16 Jun

The Sustainable Development Goals as a Blueprint for Humanity

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Image result for clive wilsonClive Wilson is author of “Designing the Purposeful organization – how to inspire business performance beyond boundaries”, and is currently writing “Designing the Purposeful World – the Sustainable Development Goals as a Blueprint for Humanity”

 

 

I was inspired and intrigued when I read Michael Schluter’s Relational Thinking Dialogue “Three Relational Concerns about the Sustainable Development Goals”.  I was inspired by the fact that renowned thinkers such as Michael are evaluating the SDGs from a range of different perspectives.  I was also particularly inspired by the specific assessment of how relationships play out (or not) in the delivery of the goals.  The more people that take the time to explore, consider and discuss such views, the more we will come to realise the power of the goals and what else needs to happen in support of them.

My personal approach to the SDGs is probably different to that of many.  The moment I read the published working group draft of the SDGs in 2014, my heart skipped a beat.  All I saw as I read the paper, was a vision that totally corresponded with my own.  The key here is the word “vision”.  The words in the draft goals provided stimulus to my imagination, the vision was what arose in my mind’s eye.  This is what inspired me.

Naturally, the goals have been worked through and converted into detailed narrative, sub-goals, targets and measures, which are vital to forming a cohesive global programme but as I explain in “Designing the Purposeful Organization”, results are simply the measure of our progress to the vision.  They are rarely what inspires us.  We are principally inspired by four things: a sense of purpose; a compelling vision; a felt sense of success; and the knowledge that our talents are being deployed in support of something meaningful.  In this respect the SDGs worked for me and immediately caused me to commit to supporting and celebrating their delivery in the best way I could.

Working on the hypothesis that there would be others in the world who would be equally inspired, I set out to engage with the world in four principle ways.  I established a branch of the United Nations Association focused on the SDGs; I established a Facebook page to support the SDGs and celebrate progress; I started to write my new book “Designing the Purposeful World”; and I started to engage with groups of people from all walks of life (so far in Europe, the US and Asia).

So far I have engaged with thousands of people aged from seven to seventy and in groups from five to five hundred.  I always begin these workshops with a “mind-journey” to 2030 and ask those involved to envisage the world they would like to see (realistically) in 2030 and be happy to pass to future generations.  The amazing thing is that to date at every workshop, what people see is entirely compatible with the SDGs.  I then (and not before) show them the SDGs and they are always amazed how “their world” fits with the goals.  I then simply ask them which goals particularly resonate and in what way.  This is where individuality plays out.  We all see 2030 differently but always in line with the goals.  They leave inspired to take action which they share before leaving.

The beauty of the goals is that they are far from limiting.  At headline level, they apply to the whole world, not just the developing world, even though some of the targets are clearly oriented that way.  And, whilst the specifics may drive specific actions at the formal programme level for the UN and national governments, they certainly don’t need to constrain other players, such as organisations, communities and individuals.  I encourage people to follow the inspiration that a better world for 2030 provides to them and those around them.  Naturally, if a specific goal inspires them, I’m sure they’ll find out more about the details, but I trust and encourage that they won’t allow this to constrain their imagination and innovation.

It is wonderful that Michael Schluter and his colleagues are emphasising the real need to strengthen and exploit relationships in a plethora of ways to make the world a better place and I wish them every success in doing so.

23 May

Achieving of SDGs only by challenging existing paradigms

SDGs report - picture of child tap water

The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will only be possible by challenging the existing economic paradigm,” said Ms Beris Gwynne, the Head of Programmes of the Relational Thinking Network (RTN), as she introduced the subject in Geneva during a Roundtable Dialogue on the issue on 20 April 2016. “There is a need for a quantum shift in the way we do business if we are serious about achieving the SDGs and all that they entail.”

In preparation the main presenter, Dr Michael Schluter, the founder and Chair of the Relational Thinking Network, wrote a relational critique of the SDGs trying to address the ‘missing dimension’ and this roundtable was meant to enliven the conversation around the subject. He highlighted three main concerns namely what he perceives to be an individualistic underpinning of the SDGs, as well as questions around the definition of ‘poverty’ and the use of the language of development.

Three respondents gave their feedback on Schluters paper and presentation and their views of the SDGs and the challenges around implementation and monitoring. They were Mark Halle, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Professor Lichia Yiu-Saner, President of the Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND), and Dr Samuel Gayi.

The full report can be downloaded here: ReportSDGsRoundTable-FINAL.

You can download Dr. Michael Schluter’s paper here: SDGs paper 22 4 2016 – FINAL2

Photo: Riccardo Mayer

04 Sep

What is on the agenda for Relational Leadership? Values and skills for navigating relational risk

Two business men shaking hands at international business meeting.

Written by Marie-Anne Chidiac and Sally Denham-Vaughan from Relational Change, an organisation that promotes a relational approach in all walks of life.

In the April issue of this blog, Robert Hall, one of the speakers at the rapidly approaching Relational Thinking International Conference, introduced the topic of Relational Leadership, reminding us that if you can get “the right WHO” in a leadership position, the agenda of “WHAT”, (direction, strategy), will emerge in a qualitatively different, and urgently needed, way: a way that is, we believe, much more aligned with a sustainable future for our planet.

