Our published essays and articles exploring the culturework perspective in an everyday context

Letter to Pat Kenny

Broadcast on RTE, August 20th 2009

This letter was prompted by an interview between RTE’s Pat Kenny and some of the people who participated in the week-long Climate Camp in Co Offaly. We are reproducing it here in response to listener interest. pdf

Changing the Conversation

Irish Marketing Journal, June 2008

How marketing professionals help to slow down the public’s response to critical issues of our time by concealing the ecological truth from common consciousness - and the central role they could play in shifting human values from casual consumption to conscious living. pdf

Rethinking Education

Education Yearbook, 2007/2008

If society is to make the necessary cultural shift, the principles of living systems have to become the backdrop against which education is conceived and designed. This is not about ‘greening’ schools and universities. It’s about re-imagining the direction and purpose of education so that it becomes part of the solution, not part of the problem. pdf

Cultural Hypnosis

The Dubliner, May 2006

Ever get the feeling that something is wrong? Our culture conditions us to destroy what’s important - and works hard to persuade us there’s no alternative. It’s time to break the spell. This essay explores the role of the media in keeping people ignorant of fundamental truths - and why it’s time to take it personally. pdf

Creating the Next Ireland

Sunday Business Post, October 2006

“Wanted: Vision and Courage” - Paula Downey’s contribution to The Sunday Business Post’s virtual think-tank on Creating the Next Ireland. pdf

Q5 - New Leadership at Work

Learning Ireland, September 2005

In light of the increasingly obvious paradox of social, cultural and ecological decline in parallel with apparent progress, many people are beginning to have doubts about the purpose and underlying values of their work. Q5 is a response to this challenge. pdf

Climate of denial as business looks the other way

Sunday Business Post, April 2005

In a week when the annual IMI conference got underway, this article asks why the captains of industry are ignoring the message of a landmark study, the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment - and its profound implications for business-as-usual and the financial bottom-line. pdf

Future Business: Beyond Jekyll and Hyde

UnderCurrents, October 2004

Maintaining that the-business-of-business-is-business has led organisations into a series of ethical tangles. Making genuine service the logical goal of business would pave the way for a healthy, trusting, mutually rewarding relationship with society and the environment. pdf

Bank scandals demonstrate cultural dilemma

The Sunday Times, June 2004

Culture is not something we ‘have’. It’s something we ‘do’. And leaders are the walking billboards that communicate what’s okay and what’s not okay around here. pdf

You can’t count what counts

The Irish Independent, April 2004

The HR and OD professionals who have been seduced by the measurement logic of economists and accountants are trying to justify their work within a logic and language that’s part of the problem. It’s not possible to measure and quantify a qualitative, systemic, dynamic reality. pdf

Business and sustainable relationship

Convergence Magazine, 2004

Sustainability is about how as individuals and organisations we perceive our relationship with each other and the world around us. To create a sustainable way of life business must reassess its purpose and values and redirect its shaping influence to the task of creating a world that works for everyone. pdf

Global Free Trade: Threat to Business?

The Irish Times, July 2001

By successfully promoting a process that pulls down the walls between nations and prioritises the trade agenda over all others, business and the WTO has ironically made business more vulnerable. pdf

Communication in a new world order

Strategic Communication Management, March 2000

First-generation communication was about PR and spin. Second-generation communication faced inwards to engage employees. Third-generation communication is about moving even further inward, to address the consciousness of the organisation and facilitate its journey towards a sustainable future. pdf

Taking it personally - Leadership for our time

Science is agreed on three things. One, the climate crisis is worse than they thought. Two, the changes are coming faster than predicted. And three, we need to act now. The missing link is leadership. At a time when the world needs guidance and direction like never before, real courage and vision is thin on the ground. What would it take for leaders to take the challenge personally? pdf

What’s wrong with business?

