What did the book evoke in you? Please share!

9 thoughts on “Your Review

  1. Absolutely captivating and inspiring piece! I was welcomed into the world where challenges are resolved through an internal strength and appreciation. Working as a tennis coach allows me to practice an active mindset everyday. Being active and taking charge of my own life is a choice that goes far beyond any physical effort. For me, to be active means to commit to a present moment with my every sense. Following book describes how different communities all around the world have indeed actively taken control over their own destiny and start to dream and act together in order to fulfill their goals. I can happily align with that!

    Moreover, the book widened my horizon with the idea that nothing is separate. As a result, I am starting to see the connections between my tennis practices and other areas of life. What a wonderful world, thank you.

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  2. Inspiring read with lots of great stories. Even though I feature in one of them (Gaston) and have heard many of the other stories before, the simplicity and clarity in describing them really made them relive in me again. It shows the incredible potential we have as human beings to make a difference AND enjoy our lives more if we start focusing on strengths. It’s a life long practice and this book is a welcome boost in that practice.

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  3. Want harmony & peace? Want communities and citizens to be agents of their own change? Then the book is a must read! To engage communities, build teams, nourish organisations, strengthen relationships this is one to reach out for. Going beyond work space it is also about self, and families as we begin to relate to our own lives through the stories. Simple yet interesting writing style which keeps you engrossed till the last page…Read it at one go!

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  4. This book is about what we really can do as human beings sharing a common world. It is about the joy of feeling that our neighbours are really there when we look at them, and that people from other parts of the world are also our neighbours. This book breaths out hope and confidence in our inherent ability to see and understand human relationships in a way that is sustainable of humanity.
    You can read it all in one breath, but then you feel the need to go back to it again to have a longer taste of those situations, attitudes, words that make a person contemplate different possibilities that allow for a life change. It is like paying a visit to all the people that contributed to it, visiting them at home and listening to them as old friends.
    A lot of fun and tenderness inside.

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  5. The book tells the story about WHAT IS POSSIBLE. There is always a solution. You need to work hard, the result may be different from your best dream – but there is always a solution to live your full potential while facing the challenges on your way.
    It is an example of resilience of people and communities. It describes through different stories what happens when we work from our own strengths and take action on WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR US. Small and big things.
    Besides, it also clarifies the way of working of the Constellation. It’s the story of the Constellation told through stories of communities in the Constellation.”

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  6. JL at his confident best
    A review of Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray’s book “WHAT MAKES US HUMAN? The story of a shared dream”, by Dr. Essa Mohamed Rafique

    Dr. Jean Louis’ (JL) request to review his book made me kick myself. I should have offered before he asked me. I instantly and loudly agreed.

    A distinction –setting it apart from the rest:
    One thing that clearly stands out is that “What Makes Us Human?” is different from other books that take the appreciative inquiry and positive outlook approach. I illustrate this opinion with an example about my friend Mari Jo, who has translated the French and Spanish versions of the book. Mari Jo sets this tone of excellence when she attends her first meeting, and says: “However, I found this particular meeting different. The focus of Community Life Competence Process (CLCP) is the local response, whereas till today, the general trend is to focus on the global response.” Thus, Mari Jo says that in CLCP she finally discovered the spirit and passion she was looking for in AIDS work!
    Also, there is something distinctive about the Constellation, which has been existing since 2004. Mostly everyone works from home, thereby the organization’s infrastructure cost is literally zero.

    You cannot put me down!
    As the areas of brilliance are new, the book ignites our sense of discovery so keenly! Each new and meritorious technique, approach, knowledge, perspective, philosophy, skill or simple thought is always presented as an extract from a real-life experience and learning. This leads to a total loss of ability to stop or even pause while reading.

    Ever Changing:
    One point that the reader must note is that the Constellation, which is the organization promoting this strength-based approach, is in itself constantly changing too. At first conceived as a non-profit consulting firm, it continues to adapt and change based on the experience and consequent learning. This flexibility to question and test the present or existing perspectives, approaches and practices, and thus distill the inherent wisdom, is the work of all the Constellation members.

