Constellation friends celebrate New Year on so many different days of so many different calendars. So why rejoice today? And should we rejoice, surrounded as we are by a sea of human suffering? Does our joy reveal anything else but our indifference to our neighbors’ plight?

Still, I am grateful and happy. I am grateful to all of you who have decided to reveal strength in others rather than to point at their shortcomings. I am grateful to all of you who have adopted AIDS and life competence as a goal worth investing in. And the connection with all of you makes me deeply happy.

There is an added reason for celebrating: your commitment to AIDS and Life Competence is making a difference to the lives of many others. Just watch the latest testimonies from PNG. Think of the thousands of Togolese families who are using the self assessment to roll back malaria. Read how Thai PHA networks combine the AIDS Competence Approach with the Greater Involvement of People with AIDS (GIPA). No, our joy does not reveal indifference. It is rooted in our solidarity with those who make progress in addressing their own life concerns.

Every day, the river of life is spreading to new territories. To make the river flow forever depends on us. How shall we remain a source of inspiration for change? Last September in Chiang Mai, a Buddhist monk was offering three principles for addressing global climate change. These principles may help us explain our progress and grow as a happy family.

The first principle is “non-self”. Individuals do not live as autonomous, independent entities. Our connections to others and to nature keep us alive. As Constellation friends, we must choose: either we fulfill our mission as catalysts or we seek recognition for ourselves. In a chemical reaction the catalyst can’t be seen in the end product. The same holds for us: as catalysts of social interaction, we are not likely to be recognized in local responses. If we seek recognition we are likely to weaken those responses. Our fulfillment lies in seeing AIDS Competence spread faster than the virus. Let us continue to celebrate the progress of others.

The second principle is “impermanence”. No structure is permanent, not even the mental frame we use to understand the world. One day at a learning event in Pontianak, participants complained that facilitators were giving insufficient structure to guide SALT visits. I’ll always remember Novi stating at the facilitator’s meeting: “I guess that I will need to build my own structure”. Yes Novi, we all need to continuously build and rebuild our own structures as experience is challenging our understanding …May the Constellation never build “sacred cows”, or truths that no one is allowed to challenge. Let us only build those structures that support our functions as we understand them now.

The third principle is “non-attainment”. Over the last four years, we did not define Constellation targets, nor did we plan specific actions for achieving them. We did not want to set targets whose achievement did not depend on us. Rather we have adopted strategic directions for fulfilling our vision. Then we have sought to achieve our common vision in our various contexts. Thanks to so many of you, we are now far beyond what we would have imagined as achievable when we founded the Constellation in December 2004.

May happiness serve as our compass towards AIDS and life competence today and tomorrow, whatever our calendar might be!

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Comment by rebeka sultana on January 27, 2009 at 11:28am
Dear all,

I read this quote today and want to share with you.

"I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops." Stephen Jay Gould

Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on January 26, 2009 at 8:18pm
Dear Denis,

Thanks for your comment; it made me reflect..

Imagine we would not set targets for others:
Would that not be a nice first step?


Comment by Denis Broun on January 13, 2009 at 3:04pm
Dear Jean Louis,
Can you comment a little more on "non-attainment". Do we not want to define what achievements we wish to reach? Do we not want to set objectives we can reach? Do we not want to have common goals for which we can share victory?
I agree with your common sense remark that one should not set targets whose achievement we do not control. But the principle of "non-attainment" seems to be much broader and I am not certain I agree with it.
Comment by Gaston on January 11, 2009 at 3:27pm
Dear Jean-Louis. After the very packed but so satisfying week of work, I finally found the 2 minutes to read your blog. Inspiring and so relevant in the current world development cooperation. I experience myself two big challenges in everyday work that limit innovation:
1. The 'unlearning' of past experiences and 'automatic application of a way of working'. The longer you work in such a common way, the more difficult to widen your vision afterwards.
2. Creativity is restricted through our existing structures. When we are creative and expressive in other ways than is 'usual' (through reports that not many people read...), adults often apologize or feel uncomfortable. Why is it that drawing a common vision is most difficult with groups in Geneva? I think Tim Brown gives a good answer in this inspiring talk.


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