Seeing Things Whole began in 1993 to accompany individuals and businesses eager to integrate moral reasoning and spiritual imagination into their work life. After years of successful round tables, conferences, and collaboration across industries, Seeing Things Whole integrated its work with longtime partner Augsburg University in 2016. Under the guidance of Professor Tom Morgan, PhD., the work of Seeing Things Whole continued and strengthened Augsburg’s mission to nurture tomorrow’s whole leaders through its use in the Master’s of Arts and Leadership and Master’s of Business Administration Programs.
To further work at Augsburg, the Reell Office of Seeing Things Whole was established in 2022 thanks to a generous donation. Dedicated staff were hired to further Seeing Things Whole’s impact outside of Augsburg University and will continue to expand the community of practice to see things whole.
Seeing Things Whole comes from author E.B. White, who wrote that the role of the artist is to “see things whole.” These three words evoke our work to support leaders and organizations to:
- See better what is and what could be.
- See from the ground up the practical things facing organizations.
- See things in the context of a larger whole or a larger possible context of meaning that organizations are a part.
Building on Tradition
Seeing Things Whole draws upon a rich tradition and history that dates back to the 1950s. Three voices in particular—those of Robert Greenleaf, Jitsu Morikawa, and Richard (Dick) Broholm—continue to inspire our understanding of the nature and purpose of organizations.
It was in the 1950s when Dick Broholm (STW co- founder), George Bauer (IBM) and others at the Delmar Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri, began a conversation about a lack of faith in the workplace. They felt real battles of faith and conscience were unfolding in the midst of the organizations where people went to work every day—in factories, shops, laboratories, schools, hospitals, banks, offices, and government agencies.
In the 1960’s Dick, George, Jitsuo Morikawa (National Council of Churches) and others engaged in an action research effort known as MAP (Metropolitan Associates of Philadelphia). They explored how institutions from various sectors of metropolitan Philadelphia might contribute to the renewal of the city during this time of social unrest.
In the 1970’s, Dick Broholm, George Bauer, David Specht and others led a research task force at Andover Newton Theological School to explore how church congregations might better empower lay people for their full ministries as change agents within the communities and organizations where they lived and worked.
In the 1980’s, the Center for the Ministry of the Laity and The Robert K. Greenleaf Center were founded. Dick and David, now in collaboration with Bob Greenleaf (AT&T and Servant Leadership), George Bauer, Jitsuo Morikawa, Bob Lynn (The Lilly Foundation) and others began to focus on developing a theological understanding of institutions capable of informing the way we think about and engage organizations and those who lead them. Two research task forces anchored this effort. One was focused specifically on developing a theology of institutions. A second explored how we might best support organizational leaders as they sought to draw upon their deeply held religious beliefs and moral convictions as they grapple with the complex dilemmas facing their organizations.
Seeing Things Whole is a direct descendent of these efforts, emerging in the 1990s, and continuing to evolve at Augsburg University today.