Volume 18.2 – 2016

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Phil Jump looks at 2016 as the year in which established institutions and orders were challenged. Is this a blip in the ongoing normality, or is it the first-fruit of a movement of change? If so, are both business and faith communities going to react with worry about instability, and try to cling on to the old certainties? Or can both the business and the faith communities find the opportunities within the new order to prosper and to shape this new world for the better?

2016 has been designated as the Year of the Unexpected. Whether we are talking about Trump’s election as U.S. president or Leicester City’s Premier League success, things happened that no-one ever imagined would or could happen. Perhaps the biggest question with which many people are now grappling is whether these unanticipated realities are simply blips in an otherwise ongoing normality, or the first-fruits of a movement of change that will continue to challenge and dismantle established orders and institutions.

Business, we are told, does not like uncertainty, and so we might reasonably expect there to be an air of nervousness in the boardrooms of our land. But is this the only way of scanning the current horizon? In posing this question, I am reminded of an oft-told story of two shoemakers who ventured to a nearby island to see what potential markets might be there. One returned utterly despondent, declaring his venture to be futile as no-one on the island wore any shoes. The other returned to gleefully announce that this presented a great new opportunity because everybody needed a pair.

So if our world is at the dawn of some great new order, faith groups and businesses alike might begin to ask what role they are likely to play in it. Is this riven with new opportunity or the sign of their demise? It is intriguing to recognise that in the wake of banking crises and boardroom scandals, many on this side of the Atlantic are likely to cite big business as a key element in that which needs to be overthrown. Yet part of what has fuelled Donald Trump’s success seems to be his willingness to sweep aside political protocols in favour of the boardroom tactics that made him famous in the American version of The Apprentice.

One of the features of the old order was that it did seem to be one in which the world of business managed to regularly disgrace itself. This has opened up some interesting channels of communication around the area of boardroom ethics, in which the faith community has at times been a partner which is neither unwelcome nor uninformed. Yet might we also ask whether the very movements that have been fuelled by the…

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