Integral Crisis Response Team

In anticipation of the upcoming Metacrisis and even as a way to start addressing some of its wicked problems before it reaches its climax, is there some sort of “A Team” that could be created to go into communities that are experiencing homelessness, education issues, suicide, natural disasters, infrastructure collapse, etc. and start applying a holistic, multilevel development approach to them?

I have this idea that it would be somewhat mobile or at least start that way for each problem and if a solution was found then a facility could be established there and work on maintaining progress.


Hi @MattMazz. Your post raises all sorts of very interesting and practical questions. Here are a few:

  • given the “metacrisis”, is it best addressed all at once or one problem at a time?

  • given a specific local problem (like homelessness), how does an integral approach differ from any other approach? Is the integral approach more likely to succeed? Why?

  • would an “A Team” of outside intervention specialists be more effective than people who have been in the community all along? Why?

  • do integral solutions to the metacrisis demand that masses of people level up in personal development? Or can an “A Team” with above average development levels make a difference for populations who think and act at more traditional cultural levels?


This is probably the big issue.
Integral theory and theorists seem to be more interested in complexity that only a small percentage of the population can understand and can only be adequately discussed by people with Multiple PhD’s.

The solution to homelessness isn’t rocket science. It’s simple. A bed and a shower. Even a clean floor mat and a shower. If there are several beds and showers in the same location, security guards to prevent predation.

Sure, anyone can overcomplicate the issue. “What if they smoke marijuana?” Who cares? When we take away basic human necessities because people have an addiction, this is society engaging in rescuer-perpetrator-victim dysfunctionality on larger scales. “Oh, I want to help you but if you don’t do what I say I’ll make you sleep on the street in subzero, privatize all water sources so you can’t wash up, then arrest you for vagrancy and put spikes everywhere so you can’t even sleep.”

I can drill down almost any issue down to a basic solution and then point out why it’s only insanity that prevents that basic solution.

The basic problem is that humanity in the 20th century went crazy. We now have priorities that are counterproductive to our basic health and survival and this has permeated all levels.
Rather than just admit this and look at simple solutions, we get Integral Theory which looks at increasingly complex solutions to made up problems and re-name them every decade to make it seem like we are looking at something in new ways when really it’s just the same problem made more complicated because we keep wanting to avoid the real solutions.

One simple answer for example is to let things run their natural course. Marx knew over 150 years ago that Capitalism was doomed to fail. The rest has been denial, anger, and bargaining. We’ve known for 50 years that Marx’s answer to Capitalism won’t work either. So as a species we are lost and do not have a system to replace Capitalism.
So we continue to ignore the root of the problem - which is human nature. No economic system can work with broken humans.
The work of fixing broken humans can only begin with oneself, but mostly everyone wants to fix everyone except themselves. This is why “cleaning up” and “waking up” are not really discussed that much. People would rather make increasingly complex and impressive models rather than just look at what needs to be fixed inward.


You ask some very good questions. Personally, I’m coming to doubt that talking about the metacrisis all the time is the best way to address the metacrisis.

My view is that personal meaning-making needs to come first. (Maybe second - personal self-management as in food, clothing, shelter, health care. etc. seem like prerequisites). The meaning-making can be pretty much whatever seems most likely. I would not hold out for some perfect system. The point is to form a view, do things, then ask, is that working as intended? If not, gather more information, adjust the view, try again. This will lead to metatheory by-the-by. And ideally, it will also lead to progressively more impactful action approaches.

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Hey, I am fresh from watching an interview with Yuval Noah Harari who spoke, among other things, about the need for elitists in society. He was referencing scientists and historians who are pretty insular, speaking in their own academic jargon to one another, which most people don’t or can’t understand. Then there is the need for people like himself, someone who sees his role as being a bridge between the complexity of the academics and the general public when it comes to history.