    The Confidence of Success:
    Dr. JL’s stories smack with the confidence of success. The inspiring stories are not only compelling (like the story of Kasure, who was a gangster robbing banks and raping girls), but also overflows with the contagious confidence brought by the success of CLCP in over a hundred countries.Thus, the tone that JL has used seems to convey that the reader can join him in the process of creating life competent communities, or he couldn’t care less! With these stories reeking of achievement, JL and the Constellation members are right in thinking because they already have the numbers to prove that CLCP works. Consequently, focusing on learning, which has proven to lead to the triumph of accomplishment and thus helping the world to be more life competent, is a far better treat than to argue with the skeptics.
    Teach to fish and give the fishing rod too!
    Keeping up with being in the distinction cadre, JL stands his ground on principles. Similarly does the Constellation’s first dozen, as is evident on those pages where JL mentions the parting of ways with UNAIDS – the very program of which he had been a co-founder! JL’s tone of confidence remains rock-steady while history records that Dr. Peter Piot, the erstwhile head of UNAIDS, did nothing to turn around the reflexive trend of giving fishes to the hungry, which still continues in most of the development sector organizations till today.
    On this theme, one cannot escape the humor in the “per-diem” stories ubiquitous in most communities following the need-based approach, giving complete freedom to opportunistic ones to put their self-interest above that of the community.

    Khun Pimjai: Are you ready to die?
    Geoff was the first member of the Constellation I met. The year was 2005. I was then the Resource Person for KM in UNAIDS, Delhi. However, only three years later, it was the push for action by Khun Pimjai that changed my life. Pimjai’s story of building up a community cooperative from scratch and then developing a second and third line of leaders to manage it during her absence, was to her the fulfillment of a dream. At the end of her narration, she asked me through a translator: “This place and all that I have will run as well without me. So, I am ready to die now! Are you?”
    Caught unaware, sitting in the northern Thailand Buddhist crematorium, I remained dumb for awhile. Recovering slowly, I answered: “Pimjai, you are at a self-assessment level far higher than me”, gesticulating a height difference with my hands as high as I could.
    “No, Pimjai!”, I continued, “I am not ready to die. I would beg God for more time to see my daughter married, get a way to look after my parents and my son to finish his education. Only then I would be ready. So, Pimjai, you are ahead of me by many years. “
    Looking back, when JL visited India about seven years later, I did feel a sense of fulfillment of that dream mixed with a deep sense of indebtedness to Pimjai, as I told JL that I was ready to die. It had taken me seven years to get ready!

    Appreciation without Expectation:
    Just as important step as unlearning from our “expert” status to seeing ourselves as only humans, is also the crucial step of appreciating without any expectation.
    The why and how of the latter is dealt well in the respective chapters called “What Makes Us Human?” and “SALT-Our DNA”. Our minds get equally befuddled if asked to forget our titles and status or facilitate a visit to a community without expectation, which is much like conducting a meeting without an agenda!
    The ah-ha moment in both situations, as in Novi’s words, come “when SALT practitioners or facilitators decided to abandon their attitudes as experts and engage instead as human beings in their interactions with community members. Thus, they could immediately change the atmosphere of the interactions to a jovial one”. In addition, the ensuing tonic of appreciation helped to stimulate and reveal the innate strengths of the community. Based on these strengths, confident community members basking in the appreciation, formulated solutions using their own resources and experiences. Facilitators could only add-in if they had better or more relevant experience in same or similar contexts – fulfilling thereby a transfer.

    What you must not miss:
    JL’s stories are good but could be forgotten over time like any other. However, what you must not forget is to steal from his book is the thorough understanding of WoW, or the Way of Working, which is SALT.
    Consequently, we cannot assess the progress of our work without the self assessment tool. Finally, in order to learn from our own and others’ perspectives after each event (be it a community SALT visit, a learning event or a meeting), there is the four-question After Action review (AAR), which has now morphed into the shorter three-question Reflection After Action (RAA):
    1) What went well and why?
    2) What can be improved and why?
    3) What did we learn for the next time?
    JL and I assure you the joy of discovering the new learnings. Its subsequent application infects the users in a way that soon we apply SALT, self-assessment and RAA in every facet of our lives.

