Equity Diversity Interdependence
Promoting a Peaceful and Fair
Society based on Reconciliation
and Mutual Trust.
GOOD RELATIONS WORK AND PRACTICE
A CONTRIBUTION FROM THE FUTURE WAYS PROGRAMME
Belfast City Hall
29 September 2004
SUMMARY OF THEMES
1. The Levers For Good Relations in Different Sectors
2. Not Being Casual - Establishing The Causal Links
3. What New Learning is there about Good Relations?
4. Building Commitment
5. Challenging Old Worn Paths of Separation
6. Trust and Prosperity are Interlinked
7. Good Relations-a Base for Growing a Learning Society
8. Good Relations- what would it look like?
In preparing this talk based on our work experience on Equity, Diversity and interdependence and Good Relations my colleagues, Karin Eyben and Libby Keys, and I acknowledge the work, among others, of:
The Chief Executive, Board, Senior Managers and Development Group of:
The Chief Executive, Councillors and Development Groups of Staff of:
The Chief Executive, Councillors and Community Relations/Good Relations staff of:
The initiative of the NI Social Care Council in promoting learning about Good Relations with Social Work trainers and in the revisions they have secured in the training of Social Work Professional Staff.
The NI Executive of the British Association of Social Workers.
The Management Board of the UU Social Responsibility Programme.
The complementary work of Counteract, Mediation Northern Ireland and Trademark to name only some of those now developing innovative work on this theme.
The International Fund for Ireland 'Community Bridges' Programme.
The Department of Finance and Personnel for developmental support within the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
OFMDFM and the Centre for Competitiveness for encouragement.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Atlantic Philanthropies and The Understanding Conflict Trust.
The EU SSPPR Peace I and Peace II Programmes (NICRC).
FUTURE WAYS FACILITATES WORK BY ORGANISATIONS THAT WISH TO LEAVE SMALL FOOTPRINTS THAT SIGNAL A MORE OPEN AND SHARED SOCIETY IS POSSIBLE
WE RECOGNISE THAT THE LEVERS FOR THIS WORK ARE DIFFERENT
In our practical developmental action research programmes we have developed work aimed at generating models of good practice as our strategic contribution to the wider debate on building a 'Shared Society'.
It is our experience now that there are different drivers through which different agencies can engage with this work such as:
This triangle is:
TREATING 'GOOD RELATIONS CASUALLY' WHEN IT SEEKS TO ADDRESS WHAT IS 'CAUSAL'-
1. We have been casual about the ways we view people and groups that bring people from different traditions together over a long period of time. In fact relationships across lines of difference, sensitively developed, can change us and produce unexpected connections.
There is a causal link between making relationships and building a new interdependent future- new meetings between different and opposed people can be fundamental points for new ways of being together.
2. All sides and traditions have been too casual and ambivalent about violence in our long history and in our recent past.
Being casual about some violence being acceptable (always ours) while other violence is unacceptable (always theirs) leaves a deep legacy as causes for future strife. Good Relations cannot be tolerant of an ambivalence to violence.
3. We have been too casual about assuming that all elements of culture enrich societies-some parts of our cultures diminish hope and diminish the search for reconciliation.
In a recent research study over many countries Premdas (see M.Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, p37) showed that in societies where 'the reconciling thrust quickly evaporates after the initial effort' the most important reasons for failure are how leaders and followers of the different ethnic, religious and cultural communities get trapped within them and become "legitimators of ethnic conflict.”
Good Relations invites us all to look at the tacit cultures of our organisations and clear them of those elements that cause further distance, separation and hatred growing between us all?
4. Charities are for the public good not just the 'good of our group'.
Charitable law is about serving the public good, that means the good of all the different citizens. Charities have to promote the inclusion of people of all differences secured by law, challenge any notions of a hierarchy of regard on racial, political or religious grounds and always be open to 'others' that are being denied their rightful place.