Do you see any parallels to this with Integral theory? Perhaps the ‘problem’ is not that there are Integral theorists but that there are too few if any Integral “Harari’s,” people who translate, so to speak, the complexity of IT to a wider general public so that they might understand it?


Bingo. It’s not like the world is lacking in high level meta-theories at the moment. We need people who can translate all that into anything actionable.

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What I see is that the wider public doesn’t need to understand the complexities of Integral theory.
Let’s take the homeless problem - an Integral Crisis team comes in and teaches the homeless Integral Theory in terms they can understand. We spend billions on a project to build a IT teaching facility, complete with 3-D models and AI generated learning opportunities.

But they are still homeless. Learning Integral theory will not improve their job prospects or provide financing for a home or fix whatever caused their homelessness. It won’t solve their drug addiction, alcoholism, emotional trauma, physical disability, mental illness or even their desire to just live a nonconformist life.
A bed and a shower would have cost a fraction and provided immediate relief from suffering.
Again, I see this as a backwards way to go about things. Invent a gizmo and then try to find a use for it rather than having a need and making a gizmo to fill that need. IT seems like a grand gizmo looking for a way to be used.
Of course an elitist would give a speech about the need for elitists in society. Of course, lol. And of course other elitists would say “Hmmm, he makes a lot of good points.” It reminds me of how billionaires pay people to make speeches and write articles about how billionaires are necessary for society, ignoring the fact that today’s top billionaires made billions by putting people out of work, destroying millions of small businesses, and lowering the real wages of workers over decades.

I don’t think the fact that Integral Theory exists is a problem. This isn’t a binary option where one option is that IT theory solves all the world’s problems or on the other we want to eliminate it because it is a problem.

The problem is if we need to open a can, we need a can opener, not Integral Theory. This is a whole insanity that has infected the planet. The can opener was perfected in the 1970’s and now when I go to buy one there are all these gizmos that cost more and don’t work as well. Some kind of Integral Can Opener that promises to solve all my life problems - but it doesn’t actually open my dog’s of food.
Modern society wants to overcomplicate every aspect of life to feel they now have something better than before (when it isn’t) and in order to legitimize this they ignore the simple solutions that have always been right in front of their noses. AI is another symptom of this disease - a solution looking for problems it can solve not quite as well as existing simpler solutions.

Red problems need red solutions. Yes, you can look at the problem of a clogged toilet from 2nd tier, but ultimately after all the convoluted discussions, the solution is going to be a red plunger and a lot of stink - with an integral motive.
Orange problems are going to have orange solutions. You can’t balance a checkbook or a company’s bookkeeping with integral theory. You need math and accounting. Integral Theory can set the course of the company, but Integral Theory won’t balance the books.

Of course, Integral is supposed to “subsume and include”. There’s the rub I guess - elites who are separate from the lower orders of humans are by definition not including them.

I have an idea - invite 20 homeless people into the next Integral international gathering, or 20 manual laborers or 20 convicts. That would be a test of how Integral these gatherings are. My guess is that they would be more elitist than integral.

Something that needs addressing to solve all the biggest issues is the fact that most people don’t enjoy their lives. Ask Henry Thoreau: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation”.

People are less willing to help others when they feel they’ve been ultra responsible and sacrificed most of their own needs in attempts to be an ‘upstanding member of their society’.

In order for more people to be on board with a helping attitude we need to allow people room to actually be alive: to be more creative and free; to not have to base their life choices around money to such a great extent.

If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most people are stifled in the first two levels.

For most people having the impetus to help other people, and choose policies that will help other people with their tax money, we need to set up societies in such a way that people are free to reach self-actualisation.

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The answer to happiness therefore seems to be “don’t try to be an upstanding member of your society”. Societies can be decadent or in decline, and enmeshing ones self worth with the decadent and unhealthy values of a society in decline is a bad idea. The more elementary and time-tested advice seems to be superior: Try to be a good person in your own judgement, rather than seeking approval of others.

