Essential Commons Overview

Essential commons is a field for negotiation of what James Quilligan calls “…our mutual commons – the dynamic interrelationship of human subjectivity and material substance,” (Kosmos Journal. Spring/Summer, 2013).

As policies and practices are beginning to better account for the commonality of our materiality, it’s critical that we consciously evolve our understanding of the intangible drivers of our subjectivity. Essential commons is a domain for accessing fundamentals of unity between self and all else through inquiry into the axiology (values), metaphysics (causality), and ontology (nature of being) of the transformative impulse toward commons consciousness.

Essential commons holds integral space for the very essence of our individual and collective commons concerns. In the spirit of statistician George Box’s declaration that, “all models are wrong, some are useful,” the essential commons can be broken down into civil commons, spiritual commons and universal commons.
As the domain where subjectivities come together, civic space is where we create who we have to be to do what we want to do. Civil commons is the ground for establishing every sentient being as a noble seed. It’s a domain of inquiry into the personal and communal “soil” (programs, economics, policy, law, resource management, opportunity, nourishment, connectivity…) required for all seeds to thrive.

Spiritual commons makes sacred space in the commons conversation as a domain of inquiry into the life-force that is unique in each of us and common to all. It is a clearing for inter- and trans-denominational dialog, visionary impulses, wisdom traditions, humanism, metaphysics, spiritual  insight and renewal, vibes, and mojo. Spiritual commons is a domain for syncing up our inner GPS’s toward negotiating all of our commons in Golden Rule compliance.

Scientists agree that we only know about 5% of reality and that about 95% of what’s so in the universe is a common frontier. As we continue to unravel the majority mystery we’re part of, the universal commons is a domain for inquiry into what’s beyond our understandings of individuality and commonality. It is a realm for exploring correlation between consciousness, energy, matter, volition, provision, behavior, evolution and the as-yet-to-be-discovered.

Sustainable progress with common resources requires progressing our consciousness of the underlying essentials of the interrelationships of commonality. As we re-negotiate our relationships with shared resources, the essential commons model is a tool for conscious evolution that offers access to our invisible commonality and our deepest resourcefulness.

Prayers for Peace

The above information and the Peace Prayers include below are sourced from: The Beloved Community Prayer & Ceremony Booklet (Rev.01/06). The Beloved Community.

Hindu Prayer for Peace

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real.
Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.
Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all.

O Lord God Almighty may there be peace in Celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth.
May the waters be appeasing.
May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.
May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world.

May all things be a source of peace to us.
And may thy peace itself bestow peace on all.
And may that peace come to me also.

Buddhist Prayer for Peace
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid
and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power,
and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses
– the children, the aged, the unprotected
– be guarded by beneficent celestials,
and may they quickly attain Buddha hood.

Zoroastrian Prayer for Peace
We pray to God to eradicate all the misery in the world:
that understanding triumph over ignorance,
that generosity triumph over indifference,
that trust triumph over contempt, and
that truth triumph over falsehood.

Jainist Prayer for Peace

Peace and Universal Love is the essence of the Gospel
preached by all the Enlightened Ones.
The Lord has preached that equanimity is the Dharma.
Forgive do I, creatures all,
and let all creatures forgive me.
Unto all have I amity, and unto none enmity.
Know that violence is the root cause of all miseries in the world.
Violence in fact, is the knot of bondage.
“Do not injure any living being.”
This is the eternal, perennial, and unalterable
way of spiritual life.

A weapon, howsoever powerful it may be,
can always be superseded by a superior one;
but no weapon can, however,
be superior to non-violence and love.

Jewish Prayer for Peace
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
that we may walk the paths of the most high.
And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares,
and our spears into pruning hooks.
Nations shall not lift up sword against nation
– neither shall they learn war any more.
And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.

Shinto Prayer for Peace

Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us, I believe, are all our brothers and sisters, why are there constant troubles in this world?

Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us?
I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away all the clouds which are hanging over the tops of the mountains.

Native African Prayer for Peace
Almighty God, the Great Thumb
we cannot evade to tie any knot:
The Roaring Thunder that splits mighty trees;
the all-seeing Lord up on high who sees
even the footprints of an antelope on a rock mass here on earth.
You are the one who does not hesitate to respond to our call.
You are the cornerstone of peace.

Native American Prayer for Peace

O Great spirit of our Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you;
To your messengers in the four winds, and
to Mother Earth who provides for your children.
Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect, and to be kind to each other, so that they may grow with peace in mind.

Let us learn to share all good things that you provide for us on this Earth.

Muslim Prayer for Peace
In the name of Allah the beneficent, the merciful. Praise be to the Lord of the Universe, who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other.
If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust God, for the Lord is the one that heareth and knoweth all things.
And the servants of God, most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in Humility, and when we address them, we say “PEACE.”

The Baha’i Prayer for Peace
Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity.
Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech.
Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger.
Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring.
Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew upon the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.

Sikh Prayer for Peace
God adjudges us according to our deeds, not the clothes that we wear;
That truth is above everything, but higher still is truthful living.
Know that we attain God when we love, and only that victory endures in consequences of which no one is defeated.

Christian Prayer for Peace
Blessed are the Peacemakers
for they shall be known as the Children of God.
But I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
To those who strike you on the cheek offer the other also, and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and of those who take away your goods, do not ask them again.
And as you wish that others would to do you,
do so to them.

The Sacred Office of Peace

(Medium Version)


WPTF Interview: finding uncommon ground


I’ve done a lot of radio over many years but have never had a host who was literally raging from the political Far Right. Still, we agreed it’s time for transformation – not just the left or the right of the same old box. A new box – a new paradigm.

Joe Wade Formicola, WPTF  04/18/15

Dr. Joni Carley discusses leadership in America

Our Common Happiness

Join in the Dialog
with James Quilligan & Dr. Joni Carley

Wednesday, April 23, 7:30 PM
Community Room, Media Borough Building
301 N. Jackson St, Media, PA

Research and experience throughout the world is becoming clearer and clearer: populations hit high economic, psychological, social and cultural development benchmarks when they adequately value and account for happiness and wellbeing.

The data also shows that common happiness requires ecological sustainability, social justice, and personal and communal vitality.

So how do we get there? Join us to explore:

  • Why is it important to be happy?
  • How do natural and political boundaries impact happiness?
  • What new forms of social and ecological participation are emerging?
  • How does happiness factor in to economics, policy and development?
  • Can activities like gift economies, permaculture, and biomimicry make us happy?

How do we find happiness in the midst of climate change, political extremism and hyper-competition for food, water and energy? Local and regional communities are rediscovering their commons* as the means to maintain their carrying capacity and to ensure the biodiversity necessary for well and happy lives.