At the centre of Good Relations Practice is the knowledge that:
WHAT NEW LEARNING IS THERE ABOUT GOOD RELATIONS?
The potential of new developments across local councils
The Potential of Creating Spaces for Experimentation
Through offering Private Space for sensitive discussions between political representatives, business, civic and community organisations. (see Western Routes and Western Region Councils)
Through Senior Managers and Unions mandating 'across grade development groups' to develop imaginative engagements on this theme that may take limited risks and feed their learning into mainstream work processes and the formal structures.
The challenges faced on the way that Future Ways have discerned
Preparing our citizens for a wider Europe and a more Interdependent World
As citizens within an expanded Europe, Good Relations is about promoting good relations between people of different religious beliefs, political opinion and racial groups.
We need to become more open to the challenges of those who are equal citizens and newcomers here and ask, “have our existing cultural and political formations space and openness to them or do the major traditions here only want the newcomers if they 'assimilate' into 'our existing ways'?
Challenging 'Local Essentialism' or 'Ethnic Essentialism'
If the identities we have, sometimes understandably out of fear or our history, now become too local they eventually will become prisons that limit opportunity and imagination for adults and children alike.
If our visions of ethnic Irishness or Britishness are only tenable on the fringes of those historic cultures and reflect little of their growing diversity at their centres then we feed excluding cultures and a politics of 'ethnic essentialism' (Sondhi, 2004)-that is 'only my group and my place counts above all else'- then we will not be worthy of respect.
“Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves; if they tell themselves stories that are lies they will suffer the future consequences of those lies; if they tell themselves stories that face their own truths they will free their histories for future flowerings.”
Birds of Heaven, Ben Okri. Ghana
First encountered in a talk by Cathy Galloway, The Iona Community at the Corrymeela Centre
Surely the new essentialism here needs to be the realisation
Surely the new essentialism here needs to be the realisation that we are now people of a predicament, the predicament of an ethnic frontier-there can be no final winners and all have to be accommodated?
Surely the commitment to Good Relations is a primary platform on which to secure this accommodating society?
We are all living in the midst of this place, some together, many separate and all underpinned by many institutions feeding parallel lives through their inactivity on good relations or their complicity against the idea itself. (See 'The End of Parallel Lives', A Home Office Document, June 2004)
If parallel lines only meet in infinity we could be a long time separate! It perhaps is now time to get off the well-worn tracks and tread some new, if fragile paths, where the footprints are still faint. Good Relations work is about building such new and interdependent paths.
TRUST AND PROSPERITY ARE INTERLINKED AND NOW NEED INTERWOVEN
'Trust and Prosperity' was a strap line we jointly developed some years ago when engaging with the work of economist Mike Morrissey. This linkage is not made strongly enough in public discourse as yet, in our experience.
The Costs of Silence and Separation
Could those in economics partner those involved in trust building work within organisations and lay out the human, financial and organisational costs of continued silence around sensitive themes in this society?
It has been our experience that some organisations have not moved on Good Relations until others move first. So the brave and forward sighted organisations that want to break the mould not only have to challenge the sceptics within but look out for those who say, 'no you go first' and who might even want them to fail.
This is not the foundation on which to build a forward-looking organisational culture in this society, and yet, such is our fascination with where the crowd is, if we paid Peter Senge to write a book on this theme for MBA courses this society would be full of theoretical converts!
Releasing the creative imagination and openness that still resides in some people here
We have so much experience and talent still within this place; models of political accommodation at local levels, models of joint work across some difficult interfaces; models of shared institutions; vision in and beyond conflict that other parts of the world could learn so much from!
If we all moved away from the uneasy comfort of separation, segregation and politeness into the less comfortable space of meeting, acknowledging our regrets and taking real risks for improving relationships this society would move forward.
We need such a spirit if we are to become a welcoming place, open to those old and new residents here who are different to us.
