What drives people to be ethical?
The skills to make personal ethical decisions — and a community that
understands and supports the decision-making process.
For 25 years the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE) has focused its research
and training on how core values inform ethical decisions. Our unique methodology
has helped train leaders from a
wide variety of organizations, including corporate, nonprofit, and academic institutions. The skills
we teach aren’t dogmatic. We’re educators, not advocates.
We don't tell people what to think — but rather provide them
with skills and a shared language with which to arrive at decisions that
hold moral legitimacy. Our process is equitable, transparent, explainable,
and repeatable. We show people how to follow simple, actionable steps
to navigate complex ethical quandaries.
But what happens when the individuals we train return to their community
and workplace? It can be demoralizing to navigate ethical decisions when
the people around you haven’t learned and practiced the same skills.
Most ethical failures on the institutional level aren’t caused by
one bad actor’s wrong decision, but rather by a series of decisions
made by confused individuals who wanted to do right but lacked the skills
and organizational support to see the bigger ethical picture. Since IGE
was founded in 1990, our world has become increasingly complex and interdependent.
As the pace of technological change increases, the potential consequences
arising from poor decision-making likewise increase exponentially.
That’s why IGE has expanded its focus in recent years to include
collective skill development for whole groups and organizations. An example
of this broadened scope is our
Cultures of Integrity project, the initial phase of which was funded by the
John Templeton Foundation.
I’m widening the scope even more with our new City-Wide Training
It’s a nationwide effort to blanket the civic infrastructure of target
communities with subsidized ethics training. IGE trainers will go into
local businesses, grade schools, community colleges, universities, nonprofits,
and municipal government offices — anywhere we’re invited
in each target city, and particularly in organizations that may not otherwise
have the resources to provide ethics training to their members.
We started our first City-Wide Training Initiatives last month in Philadelphia,
thanks to a $25,000
Hamilton Family Foundation grant.The initiatives’ kick-off event in August was so successful that
we’ve added a second date: Wednesday, September 30, from 10 a.m.
to 2 p.m., at the Pew Charitable Trusts on Market Street in Philadelphia.
It’s a free ethics training open to leaders from area businesses,
K-12 schools, universities and nonprofits. We’re also busy planning
our next City-Wide Training Initiatives in Kansas City, Detroit, and Madison, WI.
Ultimately my goal with City-Wide Training Initiatives is to make a lasting
impact on the ethical climate of local communities across the country
by providing a methodology and shared language to help elevate ethical
standards and skills sets in dozens more target cities.
Ethics thrive in any community that embraces ethical decision-making skills
in its culture.
I saw this phenomenon in action a couple of years ago at
Church Farm School, a boys’ college prep institution near Philadelphia. Our trainers
worked with Director of Curriculum Doug Magee to build a school-wide focus
on integrity using the IGE ethical framework.
The high school environment bristles with ethical choices for young people.
It’s a hotbed of social interactions among teenagers who are just
starting to test and define their values. The ethical literacy initiative
at Church Farm School sparked a conversation to define the community’s
shared values, and then it trained the students, teachers and administrators
in cognitive tools to handle the dilemmas that inevitably develop when
I recently looked back at a video we shot at the school and was struck
by a comment Magee made. He said the ethics program at Church Farm School
“helped us define who we are collectively.”
A collective sense of self — that’s at the core of any ethical
community. Transformations like this are why I’m excited to expand
IGE’s mission to include building organizational, community-embedded