Studies - An Irish Quarterly Review, Volume 93, No 373

With corporate giants tumbling like a house of cards, this essay examines the contradictions and moral dilemmas at the heart of business-as-usual and suggests that creating longterm value depends on connecting business objectives with real-world needs. That will require a transformation in the values and beliefs of those who lead. pdf

Changing the way we change

Garda Review, April 2007

A tribunal of inquiry is an inadequate process for surfacing the deeper cultural dynamics that enable questionable behaviour. Culture is a complex system that cannot be approached or understood in that way. pdf

Managing the Invisible

Education Yearbook, 2006/2007

Working with school culture as a living system means learning to work in the space in which relationship unfolds. pdf

Reimagining the People Profession

HRD Ireland, January 2006

Upwards of 35% of market value resides in hearts and minds, not on the balance sheet. This value isn’t realised until people find work meaningful enough to bring their whole selves to work. But can work be meaningful if it ignores wider ecological and social concerns? Making this connection is the 21st century agenda for HR professionals. pdf

Values - A sense of Balance

Ceifin Conference, 2005

The values of money and the market, not the values of life, dominate our lives. If we are to begin to address the enormous challenges of our time, it will be necessary to restore the balance between self-interest and the common good. That’s the only way our longterm self-interest will be truly served. pdf

Culture: Last frontier of competitive advantage

People Focus, Autumn 2004

In a world in which products and services are increasingly hard to tell apart and business itself has become a contested institution, what a company stands for in relation to all its constituents - not just employees - is becoming as important as what it does. pdf

IMI Conference - Avoiding the Agenda?

UnderCurrents, April 2004

Because of its dominant influence on our culture and our ecology, the language and ideas on the agenda of business is worth keeping tabs on. What’s most striking - and troubling - about this year’s annual conference is not what’s on the agenda... but what’s not. pdf


Christmas, 2007

A poetic reflection - and a seasonal reminder of the precious, fragile place we call ‘Home’. pdf

Family Friendly Business Pays

The Irish Times, March 2001

The work-life issue is not about balancing ‘work’ and ‘life’. It’s about restructuring the relationship between people and organisations and integrating ‘work’ and ‘life’ in a way that combines meaningful contribution with personal fulfilment. pdf

Trading in Futures

Lilly’s Road Foundation Journal, October 1999

Because business exists inside society, its success - and its future - depends on the success of the community which is its life-support system. Engaging authentically with the community is a mutually enriching process. pdf

Journey Inward

Arena Magazine, May/June 1999

Communication is the totality of our consciousness and behaviour. A pot pourri of what we say, what we do, and who we are. It is values and attitudes in action. Developing real communication competence is about facilitating the journey inward. pdf

Systems and Power - Exploring the Ecology of Change

Presentation to the Ceifin Institute’s annual conference
Published by Veritas, 2004

An exploration of the relationship between business, politics and the media, how the core ideas that shape our society are developed and promoted, and the subtle process by which living systems change. A radical critique of what is - and a hopeful perspective on what’s possible. pdf

Radical Rethink

Marketing Magazine, May 2007

The realities of climate change transform the context for marketing, challenging marketeers to take a totally different tack for the sake of all our futures. pdf

The Ecology of Relationship - Managing in a complex environment

Local Authority Times, Autumn 2005

Local government is a complex environment in which tensions between national policy and local needs overlap with conflicting agendas and contentious decisions. Less focus on policy and procedure and more emphasis on cultivating the relationships between different interest groups would be a more effective way of engaging with this complex reality. pdf

CSR Needs a Bigger Goal

The Sunday Tribune, May 2006

CSR is often accused of being a smokescreen for business-as-usual and that it has played a role that disguises corporate abuses. The problem for CSR is, it doesn’t go far enough. pdf

Measuring Education

Education Times, June 2006

To make schools accountable for their performance and provide comparative information on schools by inviting students, teachers and parents to evaluate the school’s culture using Culture Mapping would be a faster, fairer, more subtle and more useful process than the top-down bureaucratic approach of Whole School Evaluation. pdf

Communication, Values and Culture - Why bother?