The Opportunity Costs and Benefits
What are the Opportunity Benefits if a large number of organisations stepped forward together and lived 'as if' we were moving through and beyond our hurtful past?
What if these were mandated and supported by organisations such as the CBI and Chief Executives Forum and the ICTU?
What is the investment potential for us all if we faced this challenge and what are the continued costs if we do not rise to this challenge?
What are the continued costs of denial?
Good Relations-a base for Growing a Learning Society
What if good relations work allowed us to move forward and become a learning society where citizens, groups and institutions committed themselves to:
Securing the buy in of public, private and community organisations
Just as the Trust Building and 'Shared Future' themes need to move into the centre of public, voluntary, community and private sector discourse and practice we also need a pro-active approach to have these themes as central strands within the organisational improvement schemes that organisations use to lift their status in the eyes of peers or raise their levels of service and staff morale.
Making Good Relations Standards the hall-mark of a modern manager
I think a new agenda needs to be built with EFQM, Charter Mark, Investors in People, Business in the Community and Business Excellence models that ensure they build a climate that engages with the theme of Good Relations and that take the challenge of auditing the economic, social and societal costs of not promoting Good Relations. The Northern Ireland Centre for Competitiveness may have a role here as could NICRC and the Equality Commission.
Making this society a Place of Good Relations
In this society there still live people who have come through the horrors of the Second World War as POW's and concentration camps such as Auschwitz. These people still stand before us and ask 'how can we all do more to move beyond seeing violence as resolution?' In their late 80's people like Ray Davey who founded the Corrymeela Community in 1965, a prisoner of war for three years and in Dresden when it was fire bombed and Helen Lewis who escaped Auschwitz and came to Belfast and taught dance to hundreds of children and adults remind us of the need to embrace opportunity and move beyond enmity and hatred.
With others, such as John Malone, I worked in the late 60's and early 70's with young people who named themselves 'stupid' yet who were not. The school named their classes 3A and then 3 S1 and 3 S2 not even 3B and 3C. The young people said “the brains were in 3A but they were the 'Stupid Ones - S for stupid' (3 S1) and the others were even more stupid (the 3 S2's).”
Yet they were not stupid? When they were in motivated relationships with mentors and reading support volunteers and in 80 community service placements weekly they demonstrated values, loyalty, compassion and imagination.
We now need a new commitment to build relationships and drive organisations and institutions in a Good Relations direction, finding possibilities together that move us all beyond our history of enmity, silence and denial?
And that future of Good Relations- what would it look like?
A future where people of different beliefs, political outlooks and cultural and racial backgrounds were at ease with difference and engaged together in building a shared society.
A future where the promise of moving beyond enmity is not carried only by a few older people on the sidelines, a small number of organisational projects and models of good practice but by the core institutions and practices of people in community, public, civic, private, trade, cultural, sporting, trade unions, religious, student, youth and professional life here.
Good Relations would ease our mental health queues.
Good Relationships nurture better health, well-being and ease between different people.
Good Relations is a prize worth living for !!
The Future Ways Programme
Senior Lecturer in Community Relations
School of Education
University of Ulster.
THE FUTURE WAYS PROGRAMME WEBSITE
One Model of a Good Relations Organisation
 See our 'The Equity, Diversity and Interdependence Framework-A Framework for Organisational Learning and Change', Eyben, Morrow, Wilson with Robinson: University of Ulster, 2002, reprinted 2004
 GALS-Growing a Learning Society is an initiative of the Future Ways Programme. It is supported by a number of independent charitable funders and one strand is supported by the EU Peace programme with NICRC. See www.ulster.ac.uk/futureways
 This vision has been adapted from Rao A., et al Gender at Work – Organisational Change for Equality, Kumarian Press, 1999, pp.xii-xiii.
See Page 7, Eyben, Morrow, Wilson & Robinson, The Equity, Diversity and Interdependence Framework, University of Ulster, 2002