30 Jun

Grounding sustainable development: a focus on trust in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security

16 August 2011. Tawilla: Internally displaced persons (IDP) settled in Dali camp, next to Tawilla (North Darfur), are currently farming the lands rented by local owners for the rainy season. Most of these IDPs came recently to Tawilla fleeing from the clashes in Shangle Tubaya at the beginning of 2011. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - UNAMID

The establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the International Year of Soils in 2015 give cause to focus on the foundations of sustainable development.  How well are we managing the water and soils we depend on to produce the food we eat?  And, perhaps more fundamentally, who is responsible for the world’s soil, and who should be funding its wellbeing?  These questions about sharing risk and reward from natural resources are fundamental to the conceptualisation of sustainability.

The global food trade is worth in excess of five trillion dollars a year so there is a strong argument for ensuring farmers are sufficiently funded to manage land and water well.  Or is this wishful thinking, given the market’s insatiable appetite for lower food prices?

Where supply chains are short, there are times when the consumer is enthusiastic about funding farming in this way: think local organic farmers’ markets.  But where supply chains are long, complex, costly or just too mundane (think canned beans), then the competition for lower prices may drive the environmental costs out of the equation.

There is an issue of relationships here.  What is our relationship as consumers (those who eat food!) with producers – a.k.a. farmers?  It would be fair to say that in a diverse urbanised economy we are not as well connected as we were and that there is something regrettable about this given the critical importance of food, and of the natural environment, to our wellbeing.

If this is important at home, how about the global perspective?  Africa is increasingly engaging in the global trade of food.  And as it scales up its agricultural production, how can we ensure that the global competition for cheap food doesn’t come at the expense of Africa’s soil and water?

Given the role of land in conflict in Africa, this becomes an important question of security as well as of land, trade and livelihoods.

It is these converging dynamics that will be discussed in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security this summer.  The issues all have considerable relational significance – trade, good governance and conflict are all functions of relationships.  Dr Michael Schluter of Relational Research will be opening the event alongside Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, the UK’s former Climate and Energy Security Envoy.  One day will be given over to focussing on the interface between land, trade, food and water.  Scale-up of land restoration and building trust to enable collective action are themes for the other two days.

Conferences at Caux have a long history of building trust in the context of international affairs and in business.  The discussions began as a reconciliation process, high in the Alps, in the aftermath of the Second World War. The stunning views from the restored Belle Époque hotel provide a fine context for reflection and thoughtful dialogue, then as now.

For more information, and to register to attend the Dialogue, which is held in Caux between 10 and 14 July, see http://landlivespeace.org/

Brendan Bromwich is on the Steering Group of the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security. He will be speaking at the Relational Thinking International Conference in Cambridge in September on  reviewing the UN’s Work on Environmental Governance and Peace building in Sudan.


18 Jun

The R Option


Michael Schluter and David John Lee, Relationships Foundation, 2003 –

All the good things we want from life depend on relationships – flourishing businesses, quality schooling, career advancement, health, friendship. However few of us give much thought to arranging our lives in a way that will make our relationships work. The R Option explores relationships as the key to successful living. It looks at everything we do, from romance and finance, giving both insight and practical ideas.

The book is available on Amazon here.

18 Jun

Being and Relation: A Theological Critique of Western Dualism and Individualism


Carver T Yu, Scottish Academic Press, 1987 –

In this book Carver Yu offers a theological critique of individualistic concepts of ‘being-in-itself’, instead arguing for the biblical alternative of ‘being-in-communion’. He argues that theologically, identity and relation cannot be separated; one’s identity is revealed only through relationships with others.

The book is available on Amazon here.

18 Jun

Economics and Social Interaction: Accounting for Interpersonal Relations


Benedetto Giu and Robert Sugden (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2005 –

Economics and Social Interaction’ explores ways in which sociality and economics are related. It is a fresh attempt to overcome the traditional inability of economics to deal with interpersonal phenomena that occur within the sphere of markets and productive organizations.  It makes use of traditional economic concepts for understanding interpersonal events, while venturing beyond those concepts to give a better account of personalised interactions. In contrast to other books, Economics and Social Interaction offers the reader a rigorous effort at extending economic analysis to a difficult field in a consistent manner, sensitive to insights from other behavioural and social sciences. This collection represents an important contribution to a growing research agenda in the social sciences.

The book is available on Amazon here.

18 Jun

Faith in the Future: Working towards a Brighter Future


Alistair Burt with Andy Reed, Caroline Spelman, Gary Streeter and Steve Webb, A Report by a Cross-Party Committee of Inquiry, Insight Design, 2008

This report seeks to understand why, despite all our wealth and welfare, a sense of happiness is not more widespread in our society. The authors conclude that it is the absence of certain key values, not the absence of material things, which is the cause of so much discontent. Five defining questions are set out, about relationships, responsibility, trust, self-esteem and potential that would increase the well-being of society if they were applied to decisions.

The report can be read free of charge here.

18 Jun

A Guide to Trust


Mark Schofield, Relationships Foundation and Career Innovation Group, 2004 –

To trust or not to trust can be a difficult question. Trust is not always appropriate. When it is, it involves a leap of faith from what we know now to what we hope will happen in the future. Trust is often based on past experience, reputation and any other evidence that gives you a feeling of confidence in another person or organisation. Trust starts small and, if nurtured and not abused, grows over time.

Trust is complex because human beings and organisations are all different and the ways they interact are complicated. So there are many different variables that impact on trust. There are factors which directly build up or break down trust. Then there is also the wider environment in which these factors operate. An individual’s or organisation’s values and the ambient culture, for example, are very influential on trust. Measures can, therefore, be taken to create and encourage trust, particularly by those in positions of leadership or responsibility.

If trust is betrayed, the costs can be high and the result a changed, if not, broken relationship. Yet with time, effort and understanding, it can sometimes be rebuilt given the right circumstances.

We probably cannot live without some degree of trust. Our lives and relationships are too complex to monitor and control completely. Too much control and not enough trust leads to inflexibility, inefficiency and a lack of innovation.

Trust allows us to share information and responsibilities for our mutual benefit whilst giving us the freedom to get on with our own work and life without worrying too much over the part others play. Trust, therefore, makes our interactions with each other more effective and creative. It not only rewards our business dealings but also enriches our personal life.

In conclusion, trust is probably the single most important indicator of a successful relationship.

A summary version can read here, and the full guide can be purchased from the Career innovation website.

05 May

Do relationships matter in the election?


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

03 Mar

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything


Stephen M.R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill, Simon & Schuster, 2006 –

Trust, says Stephen M. R. Covey, is the very basis of the 21st century’s global economy, but its power is generally overlooked and misunderstood. Covey shows you how to inspire immediate trust in everyone you encounter – colleagues, constituents, the marketplace – allowing you to forego the time-killing and energy-draining check and balance bureaucracies that are so often relied upon in lieu of actual trust.

The book is available on Amazon here.


12 Feb

Working With Emotional Intelligence

working with emotional intelligence


Daniel Goleman, Bloomsbury, 1999 –

In this book, Daniel Goleman focuses on how emotional intelligence is applied to the workplace. He demonstrates that emotional intelligence at work matters twice as much as cognitive abilities such as IQ or technical expertise.

The book is available on Amazon here.