23 Jun

Orlando: How our Ideology is Killing us

Donald_Trump_and_Hillary_Clinton_during_United_States_presidential_election_2016 2

By Robert Hall – 

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.
John Stuart Mill

Orlando now joins San Bernardino, Paris, Fort Hood and many others. Attempts to understand these atrocities focus on the ideology and theology of the killers – issues around ISIS, radical Islam, and hate crimes. But those issues beg a bigger question. How have our own ideology and theology immobilized our ability to respond? We lament that the enemy does not change their ideology while we steadfastly hold on to ours, leaving us unable to act. In light of that old adage, “It’s not what happens to you, but what you do about it” – we are failing.

It is our country’s own ideological divide that makes many of today’s headlines. Presidential candidate Donald Trump accuses President Obama of stupidity, indifference or “something else.” Obama goes on a tirade denouncing Trump’s statement about Muslims. Trump retorts that Obama is angrier at him than at the Orlando shooter. Our gravest risk is not that terrorism will destroy us but that it will provoke us to destroy ourselves.

We keep asking: When are we going to wake up and take action about – fill-in-the-blank. For some the blank is filled in by stricter gun laws, limits on immigration, more effective mental health programs, or more aggressive police or military action. But as a nation we are immobilized by the depth of our disagreement. Our response is heightened worry, but not heightened action.

Our inability to agree on a holistic, strategic response means that we eventually become a part of the problem – but at least it is a part we can do something about. We have met the enemy and it is not just guns, bad guys, ineffectual military efforts or dysfunctional mental health system. The enemy is also us and our broken relationships that prevent constructive engagement and thus constructive solutions on behalf of future innocent victims. The first one or two incidents – shame on the perpetrator. The last ten, shame on them AND on us and our disabled relationships.

We may not be able to control “them” but what to do about “us”? That should be a different story but it requires leadership.

It is time for leaders and followers to stop asking: How do I convert others to think like me? The more constructive question is: What about your ideology or theology would you be willing to repurpose in order to reach a shared solution that would save lives and save our Union? What would you be willing to concede, not by forfeiting your personal beliefs, but in support of a shared higher-purpose solution for the country.

Until leaders and followers humble ourselves regarding our own imperfect beliefs, we will remain stuck. Let me suggest three keys for thinking more relationally about ideology.

Recognize broken relationships as our greatest long-term risk.
No matter how you disdain violence, loss of innocent lives, and any opposition you consider the enemy – ISIS, gun lobby, religious extremism, immigration policies – we are stuck unless we come together enough to craft solutions.

Years ago General Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff commented on the sectarian violence in the midst of the Iraq war:

“If the Iraqi people as a whole decided today that, in my words now, they love their children more than they hate their neighbors…this could come to a quick conclusion.”

If we could decide we love those future people who will be gunned down and blown up more than we hate our fellow citizen’s solutions, that would be the starting point.

Place relationships at the center of ideology and theology. The preamble to the U.S. constitution begins with these words: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”. Our Constitution – the supreme law of the land – seeks union. As a nation of individuals with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and needs – the founding hope was union and relationship as the best means to serve and benefit from our diversity.

Theologically, we all have beliefs, be they faith-based or secular. I am a Christian and since that is the largest group in this country, let’s start there. In Matthew 22 Christ was asked what is the greatest commandment. His answer was relationship: Love your God with all your heart mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Then he added: All the law and all prophets hang on these. The Bible is the supreme law of Christianity and Christ described the law as a means to a higher purpose – relationship.

To disagree is human. To deploy our differences as weapons trained on each other is self-destructive. Making productive relationships our highest priority is crucial to creating broader, more holistic strategic solutions.

Sacrifice for the purpose of relationship. Sacrifice is the acid test of commitment. If productive relationships represent higher purpose, we must be willing to sacrifice some of our favored ideology if we are to reach common ground with those who have their own favored ideology. Remember John F. Kennedy’s famous question: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Said differently, ask not what you can get others to do for your belief, ask what you can do to “sacrifice” for shared belief that increases safety for all. Assault rifles, immigration policy, more invasive law enforcement — it is a fool’s errand to ask others to sacrifice what they hold sacred if we are unwilling to also. The arrogance of our self-righteousness is daunting – I am righteous and of God and thou art an evil idiot. It is the ideology we disdain in our enemies and it must cheer the hearts of those who would kill us to see its disabling effect on us.