These are basic tenants of wisdom that have been known for thousands of years. Off the top of my head I hear Polonius from the 16th century (500 years ago)
“This above all: to thine ownself be true”
“But do not dull thy palm with entertainment Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade.”
“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy”

Modern humans have confused themselves with delusions that their ever increasingly complex ideas are better, when they are not.
If Capitalism is the cause, then to the degree possible do not engage in it. Or, on the contrary again in the words of Polonius “Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.” Because Capitalism is a zero sum game where if you sell you are the winner and if you consume you are the loser, so “sell” more and consume less. Be aware that every product being sold on the market today is an effort to take your money and give you snake oil in return. The selves of stores are crammed full of scams. An ever increasing variety of poisons to put into your body to steal your health and innate sense of self worth. lol

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I don’t think @MattMazz was suggesting teaching integral theory to the homeless or those otherwise in need, but rather applying the theory in order to help people. I have no doubt that there are people in the human services professions now who do apply some integral theory in their work, whether they are familiar with the theory or not; for a main example, assessing needs and resources in a 4-quadrant manner (even though they know nothing about IT’s quadrants). So the emphasis in this thread is the direct application of integral knowledge/theory, not teaching it to people in need or dire straits of some kind, which I agree would be kind of silly as an initial response to need.

One of the things I remember Harari saying is that an academic historian might spend 5 years on a single research project, and that historian’s findings would be reduced to one sentence in Harari’s book–a sentence that captures the essential information important for the general public to know (and he does make mistakes and has his biases, and owns up to them). The point being: both are needed–the “elitist” historian and the writing-for-the-general-public historian. And that was my point about there perhaps being a need for people who can serve as bridges between integral’s complex theory and the general public.

The path of evolution is towards greater complexity, but I get what you’re saying. Continuing with the Harari references, he believes that while today we are more “powerful” than ever with what we can do and create, he questions whether we’re any happier or wiser than Stone Age people. So you and he might agree on a lot :slightly_smiling_face: While I question that too, whether we’re any happier or wiser as a world, we really don’t know much about what people complained about during the Stone Age, we don’t know their particular grievances in their lives, given the oral tradition of that time. The artifacts we have tend to be things that mystify or intrigue us, monuments, cave paintings/pictographs, etc., and as I say, we don’t really know what their complaints were in their daily lives, so it’s hard to make comparisons about happiness and such.

Much of your post seems focused on LR quadrant issues, material conditions and physical objects: beds and showers, can openers, toilets. I don’t know that IT ever promised a better can opener, and a plunger isn’t going to solve the problematic clogs in the developmental stack, and while Integral may not solve that problem either any time soon, it at least has a better comprehension of the problem than anything I’ve come across. Which isn’t to say that I disagree with you about some of what you’re saying, particularly around economic issues.


This is good advice, especially for transcending conformity, definitely. But also - amber/conformity is a stage of development all people go through. And the need to be accepted is still there even after this stage has been passed. I think we need to make life easier for people at amber. Also, because of the way society is, people can regress to amber once they become working age, because they have to conform somewhat to stay in a job, and they have to interact with other people to have that job… But also… it’s kind of a binary choice between conform and compete or drop out in today’s world, unless you’re especially talented or skilled, or made good educational life choices or whatever - i get it’s not that everyone’s in the same situation but this is something a lot of people experience.

I think this is a reason people become more right wing and less compassionate as they get older. I can empathise. I’m not saying i experience this and I don’t. But not being able to follow your soul’s passions as you can when youre younger is an issue.

Greater empathy comes from greater happiness. To improve societies and fix the big problems of the world, people need to be more free to grow and self-actualise, while knowing that the 2 lowest rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy can very very easily be covered with a bit of work. That’s what we need.

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I’m not sure if I understand the difference between a “response team” and an "Integral Response team in relation to problems that have immediate and obvious solutions but only the lack of desire to execute. In the case of starvation and homelessness society is morally bankrupt and doesn’t want to provide these responses due to stories society has made up about homelessness and starvation.

