Greed, Anger and Development

Greed and anger have always been powerful forces for change.

Greed is given more or less free rein in our society. It is incentivised.  It creates wealth and jobs, it provides products and services.  Greed is good.  To those that have, more shall be given.

Unlike greed, anger  is usually discouraged (‘just play nicely’, ‘stop moaning’) and dulled through engagement in bureaucratic process. Anyone who has tried to make anything better by engaging in a committee of some description will recognise that dynamic.  Vision Building process anyone? Participatory budgeting? Citizen’s Panel?

As a society it feels like we TEACH helplessness when it comes to social change.

We design systems and structures that sap energy and will from the angry: that neutralise those who are driven by love or hate.

If we want to see our communities develop then we must

  • raise levels of love and hate about the issues that really matter,  and then
  • provide meaningful and rewarding avenues through which ‘what matters’ can be pursued with power, creativity and compassion.

For me, this means helping people to understand and feel their anger and their love, before building careful associations with like-minded folk.

It is not a question of how we change people, but how we provide a context in which they choose to change themselves.

For me, the most promising answer lies in the provision of effective community coaching using mechanisms such as Local Community Enterprise Accelerators (ELSIEs), supplemented by group learning processes such as Progress School, Innovation Lab and Results Factory.


  1. When you write “It is not so much about how do we change people, but how do we provide a context in which people can, and do change themselves” who do you mean by “we” and who do you mean by “people”?

    When you write “a context in which people can, and do change themselves” and then propose “the provision of effective community coaching” as the most promising means, who is providing the coaches for the coaching?

    You know I agree with “How can we provide a society which challenges us all to live a ‘becoming existence’?” as that is what drives my work in the conductive education of children and adults with cerebral palsy.

    Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s too early in the day and I ought to get some breakfast first, but the more I thought about these two questions, the less clarity I found and the less sure I became of two statements which I initially passed over without hesitation.

    • ‘We’ in this context has to be ‘the community’ – or those parts of it that are full of enough love and anger to want things to change. People in this context are those who are looking to make progress, who want to, and invite help…

      Breakfast or not, these are good questions that need working through. Always remembering that the first principle of aid is respect.

  2. Good stuff as always, Mike.

    To greed and anger, I would add a third force which gets things done, obsession.

    I know a number of people who are completely obsessed with one objective. This can make them uncomfortable to be around, and they can be dismissed as boring and of “one track mind”. But they will focus on their objective and seek to bend any organisation, funding regime, or opportunity to get what they want. And, if you read Sir Ken Robinson’s “The Element” you will see how many of today’s really successful people were dismissed as “obsessives” in their early days, but they stuck with it and made it work.

    • Top book indeed. We listen, we hear, but we don’t act.

      Education Leeds, presumably, paid for Ken to come and talk to them about the ideas in The Element. Perhaps we will see them feed through the system?

      MY worry is that they will be lipstick on the pig as what it really demands is a fundamental shift in values and beliefs about the role of education and how it can be facilitated in 21st Century Britain.

      And there are just too many with a vested interest in how it is delivered now. Which is one of the reasons for setting up Progress School.

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