What is the Call of Our Times?

This blogpost shares the story of how I came to find my own calling and how I found a new work approach within collaboratio helvetica allowing me to do things differently and more aligned with a deeper intention of who I want to be in the midst of all these big societal challenges we face.

Sidsel holding a Dialogue facilitation training.

Sidsel holding a Dialogue facilitation training.

Some time ago I came across a characteristic and impressive quote that reflects for me with what kind of work I would love to support this world.  

“What is the call of our times? I believe it is to realise that the future is already here. All the seeds, all the living examples, all the partners we need to pull this off are already here. But we need to attend to and connect with them, and nurture the deeper eco-systems of collaboration and co-creation.”

(Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer at MIT, founder of theory U)

I think it happens to every human being, that at some point in our life we are faced with the same question “What is my calling?”  I personally believe that this realisation initiates from the moment we dare to admit to ourselves that we might not know (at all) why we are doing what we are doing. And might also not be sure why it matters.

For me this realisation happened some years ago when I was a student at the university, and sitting in the study hall in Copenhagen. This day as I happened to look around, I saw people being deeply into their minds and papers, I was looking at the paper I was writing, and started to imagine how many papers like these were actually going through the KU (Københavns Universitet) education machine. So much knowledge and so little connection. Such an empty feeling and sadness for all the waste of human potential I saw in that moment entered my body. Where and how do we learn and practice real collaboration and co-creation? Where do we learn about attitudes and not only about knowledge? I could not see it (at all)?

I realized that my education has the power to influence me and change my values. In ways that goes beyond the knowledge I am taught, in ways that I am in fact blind to. As soon as I had this realization I could not deviate from it anymore. It was like a gate that had been opened, and as I continued to pay attention, it was not possible to close that gate again. In fact, it just became more open. I left the traditional education system, I went out into the world (and into the unknown) and decided on a path that I really wanted and felt I had truly chosen myself.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) beyond an abstract framework?

The limitation I experienced within my education surely instigated a big shift in my own life, but the message that I want to share from my story is that this was also a personal experience with SDG no. 4. I realized my own personal dis-connection and tension towards an educational problem or lack of real quality as I perceived it.

The problematiques represented in the SDGs are in fact present and reflected in many of our everyday lives and experiences. As soon as we open our eyes and ask ourselves how we would love our (local) everyday world and life to look like, we can see the connection to the SDGs present in the way we experience issues in our environment. Unfortunately complex issues such as poverty, climate change or gender discrimination are often discussed only in the political arena, between "important" actors and much of civil society does not feel personally connected to the SDGs.

Making the connection to our personal and local experiences are the first place to source energy and intention towards change and engagement. Luckily many people do act on these experiences. Especially in Switzerland I see (and know) so many individuals and also organisations who care, who do outstanding work and try to shape the future of this country and of their own environments.

At the same time it often seems like we do not really change things fast enough. In fact all of the solutions are there, they are in our hands, but the solutions are not always taking root as we would like them to, or the implementation of solutions do not always turn out like we imagined. So what can we do besides running faster or try harder?

What are the real problems?

The answer seems to nest in the deeper understanding of the nature of these major problems. In their nature these societal problems are systemic, which makes them counter-intuitive, complex and deeply connected to each other. And we do not fully understand how to deal with that, often we try but we do not solve anything because we do not realise that we are dealing with the consequences of problems not with the root causes, which at times makes the problems repeat themselves.

This is complicated. It is challenging for all of us to implement such complex awareness into our daily action and doings, where many of us already feel stressed from pushing, pushing and pushing for making things better. In the pursuit of making a change, sometimes the consequences might be a burn out or we simply reach a point of despair and stop caring. No wonder we leave it to the politicians and to the leaders to make the change.

How do we deal with the real problems?

“What is the call of our times? I believe it is to realise that the future is already here. All the seeds, all the living examples, all the partners we need to pull this off are already here. But we need to attend to and connect with them, and nurture the deeper eco-systems of collaboration and co-creation.”

(Otto Scharmer)

These phrases happen to also be the heartbeat that perpetuates the vision behind collaboratio helvetica. collaboratio helvetica believes that in order to address the world's biggest challenges and to elevate our collective contribution to the SDGs, we need to collaborate and to come together all of us across sectors… neighbours, friends, politicians, corporations, NGO etc. We believe that only together we can tackle the real root causes of our problems. Because only in collaboration we have the power and the capacity to work in a systemic way, to see our own role in the problem, and to solve societal problems.

We also believe that developing the skills to engage in true dialogue, understood as way of conversation that is different from the one we usually have, one that has the power to change everyone involved, is an important - maybe even crucial - element for the challenges we face. Dialogue helps us to learn more about how the world looks like from other points of views and to develop agency on topics we often feel we’re unequipped to think about, because of their complex and ambiguous nature.

This is why collaboratio helvetica creates spaces for open dialogue, experimentation and collaboration for the SDGs. During our work I have been touched and fascinated about the potential and authentic energy for change that seems to emerge when traditional debate and factual inquiry is replaced with a safe space, human connection, and a focus on our personal experiences and on the questions we hold.

My own calling

It makes me convey to the idea that the future might already be here, and if so maybe all we need is to pay attention to the quality of our connections and the conversation we have with each other. I am delighted every time I realize that the quote from Otto Scharmer IS reflecting my work. I am proud everytime I realise that I am part of an initiative that sees societal challenges and our contribution to the global implementation of the Agenda 2030 happening through dialogue-focused, collaborative and experimental approaches.


The author:


Sidsel Andersen is from Denmark and has been connected to Switzerland every since she entered the kaospilot education. She is an experienced process leader and facilitator, and in collaboratio helvetica she works with the Dialogue Evenings and the methodology, practice and community for dialogue.