Funny enough, I am currently voluntarily van living. I make about 80k/yr without that much effort but can’t be bothered to pay for an accommodation that is artificially inflated in price due to thousands of dwellings purchased by corporations remaining vacant. I also can’t be bothered with efforts to try to sell me a potentially higher salary with a higher priced lifestyle. I sleep 100 feet from one of the most famous beaches in the world, have a 100 acre park as my front lawn and am slowly and steadily releasing my attachments to a thousand unimportant things. There are about 100 or so others in this area who have figured out something similar. The problem to us isn’t homelessness - it’s the poor value for money of living in death boxes called the modern single family home. Of course, there are the homeless with lower financial means without vehicles and then at the bottom are the mentally ill and addicts. So when I refer to homeless it is generally this lowest tier, who are suffering rather than celebrating their condition. I have a sister in the same city as me who this is a problem for and she just doesn’t understand that it’s my preferred choice, lol.
Sometimes - but of course not always - the problem of the homeless is more in the eye of the observer. This is where I’d see an “Integral Homeless Response Team” being useful. Perhaps it’s more important to educate the housed of their fears and biases than the unhoused. My biggest worry is possible police harassment, for example based on prior (but minor) experiences. There are also problems with Homeland security requiring verification of a physical residence address before issuing a drivers license. So I have to falsify that and technically break the law in order to legally drive. Again, this isn’t a problem with the homeless, but a problem of the growing Big Brother state.
I’ve also interacted with the lowest of the homeless population after they’ve been locked up in a facility as a danger to society. I actually do think this is the most compassionate currently available to with the most obviously miserable of the population who are unable to care for their basic needs due to addiction or mental illness and are also victimized with rape, violence and exploitation when they are free.


I would challenge this belief. I think this is more faith with blinders than science. Single cell organisms are still the most likely to survive the next (current) extinction event. Homo Sapien Sapien survived the last Ice Age due to their versatility, which is different from complexity. My belief is that our modern complex society will not survive another Ice Age and we cannot understand what the results will be of the changes we are randomly exerting on our environment. Those Homo Sapiens who survive major environmental fluctuations in our near future will be the most versatile, not those reliant on a complex system.

The point I was trying to make is that problems in that LR quadrant usually have simple answers in the same quadrant. I’m saying that society doesn’t need a UR Can opener but the nature of our society seems to make it inevitable someone will try to discontinue basic LR can openers and sell only UR can openers at 100x the price, lol. I don’t think we need a UR quick response to Homelessness. The immediate response needs to be LR and then most likely the UR response is why homeless people just existing bothers normal society but that society refuses to give simple LR help and instead invent all kinds of convoluted reasons why they should not provide LR response. Integral just makes the avoidance more convoluted. In another example, the world will always need plumbers, so having plumbers isn’t a problem that needs solved. The problem that needs solved is why society doesn’t respect them as much as a raping, groping, lying, cheating, swindling 94 indictment real estate politician. The plumber and our toilets don’t need a UR solution, but our society does.

I’d also add that our intellectual elites probably need to find this UR solution for themselves first. In doing “Cleaning Up” work (the Integral kind of cleaning up). I find the most harmful thing that can happen is if someone in that group wants to point out or fix everyone else’s problems as a distraction from looking at what they need to do with themselves.

Apart from natural disasters and infrastructure collapse, which usually get assistance from other people and the state(?), I would assume most of these issues can’t be much resolved on a community level - it has to be a change in wider society for the remedies to mostly happen.


  • with homelessness, people in the community could likely very easily offer people a room in their homes. Reasons they don’t are: theyd be scared (of being attacked or robbed); they don’t think the people deserve help (because they themselves are struggling to survive and they think the homeless people could be in a similar situation to themselves if they put in more effort); they live in shared accommodation and people they live with have these or other negative views about homeless people (my friend was actually homeless for a while and he stayed with me but my housemates eventually said they wanted him out because they were paying rent and he wasn’t, even though our landlady was fine with him staying if he contributed to cleaning the house).