All are welcome to this informational and inspirational look through the lens of our commons* at strengthening happiness and wellbeing in our community.
(no charge, donations welcome)

James Quilligan is an international advisor on economic policy, development and the commons*. Dr. Joni Carley, an expert in values-driven leadership and cultural development, was working with departmental leaders at the United Nations when the General Assembly voted unanimously to start convening toward a New Economic Paradigm based on Happiness and Wellbeing. Both James and Joni have backgrounds in philosophy, ethics, social policy and transformational practices in business, NGO’s and government.

* commons – resources that we share like air, water, food, forests, oil, minerals, genes, culture, the human spirit, information, civic infrastructure…

Warren Buffet on Changing Congress

Winds of Change

Warren Buffet is asking everyone to forward this post

*Congressional Reform Act of 2013
1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/31/13. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.
Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

What’s a Junto?

Junto (club)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about Philadelphia club, c. 1730. For other uses, see Junto (disambiguation).

The Junto was a club for mutual improvement established in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia. Also known as the Leather Apron Club, its purpose was to debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs.


Franklin organized a group of friends to provide a structured form of mutual improvement. The group, initially composed of twelve members, called itself the Junto (the word is a mistaken use of the masculine singular Spanish adjective “joined”, mistaken for the feminine singular noun “junta”, “a meeting”. Both derive from Latin “iunct-“, past participle of “iungere”, “to join”). The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. Among the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, and a bartender. Although most of the members were older than Franklin, he was clearly their leader.

At just 21, he oversaw five men, including Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb, who were soon to form the core of the Junto. Franklin was an outgoing, social individual and had become acquainted with some of the businessmen at a club called the Every Night Club. This gathering included prominent merchants who met informally to drink and discuss the business of the day. Franklin’s congenial ways attracted many unique and learned individuals, and from these, he selected the members for the Junto.

All members lived in Philadelphia and came from diverse areas of interest and business. Along with Meredith, Potts, and Webb, they included Joseph Breintnall, merchant and scrivener, who also loved poetry and natural history. Thomas Godfrey was a glazier, mathematician, and inventor; and Nicholas Scull and William Parsons were both surveyors. Scull was also a bibliophile and Parsons a cobbler and astrologer. William Maugridge was a cabinetmaker, William Coleman a merchant’s clerk, and Robert Grace a gentleman. Grace’s wealth meant he did not have to work, but apparently he brought an intellectual element to the group and a fine library. The twelfth member of the Junto remained a mystery until 2007, when Professor George Boudreau of Penn State discovered a long-forgotten account of the club’s refreshments, and verified that shoemaker John Jones, Jr. was an original member. Jones was a Philadelphia Quaker, a neighbor of Franklin’s, and later a founding member of the Library Company of Philadelphia. The club met Friday nights, first in a tavern and later in a house, to discuss moral, political, and scientific topics of the day.

Franklin describes the formation and purpose of the Junto in his autobiography:

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, [1727] I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.
Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

The Questions

The Junto’s Friday evening meetings were organized around a series of questions that Franklin devised, covering a range of intellectual, personal, business, and community topics. These questions were used as a springboard for discussion and community action. In fact, through the Junto, Franklin promoted such concepts as volunteer fire-fighting clubs, improved security (night watchmen), and a public hospital.

The list of questions

This is the list of questions Franklin devised to guide the discussions at Junto meetings (from Franklin’s papers, dated 1728, and included in some editions of his autobiography):

  1. Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? particularly in history, morality, poetry, physics, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?
  2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?
  3. Has any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?
  4. Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?
  5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?
  6. Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?
  7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? of imprudence? of passion? or of any other vice or folly?
  8. What happy effects of temperance? of prudence? of moderation? or of any other virtue?
  9. Have you or any of your acquaintance been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects?
  10. Who do you know that are shortly going [on] voyages or journeys, if one should have occasion to send by them?
  11. Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?
  12. Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you heard of? and what have you heard or observed of his character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?
  13. Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?
  14. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws, of which it would be proper to move the legislature an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?
  15. Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?
  16. Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? and what can the Junto do towards securing it?
  17. Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Junto, or any of them, can procure for you?
  18. Have you lately heard any member’s character attacked, and how have you defended it?
  19. Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress?
  20. In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist you in any of your honourable designs?
  21. Have you any weighty affair in hand, in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service?
  22. What benefits have you lately received from any man not present?
  23. Is there any difficulty in matters of opinion, of justice, and injustice, which you would gladly have discussed at this time?
  24. Do you see any thing amiss in the present customs or proceedings of the Junto, which might be amended?

Any person to be qualified as a member was to stand up, lay his hand upon his chest, over his heart, and be asked the following questions, viz.

  1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.
  2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Answer. I do.
  3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No.
  4. Do you love truth for truth’s sake, and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others? Answer. Yes.

Obama at the Gate: Freedom, Happiness and Well-Being

 Values, Standards and the American Way – a Crossroad of Paradigms

  • Share on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail a friend
Good leaders evolve. Great leaders consciously evolve. Dr. Joni Carley

Media, PA July 02, 2013

“We may enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, but so long as hundreds of millions endure the agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment, we’re not truly prosperous. We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness.” – President Obama, Brandenberg Gate, Berlin, June 19, 2013

“A standard of living isn’t the road to happiness when it accommodates so many empty stomachs, such staggering lack of purpose, and historically severe divergence of prosperity. This gets at the essence of just about every issue that faces us as a nation,” says Dr. Joni Carley, founder of Essential Commons. “As the world inches toward what the UN calls a New Economic Paradigm based on happiness and well-being, we need deep systemic changes in standards.

“Complacency is not the character of great nations,” said the president. Yet, don’t we all share complacency with an economic paradigm that’s hard wired for restricted freedom, insecurity and compromised dignity? “…we can say here in Berlin, here in Europe: Our values won,” he said to cheers. “Openness won. Tolerance won. And freedom won.”

The news isn’t that values triumphed – they pretty much always do. Wise ancestors have told us that forever and the data’s in from decades of research: when values are clearly accounted for and consciously developed, the results are highly significant increases in sales, profits, innovation, stakeholder loyalty and more.

Values are just values, they can’t win or lose. In the domain of values it’s rarely so cut and dry as win/lose. It’s the degree to which we fulfill on our values or not that matters. Experts worldwide have drawn the line in the sand between the Old Economic Paradigm that hasn’t been able to walk the walk of liberty and justice for all and a New Paradigm – an emergent, as yet a bit fuzzy way forward that’s clear on wanting to better accommodate and account for happiness and wellbeing.

Essential Commons provides thought leadership on values in the workplace and in the world including values-driven cultural and policy development, leadership development, and executive coaching.


Civil Commons Resources

The Case for A Values-Driven United Nations

The Case for a Systems-based, Values-driven United Nations

Rev. Joni Carley, DMin
March, 2013

This paper applies multiple studies on the role of values and culture to United Nation Charter fulfillment. The research is supplemented with anecdotal and first hand observation of UN System (UNS) members’ concerns regarding its stated values: peace, justice, equality, human dignity and environmental sustainability.

