Speaker: Jim Ritchie-Dunham

From Scarcity to Abundance: Rethinking Money and Other Human Agreements

James L. Ritchie-Dunham is a student of human agreements, exploring how we make them, why we don’t see most of them, and how to change them. His work blends esoteric wisdom traditions, rigorous science, organizational and management frameworks, and sacred practice across a diverse set of cultures.

James is a social-impact cohost at Vibrancy; president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a nonprofit research and education organization based in western Massachusetts; adjunct researcher at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health; and a pactoecographer, mapping the social topography of the planet. In his books Managing from Clarity: Identifying, Aligning and Leveraging Strategic Resources and Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance, James describes the strategic systems and agreements, mapping frameworks, and methodologies that have been applied in hundreds of initiatives, from global networks to small organizations in dozens of countries, to bring greater strategic clarity in the agreements people choose to increase the impact, resilience, and vibrancy in the experience of their collaborative efforts. 

“The problem with most agreements is that you don’t see them,” James says.  “They just are.  Most often you aren’t aware that what is happening around you is based on an agreement that you could potentially change.  It seems that life is ‘just that way.’  This is why you have many of the unpleasant, energy-depleting experiences you have, often resulting in poor outcomes.  You are accepting a set of agreements that you do not want, and it seems that you have no choice in the matter.  … Whether it is in your job, a team, your friends, your family, a group at church, the monetary system, or national politics, you are engaging in a set of agreements, whether you realize it or not.  Sometimes they work, resulting in great experiences and outcomes, and sometimes they do not.”

To help organizations bring clarity and awareness to their underlying agreements, James has helped introduce the notion of “ecosynomics”, which he describes as “a robust framework through which you can see the agreements that impact your experience and how to change them to get the experience and outcomes you desire.  Part of the reason for your experience of energy-depleting relationships that deliver poor outcomes is that the underlying agreements are based in scarcity.  Ecosynomics takes what we have learned in scarcity-based agreements and puts it within the much broader, much healthier context of abundance-based agreements.  In addition, the Ecosynomic framework highlights the abundance-based practices and agreements that ordinary people around the globe are discovering in large numbers that achieve olympic level experiences and outcomes on a sustainable basis.”

James is a life-long student of the agreements that guide human interaction, which he explores through consulting, research, and teaching. Working closely with spiritual teacher and wisdom keeper Orland Bishop, founder and director of ShadeTree Multicultural Foundation in Los Angeles, James believes a completely different set of agreements can exist among all peoples – agreements in which people can strive toward their own deeper potential.  He is bringing this understanding to help re-think the societal agreement around the concept of money, which he describes as deriving from the Old English word for “warning or reminder”:  “Money is a verb, not a noun.  It is about the flow of spirit.  It is the recognition, a way of acknowledging and recognizing and working with what’s flowing through humanity …. We have this word ‘warning or reminder’ to remember it’s not about the object, it’s about the flow.  It’s a verb.  Remember that.  And we kind of forgot that.  And so I think a lot of what we’re exploring is how do you come back into relationship with it as a flow, and what are some of the agreements that we make and underlying assumptions that enable that.”

Over the past decade, James has bridged the world of spiritual practice and the world of academia. He has supported leaders in organizations across business, government, civil society, and global networks in bringing greater strategic clarity to their large-scale societal impacts.  In academia, he has explored and documented the foundations of strategy, large-scale social change, and ecosynomics, as well as taught graduate classes on strategic design and modeling.  James is an adjunct professor of strategy at the EGADE Business School in Mexico and a member of Langer’s Mindfulness Lab at Harvard since 2004. As president of the company VibraMex, James is the host for Langer’s work in Mexico through the Langer Mindfulness Institute in San Miguel de Allende.

James has a Ph.D. in Decision and Systems Sciences from the University of Texas (Austin), an MBA from ESADE Business School (Barcelona), an MIM from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Tulsa. Previously he was a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, a professor of operations research and decision sciences at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), an advisor to the Secretary of Health (Mexico), and a petroleum engineer at Conoco.  Additionally, James has served on the boards of THOR-LO, Mabry Oil and Gas Systems, and others. James is the recipient of numerous awards and grants and is a widely published author of academic research books, chapters, and papers.

When not hanging out with his wife Leslie, he is playing with his kids Jackie and Conor. He has been active in their school community and has served for many years on the board at Pine Hill Waldorf School. He has also served on the board of the Wimberley Art Institute in Wimberley, Texas, and has been active with other numerous local charitable groups.

Join us in conversation with this systems thinker and wisdom seeker!

Siddharth Sthalekar

Siddharth Sthalekar

Feb 22, 2014

From Capital Markets to Compassion Capital

Nilima Bhat

Nilima Bhat

Feb 11, 2017

Men, Women and Shakti Leadership: Exercising Power Regeneratively

Terry Patten

Terry Patten

Jul 28, 2018

A New Republic of Heart