C- for Complexity and a story about Colombia

Houda Boulahbel
Systems Thinking Made Simple
7 min readNov 28, 2023

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If you knew that someone had tried to kill you in the past, would you sit in the same room as them?

I am guessing probably not.

What if your future and the future of your children depended on it?

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In the early 1990s, a group of exceptional Colombians met to discuss possible solutions to the chronic problem of violence in Colombia. They were exceptional in that they agreed to work together despite the fact that held strongly conflicting beliefs, and some of them had tried to kill each other, multiple times.

Careful consideration had gone into selecting the participants for the so-named Destino Colombia project: guerrillas, paramilitaries, academics, activists, business people, journalists, military officers, peasants, politicians, trade unionists, and young people. One person joined by phone, from their prison cell.

People were a bit hesitant to express their true opinion at first, for fear of being killed. But then, there was so much at stake, they came up with a set of ground rules for their work together. They agreed to speak frankly, to be concise and to withhold irony. They also agreed to be respectful and tolerant, to assume the good faith of others, and to keep confidences. Importantly, the guerrillas promised that they would not kill anyone for anything said in…

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Houda Boulahbel
Systems Thinking Made Simple

Systems thinking consultant and educator. Ex-cancer research scientist. Curious about the world. Check out my website: www.ifsi.uk