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John Clarke

Infoset Member

Name: John Clarke
Telephone: +27 83 634 9401
E-mail: john.clarke@wfp.org

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Aged 46, born and bred in South Africa, married to Sharon and have 2 children, Samuel (14) and Aimee (10).

Professional Social Worker and ethicist, educated at Universities of Natal and Cape Town.

Came through the tribulations of South Africa's apartheid history a convinced Christian pacifist and conscientious objector. Since South Africa's political transition have been trying to discern the key ethical imperatives now facing 'two-thirds world' societies in building durable peace and 'eudemony'. Seems to me that economic globalisation has simply moved the same stark disparities and injustices of apartheid South Africa, up a recursion to the global level. 

Absorbed by the dialectic between human rights vs human needs approaches to development. Exploring parallels between African and South American colonial and neo-colonial experience for insights.

Privileged to co-host Stafford Beer (with UCT and South African New Economics (SANE) Network) in South Africa in 1997, which served to widen the small circle of students of cybernetics in South Africa, and encourage me to persevere in articulating SHE (Sane, Humane and Ecological) alternatives to the dominant HE (Hyper-Expansionist) development rationality. 

Founded Icosindaba Development Associates (IDeA) to build a body of skills to offer Team Syntegrity as a strategic change methodology for South African organisations, and was mentored (womentored?) by Allenna Leonard through two full Syntegrations in South Africa to develop some competence as a lead facilitator.


Indaba is a Zulu word describing an indigenous tribal council that in its purest form approximated what David Bohm describes as dialogue, which aims to share learning, stimulate commitment, build solidarity and distil collective wisdom, with respect to challenging life and livelihood issues.  i.e. the exact opposite of the perverted 'tribal councils' of the Survivor series of so-called Reality TV.


IDeA has however been lying dormant for the last two years due to the concentration all effort in assisting my spouse Sharon to complete her Executive MBA degree at University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. The course, substantially shaped by a Managerial Cybernetics Paradigm, has brought us both into a wider circle of systems thinkers and writers, and I am currently drawing from the deep inspirational wells of another profound systems thinker, Luc Hoebeke, who has become a good friend, spurring me to attend to the 'human needs' thesis that has been neglected in my preoccupation with the 'human rights' antithesis. 

Luc has taught me that 'problems don't exist. Only people with problems', and that every problem formulation betokens a human aspiration or need. Understanding the often-concealed substrate of human interest beneath the articulated statements seems to be more interesting than the letters, words, sentences and language used . 

Having written an article before the WSSD last year, arguing that "Sustainable Development was a piece of meaningless jargon invented by UN Bureaucrats to justify their jobs", I currently find myself doing time as a United Nations bureaucrat myself! Despite the irony, being in 'the belly of the beast' is actually proving quite interesting, perhaps because I am employed in the UN Regional Inter-agency Coordination Support Office (RIACSO) that has been established to ensure an effective response to the compound humanitarian crisis that besets Southern African countries (superficially due to erratic rainfall, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and poor governance, but fundamentally because of an inability to understand the earth as a systemic whole, and manage human affairs accordingly). 

I have found that there are many other UN officers who share my interest in systems thinking. I am busy drafting an idea of developing a humanitarian index, which I call the eudemony index, to enable vulnerable communities to track and chart their progress or distress, based on Stafford's work in Chile and the conceptual insights of another Chilean systems thinker Manfred Max-Neef.


This Web-site was developed by Ian Perry.