James Boutin (he/they)

Educator, Facilitator, and Trainer

What I Do

I offer personal, relational, and organizational work for those committed to making our world a better place. Specifically, I focus on bringing together the work of personal and systems transformation to help shift the human dynamics that disconnect us from one another and limit our potential. I apply and teach methods for working with these dynamics that support greater connectivity, healthier decision-making, and growth for us all.

Our worldviews, unconscious bias, communication habits, egos, histories, relationships, addictions, traumas, emotions, dreams, and cultures. These are some of the things I’m referring to when I say “human dynamics.” Even if they’re invisible, these aspects of humanity play an enormous role in our lives and societies. Effectively working with them is essential to creating a more peaceful and vibrant future for our world.

A Video Welcome

My Perspective

“There are two related crises in today’s world. The first and most visible is the population/environment crisis. The second, more subtle but equally lethal, is humankind’s relationship to its extensions, institutions, ideas, as well as the relationships among the many individuals and groups that inhabit the globe. If both crises are not resolved, neither will be. Despite our faith in technology and our reliance on technological solutions, there are no technical solutions to most of the problems confronting human beings.”   ~ Edward T. Hall

Has anyone ever told you that we could end global poverty and hunger if we wanted to? Technically, it probably wouldn’t even take that long. The problem isn’t that we can’t figure out how to do it. The problem is that we can’t agree that we should. And barely anyone wants to touch that problem. Because what even is that problem? Is it a problem of human nature? Are we just so essentially petty or greedy or stupid that we won’t work together on something that would be good for all of us? Or is it a problem of systems? Of capitalism and wealth inequality? Or money in politics? Just what the hell is happening here?

I think this issue captures the real existential threat our species is facing in the 21st century. The threats of nuclear war, mass shootings, racism, poverty, climate change… All of these are fundamentally challenges of human relationship, and specifically they’re challenges of how human relationships tend to show up in systems that weren’t designed for humanity. Solving these problems is not primarily a challenge of finding the perfect policy, practice, or technology that will get us out of this mess. Why? Because what we struggle most with is the community and relationships necessary to implement the excellent solutions that already exist. That’s why I think our biggest challenge is healing human dynamics, which are crying out for our attention. Human dynamics are what get in the way of putting our technical know-how to use for the benefit of all beings. We ignore them at our own peril.


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Who I Work With

The folks I work with see the problems our society is facing and have a strong desire to positively affect social change. What I offer is a unique diagnosis of our root problem and a prescription for how we effectively heal from and transform it.

If you’re considering working with me, you may fall into one of three broad categories:

Person A: You’re looking for a perspective on the challenges the world is facing that doesn’t rely on the simplistic idea that human nature is fundamentally flawed to explain what’s happening. You yearn for a clearer view of our essential problem so your interventions can be more effective.

Person B: You are part of a mission-driven organization, and you’d like support for working with the human dynamics that sometimes get in the way of accomplishing your goals.

Person C: You’ve devoted a significant portion of your life to making a difference, and you’ve hit a point where you’ve reached your own limitations. You recognize that it’s time to get support in your own personal work in order to continue with your social change work.

How I Work

The bad news is that a lot of social change work falters because ego, ambition, conflict, and hurt feelings are stronger than love and community. It’s not a sign that the work can’t be done. It’s a sign of which stage of the work we’re in. The good news is that those human dynamics are in fact exactly what we need to get to the next stage. We can’t avoid them because they are the very gateway to the love and community that will change the world.

Along those lines, there are basically three buckets of my work:

  1. I teach conceptual reframes that help us understand the nature of our work more clearly so that we can be more effective in our interventions.

  2. I support the creation of community and containers to hold the difficult work of healing and transforming the human dynamics that get in the way.

  3. I facilitate that difficult work.

Buckets one and two constitute the preparation work. Bucket three is where the deepest and most difficult processing begins to happen.

Our work goes off track when we a) lack awareness of the human dynamics undergirding our work, b) try to avoid them, or c) skip the preparation work and try to dive right into the most difficult stuff.

Strategy and Theory

The work of social change is a vast and diverse ecosystem. My professional work happens in a very specific corner of this ecosystem.

I focus on what I call the deep operating system, which I believe is driven by conditioned patterns of belief, feeling, behavior, and relationship that lie at the root of the big problems we’re facing in the 21st century.

I base the strategy of my work on two premises.

Premise #1: The human dynamics of oppression are a powerful and ancient set of forces driving disconnection and suffering that are largely left untouched and unhealed by mainstream social change work. This is understandable. The violence of our world demands that we ignore much of our inner experience to keep our everyday minds intact. The fast pace and largeness of our work is also an adaptive trauma response that helps us avoid inner pain we don’t have the support to feel yet.

Premise #2: Processing, shifting, and healing these dynamics happens when we can surface them and become more aware of them. This means increasing our capacity to be with, witness, and interact with these dynamics in ways that are not normally accessible to us. This type of work takes skill, slowness, and tenacity.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ~ James Baldwin

“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“As a result of having a false sense of identity, we act in a way that is inappropriate to our natural environment. And when that inappropriate way of action is magnified by a very powerful technology, we swiftly begin to see the results of a profound discord between [humans] and nature. As is well known, we are now in the process of destroying our environment as a result of attempting to conquer it and master it. Our environment is not something other than ourselves. In assuming that it is, we have made a great mistake and are now paying the price for it."

~ Alan Watts

Contact Me

Subscribe to my mailing list or email me directly at james.boutin@mailfence.com

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