Organizations that Embrace Interdependence

Every individual has needs. Beyond the traditional conception of survival needs (water, food, etc.) we need connection. We are social beings, interdependent not only for water and food but also for intimacy, play, creativity, meaning and purpose.

We come together in groups to increase our effectiveness in meeting our needs. And those groups -- couples, families, tribes, nations, small businesses and global organizations -- differ in their level of connection and in their levels of complexity.

Formal groups (organizations) have an energizing, unifying purpose or aim such as producing a product or providing a service. The aim is the organization’s unique invitation to belong. Organizations shift the I to the We. We individuals gathered together to act as one organism.

To act collectively toward a shared aim, we answer some questions, implicitly or explicitly. Who does what? Who decides what? Who decides who decides what? What happens if something we do does not work for everyone? How do we know if what we are doing is effective? A group of people working together for a shared aim needs a governance framework: an organizational structure, a way to make decisions, and a way to learn and adapt. This article weaves together governance, the promise of a new economy and the concept of oneness in our interdependent relationships.

Frames of Governance
We often resort to tools and frames of reference around governance that we are familiar with. Families, for-profits, nonprofits, religious organizations - we rarely question their governance methods. While “governance” seems like an abstract concept, it affects us directly. How is a family structured? Is it a couple, a single parent with children, and extended family? How are decisions made about what to eat, where to live, what movie to see? By mutual agreement? Autocratically (father/mother knows best)? By majority rule? Are the voices of some not included? Governance is everywhere wherever people organize themselves and make decisions together.

There are two primary frames of governance: domination and partnership (Riane Eisler). Or, as Charles Eisenstein has named it: the story of separation and the story of reunion; the relationship with “it” versus the relationship with “thou” in Martin Buber’s thinking. These frames identify two different ways of relating to each other

  • Domination governance is inherently binary: those who are in power and those who are not. Out of scarcity fear, decisions are made to benefit some and cost to others and future generations.

  • Partnership governance seeks to most effectively meet everyone’s needs. Partnership governance recognizes the essential both-and oneness of the individual, the group, the world. Everyone’s needs matter, everyone’s voice matters.

Majority rule sits in between - having neither the authoritarian clarity of “because I say so” nor the clear assumption that everyone’s needs matter. Majority rule becomes a game of winning and losing: whose needs will get met at the cost of which other group. It is easy to think that our primary purpose is to act in the interests of ‘people like us’ - our subset of humanity with whom we have connection. Oneness does not seem possible -- we win, or they win.

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article or to download the PDF version.

Tikkun 2018 Volume 33, Number 3:50-53


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