Our statment : for the philosophy and ethics of personal accompaniment
The challenge of creating a manifesto, or mission statement, that sets out the action principles of relational activities, which we may largely call “personal accompaniment”, naturally assumes that we must at least define the coverage and the territory of said actions.
It is especially important that the concept may both lend itself to multiple approaches, and be widely used in everyday language.
We are referring to a broad approach, aimed at exchanges and collaboration with all persons who, whatever their status or background, support others, help them to advance, and become involved in undertakings that would be more difficult without this aid and guidance.
So it is therefore this complex relationship and the process of “walking together” that we will address.
For the KELVOA collective :
1- The origins
The creation of KELVOA, which is an association of professionals of personal accompaniment, from multiple origins, is intended to offset a significant lack in the area of skills development.
Multiple institutional affiliations, and the current crisis, make it rather challenging to carry out truly collaborative work and to really focus on the problems of the people we care for, help and support. It seems that professionals are organized instead around their membership structure or the benefits they provide, and very little around the actual job they perform.
In addition, all the experiments that have been conducted in various European projects show the wealth of collaboration and contributions that are possible if they can be shared, recognized and re-created.
It is around this idea of sharing and cooperation that this association has been created, and now all the conditions are in place to facilitate our exchanges and reflections, with mutual respect and value for the ethics of our profession. The manifesto proposed here is the first step in building these links.
Accompaniment professionals are facing more and more paradoxes :
- A demand for reassurance and guarantees in an increasingly uncertain society.
- An environment where the cult of individual success can overtake solidarity and can heighten vulnerabilities.
- A call for the citizen’s responsibility to build himself up and make suitable choices in a system of benefits where he is subject to great pressure to adapt to reality. This is sometimes more a matter of paradoxical recommendations or of voluntary submission than of enlightened emancipation.
- Searching for short-term results, even though the process of personal growth is complex, chaotic, and multifaceted.
- A risk of strengthening the feeling of helplessness and of darkening prospects even more.
Yet in times of multiple crises, personal accompaniment cannot be content with simply a supportive or compassionate attitude. It should also mobilize in each person the power to act, whatever the constraints.
This impels us to speak out, because living means not giving up.
These words and these statements are not closed and dogmatic.
We want to debate our choices, facilitate the controversy so that our positions are enriched, changing, alive. But it also seems that the time is right to respond to bland consensus and well-meaning litanies on personal accompaniment, to put in place requirements for professionalism, what we could call “rules of the art”.
Because this type of personal accompaniment exists only because there is a potential of vulnerability or momentary difficulty to be faced alone in each of us.
And accompaniment only becomes meaningful by what it allows the other person to do. No one else can be us at any given moment in our lives.
2 – Philosophy and principles of action
2-1 A philosophy
Accompanying is to implement what we believe in, which guides us in our action. This brings to life a conception of the person:
The presumption of resources and an able person
We are referring to the able and vulnerable man conceptualized by Paul Ricoeur.
This means centering on what can be mobilized (which may be invisible to one’s own eyes) rather than one’s deficits or potential shortfalls for which one seeks to compensate.
A person connected to others, with solidarity who could give support and also benefit from support. This helps to protect from solitude and allows one to contribute in one’s own way to society.
A comprehensive approach to the person integrated into an environment, not reduced to their age, status, gender or occasional difficulties, but a whole person who can exercise choice, free themselves from constraints and benefit from their rights.
2-2 The concept of personal accompaniment
The end purposes of accompaniment
If personal accompaniment is defined as providing support for a person to do something that would be more difficult to accomplish otherwise, then it is essential to define the nature of such support. It is not about doing things in their place, nor declaring oneself an expert, nor making decisions in their place because of a passing vulnerabilty.
Neither does it mean to completely give that person free will, as their decision-making capacity may be reduced because they may unable to fully comprehend the resources that are available; or for any other reason particular to that person in that situation.
In fact, it means allowing the person:
- To exercise the freedom to live a life that has value in their own eyes.
- To not only know their own rights, but to be able to make these rights effective in their particular situation.
- To exercise the power to act on their own behalf and in their own situation.
- To preserve the balance of their inner values (personal ecology).
- To experiment, to be open to possibilities, to take acceptable risks, and to be able to judge for themselves the benefits obtained or the imbalances created.
- To discover other viewpoints and to change their point of view if necessary.
Acting as a personal accompaniment professional in this framework means accepting :
- That this process is not linear.
- That the outcome is not predetermined.
- That proposals will be built along the way, through collaboration.
- That the person remains the expert of their own situation, a stakeholder, and free to exercise their own options and decision-making.
- That the support that is offered makes this responsibility acceptable and do-able, and does not induce terror or guilt.
This implies integrating the iterative nature with the more unexpected aspect of “walking together”, cooperating together in the process.
3- The practice of personal accompaniment
To bring to light real practices, we can organize this philosophy, this approach and these principles around three themes: a process, a position and professionalism.
3-1 A process
The term is defined as “walking together” through incorporating the unexpected detours
and by avoiding procedures that would guarantee an outcome simply by reproducing it. The accompaniment process involves :
- A holistic, global, and systemic model.
- Finding a balance of logic and a dynamic of achieving more than simply short-term results. This is not to say that effectiveness and efficiency do not guide our actions ; but the recipient of our services is an individual in and of themselves.
- Giving value to the power of action (the first step, the Kaizen, or continuous improvement), contribution and initiative.
- An open approach allowing the person to broaden their perspective.
- Development of the person’s resources rather than simply identifying what needs to be compensated for.
- Providing the most relevant resources for the person being accompanied.
- Having recourse to social support, and exercising solidarity.
3-2 A position
- The accompanist assures the quality and the relevance of the methods that are proposed, negotiatied, and discussed.
- They do not seek to use their power of expertise to induce the person to adopt their point of view.
- They are aware of the resources or viewpoints that may be made available to the person.
- Their appraisals are continuously negotiated.
- They aim for collaboration, discussion and building together.
- They propose continuous regulation as the process moves forward.
- They structure, support, equip, encourage and enlighten.
- They are involved as an individual in this accompaniment, while clarifying what is part of their profession and within the bounds of their intervention.
In each case, the person is the expert in their own situation.
The accompanist is aware that all of the previous statements must be discussed and deliberated upon. It is not about insisting on a particular ideology, but of laying out action principles capable of being developed and enhanced based on changes in society, in opinions, and in use.
- Furthermore, a professional in the field of personal accompaniment is assumed to:
- Remain up-to-date on the evolution of society and of the standards of professional practice.
- Be able to open up to new methods.
- Be part of an ongoing evaluation process.
- Regularly exchange with their peers.
- Be vigilant about their own interpretations and limitations.
To combat dogmatism entails clarifying that which falls under the heading of technique, which can evolve, and that which is ethics (the concept of the individual), which, by definition, is stable.
To accompany, is to allow each person to find resources; in themselves and in their environment, allowing them to make informed choices and to manage their projects and their life around the ideas and values that they hold.
It is therefore a lesson in humility, in citizenship, and in solidarity.