This paper addresses what appears to be an emerging impulse among UNS actors to better align day-to-day activities with individual and organizational values and demonstrates the wisdom of that impulse.


Does the United Nations (UN) deliver on its declared universal values for peace, justice, equality, human dignity and environmental sustainability to its best ability? In the matrix of the UN’s work, its values are broadly articulated in the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other foundational instruments. Yet, it is not deploying systemic methodologies and organizational practices to assess, promote and develop itself in accordance with the fundamental values that encompass UN rules of conduct or that support its stated core competencies of “professionalism, integrity and respect for diversity.” It has no comprehensive way of integrating the development of agencies like ethics offices with country offices and no means of accounting for basic Charter and MDG principles.

Based on empirical studies and anecdotal information and insight gained from my co-leadership, from 2007 to present, of Global Vision Institute’s (GVI) work[*] with UN community actors representing a systemic range of departments and rank, this paper makes the case that:

  • personal and institutional values are the UN’s cultural capital and that by consciously leveraging that capital, the UN can more efficiently and effectively accomplish its mission
  • a deep, systemic, values-driven transformation is needed, along with a renewed rigor in jurisprudence, leadership development and other specific behaviors, policies and procedures, to reflect the seminal role of values in the UN mission.

GVI programs in and around the UN, New York, have surfaced concerns about disregard for the way declared UN values factor into its day-to-day work. Through preliminary Barrett Values Assessments, ongoing informal and formal dialogs, and social media and workshop results, persistent issues arise regarding personal values being unnecessarily compromised by what has been identified as limiting values like blame, bureaucracy, caution, hierarchy, information hoarding, internal competition short-term focus, and silo mentality.[1] The recent concerns expressed by the Secretary General about UN failures in Sri Lanka, confirms a deep cross-sectional concern regarding the lack of fulfillment of the heart of the UN mission.[2]

Quantifying and developing values inherent in existing documentation, combined with supporting personal alignment with institutional values, will enable the UN to best capitalize on its uniquely rich culture. A values-driven, systems-based approach to cultural development will help strengthen the UN through:

  • Developing contextual basis for aligning countries, communities, regions, groups and individuals with the UN’s universal values framework
  • Transforming approaches to issues on the UN agenda by factoring in cross-cultural distributions of values, such as those pertaining to gender, ethnicity and religion
  • Creating a more dynamic alignment of internal organizational values to create a more cohesive, relevant and vital culture with higher, wider and deeper levels of integration
  • Unleashing resources now tetherered by systemic dysfunction
  • Leading by example in “walking the talk” of the Charter, MDG’s and Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Developing systems, policies, prodecures and behaviors that fully account for quantitative and qualitative values and culture data
  • Creating a systems based, culturally aligned platform for post 2015 MDG evolution
  • Realizing “Delivering as One” aspirations through development of fundamental coherence

What are Values and Why do the Matter?

In Individual Values in Organizations, Meglino and Ravlin, drawing on a range of studies from 1951 through 1995, define values as “a person’s internalized belief about how he or she should or ought to behave… about socially desirable ways to fulfill personal needs.”[3]

Schwartz, a leading values researcher at Hebrew University, identifies 6 basic principles of values:

  1. Values are beliefs that become infused with feeling when activated.
  2. Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action and values-driven goals tend to benefit greatest good for all.
  3. Values transcend specific actions and situtions.
  4. Values serve as standards or criteria.
  5. Values are ordered by importance relative to one another.
  6. The relative importance of multiple values guides action.

Researchers including Nord, Cappelli, Barker, Keeney and Selznick, have demonstrated that people rely on values:

  • As a means to justify behavior
  • To explain the motivational basis of attitudes and behavior in that they are grounded in the needs of individuals as biological organisms, and represent requisites of coordinated social interaction, as well as survival and welfare needs of groups
  • To influence selection and to control processes
  • As the basis for organizational ethics and leadership principles[4]

Age, education, gender, income and other characteristics affect behavior, decision-making, socialization, learning, expectations, sanctions, and abilities. Values priorities are influenced by those same life circumstances. For example, gender difference studies suggest that men emphasize values like power and achievement while women emphasize communal values like benevolence.

Because they are infused with conscious and sub-conscious feelings, desires, transcendence options, standards, relevance, and importance, values trigger responses that are primal, all the more so in that there are probable biological components. A study of twins reared apart concluded that 40% of variance in work values could be accounted for by genetic factors. Researchers including Keller, Bouchard, Arvey, Segal, Dawis, Whitney and Schmitt have measured socio-economic status, gender, parental, education, age, urban living and performance on biodata instrumentation. Results: 16% of biodata items related to values, less than 1% related to both race and values. Actions in pursuit of values, which are a primary motivator of human behavior, have practical, psychological, biological, and social consequences. [5]

Brian Hall, who developed the well-tested Hall Tonna values technology, has demonstrated, and Richard Barrett and Associates’ organizational work[6] confirms, that conflict and nonalignment around values within organizations and teams hamper both vision and mission fulfillment. “Values are the ideals that give significance to our lives and are reflected through the priorities that we choose and that we act on consistently and repeatedly. They are designated by special code words in the spoken and written language and experienced through our feelings and imagination, and they are experienced in individuals, by institutions, and in the products of human effort such as works of art.”[7]

Are Values Stable?

Major studies of values demonstrate remarkable stability. In a longitudinal study, Rokeach and Ball-Rokeach (1989) designed an intervention to determine whether values for equality, freedom, and aesthetics could be changed in adults. Targeted values did change significantly, suggesting that adult socialization, including what occurs on the media or in conscious and unconscious organizational processes, can change values in a meaningful way. So, unlike constructs such as attitudes and opinions, values are relatively permanent, although capable of being changed under certain conditions and targeted interventions.[8]

Differences in individual values can be explained not just by background and biological differences but also by differences in emotional and psychologocial susceptibility to socialization and value-change efforts. Individually, values manifest as an ideal self who represents an individual’s internalized standard of conduct. While values shifts are the mechanisms of systems evolution, on a personal level those shifts must align with internalized standards.[9]

Individual values are not unlike the social systems that support them and that they support: people and systems require a dynamic values balance with the stability to stay operative and the flexibility to evolve.

Culture is Values Congruence/Alignment:

According to Argandoña (2003), values are part of companies’ distinctive competencies and therefore shape their long-term success.[10] “Instead of trying to change the values of an organisation’s employees, it is advisable to manage the organisation to better reflect the values of its members.”[11] The question of personal values vs. organizational values has been settled in study after study, with each study demonstrating that success is dialectical in that it is precisely the alignment between individual and organizational values that optimizes performance, not the triumph of one over the other.

