Spiral Dynamics with Trace Bell and Tina Olsen of Open Aware - Ep 24

43m | Jul 11, 2023

Today’s interview is with Trace Bell and Tina Olsen of Open Aware consulting, who serve as integration guides for individuals and visionaries within conscious organizations. They themselves are visionaries who are intent on creating a life of purpose by following their curiosities in philosophy, non-duality systems thinking, and raising consciousness. They started Open Aware with the vision of inspiring and supporting others in their own questioning, exploring, and creating new ways of living and being in this world.

This interview is a little different from others that we’ve published up to this point. We are going to be talking with Trace and Tina about a human development concept called Spiral Dynamics. We talk through this framework and touch on a lot of philosophy and human history, including an important moment we find ourselves in today. What does this have to do with Social Enterprise? Well, I think the concept of social enterprise itself mirrors the current transition moment Spiral Dynamics is referring to. And understanding the framework will help us to not only be better leaders in our organizations, but also help us to better serve the people within our social impact missions.


Spiral Dynamics is a model of human development that maps the growth and evolution of individuals, groups, and humanity over time.

Whether we are looking through the lens of history, philosophy, psychology, or biology, it has been shown that evolution happens in sudden leaps.

Spiral Dynamics gives each leap a new stage name and color, clearly distinguishing it from the beliefs and way of being that preceded it. Each new stage provides a completely new perspective which naturally shifts the way humans organize themselves and interact with one another.

We have reason to believe that humanity is currently making a new leap.

The outdated ways that we are handling today’s global challenges are causing an increasing amount of pain and dysfunction. When this happens, some people double-down on the old way of being, desperately trying to stop complexity, while others make the leap into the new way of being.

Here’s an overview of the model:

The first six stages in Spiral Dynamics are collectively called “Tier 1.” The Tier 1 stages are vitally important because they comprise the essential parts of being human.

  • Stage Beige - Survival: Instinctive and solely focused on the survival of the individual. This is where humanity started, a couple hundred thousand years ago.
  • Stage Purple - Magical: Humans formed tribes and began to conceptualize of the vast interconnected nature of the world around them.
  • Stage Red - Power: This is the birth of independence, autonomy, and leadership. This  stage also brought wars over resources and mass de-humanization in the name of power as a means to control.
  • Stage Blue - Order: Humans gained the ability to create organized communities that function on a large scale. Stage blue was the introduction of nations, organized religions, and agriculture. 
  • Stage Orange - Logic: Critical thinking, rationality, and analytics enter the picture. This is the beginning of using the scientific method to come to conclusions and find truths in the world. This stage brought the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. 
  • Stage Green - Equality: A new level of understanding about what it means to care for others and the planet. Green is a collective sinking into the heart that brings increased awareness about the injustices and inequalities of the world.

Next comes Tier 2, also known as Integral. This is the perspective where the seeming mutual-exclusivity of the Tier 1 stages is replaced by the idea that we can “transcend and include” by integrating the health of each Tier 1 stage.

Some of the key hallmarks of Tier 2 are: systems thinking; the ability to hold paradox; and realizing our inherent oneness.


Open Aware

Open Aware's Spiral Dynamics Link


Trace Bell

Tina Olsen

Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast