Systemic injustices require Systemic Change

I’ve been reflecting on what’s going on in the US right now, and linking this to how we can create better social worlds in an organisational setting. I’m not sure what to do with these thoughts apart about from casting them upon water, and see what comes back.

As human beings one of the ways we make sense of the world is to talk about it. We conduct research about. We collect data about. We do surveys about. We talk about the statistics. We gather to talk about something. This form of sense-making leads to ‘othering’.

Another unintended consequence of ‘aboutness’ sense making is that it can lead to objectifying what we talking about, and who we talking about.

There’s no doubt that ‘othering’ is the cause of many of the injustices of the world, for example racism. However, addressing these injustices through similar ‘othering’ monologues is not the solution either. It actually brings divisions into sharper focus by creating a them and a us – usually framed as, good us, bad them without a way of dealing with the duality that is constructed.

While this type of positional, propositional, critical frames may be the norm, it does not necessarily help us to ‘go on’. Generative movement is more likely if we change the conversational pattern from ‘aboutness’ monologues to ‘with’ness’ dialogues structured to have an intentional flow that goes I, me, us, them – to ‘we’ and ‘our’ community.

We should see change as an on-going conversation rather than a series of monologues. Yes, an important part of the process is making space to listen to each other’s stories but the purpose must always be to build a better, more inclusive (we) communities. A friend of mine used to (still) say “two monologues doth not a dialogue make”. The key to having generative, healthy dialogue is to co-create trusting relationships. There are no short cuts.

What can we learn from COVID-19 about Global Wellbeing?

It’s a strange, bewildering and anguishing time. We try to cope by talking about lockdown and social distancing measures as the new normal. Quite rightly, people and organisations have been focussing on how to maintain personal wellbeing and resilience in the context of isolation.

This common experience has certainly heightened our consciousness about the importance of relationships. As we find ourselves trying to relate 6 feet part, through masks, without touching (even of our own faces), with hands raw from washing and disinfectants, via online technologies and through windows – we realise how much we have taken visceral, social connections for granted.

Interestingly, we are also seeing, in real time, how our lifestyle has been damaging our world. With the lockdown, we are seeing clearer skies, healthier lungs, cleaner seas, louder bird songs – all as a result of less air, noise and chemical pollution.

As a keen amateur photographer I have been taking photos of flowers from my garden for years. The following were taken yesterday. In previous years, these images would be covered in dust and brown stuff. I know because I would have had to fix this in post production. However, these latest ones,  in photography speak, are straight out of camera. I am amazed to see how clean the flowers are! I’m sure that the fact that we’ve had no planes, trains and automobiles in the last few months has something to do with this.



My former tutor, Ken Gergen, referred by some as the doyen of social constructionism, has been reflecting on this existential event, in particular, the consequences of hitherto dominant discourse of bounded thinking. In a recent op-ed, he writes:

“We generally understand the world in terms of bounded units – individual persons, families, communities, organizations, nations, and the like. Isn’t it common sense that such units are chiefly invested in their own well-being? Caring for the other is applauded; caring for the whole is exotic…

Let us then abandon the logic of bounded units. Let us instead pursue the vision of a world of relational process, a world in which there is no fundamental separation between persons and environment, but a communiverse responsible for the very possibility of life itself. Whether this possibility is realized depends on our care for the communiverse.”

According to Ken, global well-being hangs in the balance. There is an urgent need to transform our current institutions of governance and to foster new institutions for the ultimate care of the whole, the communiverse. In this connection, I am so proud to be part of an, ODI, an organisation that has, and continues to work for this paradigm shift! This is my ‘socially distanced’ shout out to my wonderful colleagues who are continuing to do this work from home. Keep on keeping on!

From Full Frame Nikon D850 to mirrorless Fujifilm XT3 – the journey so far…

I recently had spinal surgery. Since then I’ve been picking up where I left off with my hobby – photography. Using my Nikon D850 and the massive lenses post-op has been a bit of a challenge! So, I tentatively switched to ‘mirrorless’ in order to lighten the load. Not only has the small size of the camera and fuji lenses helped me pick up where I left off, I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with Fuji’s legendary colour science. Before using the camera I thought this was a myth perpetuated by fans of the system but there is definitely something about it. Not so much ‘science’ but colour ‘art’ as the colour renditions are tangibly but unfathomably pleasing!

Here are some sample images accompanied by my cover of ‘Sway’.

Hope someone finds this helpful or interesting!

Autumn in the City

Despite bustling with people, the city is often not life-giving. The simplest act of walking to the office from the train station can be jarring – masses to one side and to the other, to the front and to the back – bumping and jostling, without common courtesy, space invaders. You’re too slow, get out of my way.

This morning I made an effort to transcend this daily occurrence. At a point in my walk, I stood away from the crowd, picked up this autumnal leaf, took a deep breath in… out… lifted it to the city skyline, and in that moment felt a sense of peace and life. Snap, snap, snap. Alas, all too soon… time to join the throng again.

This post was inspired by a conversation with my colleague Denice Van Der Putten, soon to be Lloyd!