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

05 Dec

How a relational approach saves the justice system money

Barbed wire, prison

AUSTIN/CAMBRIDGE – When Texas Republican Congressman Jerry Madden  was appointed as chairman of the House Corrections Committee in 2007, he did so by saying, “Don’t build new prisons. They cost too much”. Since then Texas saw crime levels reduced and three prisons being closed, according to a report by Danny Kruger for BBC News. But that’s not where it ends. The most interesting part is that the project that started out of a financial concern, now receives applause for its relational and inclusive approach.

So what is it that Texas discovered? The impact of relationships! Don’t treat the offender as an individual unit of criminality. Instead of an institutional approach and trying to tackle socio-eonomic factors that might have made the offender more vulnerable to commit crime, the “The Right on Crime”-initiative started looking at the offender and his or her personal choices. Another key point is that most offenders are getting worse instead of better when in prison. Incarcerating offenders together carries the risk of forging closer relationships inside the criminal community. And finally, the importance of keeping an offender connected to the world and community outside prison. Initiatives developed in Texas include a scheme where prisoners are matched with business people and where they, upon release, are settled in residential community. And the statutory system offers “immediate, comprehensible and proportianate sanctions for bad behaviour plus accountaibility to a kind leader and supportive community”, writes Kruger.

Despite the apparent success of the Texas-aspproach, what seems to be missing is the reference to the relational context of the offender and the impact on third parties. A large number of crimes are committed against other individuals, and represent a trauma within a particular relationship – even if the offender and the victim have not previously interacted. Also, criminality itself is often associated with problems in offenders’ past relationships, including, typically, a dysfunctional family background or a sense of exclusion from social groups. In other words, it is hard to understand or rehabilitate an offender if the relational context is not being taken into account.

But in the end, what the story does highlight is that money cannot solve problems that are caused by a lack of strong relationships. As Kruger states: “It cuts crime, saves money and demonstrates love and compassion towards some fo the most excluded members of society. It is, in a sense (…) a realistic visionof a smaller state, where individuals are accountable for their actions and communities take responsibility for themselves and their neigbours.”

For more on Relational Justice, please read further on our website page Relational Justice