The Janus Project
Where Social Change Meets Personal Development


This is a project to integrate the best of social change with the best of personal development. By doing this, people and organisations and societies are more likely to be able to

  • Solve current problems

  • Avoid future problems

  • Create a better future


One of the most significant developments in the last 25 years is the huge growth of the "problem solving industry". It is as if the world now consists of two disconnected halves. One half is constantly creating problems and the other half is constantly trying to solve them or prevent them. This is as true for organisations and countries as it is for individuals. Just think how many people are involved these days in "problem-solving" jobs. These include the obvious ones, such as doctors, nurses, police, social workers, therapists, life coaches, counsellors, and lawyers, but also the less obvious ones, such as politicians, authors of self-help books, people in NGOs and policy institutes, as well as civil servants at all levels of government. The more we think about it, the more people appear on the list. A very large number of people in the world today rely for their income and job security on a huge and predictable supply of problems for the foreseeable future. It begs the question of what they would do in a problem-free world. In any event, the fact that so many people are engaged in trying to solve problems suggests several things: that there are more problems than ever in the world; that we may be more aware than ever of the nature and extent of the problems; and that more people than ever are attracted to problem solving. These are important issues, but much more important are the two central questions lying behind them. Are we creating problems faster than we are solving them? And what do we really mean by "solving problems"?

Are we creating problems faster than we are solving them? The answer is almost certainly yes. The litany is all too familiar - war, crime, social and family breakdown, corruption, oppression, injustice, poverty and inequality, endemic mental and emotional illness, and climate change and the destruction of nature. The list itself is alarming enough. But what is really alarming is that, despite all the time, money, energy and resources we put into solving these "major league" problems, they just keep on getting worse. As the 21st Century gets under way, wars are raging on three continents, inequalities within and between nations are greater than they have been for many decades, dishonesty has become endemic, people are under ever-increasing pressures to work harder and spend harder, and the planet can no longer tolerate the damage we are doing to it. One thing should be obvious to all of us - we are not very good at solving problems. It is clear we need a fundamental rethink about what we mean by "solving problems".

Deeper Causes, Deeper Solutions

It should be a truism that the most effective way to solve any problem is to identify and address its "deeper causes". However, what tends to happen in practice is that a great deal of "problem solving" is little more than removing or repressing the symptoms. Treating the symptoms may make things seem better for a while. It may even give the impression that the problem has been cured. But if the causes are not addressed, the problem will return, often worse. Until we decide to identify and address the deeper causes of our problems, we shall forever be in crisis mode, struggling to solve problems that seem increasingly intractable. To give some examples, we deal with illness, poverty, crime and pollution as if they were the problems themselves, when in fact they are almost certainly symptoms of things going wrong at a deeper level. We may not fully understand, or even acknowledge, the deeper level, but if we want to solve these things once and for all, we will eventually have to come to terms with it. Crime, for example, is typically "solved" by recruiting more police, building more prisons and imposing tougher sentences, all because criminal behaviour is seen as the problem rather than as a symptom of something deeper. The same is true of health policy. Nearly all the money, time and resources are devoted to the medical treatment of symptoms after people have fallen ill. That is a costly and inefficient way of doing things. It would save a lot of time, money and suffering if our main focus was on promoting good health and preventing people from falling ill in the first place. And if people did slip through a better health promotion net, it still makes much more sense to identify and treat the underlying causes of illness.

What is true for crime and illness is equally true for all other problems, be they personal, organisational or societal. Prevention is better than cure, but if you have to cure, make sure you address the root causes. Having said this, the symptomatic approach is undoubtedly appropriate when the symptoms have become life threatening or otherwise intolerable. But we should remind ourselves that it is we who have allowed them to reach that point.

Some Examples of the "Deeper Causes" Approach

Some of the root causes of ill health are unhealthy living, a dysfunctional upbringing, unhealthy places, unhealthy work, and absence of meaning and purpose in life. Addressing these root causes would involve bringing in systems, institutions, policies and values that promote healthy living, a healthy upbringing, healthy places, healthy work, and deeper meaning and purpose.