Our enemy’s beliefs and connected actions threaten our safety and our way of life. Our failure to connect our beliefs to the higher purpose of constructive relationships blocks our attempts to respond with holistic, strategic action. It is time to Relationship-up!

This was originally published on 17/06/2016 by the Huffington Post and has been re-published here with the author’s permission.

14 Apr

‘Big government’ anti-relational? Not when it comes to income inequality!

Goldfish income inequality for RTN website

Over the last decade, research on well-being has increased exponentially. While the main focus of economists is on the relationship between well-being and GDP per capita, they are becoming increasingly aware of the role of income inequality. This is an important topic for relational thinking as well, since income inequality is closely related to social cohesion and trust within a society. While relational research often focuses on interpersonal relationships directly, the structure and organization of societies and their economies can be a major source of stress. The impact of poverty is widely understood, yet income inequality can put relationships under a similar kind of pressure. Much is still unknown about how inequality affects well-being and what can be done about it. This blog aims to give a first glance at ongoing research on the matter, from a relational perspective.

When discussing income inequality, we should first ask ourselves what do we mean, and why is it worth to be studied? A classic approach is to look at absolute income differences within a country. Yet, as humans are social beings whose well-being depends on interaction and comparison with others, it is relative income inequality that social scientists should be most concerned about. A commonly used measure is the Gini-coefficient, a complex mathematical function that unfortunately tends to overestimate inequality between incomes in the middle of the distribution. Due to the nonlinear nature of income inequality, a better alternative is to look at the % of national income that is earned by the richest 10% of the population of a country. For European countries this number ranges from about 24% in Denmark, up to more than 40% in the UK. This means that on average one third of all income in a country goes to 10% of the population, leaving two thirds to the remaining 90% . This may not sound very alarming. Yet a similar pattern can be seen within the 90% group. In the end, high inequality means that a relatively large group is left with relatively little income. Several researchers have argued that the current level of inequality causes polarization of societies, as different income groups tend to become isolated from one another through consumption patterns, education, and even residential areas. When inequality is furthermore perceived as a sign of unfairness, it can pose a serious threat to social cohesion and mutual trust, even further deteriorating relationships.

Closer investigation of the matter shows that while perceptions of inequality are important, countries with higher levels of income inequality have lower average life satisfaction irrespective of cultural differences. This is especially true for countries with relatively high standards of living, and the relationship is causal. The question is then what causes income inequality, and can it be influenced without major distortions to the functioning of the economy. Ideally, productivity should determine one’s income. Productivity can however not be directly observed, while differences between supply and demand of labor may lead to unequal bargaining positions. Thus, market structure and government institutions have a major impact on the distribution of income. More formally, these are called the degree of economic freedom of a country. As an indicator, economic freedom is usually divided into five sub-indices, being size of government (consisting of government expenditures and fiscal policy), the quality of the legal system, sound money, free trade, and the degree of regulation of capital, labor, and credit markets. Of these sub-indices, tax policies and low regulation have a strong and very significant impact on income inequality. As suggested by Piketty (2014), a country’s tax structure has an important signal function regarding what kind of earning system and income distribution are acceptable to a society. In addition, government regulation of an economy strengthens the bargaining position of the weak and poor and offers them protection against abuse of power. In addition to its potential direct positive impact, this leads to more equal outcomes, strengthening both work and family relationships.

What does this mean for relational thinking? While a lot of things can be left to the responsibility of local communities, sound macroeconomic structures are essential to contain income inequality, strengthening these communities and supporting healthy relationships. Thus, how paradoxical it may sound, ‘big government’ is not always such a bad idea!

Bjorn Lous is a second-year PhD-student at Tilburg University, studying the relationship between economic freedom, income inequality and life satisfaction.

