How the PGI Models Organizational Justice

Observations from Post Growth Fellow and Organizational Justice Practitioner, Farzin Farzad.

Farzin Farzad
Post Growth Perspectives


Image created on Midjourney (CC-BY 4.0)

Recently, Natalie Holmes wrote about her experience with the Post Growth Institute, and even as a Fellow, who’s spent only a few months engaging with the organization so far, I feel her words reverberate in my own experience with the Post Growth Fellowship. I’ve spent some of the Fellowship meetings taking mental notes, trying to figure out why certain aspects of it work so well and how we leave each session feeling more connected, energized, and optimistic for a collaborative future in the middle of the most dire era of human and planetary history. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how it works so well.

And while it is my job as an Organizational Justice Practitioner to explore better and more inclusive models of human organizational arrangements, as I write this I think maybe that’s why it’s so difficult. Maybe spaces like the ones created by the Post Growth Institute (PGI), and especially the Fellowship, are better absorbed experientially and somatically. The need to categorize and frame every single aspect of our social lives has left us with so many models and frameworks for conceptualizing human behavior that it can’t be described in any other way than noise. I’m sure spaces like these can be studied and explored, and will be one day, but I think therein lies the problem. That is our capitalist internalization guiding us. And herein lies the dilemma with this, my tasked contribution as a Fellow.

No amount of social science study can truly capture the brilliance and humanity of this space.

The following is my attempt to grasp what aspects of the Fellowship work so well and do my very best to relate it to existing models, including my own Organizational Justice Bill of Rights. But instead of using fancy elitist terminology or throwing statistics at determining how such an organizational culture forms and operates, or even taking my word, I encourage you to experience it yourself. No amount of social science study can truly capture the brilliance and humanity of this space. This post is merely meant as a way of describing a glimmer of why spaces like the Fellowship work so well, with the hope that folks around the world are inspired to also develop similar spaces that sink into our humanity. Please understand that nothing I write here is comparable and can even capture the full extent of the overwhelmingly powerful somatic energy of being in true community with such an incredible group of people.

Here are my observations about the Post Growth Fellowship thus far:

Embracing the humanity of it all

The phrase ‘human’ is thrown around a lot these days in organizational development and wellbeing circles, as if extractive capitalism and the resulting expressions of power aren’t part of the human experience. So I use the term reluctantly, but hope that the connotation is understood. And even with this explanation, ‘embracing humanity,’ doesn’t even adequately capture what I am experiencing in this space. It’s really more like falling or sinking into our humanity, the best parts of it.

As a practitioner, I know how daunting it can get to keep up with the research on promoting positive social behaviors. My trainings can often be reduced to slide after slide of what feels like me giving people permission to embrace our innate social selves that capitalism has ripped from us. But what post-growth spaces do is default to our natural ways of being through meaningful connection, formatively. This means that for someone like me, cultural interventions and appeals for behavioral modifications become much easier, can go deeper and become more nuanced, and require much less organizational resources and energy (I guess that’s not great for my practice and revenue, but ultimately great for humanity). In typical cultural interventions from outside consultants like me, you usually have mass produced frameworks that are an empty shell of the real human relations they seek to replicate. And, because they are vacuous, there is so much room for new frameworks and models; new ideas that can be produced and mass marketed that purport to solve the challenges that previous frameworks missed or even created.

What PGI does is break through the layer of capitalist socializations and internalized capitalism to create a space for our innate humanity, the core of who we are. In a lot of organizations, the entire organizational structure is built around production, and all social relations are determined by output. I have never felt that in a PGI space. Thanks to the PGI’s asset-based, open and honest, and trauma informed approaches, I have always felt my inherent value in the space, not determined by what the PGI can get out of me, but by my very existence. That’s very rare and powerful.

The balance between individual dignity and labor output is a sweet spot for organizational wellbeing.

Since psychological safety is systemically constructed into the operating system, the DNA of both the PGI and the Fellowship, the energy required to maintain and sustain both the safety and honesty of the container becomes nearly effortless. Of course, spaces take real work, understanding, grace, and effective mechanisms for resolving tensions, but that work is much less exhausting in liberated spaces, than spaces where you have to continuously work to improve a foundationally oppressive workplace. Also, sometimes you just want to do good work and not have to suffer through another team-building exercise with very little impact. That balance between individual dignity and labor output is what I have noticed to be a sweet spot for organizational wellbeing.

The space is paramount

When I first joined the Fellowship, I was quite intimidated by the incredible individuals who were making impactful contributions to their areas, but those fears and concerns evaporated quickly, and that itself was liberating. The Fellowship is intentionally designed as a space, and not a socially oppressive container for limited viewpoints and egos, or what can often feel like a psychological prison. What I mean is that the PGI is bound by certain conditions which regulate harmful behaviors without becoming so overly cumbersome that it limits our innermost selves and our identities. The PGI’s asset-based approach focuses primarily on the space, the container, even before there is an issue to tackle. In the Fellowship, this allows the focus to shift from defined agendas to being about the Fellows themselves, our interests and expertise. That is quite revolutionary.