In a 1,059 person study of a cross-section of managers done in 1989, Liedtka showed that consonance of clarity about both personal value systems and organizational values systems was found to be critical. Regarding personal and organizational effectiveness, Posner (1985) and Balazas (1990) found that an accurate understanding of, and alignment with, the organization’s values, enhances people’s adjustment to their jobs, their subsequent level of satisfaction, organizational commitment, unit performance, loyalty and positive work attitudes. More specifically, O’Reilly (1991) demonstrated that the fit between personal-organizational values can predict job satisfaction and organizational turnover a year later, and actual turnover after two years.[12]

A finding replicated across studies and measurement methods is that both perceived and actual values congruence is positively related to affective outcomes and evaluations. By understanding values congruence as causal and by quantifying their own particular values congruencies and gaps, leaders can set courses of action that best express personal and organizational values.

A compilation of eight studies on general perceptions of individual and organizational values alignment clearly indicate that perceived congruence relates positively to affective outcomes including satisfaction, commitment, involvement, job choice, intentions, met expectations, self-reported health, optimism about the organization’s future and adaptability. Negative values alignments were noted with underperformance, retaliation for whistleblowing, and intent to leave the organization. With minor exceptions, these findings tend to be very consistent with theory that operating in an environment consistent with one’s values is a more positive experiece on many levels.[13]

A Shanghai study of 103 managers and 206 employees looked at the relationship between values and outcomes. Structural-equation analysis suggested that values absolutely affect leader effectiveness and employee commitment, that strong leadership values reduce competitive and independent goals, and that leaders’ values may directly induce employee commitment. The study’s findings and previous research suggest that productivity and people values, coupled with cooperative goals, provide the optimum foundation for effective leadership.[14] When understood as the building blocks of organizational or social culture, values determine behaviors required to satisfy both internal needs and the organization’s ability to survive in its environment.

Because shared values facilitate efficiency in interpersonal interactions, they raise efficiency of the workplace as a whole. However, values alignment does not equate to homogenaeity. Amason (1996) demonstrated that actual values congruence may hinder performance on non-routine tasks that benefit from constructive conflict in ideas and approaches. [15]  Meglino and Ravlin (1998) found: “For group tasks requiring decision-making, judgement, and creativity, the type of homogeneity created by value similarity among members may actually inhibit performance.”

And Robbins (2005) argues that the most important personal variables creating potential for conflicts in organisations are differences in value priorities. These conflicts are constructive when they improve the quality of decision-making, stimulate creativity and innovation, encourage interest and curiosity among group members, provide a medium through which problems can be aired and tensions released, and foster an environment of self-evaluation and change…[16] Therefore, if cultures encourage higher level values like imagination, ethics, synergy and assertiveness, and if the organisation has reached a level on its values trajectory wherein communication is effective, congruence disturbance leads to enhanced effectiveness.

Using methodologies to plot and build on values only supports successful organizational evolution if leadership continually evolves its own full-spectrum values competency. It’s human nature to unconsciously exclude what we don’t understand and by quantifying all present values, leaders gain access to cultural assets they might otherwise overlook. In order for leaders to accommodate values integration they must continually engage in their own personal development and support others in doing the same. The use of data-based, values-driven measuring tools and coaching methodologies not only enable leaders to articulate and continually evolve their own vision and efficacy, it also provides the coordinants for mapping shared vision. Assessment data supports continual mindfulness of personal and organizational blindspots, strengths and growing edges. Quantifying culture over time provides a platform for staying ever-present to the ever-constant change in personal and organizational dynamics.

Values in the Workplace:

Workplace cultures encourage behavior that displays certain values while fostering, neutralizing or hampering conditions for the further expression of those values. The job of leadership is to manage the culture such that the values expressed are congruent with one another and consistent with producing excellence in mission fulfillment. To disregard values is to handicap potential for success.

The more important a value is to members of the organization, the more important it is for management to acknowledge it. Actions that are inconsistent with internal values will result in feelings of guilt, shame, or self-depreciation. Because value-inconsistent behavior produces internal negative reactions, individuals who fail to act, or are prevented from acting, in accordance with their values exhibit lower levels of satisfaction. Researchers Meglino and Ravlin conclude it’s “been proven over and over again: Culture is captured by the significant conversation in the organization and through its management and policy documents, which in turn reflect the values priorities held by the organization.”[17] GVI’s work with the UN’s “significant conversation” addresses the gap between aspired to and current cultural values.

Human Resource concerns like job satisfaction, turnover, capacity for change, conduct, leadership, wellbeing, and dedication all relate to values congruencies. Costs relating to those concerns make it prudent to measure and factor in values consequences[18] and to harness cultural assets by accounting for them. The link between culture and performance has been proven by a growing field of researchers, including Eric Flamholtz, who discovered a strong positive correlation between corporate cultural alignment and Earnings Before Interest and Taxes. His and subsequent studies conclude that organizational culture does have an impact on financial performance and that the role of corporate culture is significant not only to overall organizational effectiveness, but also on the fiscal bottom line.[19] [20]

Although the UN’s monetization is unique, commercial studies tying values to financial performance are relevant indicators for building a coherent system. Barrett Values Centre researched the financial performance of the top twenty publicly traded Best Companies to Work For in the USA. Results from their 1997 through 2007 study on growth in share prices showed that investors in the top twenty companies realized an average annualized return of 16.74%, compared to 2.83% for the Standard & Poor 500. There is clearly correlation between financial performance and the employee experience of working with a company. The same study also showed that cultural effects go beyond financial performance to stakeholder loyalty, innovation, excellence, retention, cooperation, morale, vitality and good decision-making.[21]

Employee experience is highly dependent on personal and professional values alignment. Studies, including Nord et al. (1988), Feather (1995) and Prentice (1987), showed that prevailing work conditions influence the values that managers, employees and social scientists choose to emphasize. At the same time, values held by a person will influence the value he or she places on certain outcomes. Therefore, a deeper understanding of the values held by individuals may provide a better understanding of whether or not there is mutual value placed on desired organizational outcomes.[22]

Conscious development of alignment between current and desired values matters because the prevailing system of values affects an individual’s perceptual processes. In the sense that we are not usually aware of the air that we breathe, we are often undiscerning about subconscious workplace values. Because values directly affect behavior in that individuals tend to act in accordance with their values, as with other constructs that are central to an individual, values affect general modes of behavior across situations and over time.[23] Since actors in the UN system face extreme situational variables that can change trajectories for entire populations, it’s prudent to develop cultural infrastructure that fundamentally aligns individuals with the organization in order to support coherent decision-making and encourage behavior that embraces both the letter and the spirit of the MDG’s, the Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter.

Research indicates that whether a value is implicit or explicit, it is perceived as part of the structure itself. When system members are aligned and their values are activated through sustained values-driven cultural and leadership development, the workplace tends to entail less drama, to be more fruitful, to be more universal and peaceful in perspective and influence, and to hold higher regard for, and more accurate accounting of, interdependencies. In more advanced systems, leaders are not just those vested with the authority to decide, but rather leadership is expressed as subsidiarity in that contributions can be made by all.

