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I've been following your conversations through email and here on ning with interest and appreciation of the thought provoking comments and view points and useful links.  Chris, for some reason which I have not yet fathomed, I was unable to open the file in Dropbox but managed to find Adam Kahane on a YouTube RSA talk and interview about his book - also book extract in ODE Magazine - the following piece gave me more food for thought on the Martin Luther King quote which you referenced Chris...

"Power and love are difficult to work with because each of them has two sides. Power has a generative side and a degenerative side, and—less obviously—love also has a generative side and a degenerative side. Feminist scholar Paola Melchiori pointed out to me that we can see these two sets of two sides if we look at historically constructed gender roles. The father, embodying masculine power, goes out to work, to do his job. The generative side of his power is that he can create something valuable in the world. The degenerative side of his power is that he can become so focused on his work that he denies his connection to his colleagues and family, and so becomes a robot or a tyrant. 

The mother, by contrast, embodying feminine love, stays at home to raise the children. The generative side of her love is that she gives life, literally to her child and figuratively to her whole family. The degenerative side of her love is that she can become so identified with her child and family that she denies their and especially her own need for self-realization, and so stunts their and her own growth.

Love is what makes power generative instead of degenerative. Power is what makes love generative instead of degenerative. Power and love are therefore exactly complementary. In order for each to achieve its full potential, it needs the other.”




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Rose and Chris; I am interested in the power and love model and have used it in work to describe how organisations might relate to their customers, clients, employees. I also use it a lot myself at home in how I relate to my husband and kids - am I working out of the power over/power to - am I helping growth or stagnating it - it can be very insightful and often a bit close to the bone if  I realise I'm not in a generative side of either!!  A colleague and I drew a few slides on a project we were working on about social change - see attached visual.  

I think in looking at power and love its  good to go back to Paul Tilich definitions on power and love; which I think is where Kahane is coming from?   Power:The drive of everything living to realise itself, with increasing intensity & extensity...the drive to achieve one’s purpose, to get one’s job done, to grow.  Love: the drive towards the unity of the separated..the drive to recognise and make whole that which has become or appears fragmented...a focus on relationship & connection.  I really relate to this and demonstrates why we need both power and love; and its relevant for all of us.  

I struggle with the traditional examples given of masculinity and femininity.... but I  am especially interested in what masculine and feminine mean for leadership.  Its talked about, I have read bits but for me its a bit vague..even stero-typed.  What little I've seen in publications for women or linked in sites targeting women in business is 'off putting' . I'd like to hear some good discussion on this theme in Ireland that reflects the diversity of life that exists in all its masculinity and femininity....    





Thank you – I found the personal and professional application of the model which you share and slides and diagram depicting Kahane’s Power / Love model helpful.


 I also find Paul Tillich definition of power and love helpful because as Kahane suggests the definitions are ontological “they deal with what and why power and love are, rather than what they enable or produce”.  The importance and value of and balance between “process” and “product” are something that I am conscious of in my work.


If I were to apply the Kahane’s power/love model to the sector in which I am involved – the childhood care and education sector - it would very much fall on the love side of the model and regretfully the degenerative aspects are evident on a regular basis in my daily work.


 However, I am heartened by some positive developments evolving in the sector that I believe have the potential to redress the power/love/generative/degenerative imbalances that exist. 


For example, the ongoing professionalisation of the sector is helping to raise the status and place an economic value on the “care and education” work.  (The benefits of this resulting in improved outcomes for children is another conversation!)


The establishment of the Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP) and the Men in Childcare Ireland Network (MiC) in particular are providing essential forums for dialogue and vehicles for advocacy and awareness raising about the value and importance of the work. 


The vision of the MiC Network Ireland is that “children would feel that it is normal to be cared for by women and men” MiC say that the vision is based on the belief that children benefit from a gender balanced care setting and that it is optimum in terms of the social development of a healthy child”.  MiC believe that the inclusion of trained male childcare workers could undo a tremendous amount of the negative stereotyping about men and their abilities to nurture and care for children and believe that in an era of equality and the growing awareness of gender equality issues it is perfectly logical for men to aspire to this vision.


The aims of the ACP are for example to define a professional identity and provide a   body to which workers can affiliate; to advocate for equitable pay and conditions and to promote and support the continuing professional development of childhood care and education professionals. 