Additionally, the PGI provides room for collective healing. Healing spaces, in my experience, are part of the value systems of many cultures around the world that don’t often get incorporated into the value systems of most Western-based organizations because capitalist culture has no use for it. Why would colonial cultures value meaningful healing spaces, except for a very watered down version of them? To give the people what they want temporarily so that they go back to being productive. Employee relations often serves this purpose well.

The asset-based approach allows the focus to shift from defined agendas to the Fellows themselves—our interests and expertise. This is quite revolutionary.

I have a lot of thoughts on how organizations and their human resources departments often replicate colonial structures and the militarist culture of mission-driven development, which is an extractive and exploitative relationship with employee labor. To do this, they ultimately propagandize folks into believing that human worth is derived from work product and productivity. I’ll save that for another time, though.

Sharing power

Discussions around power are a funny thing. Traditionally the field of organizational development, and even DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) have shied away from it. In recent years, with greater emphasis on equity and justice, the topic is unavoidable. In a lot of organizations that I work with, I find myself asking, “Is inclusion inclusive?” That is, are we truly capturing and synthesizing the knowledge borne from the diversity we sought in the first place? Sure, organizations are embracing more consultative forms of authoritarian decision-making these days. Leaders are being taught the value of collaboration and collective knowledge, but so long as there is a single individual to determine and triage what is important, bias is unavoidable. I even see this neoliberal approach to pseudo-collaboration being replicated in DEI teams themselves, in which one singular figurehead is assigned to increase diversity, solve the company’s problems, but also have to know everything about every identity group represented at the organization. This, to me, is absurd.

There is no need for empowerment when there is true shared power.

What I find liberating in PGI spaces aligns with the fourth principle in my Organizational Justice Bill of Rights, the right to participatory decision-making. As Natalie outlined in her article, one of the things she values is the use of consent-based decision making, a process that is embraced by a governance system called Sociocracy. While I have never had the pleasure of experiencing this process unfold in real time being that I am a Fellow, I can say that the approach is definitely reflected in the Fellowship. In the space created during our meetings, facilitators have reduced touchpoints to guide or direct topics of discussion. As soon as the aim of the discussion is defined, the Fellows begin to fill the space with their own brilliance, which makes it truly about the Fellows, our needs and interests. There is no need for empowerment when there is true shared power.

The balance between intention and emergence

By now, many are familiar with the concept of emergent strategy, developed by adrienne maree brown, which posits that courses of action emerge over time organically as we do the work. In contrast to organizations that are so myopically outcome-oriented that all behaviors and relations are tightly controlled by their importance to productivity, organizations that deploy emergent strategies tend to be much more aware of natural processes developed over time, which in turn influence products and outcomes.

There isn’t a choice between deliberate and emergent strategy, but a flow that yields better results.

What is often overlooked is that there isn’t a choice between deliberate strategy (or meticulous planning) and emergent strategy, but a flow that yields better results. That balance is something I witness regularly with the PGI. The natural flow from creating a space for critical thoughts and conversations leading into how tasks and strategies are planned and executed means that participants are actually organically incorporating the wisdom of diverse experiences, rather than forcing it through unnecessary parameters, which can render strategies weak, incomplete, exclusive and ultimately ineffective.

In many spaces, you either have a mechanistic dedication to the work at hand, making it difficult to hold meaningful dialogue about human concerns, or you have a cacophony of trauma responses to various issues, enough to interrupt and debilitate a movement. The PGI’s use of asset-based approaches alongside trauma informed dialogue encourages us to recognize that our inherent worth supersedes our traumas, but provides ample space to discuss and work through specific issues that promote healing. To an outsider who is socialized into rigid planning and a very colonial relationship with time, this may seem disorganized, but it’s no more disorganized than the flow of the natural environment, from where adrienne maree brown draws inspiration.

The preceding are just a few thoughts on how the Post Growth Institute embodies, aligns with, and models what I and many of my colleagues believe are principles of organizational justice. Again, these are observations that I have captured from my specific lens, but I encourage everyone to start thinking about how you can gradually incorporate some of these methods into your spaces. If nothing else, we can all agree that given the complexity of our reality and the threat of climate change, we could all benefit from the reduction of stressors in our workplaces and other social spaces.

Find out more about Farzin on LinkedIn and the Critical Equity website.

Inspired? Here are some things you can do:

  1. Consult with Farzin about Organizational Justice in your organization.
  2. Find out more about the power of asset-based approaches.
  3. Read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown.



Farzin Farzad
Post Growth Perspectives

Farzin is the founder of Critical Equity Consulting, LLC, an Organizational Justice consulting firm that helps organizations rebuild with equity in mind.