Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Create your own rule

In Ethical frameworks on May 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

Yesterday I was privileged to meet a couple by the name of Mike and Rose Kennedy, with whom along with others we explored the possibilities of group coaching. We explored loads of topics that will probably become about ten blog posts. The one for today is a deceptively simple and powerful idea about how and when we choose to act.

After talking about this blog and the ethics of doing good, Mike shared that he had a rule that helped him decide on when to get involved: he waits until he is asked to help. This is a rule that I too have been playing with over the past couple of years. What used to happen to me was that I found myself giving people advice or opinions when they didn’t ask for it or welcome it. While I felt that there was some truth or importance in what I had to share, this was not held by the person I was with. What I shared therefore didn’t land with them. The only person I was possibly serving (at a stretch) was me.

So I started making a rule for myself that I would only share advice when invited. Having this rule made it easier for me to have a checkpoint to navigate from in a conversation. It isn’t always easy to implement however; sometimes it takes discipline to keep my mouth shut.

Mike also blogged about an extension to this rule that he calls the Spice Girls Question: Tell me what you want, what you really really want. This is the going deeper to find our what people are really looking for help with. He talks about this as being an important skill in coaching, and one that I would suggest is relevant beyond the coaching space to all aspects of doing good. Read the rest of this entry »


The world doesn’t need to be changed

In Theories of Change on May 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

A conversation with my friend Ehon on the weekend prompted this post. I shared with him a story of a girl I recently met in San Francisco who by way of introducing herself, asked me a question: “So what are you doing to save the world?”

This kind of question usually grates on me, and probably because when I was her age I also had this drive in my life to “save the world”. When I hear it spoken I recall my own innocent desire to be of service in the world; a drive that while having good intentions actually came from a very limited perspective. Of course, to cut-some-slack and be a little graceful towards myself and the girl I met in San Francisco, it is not surprising that we came to the view that the world needed to be changed.

The world is currently facing many ‘challenges’ including food security, health crises, climate change and in some parts of the world – war and economic collapse. On top of this, the social consciousness is littered with images, stories and examples of this need ‘to save’. From superhero stories to the modern day samaritan-come-changemaker, we celebrate people who save others from vulnerability. It is no wonder that when we see images of vulnerability and suffering, that our first instinct is to save them.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint the moment that I realised the world doesn’t need to be changed, but it started somewhere around the discovery of the principle of Soul. I discussed this in the post on Ego and Entrepreneurship, Read the rest of this entry »

The ethics of rescuing food

In Ethics on May 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I want to explore the idea of rescue as an approach to changemaking, and why some aspects of the ‘rescue industry’ have hidden ethical challenges. This is a follow on from my post on how to rescue a racehorse, which explored a new rescue-based idea to tackle problems in the horse-racing industry.

Rescuing others is not a new concept in the changemaking world. We are familiar with animal rescue organisations that play a role in protecting the rights of animals, and providing support and shelter when at their most vulnerable. Although often not referred to in this way, rescue work also happens with people who are in vulnerable positions (like children). I am not here to lay any judgement on these organisations; I do want to explore the nature of rescue and other ways of creating change.

A more recent field in which this meme has entered is that of ‘food rescue’. Food rescue is the process whereby wasted food is ‘rescued’ from restaurants to be given a ‘second life’ by distributing to those who could use it. In both the US and Australia (and beyond), food rescue organisations have attracted an enormous amount of support and public acclaim. The social entrepreneurs behind these ventures in both countries have been heralded as visionary leaders doing important work.

Rescuing food seems somewhat different to rescuing animals or vulnerable people. In one sense, the food itself does not experience vulnerability in the same way. Environmentally of course, the wastage of food in the hospitality industry is a massive problem. Read the rest of this entry »

How to rescue a racehorse

In Dilemmas, Ethics on May 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

About a month ago a guy pitched me his idea in an elevator (yes, it actually happens). His idea was to ‘rescue a racehorse’. Actually, he wanted to not just rescue one racehorse, he wanted to rescue thousands of them. He explained to me what he saw as a problem of racehorses being slaughtered for the use of dog food. This problem by his accounts is not insignificant – one site quotes 18,000 Australia horses slaughtered each year.

The guy who pitched me the idea was a successful entrepreneur in his own right. Not having worked in the ‘social entrepreneurship’ space he wanted some quick advice as to what legal structure he should adopt. I replied along the lines of “these problems are often more complex than simple legal advice would warrant”. Despite his confidence in the solution, I managed to convince him that we should meet to discuss.

When we sat down the following week to explore the problem of racehorse slaughter, the complexity of the problem became more apparent. His original idea was to set up an organisation that allowed people to adopt racehorses or foals that were being sent to slaughter. He had a neat little funding model for it, and sales campaign idea that at first glance seemed like it would be attractive to people out in the market.

I asked him what other new problems this ‘rescuing’ might create. We came up with a list including: Read the rest of this entry »

From a dilemma to systems view of ethics

In Ethics on April 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

In my experience, I have found ethics to be a topic that is raised almost exclusively when there is a dilemma or problem. This makes sense as the situation provides urgency. All situations call for us to bring forth our values, beliefs, worldviews and experiences. When the stakes are high, this is even more acute. We face ethical dilemmas all the time, and often they may not even be dramatic enough to register as ethical dilemmas. We therefore don’t approach them as such. I would say that any decision that involves or impacts the life of ourselves, others, animals or the planet has an ethical dimension. In human terms this can be as basic as giving someone a voice (or not) through to making decisions that affect their futures.

I don’t deny the importance of dilemma-based ethics, or using problems as a way of exploring and learning about ethics. In many senses, how we respond in difficult times can be a litmus test for how we think, feel and act ethically in other parts of our lives. My intention is for this blog to explore more systemic, cultural, spiritual and psychological dimensions of ethics and doing good. I am interested in what motivates us to ‘do good’ in the first place, and how we build an ethical life. I can’t help but wonder if we become more conscious of these processes and how we wish to live, that our experience of dilemmas and problems would shift dramatically anyway.


Courage, humility and forgiveness in ethics

In Ethics on April 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I have some reservations in discussing ethics, as I have found it a highly problematic area to discuss in the field of ‘doing good’. I have found people to have strong views at times about what is ethical; views that sometimes stifle open exploration.  At other times, I have observed people become defensive when raising the topic of ethics, as if by raising an issue I am making an assumption that they are unethical.

Ethics strikes at the core of what we determine to be good, fair and right. My sense is that deep down, most people strive to be good and fair, and therefore an explicit exploration of ethics brings to the surface peoples intentions and also holds a mirror up to their actions. Sometimes there can be a disconnect between intention and actions.  I don’t mean this in a judgemental sense; I too have had numerous occasions where the gaps between my intentions and actions have been highlighted in dilemmas I have faced. I have felt first hand that deep regret and disappointment that comes when I have realised that I have at times acted in ways that are not in accordance with my deeper intentions for doing good*.

Exploring ethics takes courage, humility and a whole lots of forgiveness. It takes courage because we need to be prepared to stay present in what are sometimes difficult situations. When difficulties arise, people have varying ways of responding – flight being one of them. To be courageous can often mean to be vulnerable. The part of us  that wants to self-protect needs to become conscious and stay open and stay present. Read the rest of this entry »