To do good work we need to re-imagine the complex social and professional situations in which we live and work, and develop the courage and skill to engage with the systems and structures that both nurture and suppress the human spirit, in order to become instruments of peace, joy and hope.

We move in and out of these social and cultural institutions everyday, most of the time taking them for granted as if they are a natural part of the world. But our organisations, hospitals, businesses, schools and so on are all products of human initiative and ingenuity. Once they are established they take on a life of their own, with a purpose and will of their own. Their structure and operational processes limit the freedom of those who work in them. Their way of achieving their goals becoming ends in themselves. So while they are essentially human creations they shape the life of those who live and work in them.

We can easily forget that these systems do not exist apart from human choice and action. So in pursuit of good work we need to discern to what ends our institutions are aiming. Are they contributing to human flourishing, a just society and harmony with the environment or, in their striving for efficiency or productivity, have they lost their way? We will not grasp what is at stake unless we are asking what vision of humanity are they serving. Paying attention to the systems in which we live and work and keeping them true to their purpose, therefore, is a vital and endless task. Without such vigilance it becomes impossible to do good work through them.

Some of us may choose to establish new organisations and enterprises to implement a vision of what else is needed in the world. Organising for good work – harnessing the passion of others to do good work together – requires a very different way of imagining “the organisation”, a task that can call on the practical wisdom of others involved in the GoodWork Academy.