Barrett classifies the leadership values spectrum in accordance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. [24] If fundamentals on the values hierarchy aren’t satisfied, issues regarding survival and trust can only drain resources from the self-empowered activism necessary for the UN to deliver on its espoused values. Values-driven systems are driven by trust. “Societies rank high on interpersonal trust when there appears to be a rising sense of personal wellbeing because a lack of security concerns creates a fertile culture for trust and tolerance…. In such a culture where people place a relatively high value on individual freedom and self-expression, there exists activist political orientations. These are precisely the attributes that political culture literature defines as crucial to democracy.”[25]

From a social, organizational, and personal perspective, satisfying fulfillment values like self-expression and activism, which people tend to prioritize after survival values like safety and family, paves the way not only for innovation and dedication but also for getting the best return on investment in social capital. Part of the UN’s work ahead is to develop a reward structure wherein members experience a sense of security by way of positive reinforcement for demonstrating higher-level cultural indicators like trust and tolerance.

Organizations and groups like GVI and the UN Transformation Network, along with growing numbers of internal transformation agents, are beginning to catalyze a “significant conversation” toward higher alignment between all stakeholder values. Using values-driven methodologies to transcend crippling effects of its hierarchal and protocol-driven system, UN leaders can move beyond problem-solving to cut to core issues and, more importantly, to spark shared vision and mission. Both within an individual and within groups, values profiles are unique. How we manage competing and aligned values determines attitudes, actions and, ultimately, mission accomplishment.

Because they are both primal motivators for behavior and accurate indicators for success, the use of individual and group values as standards for evaluation and development provides a platform for transforming conflict by developing cohesive thought, vision and action for accomplishing coherent goals and outcomes. Can the UN ever deliver as one without grounding more deeply in its values?

Values and Goals:

Goals are articulated as such in order to cope with them, communicate with others about them, and gain cooperation in their pursuit. Values are the socially desirable concepts used to both mentally construct goals and to determine the vocabulary used to express objectives with others. From an evolutionary viewpoint, goals and the values that express them have crucial survival significance. [26] It is possible, and not uncommon, for an organization’s culture to emphasize values that are not appropriate for survival. It behooves leadership of any system to partner with stakeholders in co-creating the processes through which values are influenced and through which they influence action.

Culture has eight times more influence on performance variability than strategy. In a study of over 100 companies over an eight-year period, Mike West, Aston Business School, UK, showed that organizational strategy accounted for 2% of performance variability while organisational culture accounted for 17% of performance variability.  In other words, even the best business strategy under-performs without a supporting and aligned organizational culture.  Also, Verplanken and Holland (2002) demonstrated the importance of incorporating values that are important to employees in goals communications.[27]

Given the UN’s extraordinary diversity, the scope of its goals, and its role in survival issues, it is crucial for it to both recognize the primacy of values in its organizational DNA and to better capitalize on the effectiveness of values as operational keys. According to Rokeach (1979), whether or not they are conscious of it, at the organizational level, value priorities guide goal setting, behavior, commitment, allocation of resources, and formulation of new policies. [28] The key question for leadership is just how consciously, systemically and dynamically that understanding is applied.

While the data on the effect of values on acheivement appears unequivocal, it’s important to note that this is a relatively new field and there is undoubtedly still much we don’t know about what we don’t know about the role of values in goal accomplishment.


Conscious cultural evolution requires quantifying what’s so and what needs/wants to emerge. There are many proven values measurement tools that make individual and system priorities explicit, contextualize and explain conflicts, and articulate gaps and how to bridge them. The available cultural quantification tools fundamentally fall into two types, normative (measuring self against standards) and ipsative (measuring self against self).

The difference is that normative tools rate the extent of endorsement of values statements and ipsative tools rank the order of a set of values. There are benefits and problems with each but comprehensive studies conclude that inherent issues in either type can be corrected or otherwise adjusted for. Numerous studies comparing various characteristics of ipsative and normative measurement techniques have proven equivocal in that some studies have found little or no difference between the two techniques,[29] some have found ipsative techniques to be superior[30] and others have found normative techniques to be superior.[31] GVI deploys both, contingent upon needs, and both types have indicated serious need for values evolution in the UN system.


Values in the UN Context:

The evidence base is irrefutable on the usefulness of values as scaffolding for cultural development and it has immediate and potential application in the work, strategies and culture of the UN. To date, UN employee values have not been coherently articulated. Because personal motivations for joining the UN system are probably more highly values-oriented than those of the mostly corporate and small-business study subjects, the evidence gleaned from those studies suggests urgency for the UN to build a culture that embraces individual values and their role in unified deliverance on the UN Charter and MDGs.

As a culture of cultures, and probably the most diversly dedicated values pool in the world, the United Nations is uniquely challenged in its own cultural development. The World Values Survey (WVS), an academic lens on values and culture, posits that “two dimensions dominate the values picture: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators.”[32] The UN, by its nature, is an uncommonly wide-ranging culture of traditional, secular, survival and self-expression values that is comprised of what the WVS further breaks down as religious and civil, industrial and post-industrial, and security concerned and well-being concerned countries.

UN values are fundamental to its mission yet, in that they are not accounted for, they remain haphazardly integrated in policies and procedures that are inconsistent across agencies and countries. The UN’s  economic pillars are complicated by a global evolution away from a materialist culture that provided clear, albeit special interest, funding elements, toward an emergent translation of democratic ideals that is lacking not only in financial infrastructure, but also in the opportunities to know itself and act as a critical mass.

UN cultural indentity is being challenged by unprecedented political shifts as evidenced by worldwide stands for freedom and by the UN General Assembly’s April, 2012, unanimous vote to convene for a New Economic Paradigm based on Happiness and Wellbeing. There is a universal calling for systemic shift. The Old Paradigm belief that organizational values trump the individual has proven to be myopic and patently untrue, although still unresolved in the UN culture. The UN has always had a New Paradigm mission but it is mired with Old Paradigm insfrastructure, leaving system actors falling through paradigmatic gaps.

In GVI’s experience, actors throughout the system are becoming increasingly vocal about endemic values that are antithetical to UN survival. While LinkedIn and ad hoc related groups like UN Transformation Network and Global Visionaries demonstrate growing desire for higher personal/organizational values alignment, the system itself has yet to institutionalize the growing internal and external calls for it to more effectively “walk its talk.”

The current highly protocol- and hierarchy-driven international system accounts for questionable economic measurements like Gross National Product yet does not do data-based accounting for its fundamental Charter declarations, despite the fact that doing such accounting is a common leadership practice even in far lesser values-defined workplaces. In its call for a New Economic Paradigm, the UN has unveiled the need to evolve its own paradigm to better reflect its organizational values and those of the individuals who work there.

