Chené Swart is the author of the book, Re-authoring the World: The Narrative Lens and Practices for organisations, communities and individuals. Her international training, coaching and consulting practice applies the re-authoring approach in co-constructing alternative narratives that guide personal and communal agency, new ways of doing and being, and transformed lives. Chené is based in South Africa and works with individuals, businesses, and civil society organisations.
She trains newcomers to re-authoring ideas and conversations from various disciplines across the world on pre-graduate, postgraduate, diploma and MBA level. Chené teaches re-authoring leadership practices as part of the Post Graduate Diploma in Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School and lectures on Narrative coaching in the Advanced Course in Personal and Corporate Coaching at the University of Pretoria. She is also part of the faculty for Duke Corporate Education and a guest lecturer at the Kaospilot School for innovative thought leaders and entrepreneurs in Denmark.
She is a contributing author on Coaching from a Dialogic OD paradigm in the ground breaking organisational handbook published by Berrett-Koehler in San Francisco in 2015 called Dialogic Organization Development and Change: Theory and Practice edited by Gervase Bushe and Bob Marshak. Chené is also writing a chapter on Re-authoring leadership with organizations edited by Veldsman, T & Johnson, called Leadership – Perspectives from the coal face. This book draws on a group of South African practitioners within the leadership and organizational fields and will be published by Knowledge Resources early in 2016.
In her work as an executive coach, consultant and trainer in re-authoring practices, Chené co-creates transformational learning contexts and journeys. She invites and enables participants to re-write and re-author the narratives of their lives as individuals, communities and organizations where they feel stuck or trapped or where the stories they continuously tell are thin conclusions that do not honour the gifts, values, knowledges of these groups or individuals. She also facilitates the emergence of individual, communal and organizational alternative narratives that open the possibility to write and live into a new preferred future. Chené is therefore committed to participate in and contribute to conversations and actions that re-author our world towards the common good.
The Re-authoring approach
The re-authoring approach invites participants to become the primary authors of the many narratives they are writing and living. Some of the stories we tell sound like: “I am always alone”, “We never work together as a team”, and “We are a violent nation”. These kinds of stories are thin descriptions of our lived experiences. Why does this matter? Stories are powerful because they shape, maintain and create our realities and also shape who we are, how we relate to others and who we can become as individuals and communities. These kinds of stories are informed by taken-for-granted ideas and beliefs from our different contexts and societies; they often tell us, “This is just the way things are.” Not so! As we re-author our stories, our lives are transformed and we become participants in shaping “the way things are”. The effect of one transformed story ripples outward to the web of our human connectedness: our families, teams, organisations, nations and continents. This transformational work invites us individually and collectively to take up the pen or brush and start writing or painting our lives and systems into preferred ways of being in this world. Re-authoring the world, one narrative at a time!
Re-authoring Workshops and Apprenticeship Journeys
Through Transformations, Chené offers workshops that apply re-authoring practices in a variety of contexts. These workshops invite participants into these ideas and practices through experiential learning processes. Because she believes in the power of this work to transform lives, Chené also offers two year apprenticeship journeys both locally and internationally to those who want to facilitate these workshops and apply these ideas to their different contexts.
Chené presents workshops in leadership, stress management, consulting, coaching, diversity work, strategic work, women’s empowerment, conflict management, change and resilience, cultural transformation and teambuilding.
Transformations has consulted to the following companies and educational institutions: John Deere; ABSA; Barclays Africa; Duke Corporate Education (Faculty); Standard Bank; Adcock Ingram; Momentum; Marula Mine (Implats); AngloAmerican Platinum; FNB; Tiger Brands; ILead; PricewaterhouseCoopers; North Kentucky University; University of Pretoria; University of Stellenbosch Business School; South African Post Office; Kaospilot; SASOL; Fourier-E; The College of the Bahamas; Liberty; Nyenrode Business School; Monterey County Health Department; British Columbia Nurses’ Union; Fraser Health; Whole-System learning; Coram Deo; ArcelorMittal; MultiChoice Africa; The Field Band Foundation; Refinery Leadership Partners Inc; Driven; Gordon Institute of Business; Christelijke Hogeschool Ede; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Heartbeat: Centre for Community Development.
“Having never heard of Narrative Practises before, I honestly never expected much. However, what it turned out to be, was one of the most defining moments in both my life and career. In just two days, my perspective of my life, my relationships with family, my relationships with friends, my career goals and my relationship with the world as a whole, was completely transformed. As a leader, I now know what is expected of me, and more importantly, I now have the confidence to brush aside all previously preconceived ideas and beliefs, that were unbeknownst to me, hindering my progress. Narrative Practises is something everyone should be exposed to.” Justin Miller, Director Operations, NCC Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd, Cape Town, South Africa
“Many books offer ways for us to improve the world. However, in skimming the surface with ‘tips’ and ‘tools’, few succeed in offering direction for the transformative change we need now more than ever. In Re-authoring the World, Chené Swart offers us a courageous approach that reaches deep into the fabric of our shared realities – the stories we tell about ‘the way things are’. She gifts us with a practice which is central to a resilient future for humanity: the ability to edit and re-tell the stories that shape the foundation of our communities and organisations. The purpose? To engage together in real and practical ways of creating more spacious possibilities for our common futures.” — Alexander Fink, social work and youth work practitioner and instructor in Leadership Education and Development at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
“Chené’s work bridges the very tricky boundary between narrative therapy and organizational development methodologies. She has decoded and therefore made accessible the power of Narrative therapy for executive coaching, culture building and change management. This is a massive contribution for which I am deeply grateful. Chené is changing the larger community's dominant narrative of scarcity, one narrative at a time.” Christine Cavanaugh-Simmons is President of CCS Consulting, Inc. and runs an international consulting company from Royal Oaks, California
“Based on my 20 years of experience in the field of organizational development, the skills that Chené brings are unique and rare. There are narrative therapists who work at the level of individual counselling, but it seems few who have the skills to bring this into an organizational context. Her work has powerful effects in re-writing and re-authoring the narratives of individuals and organizations.” Charles Holmes is a citizen of Vancouver, a skilled facilitator, educator and convenor of dialogues that change the world.
“Chené has built a committed following in Cincinnati by her elegant way of facilitating the work and presenting the Narrative ideas in a simplicity that is easy to understand and also profound in its impact. I fully recommend her work. It is life changing for individuals and institutions.” Peter Block is a citizen of Cincinnati, an author, consultant, and speaker in the areas of organization development, community building, and civic engagement for the past 40 years. He is also the recipient of the Organization Development Network's 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Photo by Harriet Kaufman