Last week Almere Netherlands was the location of my learning and the focus of my attention. Attending the fifth Centre for Human Emergence, NL, fifth Spiral Dynamics Integral Confab, Almere was featured in case studies to explore the city with Integral City related lenses.

Almere was created as a New Town, 30 years ago, using the principles of the Garden City. It is not only a New Town but is situated on New Land – created from Lake Marken and the North Sea.  Thus it has the unique quality of having an ecology that has emerged in just the last 60 years, when the polder was drained, the land desalinated and a new freshwater biology seeded.

Almere has grown from zero population in 1970 to 190,000 people today and is the 7th largest city in NL.  The city was designed to be a second Amsterdam (relieving population pressures in the capital city) and also to preserve the green space in the rest of NL.

Almereans have now produced the first generation of residents who have been born in Almere. It is no longer a New Town suffering the growing pains of childhood, but has now reached the stage of its adolescence. The case studies we explored revealed all the attendant teen-stage angst associated with discovering its own identity and re-storying itself as a unique place, with its own economic, environmental, social and cultural resources.

Case studies explored the oldest residential area of Haven, a health care opportunity in Poort and an educational challenge in Buiten – three very different nodes of Almere. What we discovered in the case studies was a tension of values systems between residents, municipality, local agencies, federal government, civil society and the private sector. In many ways the residents sought opportunities for greater contributions and expression that were being discounted by well-meaning bureaucracies.

However, using the lenses of Appreciative Inquiry – Discovery, Dream, Design and Deliver – we explored the case studies and discovered a core of energy that wants to emerge to take the city into its next natural stage. The key words of this attractive energy were identified as: Appreciate, Celebrate, Blossom.

Appreciate reminded Almere to tell its story to itself.  The City is a Miracle!!  Much of what is working is not being communicated internally within the communities or the city. People did not know the story of how many international cultures or accomplishments had been achieved in the last generation or how the city’s sustainability values were being fulfilled.

Celebrate projected Almere’s value out to the rest of NL. The story of its great success at creating a city of 190,000, providing jobs for Amsterdam and saving green space for the rest of NL demands to be told and re-told so that Almere can shed unfair comparisions to Amsterdam and become a self-confident city appreciative of  its own virtues.

Blossom related both to the trees and profligate greenery of Almere -an environmental success story beyond all expectations – and the new stage of the city’s lifecycle – a time to shift energy from its roots to the blossoms on its many branches. This new stage demands that self-making resources home grown in Almere replace many of the well-meaning but suffocating support systems controlled by other levels of government.

The liberating energy of  Appreciate-Celebrate-Blossom is that it forms the “integral intelligence” around which Almere can develop a whole systems meshwork for moving forward to embrace its new challenges of growing the city to a population of 350,000 with 100,000 new jobs by 2030.