12 Nov

Fraternal Politics

Corbyn

by Danny Kruger –

There is a spectre haunting Europe, and indeed the US: the spectre of antiism. Anti-austerity, anti-capitalism, anti-elites, anti-politics itself, antiism is engaging young and old, people from all backgrounds, in a surge of protest against the way things are.

But what is interesting – and quite depressing – is how this new spirit in our politics is alighting on such old ideas.

Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, Bernie Sanders in the US, and here our own Jeremy Corbyn, are all generating huge excitement for ideas that were current in the 1960s and 70s. The nationalization of key industries and public services, the redistribution of wealth, high levels of universal benefit entitlements: antiism may find its expression in negativity and protest, but it is really a positive claim that central government can bring about equality.

The belief in greater state power for the sake of equality is one half of our binary politics. For 40 years the contrary idea – the idea of the free market and personal, rather than social, responsibility – has ruled unchallenged. We are seeing a counteraction among a significant subset of people, but, in my view, it is the wrong counteraction.

There is a better alternative – or really a correlative – to free markets than antiism or egalitarianism. I call it fraternity – the neglected brother of the French revolutionary trio liberty, equality and fraternity.

If liberty is the philosophy of the market, and equality the philosophy of the state, fraternity is the philosophy of society – the space between the market and the state, the space of families and communities and associations.

Fraternity hasn’t had much of a look-in over the years since 1789. The fight of our era has been between liberty and equality – between free markets on the one hand and a redistributive, egalitarian state on the other.

Insofar as either side thought about society, they each accused the other of damaging it, and claimed their philosophy protected and enhanced it. Liberals – or Conservatives in Western politics – said the state crowded out independent associations, undermined the family and damaged the roots of civil life. They said more personal freedom would make these things safer and stronger. For their part, egalitarians said the free market harmed society by reducing human relationships to the cash nexus, and the state protected it by creating a space free from the market.

There is something binary in our brains that can only accommodate two rival ideas. But there is a third idea – a principle of politics that goes beyond the right’s fixation with the free market and the left’s fixation with the state.

The idea of fraternity – where the primary focus of our attention is the quality of relationships – is the great untapped political idea of our time. It opens up a huge new field of action, or a way of doing policy, particularly welfare policy.

Let me outline what a ‘relational’ or ‘fraternal’ political platform might look like.

First, it is local. There is no justification for vast national or regional public systems except the justification of scale itself – that it is easier and cheaper to organise that way. This is the true voice of the system, considering its convenience ahead of the quality of experience of the people it serves.

So healthcare, education, welfare – all the pillars of the welfare state need to be handed to local institutions. Taxation needs to be localised to create a meaningful relationship between the people paying for a service, the people organising it and the people receiving it.

Second, a fraternal policy would empower the community beyond the public sector. What I know from working with prisoners, ex-offenders and youth at risk is the central importance of relationships in any kind of social work. The how and the who matters more than the what: the precise content of the rehab programme or training course or even health treatment often counts for less than the manner of its delivery and the connection between the person giving and the person receiving it.

Government often struggles to facilitate the human connections that make services work, and make society strong. Its pursuit of efficiency, its concern for the equal allocation of limited resources, and its reliance on a purely fiscal measure of effectiveness (the cost of an input rather than the value of an outcome) mean the relational element is usually sacrificed. Contracts for home visiting services for the elderly, restricting visits to the 10 minutes it takes to perform the tasks required, stands as a type for publicly-managed services in general.

In terms of delivery, a ‘fraternal’ politics would engage the full panoply of private and social sector players who are available – and would emerge – for social action: the charities and churches and social enterprises who operate with a mix of sacrifice and self-interest, and – especially when co-ordinated through the mechanisms of ‘collective action’ – bring coherence and humanity to the often dysfunctional systems of support surrounding vulnerable people.

This goes for the economy too. Business is part of the social sector.  We need businesses which do what the state cannot: harness people’s ambition for growth and progress, and make use of the energy of enterprise. But the business we need is not in the form of great faceless plc’s whose only obligation is to make profit for faceless investors on the other side of the world. We need government to support local charities and social businesses which operate with a social and environmental purpose as well as a profitable one.