I am hopeful that allied together the ACP and MiC has the potential to challenge the power / love model and redress the generative / degenerative imbalances evident in the sector.


Lorraine you mention the struggle you have with the historic/traditional masculine/feminine example given by Kahane  - I also struggle with this – I am reminded of how strongly this traditional concept is captured in the Irish Constitution Article 41 on the family, for example…


“In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”


The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.


(Tangent thought - I’m interested in what I believe is a related conversation Re; the forthcoming referendum on rights of the child - if successful will it create a shift in the power / love / generative / degenerative balance within the family and society as a whole?  Check out for some food for thought)


Reverting to my main train of thought with regard to the traditional role of women copper fastened in the Constitution and reflected I believe in the predominately female, low paid childhood care and education sector in which I work - I recently read Kathleen Lynch’s paper “Affective Equality Who Cares?” in which she argues;


“As love, care and solidarity involve work, affective inequality also occurs when the burdens and benefits of these forms of work are unequally distributed, and when this unequal distribution often deprives those who do the love, care and solidarity work of important human goods, including an adequate livelihood and care itself.”

 (I am reminded of ACP aims)


She says “Being deprived of the capacity to develop supportive affective relations, or of the experience of engaging in them when one has the capacity, is therefore a serious human deprivation and injustice” she describes it as “a form of affective inequality”  (I am reminded of the MiC vision)


Citing Wilkinson and Pickett, Kathleen Lynch notes that “when societies endorse solidarity principles in public policy through equalising wealth and incomes, endorsing respect and recognition principles, equalising power relations and supporting care work, this greatly enhances the quality of life for all people, especially that of the most vulnerable”  (I am reminded of the ACP aims and MiC vision)


I think Kahane’s Power / Love / Generative / Degenerative model could be very helpful in opening up and framing a dialogue about the value and importance of care and education and about the role and contributions of men and women and ultimately challenging traditional gender roles which I believe continue to be evident in the current socio-cultural & economic context.  For example the high number of predominately men choosing to die by suicide; the “glass ceiling” and the low number of women in executive/management/decision making positions and in politics provide ample evidence of the degenerative aspects of Kahane’s power / love model.



I have struggled a bit in articulating my train of thought and hope my conversation thus far is coherent! Interested to hear your views….