Well, it’s quite an unusual situation - none of them had close homeless friends as far as I knew. It depends on how people staying were behaving. My friend is very kind and respectful, and did a lot of cleaning, and got on with most people. If anyone living or staying in the house was acting badly i wouldnt be okay with it (it’s not specific to any group).


2 people in the house were concerned about me, which is a kind thing.

For it to be the case that houses got crowded with everyone letting homeless people stay, a big enough proportion of people would need to be willing to let homeless people stay at there’s: this can’t be the case because if it were there wouldn’t be homeless people, at least in developed countries. It might be that in less developed countries the majority of people wouldnt be financially well off enough to be able to help others by allowing them to stay at there’s.

But also, my friend wasnt really homeless because he had a home in a nearby city. But he was sleeping rough because he wanted to be in this city - so he was still homeless in that he was sleeping rough

So with your current living situation, you have an inside view (as well as an an outside view) of the situation; I’m listening to you. And I appreciate what you said about violence towards the homeless: just in the past day or so, supposedly a serial killer in L.A. is stalking the homeless, killed three of them; and in Las Vegas, unrelated, one homeless person was killed and 4 others injured in a single incident.

I did a little checking on stats. HUD provides them, but collects data on only one day of each year, and their data contradicts private, state and local reports, which find higher rates of homelessness than HUD. HUD reports about 600,000 homeless people in the country in 2022. Over the previous five years, there was an increase of 5.7% (which is attributed to pandemic aid drying up), but over the past decade, a decline of 6.3%. (The Wall Street Journal reports a national 11% increase in homelessness between 2022 and 2023.) HUD again: In 2022, more than half of the homeless population was in 4 states: CA (30%), NY (13%), Florida (5%), and Washington (4%). The states with the highest rates of homelessness relative to the number of residents were CA, Vermont, Oregon, and Hawaii. Differences in per capita homelessness across the US are not explained by varying rates of mental illness, drug addiction, or poverty, but by differences in the cost of housing.

HUD reports that about 20% of the homeless have severe mental illness (122,000 of them in 2022). About 20% of the homeless are “chronically homeless” (homeless a year or more, or 4 episodes of homelessness in the past 3 years). This is an historical high. There was a 47% increase in the chronically homeless in the past 5 years, attributed to major rent increases, and a 28% increase in the past decade.

What you said about the problem of homelessness sometimes being more in the eye of the observer made me think of the situation in San Francisco. SF classifies the homeless as either “unsheltered” (people sleeping on the streets, in parks, or cars) and “sheltered” (people staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing or another safe space). From 2013-2017, the unsheltered population grew by about 1%, but in that same time period, complaints about them (often by businesses) increased a whopping 781%. Dispatches from 911 (due to callers expressing concerns about the homeless, not criminal activity) increased 72%.

The unsheltered population now accounts for 40% of people homeless in SF, another historical high. And it is the “heightened visibility of the problem” that people (businesses, cities, individuals) are reacting to. Development and gentrification of areas disperses the unsheltered from places where they used to be able to exist “out of sight” or more safely and stably.

The visibility issue can warp public perception of the extent of homelessness. In CA in 2022, for instance, 67% of the homeless were unsheltered (and visible), whereas in New York, only 5% were (so 95% of the homeless in NY were “out of sight.”)

