Nowadays one cannot help but hear the word ‘romance’ and immediately make sentimental connections. Today we conceive of love as the fluffy feeling so aptly championed by popular magazines and Hollywood superstars: “You complete me.” “You had me at ‘hello’.”

Surely romance has an erotic dimension we all celebrate and enjoy. Still, is there more to love than just that? And what might it have to do with engagement?

“All you need is love”

Given the failures of business as usual, the past 5+ years have seen a flux of progressive voices reclaiming the virtue of love as the essence of what organizations should be on and about. But ‘love’ understood in a deeper sense, and not merely in the fleeting butterfly-in-your-belly type of emotion. Instead, relational organizations know that ‘love’ is reciprocal self-giving. From Kevin Lynch’s efforts to champion an alternative economy through social enterprises, to Charles Einstein’s call for a sacred economics, to the summons in Pope Francis’ encyclical to build a civilization of love – signs are clear that contemporary society and its modern institutions are ripe for rediscovering forgotten horizons. And re-considering communication might be at the core of the endeavor.

Digital Stakeholder EngagementDialogue is like a web that sustains meaningful relationships. Hence these alternative visions of human flourishing call for reciprocal forms of interaction to replace the noisy one-way broadcasting of mass-media. On this note, for instance, the Relationships Foundation in the UK identifies five strands that can help organizations weave a stronger fabric with their stakeholders.

  • Shared Horizons: Having common goals that lead to shared-benefits
  • Directness: Meeting face to face, and complementing other forms of communication with in-person meetings
  • Continuity: Keeping ongoing human contact through time
  • Parity: Having an relatively equal and balanced say in how decisions are made
  • Multiplicity of Contexts: Interact in a diversity of settings as a way of strengthening relationships

Today’s Challenge

How to weave a relational melody using these five strands, given today’s kilometric distances and increasingly tight schedules? The challenge proves to be acutely difficult now that in-person contact is becoming increasingly rare (and we should be worried about it).

Not all communication needs to happen face to face, however. Introverts, for instance, need alone-time to process important decisions; others require time to weigh on different issues; insights don’t often come when we need them. In addition, getting a dozen (let alone a hundred) people in one room, at the same time, is a cumbersome endeavor.

Ethelo has created a problem-solving digital forum to address challenges like these. Wanting to bring multiple insights into focus and turn them into viable solutions with higher levels of parity, our digital platform enables complementary forms of communication across time and location. (Check it out here – and be engaged by its romance.)

A Shared Tune

Through it’s nimble, participatory approach to decision-making, the platform seeks to honor what Southern Africans refer to as “ubuntu”: the realization that a person is a person through other people. This is one of the hallmark of relational organizations, whereby the individuality of persons and the unity of groups can be upheld simultaneously. These organizations don’t pit individuals at the expense of others. Instead, they recognize that, like different instruments in an orchestra, very different people can weave their own particular tunes around a common melody. And here too the harmony of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

At Ethelo we call this ‘collaborative intelligence’, convinced that it’s the pathway to multilateral (and more romantic) forms of engagement. (That is, of course, speaking of romance in a fuller sense, whereby one-way communications are replaced by melodies of reciprocity, participation, and dialogue.)

So on that note, while cheering the Southern Africans, with South Americans we also say, “Música, maestro!”