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Relational Lens

A Relational Lens means learning to see life primarily from the perspective of relationships. Three examples show how a relational lens changes analysis and therefore the nature of a problem or opportunity and therefore its solution:

Criminal justice: How does the response to a crime include efforts to improve the relationship – established by the act of the crime –  between the criminal and the victim? How are relationships with third parties (neighbors, family members, the criminal’s family members) affected and helped? ‘Restorative justice’ addresses the relationship between criminal and victim. How does the design and location of prisons (even the decision to lock up a criminal) impact relationships between the criminal and family members and friends? And what impact does that have on recidivism?

Family meals: If I decide to buy a microwave oven I may consider the decision financially (can I afford it?), spatially (is there room in the kitchen?), or environmentally (how does this affect my carbon footprint?) – but what about relationally? Having a microwave could either enhance or lower relational wellbeing in my  household. Reducing the time spent on preparing food could either permit more time for talking together over the meal, or else lead to family members eating at different times and not talking together at all. Looking at the decision through a relational lens will bring this dimension into perspective.

Financial planning: I’m glad to see the value of my 401(k) going up. But what is the impact of my demand of increasing share price on relationships? Via my capital (from my salary) I have a relationship with a farmer in Africa, a small supplier business in South Korea. It’s a relationship mediated by several individuals and institutions, but it’s still a relationship, so it has ethical implications. How can increase my knowledge of, and proximity to, those people or businesses, so I can be sure my 401(k) rise is not a result of exploitation?