Our mission is to bring a life-centred, values-based perspective to organisation and change by partnering with leaders and change agents who want to redirect the purpose of their work and transform the culture of their organisation.

Our deeper purpose in the world is to change the story that shapes society and create a world in which work works, for all of life.

Our values are Clarity, Fairness, Openness and Respect for mutual needs

culturework

organisation renewal
...with attitude

Getting Personal

Paula Downey

David's story

Paula’s story

From an early age I wanted to work behind the scenes in television. In fact, I was the only kid on the block who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. I qualified with distinction in Communication Studies and worked as a freelance journalist and local radio presenter before I decided to concentrate on writing, producing and directing business media.

I don’t recall exactly when, but at some point I began to feel that my professional life wasn’t dedicated to what is important. It was strange. I was doing what I’d always wanted to do. We had happy clients. We were winning awards from our professional peers, and at one level the path to the future looked nothing but rosy. But inside, something was missing.

At the same time I was beginning to wake up to a range of issues I’d been unaware of - absolutely critical social and ecological problems that were simply absent from everyday organisational conversation, and therefore absent from my work too.

I wanted to be able to stand over my work morally and ethically. I wanted to know I was engaged in something worthy of my energy and time. Above all, I wanted to be on the side of what was right, and I realised that until I could reorient my professional self to explicitly connect with my evolving personal convictions, there would always be a shadow in my mind over the purpose and consequence of what I was doing with my life.

Once David and I began to ask deeper questions about the nature of organisational life, I took myself off to the University of Bath where I qualified with distinction in Responsibility and Business Practice, a leading-edge masters degree established with the support of Anita Roddick and the New Academy of Business. There, I studied the impacts of globalisation, new economics, deep ecology, systems thinking, human rights and corporate citizenship, and my research and thesis focused on the implications of the pivotal relationship between business, politics and the media.

Because I believe that appreciating the nature of living systems is the key to our future, I studied Making Policies Work: Systems Thinking in Government and Management at the Open University. I really do feel that if even the basic principles of living systems could be incorporated into how things get done, everything would begin to change radically. I like to make these important but often complex ideas simple and accessible so people can apply them, and they deeply inhabit the ‘DNA’ of CultureWork and our practice generally.

Good people. Bad system.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that there are very few bad people in the world. Most of us start out with worthy ideals. We don’t intend to dedicate ourselves to empty or trivial goals. Most of us want to do the right thing, and we’d like to believe that our professional choices and decisions are good, not just for us, but for others too.

And yet, we’ve somehow managed to create a world which, despite material improvement for a minority, just isn’t working for increasing numbers of human beings. And ironically, that includes the so-called ‘winners’: we’ve created workplaces, organisations, whole industries and an entire economic and cultural system on a foundation of doubtful purposes, questionable practices, routine waste and injustice, and harmful consequences.

We made it. We can change it.

It’s a kind of vicious circle. And like it or not, we’re all part of it, directly and indirectly. Sometimes, we actively participate. Mostly we silently collude by not looking too closely, or looking the other way. And frankly, there’s an enormous hidden cost for this ‘looking away’ from the consequences of what we do, that’s rarely acknowledged. Research revealing a growing crisis of meaning, even among high ranking professionals, seems to confirm that for the most part, work doesn’t connect with people’s longing for meaning.

We seem to have lost faith in ourselves and in the capacity of our institutions and organisations to properly address what’s really important. And yet, never before have we had at our disposal so many resources to address the problems of survival and wellbeing.

Ultimately, I believe the fundamental task of our generation is to find a way to change the ‘story’ that is shaping our organisations and through them, our culture. I believe we have to re-story and re-voice the world in order to rescue and recover our humanity. Until we bring our whole selves and our personal values to the world of work the organisational ‘machines’ we’ve constructed will remain unchanged. Story and personal experience communicate at a deeper level, and reach a place that reason and logic can’t reach, so I increasingly find myself exploring the role of story, narrative and voice in cultural change - but now, without a film crew!

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