Third, a fraternal politics would focus on prevention not cure. We have a state set up to fix problems. Instead, we need to stop problems developing in the first place, or getting worse once started. This means investing more earlier, and spending less later – and deliberately investing in projects and systems that support relationships within families and neighbourhoods. The Government’s new Family Test – considering the impact of policy in family life – is a useful step, but it is negative and reactive. We also need positive steps to promote family and neighbourhood connections, using everything from tax to planning to public service design.

Fourth – perhaps most controversially and more importantly – a fraternal politics would be explicitly moral in its discourse.

The challenge here is immense, because any moral language is fraught with judgment. And our politics is perverted by a misunderstanding of judgment – specifically, the difference between judgment as moral discernment, and the ugly habit of judging others.

As we all know in our personal lives, relationships allow judgment without judging. We can say to our loved one ‘you’re wrong’, or even ‘you’re doing wrong’ without making a sweeping generalisation about their character. We can show judgment, without judging. This is possible in love – perhaps it is one of the definitions of love – but it seems an impossible task in politics.

Any judgment of conduct, any disagreement with another’s argument or worldview, is received as a moral affront, and often intended as such – people who do or think differently are bad people.

And so we get this terrible political discourse –the echoing shouts of castigation as the left judge ‘bankers’ and the right judge ‘benefit claimants’; and all the value of their arguments is lost in the judgment they are making of the other side.

Instead we need a loving – if tough – conversation in which the behaviour of bankers and benefit claimants can be analysed, but the value of the human beings in question is not in doubt.

That seems impossible with our current politics. And that is a big shame, because we do need judgment in our national life. We do need politicians to be able to say things like ‘it’s best when parents stay together’ – without that being an attack on parents who do not do so. It should be possible to assert a general idea  – the value of traditional family life for instance – without it coming across as a totalitarian assertion of the only way to live, and the moral annihilation of everyone who lives or thinks differently.

Society does that, of course – we do that, in our private spheres: we exhort our friends to save their marriages while completely sympathising when they cannot.

We need a politics which reflects that decent moral attitude. Politics which is values-led, which has the permission of the public to talk in moral terms without moralising, without judging people but lovingly arguing for the right and the good.

If we put relationships first, we discover a whole new vision of good government, and a whole new mission for our country.

I want to end with this thought which, I confess, intoxicates me, but it has yet to break into the mainstream. It is about what I think the mission of Britain might be in the world in this century. Our country famously lost its role in the world, its sense of purpose, when it lost its empire. I think the purpose of Britain in the 21st century is to model the politics of relationships – to become the best place in the world to live, and give witness to the good life that other countries might admire and even emulate.

One reason I am intoxicated by this idea is how absurd it is. Britain seems a long way from the best place to live. We have some of the unhappiest children, the most unstable families, the grimmest environments in the world. We have all the problems of the modern world, from inequality and generational poverty to extremism – leading to terrorism – and a popular culture which is often crass and directly destructive of human wellbeing.

But we, in Britain, also have an idea – deep down, almost out of sight – of how to live, of how to achieve a settlement between the demands of the community and the privacy of the individual, about the limits of the state and the right to be different, about the role of culture in unifying us, about how communities – geographical or ethnic or religious – form and hold together, without becoming cut off or hostile to the rest of society.

In our habit of forming institutions – like Oxbridge colleges, founded by individuals but created for community, run as independent fiefdoms but within the larger kingdom of the university – we have a model for civic life which is both productive and peaceful.

This is the inheritance of the Christian tradition which dominated our politics for so long, and which gave us the two great ideas which still inform the British worldview: that we are free, independent and responsible, and that we all have equal, total worth no matter our talents or our condition. Freedom and equality – those two principles proclaimed by the godless tribunes of right and left – are Christian in their origin and it is the Christian heritage which is their best defence.

And between and beyond liberty and equality, visible as it were through the arch they form, gleams that greater principle, fraternity. People living together in peace, in solidarity, in communities of difference and identity.

So this is the challenge for us. It does not need to be framed as a Christian mission – in fact it should not, in my view. It is a natural human mission and one that, by our habits and history, the British are well suited for.