Undercurrents, March 2005

Surviving a high-velocity environment, tapping the emerging source of value, and rebuilding civic trust lost by the intensification of laissez-faire capitalism: three bottom-line reasons for attending to the cultural chemistry. pdf

Free to be human

Feasta Review No. 2, November 2004

A review of the book ‘Free to be Human’ by David Edwards, which explores the relationship between business and the media and the cultural forces that create the dominant social ‘story’ that maintains the status quo. pdf

Bank Revelations: Symptom of a deeper dilemma

UnderCurrents, June 2004

This essay goes beneath the surface to explore the deeper roots of corporate malfeasance, and explores what happens when people put a wall between business and society and professionally distance themselves from the consequences of their behaviour. pdf

Thinking about Culture

Summary of an address to the
New Directions for Business Conference, 2004

Sustainability is not about being ‘green’. It’s about the shift from a perception of separateness to one of nestedness, which would change the entire value system of business, its behaviours and the consequent outcomes. pdf

Business must contribute to the common good to survive scrutiny

The Irish Times, November 2001

A call for the project to globalise business to include an equally-cherished parallel agenda to globalise justice and human rights. Capitalism must reform itself, or be reformed. pdf

Walking the Talk

Teacher’s Organiser and School Diary, 2000

Communication is a core lifeskill. But it’s more than words and messages and technologies. It’s a way of being, and we can only teach it by embodying its principles and walking the talk. pdf

The System

RTE Radio, 2003

In this hour long radio programme, part of a six part series called ‘The System’, Paula Downey explores the fundamental principles of living systems and how they play out in our world today.

Some books, publications, radio and tv programmes, and public events where we’ve stood up for what we stand for:




The Irish Times

Sunday Business Post

Sunday Tribune

Sunday Times

Irish Independent

Dubliner Magazine

Irish Marketing Journal

HRD Magazine

Education Yearbook

Studies Quarterly Review

People Focus (CIPD)

Marketing Magazine

Garda Review

Education Times

Local Authority Times

Learning Ireland

Arena Magazine




Radio and Television

Pat Kenny Show (RTE)

Marian Finucane Show (RTE)

The Big Bite (RTE)

The System (RTE)

Spirit Moves (RTE)

Media Matters (Newstalk 106)

The Wide Angle (Newstalk 106)

The Business Programme (Newstalk 106)



Conferences and Seminars

Adult Education Officers’ Association

Aer Lingus Women’s Network

An Tairseach Ecology Centre

Ceifin Conference

Convergence Festival


Emergence Festival

FEASTA Systems Summer School

ICTU / LIFT Programme

Institute of Training and Development

Kerry County Development Board

Mayo County Development Board

Network Ireland Conference

Northside Partnership

Roffey Park Institute, UK

Southside Partnership

Tipperary Institute

Wexford Partnership




Communecology - A collection of small essays for our time

David Youell and Paula Downey, 2003

After many years working in the place where communication behaviour meets values and culture, we created a brand new word - Communecology - to more accurately describe this powerful human phenomenon. This collection of essays explores the principles of Communecology and the implications for people and organisations.




The Heart of the Matter

David Youell and Paula Downey, 1999

Communication is the lifeblood of healthy organisations, large and small. In the emerging paradigm, where the emphasis is on partnership, openness and innovation, communication is centre-stage. In this small booklet of essays we outline our philosophy of organisational communication.




Exploring the Communication Dynamic

Oak Tree Press, 1998

A unique collection of practical tips and nuggets of wisdom presented in easily digestible bites. This book provides a fresh insight into a broad range of communication topics from culture and values to interpersonal relationships, body language, presentation and much much more.




The Powerdown Show

April 2009

In "It’s all connected", Part Three of this ten part television series developed to support the Transition Towns movement, Paula Downey outlines the key characteristics of living systems to help us understand the interdependent nature of the challenges facing human society.
To buy the DVD or for more information about Community Powerdown training programmes contact the Cultivate Living and Learning Centre on (01) 6745773.

for a world
in transition