Sophisticated values development at the UN is hindered because managers, like their corporate and governmental counterparts, are statistically likely to assume that everyone has a clear understanding of what the organization’s values are in terms of positive and intolerable behaviours. A 1996 study by du Gay concludes: “There is a tacit assumption that individuals have decided on their own practices to achieve organizational values. There are dangerous assumptions made that core values are agreed upon because they exist in organizational documents and may even be hanging on office walls, and maybe even incorporated in training programs.”[33] It’s also likely that leaders can’t name their own organizational values without looking at their websites.

While values are well defined in UN publications, there is no cohesive systems-based methodology for determining current or desired alignment with, and expression of, its espoused values. There are no data for understanding the UN’s current baseline of integrity between documented and explicit values and therefore no integrated way for even highly motivated UN system actors to deploy strategy and procedures that fully reflect its values-laden mission. Many participants in GVI activities report that values-driven actors are essentially thwarted by a cultural stream that’s running in the other direction.[34]

Actions in pursuit of values have practical, psychological, and social consequences and those consequences must be factored in to create an optimum UN work environment. The tendancy for people to upgrade attainable values and downgrade thwarted values applies to most values. The reverse occurs with values that concern material wellbeing and security: when blocked, their importance increases; when they are attained easily, their importance drops. In 1997, Inglehart demonstrated that people who suffer economically and socially attribute more importance to power and security values than those who live in relative comfort and safety.[35] Therefore, when UN system workers who value equality, ostensibly a core organizational value, find themselves negotiating hierarchical gamesmanship, they tend to put less effort toward fulfilling that thwarted value, thus rendering the system less effective in fulfilling on equality aspects of its mission.

The tendancy to downgrade values because pursuing those values is blocked is uber hazardous for UN employees who are likely to be more values-motivated than the general population and so likely more affected by values incongruencies; and who contracted to work in an organization that is defined externally by values it does not manifest internally. Downgraded values lead to apathy and entropy – literally life-threatening dynamics for UN stakeholders.

While the UN’s military-like pay-grade system and personal security policies release staff from survival concerns, their stakeholders are often operating on survival values. Despite the fact that well-substantiated methodologies for doing so exist, UN workers have few resources available to them to identify and bridge gaps between competent, well-intentioned UN employees and the constituents they serve.

The power and security concerns inherent in such a politically charged place as the UN require a dynamic values framework for the internal scaffolding and transformative processes necessary to provide relevant, coherent global leadership. Internal reflection on values would provide insight, skills and policy for improving external security issues faced by UN personnel every minute of every day.

GVI board member and international values development expert, Leonard Joy, writes:

“The United Nations, especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has a potentially significant role in modeling how to bring a human-rights-values lens to bear on economic, social, cultural and political concerns and in designing public and private action to address them. While charged with this responsibility by the UN Secretary General, the UNDP is only slowly coming to grips with it. It needs support and encouragement. This capacity is particularly needed if we are to reverse the approaches based on the prevailing philosophy of economic development and management-by-results efficiency…

If both multilateral and bilateral international agencies are to engage as partners in developing capacities for values-directed self-governance, with all that means for relinquishing control and conditionality, a new mindset, new skills, and new management philosophies will be needed.[36]

Values quantification is an effective way to mine for new mindsets, skills and management philosophies for realizing the promise of the United Nations. New paths can be mapped by utilizing data-driven, values-based systems methodologies for addressing how the uniquely rich diversity of UN cultural capital is being undervalued by rigid and passé practices.


Cultural Entropy:

Without the cultural safety net of leaders agreeing to build values-driven systems, employee time and attention cannot be fully harnessed for mission accomplishment – a cultural phonemenon referred to as “entropy.” Richard Barrett, whose long career on values-driven technology began at the World Bank, writes that limiting values, like excessive control, caution, confusion, bureaucracy, hierarchy, internal competition, blame, and silo mentality, deplete the amount of energy people spend in getting their jobs done. He identifies the work energy lost as “cultural entropy” because energy for value-added work is drained toward overcoming limiting values. Values alignment precludes entropy.

Energy is discretionary – it is expended at the will of the employee. People unleash discretionary energies when they feel at home in the organization, they have a sense of authenticity internally and among co-workers, and they feel the organization is on the right track. Barrett articulates seven unique groups of factors that unleash discretionary energy in employees: Service, Making a difference, Finding meaning by contributing to an inspiring vision, Intellectual and operational challenges, Pride in performance and doing a good job, Friendship, Collegiality and recognition, and Benefits and financial rewards.

The degree of cultural entropy determines the amount of discretionary energy siphoned toward issues like bureaucracy, hierarchy, confusion, fire‐fighting, and rigidity. Because entropy generally heightens friction between employees by way of behaviors like internal competition, blame, manipulation, rivalry, and intimidation, it prevents employees from working effectively because they are too consumed with the effects of control, caution, micro‐management, short‐term focus, job‐insecurity, risk‐aversion, and territorialism.[37] Such limiting values, or entropy points, can be measured and addressed by values technology.

Preliminary GVI assessment and anecdotal evidence suggests extreme entropy within the UN. In What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, Weiss identifies UN entropy points as internal feudal governance patterns, hierarchy, silos, centrifical pressures, intersecting and overlapping responsibilities, internal displacement, mixed messages, disparity, a lack of longitudinal data, and non-adaptive to membership expansion and geo-political change. [38] The degree of entropy in the UN is the degree to which it is not walking its talk – an especially dangerous trek for a world-leading organization.

In measuring the cultures of more than 2,000 organizations, Barrett and Associates demonstrated that the level of cultural entropy usually falls in the range of 5% to 45% and that when it reaches the upper end of this range bankruptcy, implosion or aggressive takeovers that strip the assets of an organisation frequently occur. Their country measurement data, as of June 2011, showed Bhutan with 4% entropy, Brazil at 51%, Denmark at 21%, Finland at 48%, Latvia at 54%, South Africa at 62%, the UK at 43% and the US at 56%.[39] Those numbers translate to 4 – 62% of respective populations feeling disengagement from society. That’s the equivalent of between 4 and 62 people out of every 100 who are not dedicating any energy to civic wellbeing. It means that whole countries are operating between 38 – 96% capacity, a clear economic indicator that is rarely captured, much less accurately factored in, as the framework it is for excellence, effectiveness, and vitality.[40]

Barret asserts that the amount of value‐added energy that employees [citizens] can contribute to an organisation [state] is equal to the amount of energy that they have, minus the amount of energy required for basic functioning, minus the cultural entropy. When entropy is high, the discretionary energy available for value‐added work falls, and performance is low. When the cultural entropy is low, the energy available for value-added work increases, and performance is high.

Barrett data shows that in organizations with 65 percent and over employee engagement and entropy below 10 percent, revenue growth exceeded 35 percent over a three‐year period. Organizations with scores in the range 40‐65 percent and entropy greater than 22 percent had a three‐year revenue growth of only 7 percent.[41] By not measuring its own entropy and not developing consciousness and strategy in accordance with its own data, the UN compromises its accountability for international wellbeing.