Can our politics admit this – can the people in power turn their minds to building the sort of state described earlier: local, communitarian, preventative, values-led?

I think that Jeremy Corbyn could be the best thing to happen to Britain for a long time. Not because I agree with him, but because I do not – and I think a lot of other people do not agree with him either. I do not mean those people who would never vote Labour or who distrust everything about the Labour party.

I mean people who are – or were – attracted to Corbyn precisely because he seems to represent a new style of politics – authentic and brave, with a concern for people and communities and a strong and cogent critique of the way that capitalism works.

They will find, I hope and believe, that Corbyn’s actual policies do not reflect that attractive style of politics. Certainly, he is a mould breaker politically – he has caused an earthquake – but his politics are about keeping everything the same, or rather returning them to how they were before Mrs Thatcher came along. He is a statist – an ardent advocate of equality and a believer in the monopoly model of government centralism. He has nothing to say to the community beyond the public sector, and no sense of the informal social capital that is latent in society itself.

There is another idea, and either the Conservatives will claim it or the disappointed legions of Labour activists will do so, and find a new vehicle to carry it. It is the idea of fraternity, of relational politics.

It is a prize waiting to be picked up but it will take a new form of political activity, some new expression of the spirit which is propelling the old left to prominence across Europe and America. Reheated radicalism is not it. A new politics of fraternity might be.

Danny Kruger was chief speechwriter to David Cameron MP as Leader of the Opposition. From 2008-2015 he led Only Connect, a charity working with prisoners and young people at risk of offending. He is now chief executive of the West London Zone, a collective impact project bringing together charities, businesses and government to support children and young people aged 0-25. This article is based on a talk he held at the 2015 Relational Thinking International Conference in September.

Photo: Jeremy Corbyn speaking in 2010. By Chris Beckett from Flickr.

Relational Thinking is a movement that is not affiliated to any political party. On this website we publish articles and opinion pieces that  align with our values. If you like to respond, why not leave a comment here?

12 May

Migration and the issue of trust

South_African_flag_from_the_constitutional_court

Migration is an often discussed issue but in the last weeks it dominated the headlines. As the British public tried to make up their minds ahead of the General Election, with immigration one of the key issues, thousands of people from the Middle-East and Africa, desperate for a better future, lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, forcing Europe’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs into ‘crisis talks’. At the same time, ‘xenophobia’ raised its ugly head again in South Africa, with the government sending in the military to protect migrants from violent mob attacks by locals.

Mike Batley from the Restorative Justice Centre in South Africa writes that sending in the military, although perhaps necessary to restrain violence, will not fix the problem: “What is needed now more than ever is the understanding from the field of conflict transformation that incidents of violence cannot be understood in isolation from the deep historical, structural, cultural, relational and personal contexts within which they occur. It is only when these roots are identified that a horizon of the future can begin to be imagined. Such an approach goes beyond negotiating solutions and builds towards something new, to quote John Paul Lederach, a pioneering thinker in the field. This approach indicates the need for reflective inquiry, for opening up spaces for debate, dialogue and conversation.”

Talk to each other

At a symposium held by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in South Africa, participants acknowledged that South Africa is still a deeply traumatised nation that needs the kind of leadership from government, private and public sector that will help it to find healing. Another important outcome was the call for engagement, “to begin to have difficult conversations”.

South Africans, IJR says, “need to honestly and openly talk about race, racism, white privilege, xenophobia and the social capital of a white skin. We encourage you to talk to each other and not to use online platforms to share your opinions about these topics. And not to talk about the issue from the outside – but have debates and engagements in township communities. It is easy for outsiders to propose solutions if they stand outside the lived realities on the ground.” Engagement also “actively contributes to up-skill less fortunate communities through engaging with local community and culture groups. And understand your country – act not only when things happen but be involved consistently and participate on an ongoing basis to contribute to change in South Africa.”

Not to be trusted

Talking to each other and engaging with the issues together with those are who affected by it most are all tools for building trust and strong relationships. Sociologists Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley go a level deeper and argue that it is the lack of relationships that has fueled the kind of violence South Africans and their foreign guests have witnessed in the last weeks.

