what they really want to get out of their time together. They open to the great mystery, fresh possibilities and new pathways. We want to know what makes their hearts soar, so we explore both the short and long-term goals of the group. Collectively the group defines specific outcomes they wish to achieve. Even when a group has a clear purpose before the gathering, we invite them to talk about their hopes and dreams so that the group attunes to each other now and co-creates a shared sense of direction. We invite people to step into their full power – not power over others – but shared power where everyone can flourish. We all have our natural styles, but we encourage everyone to expand their range and step out of their comfort zone. In this stage we:

Clarify the group’s direction and then stretch into the unknown

Set the intention of how we’ll use our time and then let go

Fill ourselves with curiosity, welcoming yearning and longing

Encourage expression of passion and open the group to fresh discoveries

Invite people to take risks and avoid editing themselves or censoring others

Empathize: How do we support empathic communication? To deepen awareness, we reflect each speaker’s feelings and needs with compassion. Radically different from reflecting the content, we acknowledge each person’s underlying motivation. Empathic reflection starts with a focus on the heart, or the positive intent behind every action and every expression. The beauty of this part of the process is that we transform judgment into awareness of the positive intent. In this way, we create an environment of acceptance, where every part of each person is welcome. Rather than focusing on what the group does not want, we attune to their hopes, dreams and deepest longing. As we identify the needs of the group, we check for shared understanding, which primes the group for action and movement toward collectively honoring and meeting the needs of the group. No matter how repulsed we are by the way they express themselves, we recognize that everything they do or say is an attempt to honor a value. So we identify their motivation and connect with the stirring in their souls. In this phase of the moon, we:

Listen from the gut and take in people’s essence

Practice self-empathy by giving voice to what’s happening right now in the present Nurture the scary, freaked out parts, giving them room to breath and come alive Hold space for a shift to intimacy as people discover that all parts of themselves are welcome Allow everyone to be fully heardComputer Technology Articles, to deepen the understanding of each other’s desires

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As a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication, Martha and her team at offer programs in New York, San Francisco and Toronto.

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