Rose: a lot to unpack there

  • ACP, MiC initiatives all sound a move in the right direction.  Historically people have been attracted to NGO sectors due to the ‘cause’ and sometimes a rejection of working in business and corporate life.  Today’s problems are complex and need professional skills as well as love of cause.  The lines between ngo/corporate sectors are blurring from the perspective of skills, measuring, accountability and the need for activity to lead to impact is universal.  I think there is still a lot of room for improvement in the area of collaboration within the NGO sector, especially in times of limited resources, sometimes the cause gets lost in the battle for power and resources.  This reminds me of the research undertaken in Stanford University on the 6 traits of the most impactful NGOs in the world, which I attach if you have not seen it...
    • Bridge the divide between service provision and advocacy
    • Helps companies do good whilst doing well, help change behavior on a large scale (I really like this)
    • Create social movements; build strong communities of supporters to help achieve goals/attract super –evangelists who work for the cause
    • Nuture networks; collaborative rather than competitive, recognise more powerful together than alone, help peers succeed (I especially like this)
    • Master the ability to listen, learn and modify approach on the basis of external cues for sustainable impact – virtuous cycle of learning
    • Share leadership; share power to be strategic forces of good, empower others to lead, build enduring teams at executive & board level, reward people well, invest in own capacity, align fundraising strategy with impact strategy, sophisticated IT, find levers long enough to increase their impact, work with and through others 
    • These organisations do not becry power or business; instead they engage with stakeholders to find what is common enough between them to work together and achieve their goals to change the world in what ever area they work.  It is ultimately all about discovering our ‘shared values’ and how we can ‘add value in partnership’ - society & business.  These NGOs operate out of the generative side of power and love.  I especially like the concept of finding levers long enough to increase impact, work with and through others – how could your sector do that better Rose?
    • Oxfam also did some research (Finding Frames) on how the NGO sector can engage with the UK public on poverty and environmental issues.  The findings echoes some of the Stanford  research but also provides a lot of feedback on the need for NGO sector to identify the values that motivate people to tackle bigger than self problems in the area of environment and poverty. It includes the need to reinforce the positive values which people already have and the need to shift from transactional (donate now) relationships to transformational ones. Lots of insights too on the effectiveness of campaigns which may be of interest to you…
    • The big thing for me is shifting from knowing to doing/from awareness to action Rose; who could find fault with the campaign for children mission/cause, or the need for the constitution to be updated.  So often discussions on the constitution remain in the intellectual realm which many of us do not engage with until there is a need to vote.  Similarly if not affected by issues of childcare, abuse, and disadvantage we can remain in our middle class bubbles; I can hide there comfortably, albeit less so nowadays… so how can you shift me to actively engage in issues that I might not want to hear? – again I find myself asking what are the conversations that are held in Irish society that link the issues of childcare, welfare, disadvantage to me in my life – none I’d say….when I do hear things it’s mostly about vulnerable children which society and the state has failed and where most times we end up feeling terrible for a while and then forget till the next case.  A recent discussion with some friends on educating our children on sexual values and behavior helped reinforce what I thought and what I needed to do at home – but we had that discussion.  Cindy Gallop Ted Talk: Make love, not porn – regardless of whether you like it or not, named the real issue and made it visible.  We don’t do this at the level we need to in Ireland on the rights of children.  The campaign for children website does nothing to encourage me to engage with the discussion – and you know Rose I personally only need a little shove as it’s a subject close to my heart;  for this kind of thing discussion to ‘get legs’ it needs to barge its way into my life – Meg Wheately talks about disturbing systems to stimulate change – what are the conversations we need to have collectively about these issues and how should we have them – its far more than the Frontline and RTE Joe Duffy that’s for sure.  And this includes the discussion on the changing roles and contributions of men and women all the things you mention – we need these conversations if we are to create the kind of society we want….
    • Final link which ultimately links back to the kind of conversational process we were practicing in the Burren – this link with Deborah Frieze and Meg Wheatley talks about the kind of engagement that needs to happen with people including the people it is happening to, for real action to take place. The one on homelessness might resonate
    • So I guess I ultimately think it’s about discovering the questions that will stimulate people to engage in conversations where we can find enough to unite us in what has to be done ...and then findings ways to elevate these discussions to where they need to be had. – shifting from knowing to doing. 

And what I meant to say about the campaign for children - now that I've slept on it!!! 

  • The issues are complex; there are lots of effective agencies working on these issues; the scale and complexity of the issues can appear difficult for people like me who are not directly affected in my day to day life to participate beyond basic things keeping informed, funding etc.. 
  • An invitation to inquire more like you did has the potential for me to engage more than the website and that is what I am critical about when I say the website does little to engage me in the discussion...
  • The big shift is to move from me to we - at a societal level 

Lorraine, hope you had a good week! I am grateful for the feast of food for thought which your conversation  and references  provided and stimulated also some interesting conversation with my colleagues during the week.   The benefits of shared leadership, bridging gap between service provision and advocacy, having strong networks and working collaboratively we regularly witness in our work.  The need to find levers long enough to increase the impact of our work is becoming more obvious particularly in this time of drastic fiscal and public sector reform but also by the same token more difficult. 

With regard to children's rights campaign - our network is meeting with campaign organisers in the coming weeks to talk about how we might support and promote the campaign - your critique and views on how best we might engage parents and key people in a conversation about this vitally important topic (which as you expressed can be harrowing and easy to dissociate) would be most helpful and welcomed!  Identifying champions who can communicate passionately the important issues that are involved using media perhaps?  A national "roadshow" (not the best choice of word) on children's rights is currently underway - a collaboration between the Campaign for Children, Early Childhood Ireland (NGO) and supported by City/County Childcare Committees - enticing parents, childcare providers & key people including policy, implementation and decision makers to this forum to engage in the conversation will be the challenge!

Exploring the masculine /feminine theme some more I found the attached items provided useful analysis and insights - the first is a report by the NESSE network of experts to the European Commission on Gender and Education and the second is Kathleen Lynch TASC 2010 Annual Lecture "From a Neo-Liberal to an Egalatarian State: Imagining a Different Future".  I'm digesting and assimilating the rich and thought provoking content and incubating some ideas for generating more conversations and as you say shifting from knowing to doing!  Much resonance with Adam Kahane Power / Love model..




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