Needed: A Reformation for Our Tribes

by Robert E. Hall

The ability to see the good in others and the bad in ourselves is perfect vision. John Wooden

Maybe you have noticed how the mighty – and their prominent tribes – have fallen. Linked by shared social interests, these leaders and their tribes have many names, forms and recent crackups. Tribe Hollywood, as the cultural elite’s royalty, assumed the pose as society’s secular pope preaching economic and gender equality — has been deposed. It turns out that Harvey Weinstein was not just a person (noun) but a too common sexually abusive leadership behavior (verb Weinsteined).

Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly of tribe Fox, icons to many conservative Christians, have spent tens of millions of dollars silencing their sexual assault/harassment victims. Meanwhile, pastors like Dallas’ Robert Jeffress drop all hints of condemning sexual immorality in supporting President Trump – who has the gall to call-out Senator Al Franken.

Tribe Hillary, a long-standing champion of feminists, advanced to black-belt in victim-blaming and shaming Bill’s sexual targets. Those condemning religion for its hyper-judgment often joined tribes that serve up their own religious fervor in judging those they consider sinners on the wrong-side of political correctness, immigration and climate change. Former freedom of speech champions now engage in aggressive and violent tribal tactics to silence adversaries on college campuses.

Conservatives predicting budget-deficit Armageddon have gone silent in light of big tax cuts that likely grow our deficit, while Democrats who never met a deficit they did not support, become deficit condemners . And, Washington D.C., the capital of telling others what to do, turns out to be the global center of doing it all wrong themselves. Life truly does make hypocrites of us – and our tribes.

Tribalism is also infecting business. Tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and Uber are seeing their brands erode right before their eyes: from being viewed as cool, progressive workplaces with innovative products to monopolistic conduits for election manipulation, pornography, and sex trafficking with toxic work environments — and aided by out-sized political influence and government subsidies. What was holier-than-thou has morphed into unholier-than-most – large, powerful tribes run amok.

When Tribes Act Like Gangs

In today’s world it seems we have tied more of our identity and emotional self-worth to our tribal relationships. Mary Eberstadt argues our growing and sometimes unhealthy emotional attachment to tribal groups is a Primal Scream in response to the loss of identity that we used to get from family and community relationships, now in decline. Certainly, the allure of gangs for father-absent boys reinforces that notion. Regardless, there is no arguing that social media greatly increases our ability to wound each other in the ensuing tribal combat.

As we have invested more of our identity into our tribes, our tribes have too often devolved into self-serving agents of hypocrisy with destructive tendencies. Gaggles become groups, groups become teams, teams become tribes, – and tribes and their leaders intoxicated by power and success grow blind, insular, self-protective and destructive. Tribes, this most valuable source for sanctuary, protection and our elusive need to belong – risk becoming destroyers of the very glue that holds our society together.

If politics is the new religion, it seems to be a carrier of the same sins of the old religion. Becoming more tribal in today’s hyper-social media environment often means becoming anti-relational – and acting more like gangs.
Relational Reform: Three Keys for Your Tribe

Many critics point out that attacks by ISIS and other radical Islamic groups are evidence of their need for religious reform. On the 500-year anniversary of the Christian Reformation, it is a good time to ask: What is our own tribe’s capacity for relational reform – to avoid going off the deep end? Relational Reform is the ability of groups to change, respond and govern in a way that avoids relational abuse and corruption. Whether your tribe is your work group, political affiliation, religious group, club, family, or neighborhood – can it reform to avoid relationally destructive behavior?

Tribal reform is complicated and excruciatingly demanding. The big truths come wrapped in paradox that must be weighed and balanced. Let me propose intentional examination of three areas that provide rich potential for reforming your tribes:

1. Pride that animates balanced with humility that invites self-evaluation and change: Pride in who we are, our purpose and our history is a source of esprit de corps and energy that reinforce aspiration, high standards and our sense of belonging. Think the Marines. However, with this pride we need humility that sees and admits faults, excesses and need for reform. Confession is not just some antiquated practice, it is the cornerstone to continuous improvement. Pride and humility are dance partners that keep us going, improving and changing. Only seeing the bad in others but not in ourselves eventually kills the dance. In your tribe where is pride/humility out-of-proportion, blocking needed reform?

2. Accountability that brings discipline balanced with grace that forgives and liberates. Accountability and grace are most meaningfully viewed not as two different things – but as two-sides of the same thing – dealing with our imperfections. Accountability faces imperfections by embracing discipline that enables correction and improvement. Grace wipes the slate clean to start over – removing the emotional baggage that drains energy and effort.