They write:

The breakdown of family cohesion in mostly fatherless township households has eliminated shame and neutralised moral inhibitions. Overburdened mothers, often without maintenance payments by the absentee fathers, are unable as sole breadwinners to provide the emotional intimacy and security needed by youngsters. Gangs function as family substitutes and identity enhancers. Underqualified township teachers have utterly failed to instill in pupils the political literacy that would help them comprehend global migration.

South Africans of all hues cultivate the exceptionalism of being in Africa but not of Africa. Newcomers from the alien, dark continent are not to be trusted. Well-qualified foreign science and mathematics teachers could function as role models, besides raising standards, but the teachers’ union does not welcome cosmopolitan non-nationals into its ranks, let alone being lectured on political education.

Competition for jobs by unemployed youth amounts to a cliché. Looting schoolchildren are not yet in the job market. Neither does alleged inequality between foreigners and locals explain the antagonism. Somali tenants mostly start from scratch with loans from relatives; they frequently employ locals, extend credit to customers and pay their rent on time. They work longer, harder and sell cheaper, because of the small profit margin and an ethos of “collective entrepreneurship”.

Self-hate by locals fuels envy of successful foreigners. In economic terms, societies around the world have benefited from the skills and hard work of newcomers. Yet such reasoning does not persuade losers in the competition for scarce resources, which is perceived as a zero-sum game.

Why can’t locals emulate the foreigners and learn from them? Why can’t they also buy wholesale and introduce smaller mark-ups? “We don’t trust each other,” answered many local respondents in our research. In an atomised space of marginalised people, mutual trust of responsible citizens amounts to a delusion. The very notion of community is problematic. At the most, an exclusionary solidarity exempts local shops from being looted, but not equally poor blacks from outside being attacked.”

Although very complex in some communities, to counter the ‘fear of foreigners’ (which is what ‘xenophobia’ amounts to), there needs to be a concentrated action on building trust between people, a foundational aspect of any relationship, whether it is in Africa or in Europe.

Question:  Is there anything you can do to build trust in your family and community?

Image of South African flag from the Constitutional Court by arboresce, Wikimedia

05 May

Do relationships matter in the election?

Polling_station_6_may_2010

CAMBRIDGE – In two days time, the people of the United Kingdom head to the polls to vote in the general election. The election has, understandably, dominated the media over the last few months. The newspapers and airwaves have been full of politicians and parties making promises about what they will do should they be elected on May 7th. Whether it is pay rises, taxes or economic stability, the promises that have been made, in the hope of securing votes, have been around issues of finance. Judging by the way it has dominated political discourse, it is the issue that politicians see as the most important issues for the British electorate.

These issues are all incredibly important, but missing has been any real discussion about the things that matter most: relationships. Indeed, material wealth is a poor indicator of true well-being. Surveys and studies repeatedly show that it is our relationships with those closest to us that we believe makes life worth living. Pledges focused entirely on financial matters reduce people to merely financial beings, when of course we are more than that.

In the interview below, Michael Schluter, the founder of the Relational Thinking Network, talks about the importance of relationships in life in general and specifically their importance in business. The interview took place in 2010 for ABC radio’s ‘Life Matters’ program. The book referred to is The Relational Manager, and can be purchased from us here.

Image: “Polling station 6 may 2010″ by secretlondon123 – originally posted to Flickr as Polling station

09 Apr

Hiring a new government

The_Houses_of_Parliament,_London_-_by Peter Trimming

CAMBRIDGE – With the election race now properly on its way, voters in the UK are asked to think again about who they want to be their leaders in the next 5 years. Robert Hall, one of the speakers at the upcoming Relational Thinking International Conference, writes in his latest article about how to rethink the process of hiring a country’s leader. Although he’s directly referring to the selection of America’s next president, his comments are applicable in a wider context.. He writes:

“Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.”

So what does one look for in selecting countries’ leadership? Hall gives three criteria. Look for a “bridge-builder not a contempt-monger” he says. And “find a master of influence and transparency not authority and control”.