Poverty and inequality
A major root cause of inequality and poverty is a socio-economic system that values money and property highly, regards people (labour) as a cost, and sees nature and the planet as exploitable. Under that system, the rich get even richer, the poor fall further behind, and nature and the planet deteriorate. Addressing the deeper causes of poverty and inequality would involve, among other things, bringing in systems, institutions and policies that value human beings and nature higher than money and property.

Our current socio-economic system unwittingly encourages crime, because it puts pressures on people to acquire as much money as possible and to spend as much as possible. It favours the rich and penalises the poor. It encourages selfishness. It causes stress and anger because of its aggressive competitive and exploitative nature. And it sends out the strong message that "success" is having a lot of money. We will not cure crime unless we first remove this particular root cause, our value-system. Our "symptomatic" policies (police, courts and prisons) may remove the symptoms for a while, but crime will persist until we address its root causes. We need to bring in systems, institutions, policies and values that do not encourage people to keep on spending or to get into debt, that do not reward the rich and penalise the poor, that do not seek to pit one person, one business, one nation against another, and that have a very different understanding of "success" and "progress".

Benefits of the Deeper Causes Approach

When compared to the "symptoms" approach, the deeper causes approach to solving problems wins on every count. For example:

It is more effective, because it gets to the underlying causes.

It is less expensive in terms of money, time, effort and other resources, because it is based on simple common sense and thoughtfulness, and may not need so much of the technology and legislation and management usually associated with the symptoms approach

It is empowering and healthy, because it encourages people to be self-reliant and knowledgeable and to take responsibility for their own lives.

It is sustainable in the long term, because the symptoms no longer keep on recurring.

It puts you at the centre of the equation, because it forces you to examine the consequences of your own behaviour and that of your organisation.

Chains of Causation, Chains of Implication

When we decide to identify the deeper causes of any problem, what we do, in effect, is to go as far as possible back along the "chain of causation", in order to discover what is really at the root of the problem. The further back we go along the chain, the more likely we are to be able to truly solve the problem once and for all. This can be a very uncomfortable process because it usually involves questioning some cherished beliefs, values and behaviours. Giving up what we have long believed to be correct and true may be the hardest part of solving any problem at a deep level. Meanwhile, it is important to note that the deeper causes approach works in the opposite direction too.

Just as it is possible, and highly desirable, to go back as far as possible along chains of causation to find the deeper causes of our current problems, it is equally possible, and desirable, to go as far forward as possible along "chains of implication", in order to anticipate and avoid future problems. To express this another way, if we want to know what our future problems are going to be, all we have to do is look at our current behaviour and then work out the implications of continuing to behave this way. Experience suggests that the better we are at going far back along chains of causation to discover the real causes of our problems, the better we become at going far forward along chains of implication to understand where our current behaviours, strategies and policies are likely to lead in the future.

However, seeing the deeper causes and the deeper implications, and being willing and able to act on what one sees, does not come easily to people. These are skills and attitudes that have to be learned. We shall return to this point in a moment.

Creating a Better Future

There are three things that we have to be good at if we want to create a better future:

Solving and avoiding problems - we have discussed this already, and we have noted that it involves learning new skills and attitudes

Visioning and articulating the future we want to create - we need to state very clearly what we mean by a "better world"

The willingness and ability to create this future - this, too, involves many skills and attitudes, some of which are probably new to many people, and therefore have to be learned

Visioning and Articulating

We already have much to draw on. There are already some very good ideas and initiatives that are making the world a better place. These are to be found in all walks of life, and they can be categorised as follows:

The new economics: at the heart of the new economics is the central idea that all our activities should enhance and enrich people and the planet, rather than diminish and exploit them, which is what tends to happen today. This implies new kinds of relationships, new kinds of businesses, and new kinds of institutions, as well as new values and new goals.

The new healthcare: at the heart of the new healthcare are the central ideas of healthy living and self-reliance, rather than overdependence on experts and technology. It is also about whole-person health, rather than focusing mainly on treating physical symptoms. In the new healthcare, medical treatment will be the exception rather than the rule, because the emphasis will be on staying healthy.