Accountability is a strength of high-functioning groups. Too often powerful leaders are tempted to avoid personal or tribal accountability to others, purpose, values and results. Separation – by isolating or rising above – diminishes accountability. However, accountability is only harsh judgment if it comes without grace that acknowledges imperfections, loves and offers second chances – giving permission to try, fail, learn and grow. In your tribe where is accountability/grace out of whack and an obstacle to needed reform?

3. Power that brings energy and control balanced with empowerment that unleashes and frees others. Power brings energy to get things done and glue to keeps us organized and together. But centralized, controlling power can inhibit energy and innovation. The key to scalability is to enable and empower others in a way that grows the power supply and brings new ideas. Un-enabled and out-of-control empowerment lead to chaos and unnecessary failure. In your tribe, where is controlling power/uncontrolled empowerment inhibiting reform?

There is nothing more crucial than our ability to see and address the bad in ourselves and in our tribes. As reformers say: reformed and always reforming.

First published in HUFFPOST, 11/20/2017 11:42 am ET

What’s happening to the world economy?

Negative interest rates, the rise of cryptocurrencies, low volatility, record global debt … what’s happening in the world economy, and should we be concerned? Last year, Paul Mills gave a lecture explaining the state of the world economy, and exploring how we should look at economics relationally.

What Relational Research is saying on UK Corporate Governance

The Financial Reporting Council published Proposed Revisions to the UK Corporate Governance Code in December 2017. The document you can download below sets out the comments of Relational Research.

In summary, we welcome the recognition of the value of the contribution of stakeholders to the success of companies and of engagement with them and their interests, as well as the wide-ranging impact of companies’ activities on stakeholders and the importance for boards to consider how their companies interact with the workforce, customers, suppliers and wider stakeholders.

We are also pleased to note the acceptance that companies can do more to recognise that the workforce and other stakeholders play a significant part in the long-term success of the company and that this is reflected in the revised Code by a requirement that boards should ensure effective engagement with, and encourage participation from, shareholders and other stakeholders.

However, as explained in the download, we suggest that the revised Code and Guidance should be clarified and expanded in a number of ways to help to understand and emphasise the value of an inclusive approach to stakeholder interests. We would ask that it be noted that we submitted comments on the Green Paper on corporate governance reform published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in November 2016.

Proposed revisions to the UK Corporate Governance Code

Why land reform needs a relational approach

Published in City Press, 2018-03-18 06:03, Marlie Holtzhausen

The overarching questions have been what and why?While they are important, South Africa’s new land reform is less focused on the deeper values that shape people’s relationship with land. So, how can relationism inform the debate and decisions on land reform?We are familiar with capitalism, individualism, socialism and Marxism, but beneath relationism lies four presuppositions about the nature of human beings:

  • That all human life has intrinsic value and dignity.
  • That good interpersonal relationships are of primary importance to both individual and societal wellbeing.
  • Good relationships depend on the presence of both obligation and choice in the social structure.
  • Lastly, that a good relationship is to be understood primarily from a moral point of view.

Why should land be returned to its rightful owners? The answer by politicians is that land was taken by force and must be returned by whatever means possible.

But land has greater significance. For example, good relationships are regarded as essential for individuals and communities to flourish. Land is the physical space on which individuals and communities build and establish their lives and identities. It is with families, friends, neighbours and colleagues that life is shared. Land is a place where people have encounters with others. It is also a social place where we form histories, values and common purpose which may lead to building momentum and resilience in relationships as we align with others.

We have knowledge of others, and the more we know them the more we can anticipate and respond appropriately to them. When we understand the power dynamics among people living together, we should also realise how land can be used to create fairness, respect and participation. Through shared land space, we can have good and healthy interactions with others. We can also find dignity, security, rootedness, community, permanence and belonging, and share a sense of responsibility and commitment with others.

The effect of apartheid’s dispossession of land on the breakdown of relationships and its effect on the value and dignity of black South Africans is colossal. The consequences are still with us and will linger for at least another generation. If we view dispossession from this relational basis, we must carefully consider land reform policies not only as economically or politically viable, but as a fundamental rebuilding of a relationist society which was dismantled in the process of forceful removal.

The restoration of land means restoring good human relationships and putting together shattered households and family arrangements. In this case, land reform becomes that which strengthens the deep sense of value and dignity of human beings and the importance of the environment in which we interact and relate to others.

Therefore, I suggest that if we view land from a relational point of view, it adds more weight to why the land reform process should be done faster than in the past two decades. We should see land not simply as a way of organising society – which sounds “nice”, but as a major change in the approach in which we have viewed land purely as a political problem.

If the breakdown of good relationships and fragmentation of families and households has far-reaching implications on societies, economies and politics, it seems to me that we need to solve societal challenges at their root issue – restoring relationships.

Marlie Holtzhausen is a doctoral candidate, focusing on building a relational economy and society, at the University of Pretoria

The Economics of Mutuality

The Economic Summit Europe 2018 has the theme: Making government and business mutual.