But he starts of by pointing out the quality of “a leader whose defining vision and animating purpose is to restore the relational bonds of this great nation”:

“I call it Relational Leadership and it values our collective marriage as Americans over any particular ideology. It means valuing a “good” solution broadly supported, over a narrow “pure” solution that feeds gridlock and division. At times, it requires embracing the opposition and rejecting loyal, moneyed supporters. It sees collaboration not as compromising one’s principles, but as the central leadership principle of diverse democracy.”(…)

First, hire a leader whose defining vision and animating purpose is to restore the relational bonds of this great nation. – See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

“Here’s the deal: democracy is a relational form of government. True Relational Leadership aspires to navigate this country to its unifying destiny not its leaders’ polarizing re-election. Hiring our next leader starts with selecting a WHO that will lead us together to WHAT.”

Read the full article here: Help Wanted, Now Hiring – Leader of the United States

Help Wanted, Now Hiring – Leader of the United States – See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.gI64Jsbo.dpuf

Photo: Peter Trimming

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

Here is the rub: We get the leadership we select. If we want better leaders we must upgrade our selection criteria. Jim Collins, Good to Great, found that great organizations start with the question WHO? Who are the right leaders to navigate change? Interestingly, collaborative leadership, building strong teams and change of leadership are three of the top five competencies identified for future corporate leaders. Once you have the right WHO, those leaders work to answer the WHAT – direction, strategies, policies.

In recent years we have obsessed over the ideological beliefs of our candidates – the WHAT – with too little attention to their leadership skills. Talk radio, cable news, and blogs have bombarded us with partisan ideology, teaching us to exaggerate our differences. Those self-identifying as ideologically extreme has increased from 29 percent (1970s) to 49 percent today. Those with highly negative views of the opposition has doubled since 1994.  The elephant in the living room: polarization is ruling us and unless we change, the chasm will grow and the words rebellion, secession and civil disobedience will become acts.

We must choose. Do we support candidates who rigidly toe a narrow party line of WHAT issues where each side rallies their base and funds campaigns by demonizing the other side? The result: a President beholden to a narrow majority and a large belligerent minority committed to undo any change.

– See more at: http://disinfo.com/2015/03/help-wanted-now-hiring-leader-of-the-united-states/#sthash.sSGbImp2.dpuf

13 Jan

Je suis Charlie?

Newspaper 2 (s)

PARIS/CAMBRIDGE – After the horrendous events in Paris last week where a number of editors of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo were killed, and with them seven other victims, people are on the streets again. Marching. Protesting. Empathizing and sympathizing. But with who exactly? Is there a ‘relational message’ in “Je suis Charlie”?

The Charlie Hebdo shooting caused great disturbance all over the world. And rightfully so. “Je suis Charlie” became the rallying cry of those who support free speech and freedom of expression. However, is there a more relational perspective?  Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies Jeff Fountain asks in his latest blog, “where does one draw the line between freedom of expression and hate crimes? Does the kind of satire Charlie Hebdo known for, where nothing was sacred and cartoons of popes wearing condoms were typical fare, represent the values that build trust and solidarity? Why the one-sided affirmation by our political leaders for this selective freedom, without calling for respect and understanding?” He goes on to say that while free speech and satire has its place in our western society, we should ask ourselves whether Charlie Hebdo’s offensive style really is something with which we all want to indentify? He concludes, “Even the FIFA mafia preach respect on the football field. But of course that’s just a game. That’s not real life”. In other words: does ‘freedom’ mean there are no boundaries to what we can do or say? If not, what should the boundaries then be?

Charlie’s colleagues decided this week to have the Prophet Mohammed on the cover again. In the cartoon he is holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign under the headline “All Is Forgiven”. This choice and act will not bring an end to (acts of) violent extremism. However, the message that comes with it is one of extending forgiveness. Zineb El Rhazoui, a Charlie Hebdo columnist who was on holiday in Morocco when the attack happened, says “Charlie Hebdo’s team needs to forgive. We know that the struggle is not with people but with an ideology”.

11 Nov

X-Factor democracy lacks involvement

Westminster

CAMBRIDGE – The campaign for the UK 2015 General Election is already well under way, even if we have six months left before May 7. It is the first time the date of the election will be known well in advance, and with the rise of UKIP – a Eurosceptic political party which has already taken one seat in a by-election  and looks set to pick up another soon – politicians are concerned to make every vote count.

