Quakers and Business Group
Promoting Quaker values in Business and the Workplace

News - October 2016

New member report and reflections

This report is a set of invited reflections from a new member to Q&B. I attend Lancaster Meeting in the North West of England and lecture at Lancaster University Management School.

I attended the Quakers and Business Group Management Committee meeting on 14 October 2016 at Friends House in London. The meeting was held in the Abraham Darby meeting room.

It was the first Q&B management committee meeting I had attended after recently joining the group. I felt welcomed with many coming to introduce themselves. I attended the meeting specifically because I have recently become a member of the Q&B’s Academic Research Working Group. I am interested (along with Nic Burton, who was presenting the working group’s Terms of Reference), in the Quaker Business Method.

Although I am relatively new to Quakers, the clerking at the meeting approximated the closest I have witnessed to what I have read about being a clerk at a Quaker business meeting. It was thoughtful, helping the agenda along and action oriented, writing up the minutes on a laptop and reading out the draft minute during the meeting. Lots of different items were discussed from a very detailed agenda.

On the way home to Lancaster from London, I remembered a section in Quaker Faith and Practice which I had been pointed to by Ben Pink Dandelion a few months earlier. It struck me at the time and I re-read the section when I got home. It is Quaker Faith and Practice 23.16:

The war of 1914–18 made Friends more vividly aware of the close connection between war and the social order. Nine months after the outbreak of war London Yearly Meeting was impressed by the words of John Woolman:  May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions. After three years’ exercise of mind eight ‘Foundations of a true social order’ were adopted. They were not intended as rules of life but as an attempt to set forth ideals that are aspects of eternal Truth and the direct outcome of our testimony to the individual worth of the human soul. Though they proclaimed the ending of ‘restrictions’ of sex, they spoke of God as Father and human beings as men and brothers, as was conventional in their time.

  • The Fatherhood of God, as revealed by Jesus Christ, should lead us toward a brotherhood which knows no restriction of race, sex or social class.
  • This brotherhood should express itself in a social order which is directed, beyond all material ends, to the growth of personality truly related to God and man.
  • The opportunity of full development, physical, moral and spiritual, should be assured to every member of the community, man, woman and child. The development of man’s full personality should not be hampered by unjust conditions nor crushed by economic pressure.
  • We should seek for a way of living that will free us from the bondage of material things and mere conventions, that will raise no barrier between man and man, and will put no excessive burden of labour upon any by reason of our superfluous demands.
  • The spiritual force of righteousness, loving-kindness and trust is mighty because of the appeal it makes to the best in every man, and when applied to industrial relations achieves great things.
  • Our rejection of the methods of outward domination, and of the appeal to force, applies not only to international affairs, but to the whole problem of industrial control. Not through antagonism but through co-operation and goodwill can the best be obtained for each and all.
  • Mutual service should be the principle upon which life is organised. Service, not private gain, should be the motive of all work.
  • The ownership of material things, such as land and capital, should be so regulated as best to minister to the need and development of man.

This is, in my view, a really striking section of Quaker Faith and Practice for anyone interested in business. I wonder how and if this might contribute to our understanding business in the twenty-first century?

2016 has been a year to mark 100 years of conscientious objection. Quakers have had a significant impact on industry and business particularly in Britain and America. But Quakers are less interested in business and commerce than they once were. I wonder whether 2018, to mark the end of the First World War and the writing of the eight ‘Foundations of a True Social Order’ might be an occasion for Quakers to remember actively their role in business and take forward a vision of business of our age? If there was interest in this, how might Q&B contribute?

I really enjoyed the meeting and plan to attend again in the future.

Martin Brigham - Lancaster Meeting