Rikolto: Ritual as part of the change process

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Marking a historical turning point and trajectory change with international executive committee Rikolto

The General Assembly of Rikolto (formerly Vredeseilanden vzw) decided in May 2014 to radically transform itself into an international network organisation where the decision-making power would no longer lie solely in Belgium but shared internationally with affiliated country offices in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. The financial objective was to be only 50% dependent on Belgian resources by 2020.

The first meeting with the brand-new international executive committee was the perfect moment for an organisational ritual in this intense change process. It was a symbolic turning point in which the old organisational structure was honoured, and the new one (through its representatives) was welcomed.

Honouring the old, welcoming the new

The ritual brought connection on different levels: individual (‘who am I in this group’), group (‘who are we as the new management committee in this new structure’), and mission (‘how do we connect with the reason for existence from the new structure? and history of our organisation”).

Together with the CEO, Corporate Rituals designed the ritual for the evening. Thanks to this joint preparation, we could optimally translate sensitivities and history into the structure and symbolism of the ceremony. As a location, we chose the garden of the Belgian headquarters, a historic and symbolic place.

These were the moments necessary to start the journey in a more conscious and connected way in the direction we set down with the regional directors and general directors.

 Chris Claes, CEO of VECO International

As a basis for the evening with the 12 directors from 4 continents, we worked with the medicine wheel, a globally known and handed down blueprint that teaches organisations and teams to deal with the dynamics of change based on the natural wisdom of the seasonal cycle.

The ritual accounted for the participants’ international composition and diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. The universal language of fire and wind directions created a framework in which welcome and farewell, gratitude and mourning, and past and future could be present simultaneously.

Choosing momentum

We chose the very first meeting of the new international executive committee as the moment. During this three-day kick-off, we moved ‘from the conference table to the fire’ on the first evening. This experience was taken back to the conference table the day after. The evening ritual infused extra connection and confidence throughout the three-day event. It boosted the new executive committee and helped dissipate remaining resistance, providing a deeper connection from the stillness.

As a lasting memory, wishing flags were hung during the ritual, which afterward remained visibly present for the employees of Rikolto as a symbol of what was celebrated and gratitude for what is.

The ritual quickly evolved into a powerful medium that brought us very close as a team at a crucial and unique moment in our organisation’s history.

Jan Wyckaert, director of Rikolto