I read part of a very long article at Wikipedia on “Homelessness in the U.S.” A very substantial article giving some history, among other things, and I’ll read more of it later. The homeless have gone by a lot of different names: in 14th century England, they were called “vagabonds” or “unlicensed beggars” and subject to public whippings and other punishments. Homelessness in the US emerged as a national issue in 1870, where there were lots of single men homeless after the Civil War, and they referred to themselves as “hobohemia.” Homelessness spiked in the 1930s during the Depression where “Hooverville” camps sprang up, and again in the late 2000s following the Great Recession. They have been called “transients” as well, and there are now counter-culture “gutter punks” and “urban survivalists” and people who refer to themselves as “sleeping rough,” and people like you who are voluntarily van living.

The Wikipedia article identifies 3 main factors related to homelessness: socioeconomic, interpersonal, and individual (or LR, LL, and UL/UR in integral speak). It lists many causes of homelessness, well worth the read. I did not know, for instance, that nearly one-half of foster children in the U.S. become homeless when released from foster care at age 18. What is up with that?? Actually, I can speculate myself.

Because there are so many different contributing factors and causes, it does make it truly hard to address the situation in any comprehensive way, and it also makes it easy for entities to “pass the buck” on the problem. Some of the socioeconomic factors alone in the last decade–e.g. lack of affordable housing, rent increases, high mortgages, high eviction rates, etc.–seem to get little to no substantive attention. While the innumerable root causes for homelessness are inadequately addressed, so are the immediate concerns–the bed and shower as you say.

Still, while it is of no use and is perhaps even unkind to people experiencing being unhoused for me to say this, even if the homeless population in the US were 1 million, that’s .003% of the total population.

And, there are signs of some change maybe coming through the courts, at least for the unsheltered. Phoenix dispersed the tent encampments from various parts of the city, and was then ordered by the courts to purchase land for a homeless tent camp, complete with 24-hour security, sanitation facilities, and cooling centers, and walking distance to shops. I see this not as any permanent solution, but as a positive step, anyway.


@LaWanna , this is super-impressive research! I tip my hat!

Circling back to the initial theme of this thread, what an “integral” crisis team might bring to a topic like homeless is the determination to view the situation from all possible angles. The point of this is not endless theorizing or paralysis by analysis. The point to simply to be holistically well informed prior to the commencement of action planning. In general, I would strongly recommend an action research model in which hypotheses are translated into action programs and action programs are evaluated for their results. Then future cycles can be conducted with better, more experientially refined action programs.

Your research makes clear that, unsurprisingly, homeless has quite a bit to do with housing availability. So part of the answer must surely involve a complex of issues around zoning, building codes, economic development, taxes, etc. But as other parts of your research make equally clear, there are behavioral dimensions to homelessness that go beyond the availability of shelter. In retrospect, I question whether the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has played out well. It’s not just a matter of personal liberty for the afflicted. There are public safety dimensions to this at well, and in my area (Greater Seattle) public safety is starting to loom largest on the worry list. Anyone who rides public transit has to have their head on a swivel, because bad stuff happens (up to and including homicide) due to the unpredictable behaviour of street people.


This is amazing! We don’t have anything like this in the UK. We’re not even allowed to sleep in vans in most places unless no one can tell you’re living in your van - it’s not illegal but you get moved on. I did it for about 6 months but it’s not nice always trying to stay hidden. I never stayed anywhere more than a day (and was never asked to move) except in Scotland where it’s fine to live in vans

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Hmm I don’t know.

I see Integral Theory as a good starting point not necessarily the final answer to a problem, for instance homelessness. I imagine an Integral Response Team would look at the situation from all 4 quadrants and begin to work on perhaps a mental health aspect, a public awareness program, a shelter, and a governmental policy institute or foundation all under one organization working together. From there I’m sure you incorporate various other approaches regarding social work, politics, psychology, city planning, marketing, etc with a sensitivity to people’s various levels of development.

Could be, I don’t know.

I don’t personally know that either.

I agree with Robert, very impressive. You’re hired! :slight_smile: I have interests in some other areas but I will keep going with the focus on homelessness.

Can these entities be supported or challenged better or is there some other way of keeping the buck from being passed?

Can you clarify this point?