The 2012 UN High Level Meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm,” blazes the path to sieze this moment, this “World Spring” – a transcultural, international call for a radical shift in what’s valued and whose values prevail. The UN must radically accommodate this shift by looking within; that is, by evolving and accounting for its internal culture and its own progress on realizing the values to which it aspires.


Because cultural elements subliminally cohere and so are united by their own internal logic, artifacts of the overwhelmingly hierarchical, protocol-weighted UN culture will continue to exert pressure on system actors to conform with outdated concepts of leadership. One suppressive pressure manifests at the UN and in other large institutions by way of proliferation of a “fluffy theory” that undermines the impact of values. This theory asserts that values and culture aren’t relevant because they don’t show up on spreadsheets and/or that their relevance is secondary to hard data on development, growth and security.

This pervasive mythology about values being “fluff” appears to help hold dysfunctional cultural artifacts in place and probably represents a fear-based resistance to change. Some of GVI’s workshop and dialog attendees perceive that when they make choices based on values-based cultural indicators they can end up feeling marginalized by prejudicial labels like new age, soft, ungrounded, airy-fairy, irrelevant, unscientific, difficult, and/or naïve. Their consequential choosing away from values results in entropy.

No doubt, as in the case of human rights, it is hard to factor in the evidence base for the efficacy of values-driven processes. In order for the issues of human rights to gain legitimacy, individual rights were put before courts and jurisprudence built up over time. Values-based paradigms have no similar, obvious means of being legitimized and are therefore endangered by suppression and ommission.

Despite overwhelming evidence and even internal desire to the contrary, the prevailing UN culture remains driven by non-transparent and unaccounted-for values. The result is overwhelming entropy and compromised fulfillment of the UN’s mission.


Secret Society:

The coherence in any culture often expresses as pushback on those who evolve soonest. No system member is seperate from the broader culture and the broader UN culture does not practice conscious values-development. According to written and verbal feedback in GVI programs,[42] it seems that progressive UN community members see themselves as part of what one departmental leader called a “secret society,” i.e. a disparate demographic within the UN community that shares a desire for deeper understanding, synergy, partnership, and more conscious development of cultural capital.

The bigger the stakes, the more forceful the pushback and individuals have reported to GVI that there are serious career and personal concerns for those who openly recognize and act on the value of values. While “secret society” members appear to share a visionary urge to adapt UN culture to the emerging evidence in favor of values-driven systems, the incumbent culture exerts pressure to suppress that urge and those who lead the way are forced underground.

The “secret society” is not an organized group or ad hoc committee; it represents a growing awareness of a common commitment to realizing the UN Charter, and a coalescing of renewed dedication to the UN’s declared universal values: peace, justice, equality, human dignity, and environmental sustainability. It is an emerging cultural impulse among values outliers that calls for full spectrum vision regarding what constitutes successful outcomes. GVI serves as a catalyst for evolving the ethos of this transformative impulse.

Application of both the Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ) and the Schwartz Value Survey indicate that across countries and measurement instruments, people everywhere experience the conflict between the value of openness to change and the value of conservation. They also experience the conflict between pursuing the value of self-transcendence and that of self-enhancement. Conflicts between specific values (e.g., power vs. universalism, tradition vs. hedonism) are also nearly universal.[43] These conflicts seem to be particularly evident for those who demonstrate broader vision.

A healthy culture harnesses the energy of the dynamic tension between perspectives whereas unhealthy cultures develop dysfunctions within this tension. As in any systemic transformation, there is dynamic tension within the UN between change and conservation. The Tools mentioned above are well-tested values technology for harnessing the energy of that tension so it can be unleashed for greatest good. The unleashing happens primarily through communication, which is most effective between people at the same level of values development. In the case of “Secret Society” outliers who are largely values-driven, the onus is on those who have accomplished higher-level values development to secure communication, whether or not s/he is a “leader” with authority.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the UN has critical gaps between published organizational values and the antithetical behaviors UN actors feel they must engage in to negotiate the day-to-day culture. It is a pivotal time for the international system to embrace values outliers whose fundamental alignment might be questioned. Input from values outliers insures against stagnation, conformity that might be mistaken for values alignment, old-school politics, and/or the “stuck-in-the-box” thinking and power struggles that result from overly homogenous cultures.

While the UN aspires to “Delivering as One,” for significant numbers of UN and related professionals, getting things done is as much about overcoming bureaucracy, managing personal and professional values gaps, short-term focus, hierarchy, and silo mentality as it is about addressing disasters, poverty, geo-politics and environmental resource depletion. According to Schwartz (2005), these disparities, until squarely addressed, will sabbotage initiatives because eliciting high-level cooperation requires both the high priority for values that promote cooperation (benevolence) and the low priority for values that oppose it (power).[44] To date, the UN cannot account for values priorities so values outliers can easily be scapegoated and disregarded, to the detriment of the system.

Life circumstances make the pursuit or expression of different values more or less rewarding or costly.[45] Given the extraordinary range of life circumstances that make up any single UN department, agency, constituency, mission or region, the articulation of shared, differing and aspired-to values would map out the cultural capacity to deliver as one.


Looking Forward:
Transformational waves of evolution can be chaotic and fuzzy and are usually resisted by the status quo. That’s the nature of pioneering at new frontiers – visionaries who follow uncommon inklings leave dramatic, and often painful, legacies. Indigenous wisdom might ask if the UN is choosing whether to gracefully move like a snake beyond a skin that no longer fits or to hold on to archaic practices that resist the constant of change and therefore stunt its own growth?

There seem to be signals of the UN’s readiness for a developmental leap in self-identity in UNDP leader, Helen Clarke’s, and increasing numbers of her colleagues’ appeals for innovation and transformation. Its current building rehabilitation in New York serves as both a metaphor and an opportunity to move a rehabbed organization back into it. The UN is a relatively young organization, given its scope and mission, with two meaningful currents in its present maturation process: the emerging impulse to reorient toward its fundamental values and the data that confirm the wisdom of that urge.

GVI’s preliminary values assessments suggest specific elements of the emerging vision include ethics, excellence, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, cooperation, integrity, balance, risk-taking and adaptability – values that support the UN’s own universal values.  Realizing its values-based vision requires that individual players embody those values and it requires that values-development become an integral part of UN leadership development. It also requires that values be operationalized in relationships, policies, programming, human resource considerations, and everyday decision-making.