    Last word: The reward of good is good!
    A good book must get a good review.Is there any reward for Good – other than Good? While you can question the quality of this review, it is impossible to question “What Makes Us Human?” by JL.

    ***

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  7. “What Makes Us Human” – A Book Review by Susan Koshy

    The title itself of the book, “What Makes Us Human” is a thought-provoking one. And the first liner in the introductory chapter of the book arouses curiosity about what the book is about. It reads, “Me, I am a gangster. Until recently, my job was to rob banks and rape girls. Now, I realize that my life is more important than that!”

    In his book, the author, Dr Jean-Louis Lamboray takes us through real-life stories to a world where appreciation as a process and as an attitude, turns challenges and problems into success stories and inspirational lessons in life. The life stories are taken from people he had interacted with during his life mission of facilitating positive outcome from challenging situations. To quote the author, it is a “path were solutions are based on the recognition of our equality as humans while appreciating the diversity of our capabilities and our skills”. These diverse skills put together, motivate a community to work together for solutions instead of solely depending on outside sources.

    During his tenure with UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme for HIV and AIDS) as a medical doctor, Dr Lamboray’s work took him to communities across the world, especially Asia and Africa. In the course of his work with AIDS, Dr Lamboray discovered that local communities in some of the regions, especially North Thailand and Uganda were able to successfully curb the epidemic. He learnt that they could achieve this because they got together as a community, recognised the strengths and skills they possessed amongst themselves and used them to work towards the goal. Their focus was not solely on what the problem was but what strengths were available to work towards dealing with the situation. This learning for Dr Lamboray led to the formation of the international NGO called The Constellation which continues to work with local communities all over the world, facilitating them to deal with issues themselves through self-appreciation, collective aspiration of the desired outcome and working towards that goal. This process called Life Competence has led to successfully dealing with malaria, AIDS, social discrimination within societies and inter-personal relationship. Lamboray writes “Our world is full of spontaneous, local responses to challenges.”

    The stories in some of the chapters tell about the humanness of people, including those who are generally judged against (eg transsexuals, prostitutes, AIDS victims, suppressed individuals) and how life lessons have evolved by recognising them as humans first without labels. Lamboray asks, “how can they change if I do not change the way I look at them?” He elaborates by sharing the experience of working with some young people in Papua New Guinea who were drug users. He writes, “Our team was with young boys sharing their experiences with alcohol and drugs and even gang rape. They said they wanted to change. It was difficult for us to see strengths in that situation but our team did its best. We listened and tried to understand the boys. In our minds, we tried to imagine growing up in the same way as these boys did. I thought to myself that I may have behaved in the same way. We tried to connect as equal human beings and shared our own vulnerabilities. It was the first time that someone had ever told these boys they had strengths, that they were good people and that they could do anything they wanted to change their situation.” And here lies the strength of appreciation, dreaming and working together. “Why always discuss problems and negative aspects while the strengths and positive things can be the source of change?”

    The principle of The Constellation which the author is associated with, is to interact with human beings, not with their business cards. Such is the kind of punch-lines used by the author to drive home the message of simplicity, communication and connection to deal with situations and life, by co-existing and co-operating.

    Lamboray, in his introductory chapter states that his book is for all of us who aspire to leave a better world to future generations. In his concluding chapter, he writes, “It is up to you to decide what concern motivates you most… Let’s rely primarily on our own resources to act and share with others the inspiration generated by our journey towards our vision.”

    “What Makes Us Human” is a collection of simple yet deep-meaning stories recorded by Lamboray from his own life experiences and from those of ordinary people who shared extraordinary wisdom. It is a book that tells stories, shares experiences, enlightens with wisdom but does not preach. It is a book one can and should read more than once.

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  8. Dear Jean Louis- Thanks for visiting Public Health Foundation of India and sharing your thoughts on community life competence process. I am loving your book. It’s fascinating to know the thought process behind the foundation of the Constellation and the journey. Moreover, it clarifies many features of SALT with fun examples and illustrations. It is indeed an interesting read.

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