The new education: at the heart of the new education is the central idea of bringing out the best and uniqueness in each individual, rather than schooling them to believe certain things and to behave in certain ways, which is what often happens today in our schools, colleges and universities. At the heart of the new education will be the development of wisdom, consciousness, and intelligence.

The new society: at the heart of the new society is a new central purpose - to enhance people and the planet. In the new society, people will rely much more on themselves for the basics of living, rather than be overdependent on business and government. The new society will be sustainable, health-producing and happiness-producing, precisely because its central purpose will be to enhance people and planet.

The new science: at the heart of the new science is the central idea of using the whole human being in the search for knowledge and understanding, rather than just the physical and intellectual parts, which is overwhelmingly the case today. Physical and intellectual knowledge will continue to give us much that is useful. However, in the new science, knowledge of the physical will be complemented by direct knowledge of the spiritual, and that will make a big difference.

The new politics: at the heart of the new politics are the central ideas that most power stays at the local level, rather than having power concentrated in the hands of politicians and the very wealthy, and that everyone has something useful to say and contribute to the enhancement of their community and the world.

The new spirituality: at the heart of the new spirituality are the central ideas of learning how to have direct experience of the spiritual world (by developing the capacity to do so) and of applying this experience in the world.

Clearly, we are under no obligation to adopt any of the above. That said, the many good ideas and initiatives that are already happening make an excellent starting point for any discussion about creating a much better world.

New Skills and New Attitudes

We have already noted that adopting the "deeper causes, deeper implications" approach to solving and avoiding problems brings with it quite a number of personal (and organisational) challenges - such as the challenge of accepting that our current beliefs, values and behaviours are part of the problem, when they should be part of the solution. Changing beliefs, values and behaviours is not easy, and may be quite painful, yet if we want to stop creating problems and if we want to create a much better world, we have to start with ourselves. Here are just a few of the skills and attitudes that we need to develop if we want to be able to solve problems once and for all, anticipate and avoid future problems, and vision and create a better world:

  • The ability to see what is happening at a deeper level and to look further back along chains of causation, so that we know what is really causing our problems - and the willingness and ability to act decisively on what we see

  • The ability to look further forward along chains of implication, so that we know what is likely to happen in the future if we do not change certain of our behaviours and attitudes - and the willingness and ability to act promptly and decisively on what we see

  • The willingness and ability to change some of our beliefs, behaviours, values, strategies and policies, no matter how attached we are to themThe ability to vision very clearly and in detail exactly the world you would like to create

  • Developing all aspects of yourself, not only because this is an inherently good thing to do, but also because the more you develop internally, the better the world will be that you are helping to vision and create externally

The Work of the Institute

It should now be clear what the work of the Institute is. It is as follows:

  1. To develop and promote the "deeper causes" approach to solving current problems, and to work with people and organisations on this

  2. To develop and promote the "deeper implications" approach to avoiding future problems, and to work with people and organisations on this

  3. To identify the skills and attitudes needed to be competent at the deeper causes and deeper implications approaches, and to run course and other training in these

  4. To identify the best ideas and initiatives that are creating a better world, and to work with people and organisations on developing and promoting these

  5. To develop and promote "whole person" training, because the world we create on the outside is very much a reflection of how we are developing on the inside. The more well-rounded and healthy we are on the inside, the more well-rounded and healthy will be the world we create

Note: All the above will involve research, publications, seminars and conferences on the several important themes that lie at the heart of this project

Who will Benefit?

Individuals, organisations, governments and others looking for better, more effective solutions to their problems

Individuals, organisations, governments and others who want to avoid future problems

Individuals, organisations, governments and others who want to create a much better world


We need a small core group of individuals who understand the need for a deeper approach to problems and the future, and who also understand the central role of personal development in all this.

We need the basic infrastructure (office, computers, telecommunications etc.)

We are looking for at least one sponsor/client to help us get established

If you would like to know more or want to get involved, please contact Chris Thomson at