Thursday, April 12 (09:00) to Friday, April 13 (16:00) at the Dutch Parliament building, The Hague, the Netherlands.

The Economic Summit exists to promote the dissemination and implementation of new paradigms on finance and economy based on Christian tradition, faith and thought, and transformational busi-nesses generating four-fold capital (human, social, natural and profit) as new models for poverty alleviation and sustainable economies. Sustainable economies do not exist in isolation, but have everything to do with the social, political and spiritual structures in which they are embedded. The focus therefore also includes the factors that lead to sustainable development.

From the very first meeting in 2014, the Economics of Mutuality (EoM), a concept pioneered by Dr. Bruno Roche, senior Economist at Mars Inc. and the Managing Director of the Mars Catalyst Think Tank, has played a key role in Economic Summit events. During the past few months, this idea has also been presented at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Committee meeting as well as at the World Economic Summit and UN General Assembly meetings in New York. It is clear that this is an idea whose time has come!

In the Economic Summit Europe meeting, 12-13 April 2018, the focus will be on the practical applications of EoM in business and management practice as well as in government and public policy. The goal:

1. To demonstrate that this is a concept that works in both emerging and first world nations.

2. To get broad buy-in from the business, political and academic communities in The Netherlands and Europe.

3. To start to develop best practices for the implementation of EoM and the concept of Mutuality in The Netherlands. To this aim, we will set up a National Centre for knowledge and best practices that will be able to liaise with hubs in different cities nationally and across the continent.

The organising partners for this meeting are the Economic Summit, Sallux and GIDS Network Netherlands. The first day is hosted by the ChristenUnie party at the Dutch Parliament Buildings in The Hague. Attendance at the Economic Summit Europe meeting is by invitation only..

Application to attend
This meeting is by invitation only. If you would like an invitation, contact Dr. Arleen Westerhof at . Once your application has been approved, we will send you a link and information to complete the application process and to reserve a hotel room if necessary.

More information here.

Is nationality made up?

According to Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, national identity isn’t all it seems.

It’s the myth that built the modern world. But it is just a fabrication? What actually brings people together into these entities we call nations?

Fisher and Taub explain the origins of the nation in a new video series from The Interpreter, which explores the ideas behind major world events. In other parts of the series they use political and social science to explain topics from authoritarianism to arms control.

Find the video HERE.


Losing the real Doctor Foster

The recent closure of her GP’s clinic, says Melanie Reid, brings a future of impersonal, rationalised healthcare to her village.

Jennifer Foster had been in place for 20 years. For Melanie, who broke her back in a riding accident in 2010, and who is tetraplegic, the loss is particularly poignant.

“Since my accident, with her on my side, I never felt alone,” she says.

Jennifer Foster made regular visits to the hospital in Glasgow where Melanie spent a year in treatment. For eight years she was reachable by phone and email. She made visits on her afternoon off, “sorting me out physically and mentally.” And she did the same for all her other patients.

She adds, “Jennifer Foster didn’t retire. We didn’t have to lose her. She quit in frustration and exhaustion at the heath authority’s refusal to support her. The local health board, Forth Valley, changed its policy and agreed to a pharmacy application in the village. Thus in a stroke the small surgery’s pharmacy became unviable. Without its vital income from dispensing protected, it cannot continue.”

With the GP’s departure, Melanie and her neighbours face the same future as much of the rest of the country: one of fractured service delivered by locums. Who, by the way, in one similarly isolated area, cost the health service £50,000 a month to deliver.

Melanie Reid’s article was published in the Sunday Times Magazine in May 2017

Freeing minds

An excerpt from Tim Montgomerie’s assessment of the impact made by Michael Schluter, untiring advocate of an alternative to the materialism of Left and Right.

The Jubilee Centre and its leader – Michal Schluter – offered something different. Something that found comprehensive expression in the book he co-wrote with David Lee in 1993; “The R Factor”.  Inspired by the Bible, Schluter found evidences for private enterprise (in God as Creator and man made in his image, for example) and for state action (in, eg, rendering to Caesar) but – most of all – he found evidence for a philosophy of valuing relationships. Noting, for example, the Bible’s repeated calls to care for the widow, the orphan and the alien (migrant), his “Relationships Foundation” recommended what it called a “triple test” for all of public policy:

“We want all parties to subscribe to this basic premise: that policy development, proposals for legislation, and government action should all be subject to a triple test – economic, environmental and social. The economic test has long dominated political debate.