History, said Disraeli, is made by those who show up. If you didn’t vote, goes the popular mantra, you don’t have the right to complain about who you get in power. But is there more to democracy than this?

We take democracy for granted, despite being one of a relative handful of countries that enjoys full democracy. Our complacency overlooks a problem with Representative or Indirect Democracy, in which we elect officials to act on our behalf: as the name suggests, it is necessarily indirect.

The issue is not simply that MPs don’t always act in the best interests of their constituents, though the expenses scandal and numerous other episodes have shown the magnitude of the distance that can exist between voter and politician. It is that voters are encouraged to reduce the entirety of their political engagement to putting a cross on a ballot sheet once every five years. Direct democracy, in which the people vote directly on a matter of concern (such as in a referendum), is impractical for day-to-day policy decisions, since even with advances in communications technology it does not scale well. However, what we have at present is more like X-Factor democracy, in which we vote and then sit back until the next episode (scheduled for May 2020).

Democracy literally means ‘rule of the people’. Relational democracy would emphasise not just citizens’ right to vote, but their responsibility to get involved at all levels of the political process and in their local communities – a more participatory model in which change is brought about by direct action, even if voting on major policy initiatives is not direct.

Tonight Jubilee Centre, one of our Member Organizations, is launching their latest book “Votewise 2015″ in the Houses of Parliament, London. It is written from a Christian perspective as a guide for voters to make their votes count, but it will be interesting for people from other faiths as well, to compare their own views with this view.

07 Nov

UK Government to family proof policy

Family

CAMBRIDGE – Last week the UK government published The Family Test guidance for government departments. Civil servants are now required to check their policies to ensure they will strengthen family life. One of our member organisations, The Relationships Foundation, has been making the case for this development for many years and plans to develop a test of the Family Test to challenge the government as to its progress.

The new government guidelines set out 5 questions that civil servants must apply to policy changes before they go ahead with them. The questions include: “What kind of impact might the policy have on family formation?” and “How does the policy impact those families most at risk of deterioration of relationship quality and breakdown?”

The government admitted that effect of policy on families “can often be overlooked” and hoped that the test will “introduce a family perspective to policy making by asking policy makers to anticipate the potential impact of policy on families at each stage of the policy making process.”

Social impact of policies

This is good news. It shows that the UK government is beginning to look at the social dimension of public policy and in turn it will make civil servants think more broadly about the social impact of policies.

In a press release, the Relationships Foundation said: “We welcome recent developments in government process, policy and practice. But this is, clearly, just a beginning and we have pointed out many false starts in the past. Along with its ongoing broader work the Relationships Foundation therefore intends to develop a Test of the Family Test and challenge the government as to how far and fast it is making progress.”

The Relationships Foundation’s case for this development started with the publication of The Triple Test six years ago. This proposed to ‘triple test’ all policy developments from an economic, environmental and social angle. More recently, they have developed this idea more specifically, particularly looking at family policy.

You can read their full press release here.

 

01 Oct

A new call for The Triple Test

CAMBRIDGE/LONDON – In their report “Holding The Centre: Social stability and Social capital” that was launched yesterday, the Social Capital Commission recommends, among other things, a ‘triple test’ for public policy initiatives and legislation from an economical, environmental and social angle. With this they echo a statement made earlier by the Prime Minister David Cameron that all policies should be measured by their impact on the family.

For the Relational Thinking Network this is not a new thought. In 2009 the Relationships Foundation, one of our members, published The Triple Test. The document argues for the need to ‘triple test’ all policy development initiatives leading to a more coherent and integrated approach to public policy.

The Commission acknowledges that “strengthening social capital opens up solutions to blighted aspiration, insecurity and fiscal constraints”. The report is based on the outcome of five consultative sessions that were held earlier this year. Through exploring the issues of debt, housing, social care, business and family, it sets out “how we can successfully pursue recovery, protect relationships and redefine responsibilities so that social progress can be achieved within an competitive environment”.

To download The Triple Test: