Midwives of the New World

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As a coach supervisor to many different groups of coaches, and a member of a number of professional communities of practice in organisation development and ecosystems leadership, like many others, I’ve been reflecting on what messages are emerging in our explorations and discussions around the rapid shifts that are happening in relation to responses to COVID-19.

What’s coming through seems to be amplifying much of what we already knew, and which were increasingly expressed loudly and clearly in relation to climate crisis. Given the average human’s limited capacity to respond to what, in spite of the screaming evidence, can still seem like distant, vague or incremental threats, there had been a lack of urgency and coherence to making the necessary changes. Yet our collective responses to the global coronavirus pandemic are now eliciting many of those very behavioural shifts we needed to make, willingly or otherwise, albeit expressed in somewhat patchy, incomplete and confused ways, but significant nonetheless.

There is also the dawning realisation that human life, society, organisations, infrastructures, work, relationships, economies, agriculture, communications, education, healthcare systems, politics and more may never be the same again, and must not revert to the unhelpful patterns of the past. Those who stand in the space of supporting individuals and communities to make sense of these changes have the potential to act as midwives of the new world(s) that are seeking to be born.

Midwives, often invisible individuals who, for many of us of a certain age, may well have already passed on, will have played a significant role in many of our lives. In all cultures, in all societies, they have played a special, symbolic role. Beyond the arrival of a new one, they represent the symbolism of bringing the invisible to the visible, the mediating of life and death, the shaman in the journey of becoming.

To borrow a description from the UN, a midwife:

· Attends to the needs of the mother and baby, before, during and after the birth

· Saves lives and avoids preventable deaths, injury or harm through their skills and knowledge

· Offers a flexible range of services such as counselling and screening for other health conditions

· Supports the health, well-being and rights of women

For change practitioners (whether you are a coach, in organisation development, community development, leadership etc), the parallels are hopefully easy enough to grasp. And when considering these through the lens of the current context:

· We are here for the whole journeying of before, during and after transitions and transformations with the client or the organisations and communities we work with, the whole process is important

· We are concerned with supporting the life that wants to move forward in individuals, organisations, communities and beyond, whilst recognising some(things) may be lost along the way, and attending to the grieving and adjustment to that loss

· We shape-shift to offer from what we can — traversing professional boundaries as and when needed, without creating unhelpful boundaries

· We support and uphold the necessary balance of yin and yang, and especially the feminine principle, divine feminine, Sophia which has been sorely lacking in so many facets of our lives, and which must be not only restored to proper balance but amplified to bring us back into relationship with the rest of our living world.

To offer this effectively, more than ever we need each other’s support. So much of what we are being asked to do transcends traditional boundaries and disciplines as we engage more deeply in our roles as healers. Find your community of practice, people who can support you in new ways of working.


There are many different communities of practice evolving online. If you have a few minutes to respond to what types of meeting places and support would be most useful to you, please follow the link and respond to the questionnaire. It should take between 3 and 5 minutes to answer.


Living systems, diversity and inclusion, people and organisation development.

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