Simon Fowler's Blog

Archive for February, 2012

Two talks this Thursday March 1st, Boston – Taking Relationships Seriously

Posted by Simon on February 28, 2012

Those of you who have read this blog over time know that relationships are  a recurrent theme; call it an obsession. There are two talks at an event I’ve arranged this Thursday March 1st. The first at noon is on “Relational Thinking”, by Michael Schluter, who has pioneered not just Relational Thinking but relational practice, for 30+ years. The second, at 1pm, is from Jonathan Rushworth, from their report “Tranforming Capitalism from Within: A Relational Approach to the Purpose, Performance and Assessment of Companies”.

If you’re in Boston on Thursday please come along!  -Tweet me at @sifowler  if you think you might come. Details below.

Taking Relationships Seriously

Lunchtime brown-bag presentations and Q&A with Michael Schluter and Jonathan Rushworth

Thursday March 1st

Park Street Church, Boston (entrance on Park Street)

12:00-12:45 An Introduction to Relational Thinking

12:45-1pm Coffee & Mingle!

1:00-2pm A Relational Business Charter


Relational Thinking: Personal and social wellbeing depends upon the quality of relationships within families and communities, and within and between organizations.  This presentation and Q&A will introduce you to Relational Thinking; an approach to society’s challenges that places relationships – not individual rights and freedoms or material wealth – at the center of our decision-making, purposes and actions.

You’ll hear how thinking relationally can lead to innovative and practical solutions to these challenges. For over 30 years Michael Schluter has taken the relational heart of “love your neighbor as yourself” and applied it to domains as diverse as conflict resolution in Sudan, Sunday trading in the UK, organizational stakeholder assessments in South Africa, the impact of work-life balance on family breakdown in Australia, philanthropic investment vehicles in the UK, and more.

Relational Business Charter: Since the financial collapse of 2008, there has been much economic and political hand-wringing about what is to be done to address systemic economic instability. The typical solutions are through regulatory or tax responses.  In this presentation and Q&A, Jonathan Rushworth will argue that these problems can be addressed if companies put relationships with stakeholders at the heart of their operations.  The presentation summarizes their recent report: “Transforming Capitalism from Within: a Relational Approach to the Purpose, Performance, and Assessment of Companies.”

I welcome you to join either or both of these presentations and encourage you to come at 11:45 or 12:45 to mingle with each other and meet Jonathan and Michael.

Please RSVP to me, Simon Fowler ( I encourage you to pass the invitation to others you think may be interested and ask also that they RSVP to me.  If you are unable to attend but are interested to know more about Relational Thinking please also contact me!

Jonathan Rushworth was a partner with a major City of London law firm for 26 years, specializing in company and finance law. He retired from practice in 2007 and is Chairman of Relationships Global.

Dr Michael Schluter CBE is an economist, author, and social entrepreneur. He worked as an economist with the World Bank and a Research Fellow for the International Food Policy Research Institute. He founded the Jubilee Centre, Relationships Foundation and Concordis International. He is now Chief Executive of Relationships Global.


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Snapshot of American Relational Life

Posted by Simon on February 9, 2012

While considering Americas relational life recently I pulled together the following facts. I wonder what you make of them? If you see a problem, what do you think the essence of the problem is?

Note: of course it’s easy to cherry pick facts or extract them from context to make a point. And I always have questions about research methods and controls and correlation/causation confusion. But on the face of it, the situation looks pretty grim.

Americans have too few relationships About one in four Americans has no one with whom to talk about weighty matters, and nearly half of the population is one close friend or family member away from being socially isolated. (National Conference on Citizenship

Americans have too many relationships The average American has 634 ties in their overall network, and technology users have bigger networks.

Note: in case you wondered if there’s a limit consider “Dunbar’s Number”: according to Robin Dunbar, the size of our neocortex — the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends no matter how sociable we are.

Lenders and borrowers are further apart:

  • geographical distance: local lending institutions no longer make a significant proportion of the loans that are originated.
  • transactional distance: there little direct contact; instead intermediaries such as mortgage brokers, appraisers, insurers, and closing officers, separate the principals.
  • financial distance: many borrowers have no equity (or negative equity) in their homes, and due to the securitization of loans through the secondary mortgage market, few originating lenders retain a stake in the loans they create.

From “The Structural Causes of Mortgage Fraud” James Charles Smith, University of Georgia Law School

More Americans are incarcerated
Adult Correction Populations
Bureau of Justice Statistics

Americans are having fewer encounters (over last quarter of 20th Century)

  • 58% drop attending club meetings
  • 43% drop family dinners
  • 35% drop having friends over
  • 10% more people bowling, but 40% fewer bowling leagues

Couples are committing to each other less, and staying committed less.

  • Since 1970 the number of Americans living together outside of marriage has increased more than 1,000 percent, with such couples now making up about 10% of all couples” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)
  • 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. (NMP, “Evolution of Divorce” Wilcox 2009)
  • Cohabiting couples have a significantly higher dissolution rate than married couples. One recent study found that “children born to cohabiting versus married parents have over five times the risk of experiencing their parents’ separation.” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)

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