Recently, however, policymakers have begun to move towards a second test by recognising the importance of the environment and seeking the tools necessary to address that vital sphere of life in their assessments. We now need to go further and add to this double test the neglected third element – the social test… 

The social aspect of ‘The Triple Test’ is fundamentally about relationships… Public policy is never neutral and we believe that policy makers and implementers should always test their proposals not only to ensure, as far as is possible, that these do not damage existing relational links, but also to see if ways can be found to encourage people increasingly to connect with each other in the public sphere. Strong communities and extended families can build financial and social capital, increasing wellbeing and reducing long-term pressures on public spending.”

I can’t do justice to the wealth of research and policy tools that Michael Schluter and his institutional creations have produced over the years (and wouldn’t defend or subscribe to all of them either)… but in projects like its “index” measuring the cost of family breakdownthe family testKeep Time for Childrenpromotion of relational justice; and the promotion of better relationships in the workplace – Schluter has stood apart from the almost absolute materialism that has not only dominated the political left and right but which has too often captured the church and other institutions that should have known (and should know) better.

Like the work of one of my other intellectual heroes – Michael Novak1I’m not sure there’s yet much evidence from the public policy world that Schluter-ian relationism is on the rise. But free minds are still free minds even if they’re not victorious in what they argue for. And in Putnam, Murray, Brooks, Hilton and others – his ideas’ time may be finally edging closer, at least in the intellectual arena. I hope so.

Excerpt courtesy of

Photo by Johnny Green / PA

Full article can be found here.

How do we make cities work?

See the presentation by Michael Schluter CBE on Finance and Relationships Across Cities, from the 2017 Relational Thinking Week, held in Cambridge UK.

Expeditionary learning goes to the heart of Westminster

The Relational Schools Foundation was delighted to launch the ‘super-cut’ of its new film – We Are Crew – on 9 January 2018, at an event in Westminster hosted by Jeremy Lefroy MP.

(You can view the 9 minute film here)

The film, a short edit of RSF’s longer documentary on the impact of expeditionary learning, follows a relational research project at the XP School in Doncaster, and explores how a pro-social curriculum focused on teamwork and character development both in and out of the classroom can have remarkably positive – sometimes transformational – results.

(You can purchase the full 45 minute documentary for £10 here)

The movie was followed by a panel debate featuring former Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP; CEO of the British Exploring Society, Honor Wilson-Fletcher; Director of Educational Innovation at the University of Cambridge, Professor Colleen McLaughlin; CEO of the XP School Trust, Gwyn ap Harri; and XP School student, Grace.

Hosting the debate, Dr Rob Loe, Director of RSF, said: “The findings of our research are important; they are an important tool for education leadership. We know that public policy or organisational change can either increase relational distance or overcome it. Through our work so far, we also know that those schools – like XP – which we would classify as ‘relational’, returned not just lower levels of bullying and absence, and improved wellbeing, but also superior academic outcomes.”

Indeed, just a few months after RSF’s study at XP School, Ofsted inspected the school for the first time, judging it to be ‘outstanding’ in all areas. Specifically, it’s report highlighted students’ outstanding academic progress, because ‘there is no ceiling to the standards that pupils can reach’, with disadvantaged students often outperforming their peers ‘because staff and leaders know these pupils very well’.

Speaking in the film, Tony Little, former Headmaster at Eton College, now Group Chief Academic Officer at GEMS Education, puts it like this: “The purpose of a school is fundamentally social. It is to enable young people to learn how to navigate the adult world, to learn how to develop relationships, to learn how to deal with the rough as well as the smooth. It’s all these things which, loosely, could be termed development of character.”

XP School’s Executive Principal, Andy Sprakes, commented: “Relationships at XP are wholly positive and supportive. Students describe the concept of ‘Crew’ as family and there is a collective sense of purpose which enhances individual achievement and common goals. This was underlined at the launch by our own students who spoke so impressively and passionately about their school and its ethos. Beautiful work, kindness, integrity and a sense of responsibility for yourself and each other are the glue that binds us. This report underlines that and how powerful it can be within a school.”

For Gwyn ap Harri, CEO of the XP School Trust: “Working with Relational Schools was a very reflective process for us. We intuitively and passionately feel that what we do here and how we do it has a significant and positive impact on our staff and students. To see this belief reflected back in a respected and empirically sound report and film, feels like something to celebrate and share. What we do works, but it adds even more to the value of this when these findings can become a useful and powerful tool to enhance and enable other schools and students.”

Concluding, Dr Loe added: “I was particularly drawn to the human scale values of XP, and the significance they place on building a genuine community of learners inside and outside the classroom. What is vital to understand here, is that their approach is so uncomplicated in its design and execution, and is delivered within a framework of stretched budgets and limited resource, in a system which currently seems to promote competition and individualism. Any school, anywhere, can choose to create the conditions in which relationships flourish, and are learned. What is represented here in these films is a shift in mind-set about how education can be conducted, based on the creation of a genuine community in which people treat others as ends in themselves.”