At Relational Change, we believe this change in focus from tasks first to people first cannot come quickly enough if we are to genuinely develop our leadership capacity and gain more understanding of what motivates and sustains people. Indeed, our relational approach to coaching and consulting work was prompted by the experience of trying to support organisations where people were floundering due to unrealistic, unsustainable, task-driven leadership practices that viewed staff as a particularly tricky part of the operational chain: unpredictable, emotional and prone to erratic behaviour according to changing cultures and contexts!

For example, in health care, we found numerous examples of staff, particularly senior staff, ignoring ‘evidence-based’ guidelines, not because they didn’t know or understand the guidelines, but because they believed that the “evidence” did not necessarily apply to the specific case or context. By doing this, these staff knowingly put themselves in a risky situation, but nonetheless, they strongly believed this was the ‘right’ thing to do. On closer inquiry, all these staff could cite many important reasons that led them to deviate from the guidelines, with these reasons focussed on the specific relationships, culture and contexts.

Similarly, in his book ‘Adapt’, Tim Harford cites numerous examples of leaders from a wide range of backgrounds, (including government, the American Army, Corporate Business and Education), ‘deviating’ from pre-agreed plans and strategies in favour of responding to the immediate relational context. Vitally he demonstrates that all these leaders needed to deviate, in order to deliver a successful, safe and appropriate outcome.

But, we are not advocating an anarchic anything goes/do what feels right, sloppiness.  Design, plans and pre-agreements give us a sense that we have a clear vision of the way forward, the skills to meet demand and reassuringly, a sense of control and agreement. When problems come in the complex shape and size of climate change, wealth inequity, migration and ever growing demands for health care, (to name a few), some sense of a way through is essential.

So we would want to highlight what is often, and unhelpfully we believe, seen as a tension between the ‘soft/people’ focussed aspects of leadership, and the need for clarity, transparency, focus and task attainment at work. We believe this polarisation is misguided; ‘relational’ in our book implies a contextually sensitive approach that recognises our profound inter-connection and inter-dependence. Not an approach where we are focussed on being ‘nice’ to each other, but one that recognises that our relationship with both the people and environment around us leads directly to the emergence of behaviour in the moment. This is what we saw happening in our health care situations and large global challenges will demand ever more complex collaborations that appreciate why people are behaving in these “unpredictable, deviant and erratic” ways.

Sadly, most leadership trainings do not emphasise the extent of personal development required for a leader to manage the complexity of such a relational approach. Boundaries can become less clear and contemporary leadership requires skills in ‘how to be’, how to respond and how to navigate the range of relational risks that are revealed through the necessary numerous collaborations.

At Relational Change, our theory and experience is that competence in the Relational approach is achieved by attending to three main, interconnected frameworks involving self, other and the situation, (Denham-Vaughan & Chidiac 2013, Clark et. al. 2014). Accordingly we have evolved our “SOS” model, which includes the three domains and also has global recognition as a call for assistance: lone heros’ are unlikely to survive!  Developing insight and skills in each of these three domains develops leaders with genuine Presence; able to use themselves and their relationships to leverage maximum effect in a range of challenging situations.

In our experience of coaching and consulting, we observe that being “relational” as a leader/manager requires tough skills of personal awareness, sensitivity to context and emotional attunement with others. Equally important are skills in recognising the relational risks arising from these closer collaborations and fuzzier boundaries, and being able to dialogue authentically about these in order to support and sustain change.

References:

Clark, M. Denham-Vaughan, S and Chidiac, (2014) M-A. “A relational perspective on public sector leadership and management”, The International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 4-16.

Denham-Vaughan, S. “The Liminal Space and Twelve Action Practices for Gracious Living”, British Gestalt Journal, (2010), 19, (2), 34-45

Denham-Vaughan, S. and Chidiac, M-A. “SOS: A relational orientation towards social inclusion”. (2013), Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 17, (2), 100-107

Harford, T. “Adapt”, (2011), Little, Brown, London UK.

 

27 Mar

Transforming Business

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If you’re thinking of attending this years Relational Thinking conference in Cambridge, from 16-18 September, here is an event that you might be interested in. On the 15-16 September, Transforming Business, a research and development project based in the University of Cambridge, are holding the Oxford and Cambridge Symposium for Enterprise, Ethics and Development 2015 (SEED).

More details will follow but the theme for SEED 2015 is ‘Virtuous Business in Human Flourishing’ and the symposia are research-based yet practice-oriented. As such, they are not merely academic but aim to fulfil a fivefold objective: inquire – inform – innovate – inspire – impact. They are geared towards the practical value, not merely the innate value, of new knowledge and fresh thinking.

We are pleased to be able to offer a 20% discount to SEED 2015 delegates who wish to attend the Relational Thinking International conference, while they are offering a 20% discount for their conference to delegates of the Relational Thinking conference.

If you are interested in receiving an invitation to SEED 2015, please drop Transforming Business a line here, and put the dates in your diary, as space will again be limited.

Picture by Helena Eriksson