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Working with people who live the change they bring, nourishing their capacities for self-development and co-creation. Using lifemaps to co-develop the personal perspective on societal and global issues, in a way that gives form to Humanity's Code of Care

Thank you for being here. What touches you? What is of importance to you? What is it that arouses your interest? My name is Ellen van Dongen. My life is all about learning to consciously give form to life as a human being and a member of the human hive. I consider it my life mission to invite people to come closer to who they are and to offer them experiences which nurture their co-creative capacities. The experiential knowledge, at the basis of the lifemaps and of the lifemap workshops I am offering, comes from a long career in business and in government, powered by a drive for self-expression and societal innovation. A burnout drastically changed the situation, leading to an inner journey. Questions arose: how do I view the world now? Where is my place in it? How can I remain positive when the life conditions on earth are deteriorating? What will I do? The lifemap scenarios were developed to help chart all this, to reassess my principles and find direction.

An integral approach in which lifemap workshops complement the lifemaps as such
Ellen van Dongen

The word ‘integral’ in means: whole, complete, total, full, integer. It refers to my intention to offer a holistic approach, not only in the lifemap scenarios, posters and sticker sets, but also in lifemap workshops. I prefer to work with small groups of people, in workshops that go deep and wide. In a lifemap workshop participants have their process in their own hands. They are central, the lifemap materials are their instrument. A lifemap workshop programme has two distinctive features. In the individual mapping round a clear sense of I arises. The clarity this provides promotes the exchange in the group and creates a setting in which the sense of We can be fully present. Second feature is a combination between elaborate storytelling and deep listening, without discussion. The calm and openness that results from this leads to a round of dialogue or brainstorm that reaches further than people thought possible. In this phase participation in a lifemap workshop is by invitation only.

The wonders of life

I could never have imagined it was possible and yet life gave it to me: the opening of my heart and my ability to embody emotions. It started in 2018 and it was a difficult, slow process. Life is different now, with more discomfort and unexpected sensations from within, but it also feels more natural. Being calm and grounded has become a practice instead of a state. Since my awareness expansion, as I tend to call my burnout nowadays, I’m ‘awake’ and that means openness and transparency. Luckily, I had already learned that wrinkles are part of life, when you get older, and that misses are to learn or improve. I feel inspired and deeply grateful for the next generation. My two sons and daughters-in-law make me happy and proud. Together we share memories of Willem Aaij and we create new memories every day with Mila, our wonderful new family member.

Looking in the mirror

I ended my previous career in 2013 and experienced a burnout and an expansion of awareness early in 2014. The combination changed many things for me. After years of working hard – I’ve always enjoyed working hard, making long hours – life forced me to stop and take a good look in the mirror. It was an intensive and often difficult time. Now there are more and more moments of equilibrium. I feel that I have landed in my new mission of being of service with lifemaps. The extensive shadow work has rejuvenated me. I would like that to be visible in my appearance, too. Receiving help from those around me did me good. I still don’t find it easy to share experiences of my awareness expansion and of the spiritual side of my process with others.

Career in keywords

To me work has always been my life’s work. Work experience in key words: Strategy, helicopter view, analysis & synthesis, context awareness. Information technology, systemic advising and change. Biologist, teacher. Personal development, see the e-book Life in 3 questions. New business developer for large-scale works with long-term partnerships, in government and corporate industry. The core: seeding the field, weaving a web of connections, creating conditions for success and giving direction. Developing a joint vision, inviting all stakeholders to commit the best of themselves, choosing collaboration over competition. Working for a great and higher goal, achieving results with value for the stakeholders and the whole system. Co-author of a book about community- and place-based business models. I incorporate everything I’ve done and learned in my life into the lifemaps. And that naturally includes what I am experiencing now – my life and the lifemap developments are closely interwoven. Linkedin profile.


Lifemaps.NL is a not-for-profit venture, registered in The Netherlands. Chamber of Commerce number is 30213990. VAT Identification number is NL001246484B58. The website provides information about lifemaps and describes the work approach with lifemaps. The catalogue on the website offers an overview of the lifemap building blocks and available scenarios. All work with lifemaps is project-based. Prices, tariffs and conditions will vary, depending on the aim and nature of the project in question. In this phase of the development of the Integral Life Mapping method the aim is to validate the lifemap scenarios and to create reference projects. Currently there are no financial objectives for the venture.  Recognition for Lifemaps.NL: Meshworker of the year 2020, Developing peace as a person, a citizen for Peace Week 2022.


In this phase of life my mission is more to promote awareness raising than it is to take action. So how can I still make my contribution to care for the planet? One of the strengths of lifemaps is precisely the physical, the tactual, working with products on the basis of paper… I therefore designed private measures for myself. I cleared out my excess clutter, took part in a communal living experiment, became vegetarian, got rid of the car and bought solar panels. More sustainability measures are taken recently, such as installing insulated glass windows at home (the workplace). Last year my focus has been to create more diversity in my garden and develop semi-wild areas. This year’s focus is to develop more knowledge about non-food (consumer) products. I use organic produce, avoid products with environmental impact, travel less, buy less stuff and try to do more with what I already have. Together with others I pick up litter in the neighbourhood. For Lifemaps.NL I aim to purchase materials and services from companies with clear sustainability objectives. I am keeping lifemaps in the paper form. It works well. Happily people tend to keep their completed poster instead of throwing it in the recycle bin for used paper.

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