Given the seminal place that values hold at the UN, it’s only by assessing and responding to specific measurements that the organization can restructure itself to demonstrate shifts in values consciousness necessary to impact results and trajectories. Specific actions towards this restructuring identified to GVI by leaders, professionals and personnel in and around the UN include the following:

  • Projecting the UN as unique in representing a particular set of values, more than for its financial, political or academic clout
  • Developing a more expansive sense of UN identity that goes beyond a “silo” mentality, with an emphasis on openness rather than competition with other staff, and on enriched inter-personal relationships that are the building blocks of an organization
  • Developing leadership based on trust and advocacy of a clear collective vision; telling staff members that they are expected to make mistakes and thereby to learn, and delegating more authority to them for such learning to take place; through recruitment, training and management practices, sending the message that initiative is valued as much as caution; and encouraging staff to become more self-reliant and entrepreneurial
  • Cutting down on bureaucracy by developing more horizontal discussions among co-workers; minimizing titles, the ornamentations of power and technological trappings; promoting active listening and respect for colleagues; improving gender mainstreaming with policies like flex-time and breast-feeding breaks for new mothers
  • Transitioning management toward greater transparency and an “open door” policy
  •  Breaking the monolithic nature of experience in the UN by better surfacing different perspectives and methods for addressing problems; moving away from only talking about issues to having conversations aimed at commitment to results and the actions and accountabilities necessary to achieve them
  • Developing people’s individual sense of self, especially the soul and heart, by effectively exercising the mind to conquer negative states such as anger, hatred, envy and fear, thereby heightening recognition of where one stands in relation to personal and organizational vision[46]



Studies on the effectiveness of data-based, values-driven cultural development indicate that UN Charter fulfillment would be well served by dedicating time and resources toward aligning system and stakeholder values. Values technology application in the UN system would identify issues and potential resources for overcoming entropy and enhancing vitality.

People come to work at the United Nations with a sense of purpose, but many feel their own values, and those of the UN itself, are inherently compromised in the way their work gets done. The data clearly indicate that when international system actors’ individual and organizational values align with UN functionality there will be a coherent, adaptive system that’s geared for full impact.

GVI has observed pervasive entropy concerns involving survival values for job security, hierarchical gamesmanship, and feelings of hopelessness, along with functionality concerns involving transparency and truth-telling. Applying values technology and processes would not only address entropy, it would reveal and capitalize on the considerable UN resources ostensibly already dedicated to developing positive values expression, thereby releasing time, money and talent for engaging in higher-level mission functionality.

Disregarding the value of values is especially egregious in an organization that exists to uphold universal values when thousands of lesser values-oriented organizations worldwide are benefitting from the proven effectiveness of operationalizing values. The lack of accountabilty for the UN’s cultural capital is of significant concern given the extraordinarily unique nature of it. It behooves the UN’s development to better account for and transform attitudes and behaviors that are static and counter-productive; and also to better account for and fully capitalize on its own dedicated, rich and complex cultural makeup.[47] The evidence is clear that mainstreaming values leads to more effective and efficient mission fulfillment.

Given the centrality of values to the UN mission, more extensive analysis and application of values are warranted and overdue. By choosing to more consciously build its own values-driven, systems-based culture, the UN would be uniquely positioned to be the world’s example for building cultural infrastructure.

Author: Joni Carley, DMin, Director, Essential Commons; Fellow, Global Dialog Institute, Haverford College; former Vice President, Global Vision Institute;  cultural and leadership development expert

[*] GVI’s mission concerns the nexus of stakeholder values and UN Charter, Declaration of Human Rights, and MDG development and fulfillment.

[1] Global Vision Institute, retrieved from

[2] Besheer, Margaret. (2012) UN Admits Failures in Protecting Sri Lankan Civilians. Voice of America. Retrieved from

[3] Meglino, Bruce and Elizabeth Ravlin. (1998) Individual Values in Organizations: Concepts, Controversies, and Research. Journal Of Management, Vol. 24, No. 3,199, University of South Carolina, 351 – 389.

[5] Whitney, D., and Schmitt, N.  (1997).  Relationship between culture and responses to biodata employment items.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 113-129.

[6] Barrett, Richard, et al. (2008) Best Companies to Work For in the USA. Retrieved from

[7] Hall, Brian. The Omega Factor: A Values-Based Approach for Developing Organizations and Leadership,

[8] Meglino, Bruce and Elizabeth Ravlin. Op cit.

[9] ibid

[10] Scheeres, Hermine.  (2002).  Producing core values in the workplace: Learning new identities.  Avetra, 1-10.  Retrieved from

[11] Nina Koivula, Basic Human Values in theWorkplace, Department of Social Psychology;

[12] Posner and Schmidt; Values Congruence and Differences Between the Interplay of Personal and Organizational Value Systems; Journal of Business Ethics 12 341-347, 1993; Kluver Academic Publishers, Netherlands.

[13] Meglino, Bruce, and Elizabeth Ravlin.  Op.cit

[14]Chun-hong Liu, Zi-you Yu, and Dean Tjosvold.  (2002). Production and people values: Their impact on relationships and leader effectiveness in China. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol. 23(3), 134-144.

[15] ibid

[16] Koivula, Nina.  (2008).  Basic human values in the workplace.  Social Psychological Studies, 17.  Retrieved from

[17] ibid

[18] Barrett. (2008) op cit

[19] Flamholtz, Eric. (2001). Corporate culture and the bottom line.  European Management Journal, vol. 19 (no. 3), 268-275.

[20] Barrett, Richard.  (2010).  Cultural capital: A Fundamental driver of financial performance.   Retrieved from

[21] ibid

[22] Henderson, Shar. A Business case for working with values.  Retrieved from

[23] Meglino, Bruce, and Elizabeth Ravlin. op cit

[24] Barrett. (2010) op cit

[25]Inglehart, Ronald, and Chris Weizel.  (2010).  The World values survey cultural map of the worldRetrieved at

[26] Schwartz. op cit

[27] Koivula. op cit

[28] ibid

[29] Ranking & Grube. A comparison of ranking and rationg procedures for values system measurement. 1980. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10. 233-247

[30] Miethe. 1985. The validity & reliability of value measurements. Journal of Psychology 119; 441- 53.

[31] Hicks. Some properties of ipsative, normative, and forced-choice normative measures. 1970. Psychologoical Bulletin, 74; 167-184.

[32]Inglehart, Ronald, and Chris Weizel.  (2010).  The World values survey cultural map of the world.  Retrieved from

[33] Scheeres, Hermine.  (2002).  Producing core values in the workplace: Learning new identities.  Avetra, 1-10.  Retrieved from

[34] Global Vision Institute. op cit

[35] Schwartz. op cit

[36] Joy, Leonard. (2011). How Does Societal Transformation Happen? Values Development, Collective Wisdom and Decision Making for the Common Good. Quaker Institute for the Future Pamphlet 4

[37] Barrett, Richard.  (2010).  op cit

[38] Weiss, Thomas. (2009). What’s Wrong with the UN and How to Fix It. Polity. Malden, MA.

[39] Barrett, Richard.  (2011). National values assessment resource guide. Retrieved from

[40] ibid

[41]Barrett, Richard.  (2010).  op cit

[42] Global Vision Institute, op cit

[43] Schwartz. op cit

[44] Hall. op cit

[45] Schwartz, op cit

[46] Global Vision Institute. op cit

[47]Schedler (2004) Political Culture and Democratization. Retrieved from, chap. 8, p. 2-3.