Simon Fowler's Blog

30 days of relational thinkin’ and livin’ (First Follower)

Posted by Simon on April 10, 2010

I’ve decided on my First Follower 30 day project! Not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner; the subject is what I mostly think about.

The premise: The foundation of human flourishing is relationship. Ultimately, the foundation is love, but love is predicated on relationship. The more “proximate” one person/entity is to another, the better/healthier the relationship, therefore the greater flourishing. “Proximity” doesn’t necessarily mean physical/spatial, although in most contexts it’s an important factor in relational health.

There are at least five factors that strongly determine Relational Proximity*:
1. Directness (the degree to which the relationship is unmediated and truthful)
2. Continuity (the degree to which it has a history, the parties meet regularly, and it has an expected future)
3. Multiplexity (the degree to which the parties know each other through different contexts)
4. Parity (the degree to which there is a symmetry in power)
5. Commonality/Purpose (the degree to which they agree and share a sense of common purpose or identity)

It’s important to recognize that you can have all of these and be devoid of love or commitment. These are not about feelings. But try love and commitment without them. And a deficit in any of these may at least reveal why the relationship struggles.

The project: 30 days of Relational Thinking and Living.
This project goal is to to gather data about, and to encourage, the health and vitality of relationships between: individuals, groups, institutions, even countries. The tasks will be twofold:
1. Build a virtual database of articles, stories, videos that illustrate the dimensions of relational proximity (positive or negative).
2. Select one relationship (of any type) and within 30 days develop a habit of relating that improves on each of the five dimensions of relational proximity.

I still need to work out how I’ll do this, how to socialize it, and when to start. The first task could be accomplished simply by posting something every day for 30 days using del.icio.us or Diigo or Evernote with tags for each dimension; then using some kind of aggregation or API to pull the info together. The second task could include having to blog or post an example of what you’ve done to improve the dimension. I’ll flesh this out in the coming days, probably quite a few days. I’ll also need to provide more detail and explanation on each of the dimensions so everyone who joins fully understands them.

One handy tool may be available soon from Andrew Wicklander, whom I’ve never met but is a major reason I’m doing this. Andrew is building a 30-day calendar; an idea created and given away for free by Andrew Dubber. Dubber was inspired by David Sivers after Sivers produced Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy! See this graphic from a previous post that illustrates the First Follower line of inspiration.

*Relational Proximity
The terminology and model are not mine. I’ll say more about the source and thinking behind it eventually. But for now just indulge me and go along with it. I’ve been thinking about this model since I came across it in 1992, but only in recent months has it started to finally gel in my mind and have I come to see the power and applicability of the framework. The model has in fact been used and applied for 20+ years in contexts as varied as conflict resolution in South Africa, Rwanda and Sudan; in inner-city employment schemes; in health-care management, and in economics, business and leadership. I will argue in future posts that it also provides a very useful language and analytical framework for the ‘social’ part of social media, and for building social capital.

So recall the two tasks above for the 30-day project. And for now think of a relationship that you or your organization has and consider how healthy it is with respect to these dimensions.

Let me know if you’d be interested in taking part in the project. Also, what do you think of the concept and the five dimensions?

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3 Responses to “30 days of relational thinkin’ and livin’ (First Follower)”

  1. Gerry Cronin said

    Looking forward to being a student of the process…most intriguing!

    • sifowler said

      Thanks Gerry. I’m intrigued too! I’ll keep you posted on progress.

      Actually, you’re one of the reasons why my passion for ‘relational proximity’ has grown because of the kind of neighbor you are.

  2. DJ said

    Really interesting idea! I am intrigued to see how you put this together.

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