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The Love Ethic

RZP Blog

Read about Ryozan Park life from residents, tenants, members, and friends of RZP! Shared living, coworking, private offices, and daycare in Tokyo.

The Love Ethic

Rachel Ferguson

Rachel Ferguson


Since it opened in 2012, Ryozan Park has attracted a stream of attention from media, corporations, and government bodies eager to understand what makes us different: why has our community developed so well? Why do our members choose to stay connected even after our office or accommodation services are no longer required? I usually explain how we are a compact business run by a close-knit family that lives within the community. I tell how my mother-in-law cooked for the first residents at the sharehouse back in 2012 until they started to prepare food and eat together and that the community has been fortified by marriages and babies (17 at last count) resulting from matches in the sharehouse. But there is something else, something hard to put your finger on. I wonder if it’s something about the way we do business.

...imagine our homes, families, neighbourhoods, communities, governments, nations and corporations where love is currency.

I am not a royal watcher but I did have occasion to tune in to Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle earlier this year and saw Bishop Michael Curry stun the world with an impassioned speech about the transformative power of love. His unflinching message rode a wave of history from the scriptures, through slavery, civil rights to Twitter. One particular part struck a familiar chord with me. The reverend invited us to “imagine a world where love is the way,” to imagine our homes, families, neighbourhoods, communities, governments, nations and corporations where love is currency. Such an audacious notion drew audible gasps from the crowd in the room where I was viewing the proceedings but it was not the first time I’d heard it.

I first encountered the phrase “love ethic” in the work of social commentator and writer, bell hooks, a copy of whose treatise on love found its way into my hands when I was pregnant with our first child; a time when I found myself often considering definitions and manifestation of what we call love. Hooks designates love as a practice and one that should be the foundation of our communities, politics, economy and social justice systems. Outside of childhood church attendance, I had never encountered the idea of love in our institutions, much less in commerce. I showed the extracts on these ideas to Nori, and he voiced what I’d been thinking: “It sounds like what we’re doing, doesn’t it?”

The literature on love-based economies is sparse. Google searches throw up a variety of results, much of which is religious or new-age manifestos (I should stress here that the love ethic I am talking about is entirely secular, and not hippy-dippy-free-love or charity either.) What’s more, there seems to exist a number of overlapping terms such as ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘conscious capitalism’ that all share the same goal of building businesses to improve the quality of life of customers. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a familiar phrase these days that describes various types of self-regulation by companies, usually in areas concerning ethical production, environmental sustainability, and philanthropy. But Bishop Curry wasn’t just talking just about offsetting damage incurred in production, he was painting a picture of a world where love is the starting point of business, the middle and the end.

as humans we all experience love or a lack thereof in our daily interactions

These days, the word love, especially in regards to serious matters like business and institutions, is likely to elicit snorts of derision, but the truth is that as humans we all experience love or a lack thereof in our daily interactions and it affects our consumer habits, work practices and participation in community and family life. Isn’t it, then, rather odd that such a universally dynamic societal force is largely unacknowledged in business?

Research on the term led me to some academic papers on the subject of love as a fundamental element in government services, for example, nursing in Sweden and social work in Australia. I also found some companies whose mission statements are unabashedly framed by love, such as Canadian sustainable housing specialists, Future Proof who set out their vision of a profitable love-based economy with specific attention to sustainability, accountability and conservation, and Greg Hemmings, a “positive social impact filmmaker”, whose raison d'être is the promotion of the need for a love economy to replace our existing “greed economy”. In their business models, people, health, happiness and the environment come first.

I think that our sincere intention to offer a place where people can live and work harmoniously is understood by those in the community

So is Ryozan Park a love economy? Maybe. Perhaps accidentally. The company was certainly not created on the foundation of any lofty ideology; the goal was to make a community, the first project of its kind for our generations-old family real estate company. Community building, HR management, member crisis management  - we were not set up for any of these, so each challenge has been met as it has presented itself. But a love-ethic seems to have been the instinctive MO of upper management (i.e. my parents-in-law). My education has been in watching how they treat each tenant, resident, and employee with care and respect, acknowledging the contribution of each in the fortification and growth of the community and how that, in turn, adds value to the business. It is a matter of course for us that we can not be happy when our customers or those in our employ are unhappy/ unwell/ struggling financially or emotionally and that we should try to help. That is not to say that we always can. Or that we always get it right. But I think that our sincere intention to offer a place where people can live and work harmoniously is understood by those in the community and that it has a ripple effect in the interactions between community members, and hopefully in members’ communications outside the community, too. There is no manifesto, no moral code or rule book and we can’t guarantee a perfect experience for everyone. But we can bring our humanity to the table. And I think that’s a good place to start.

Related articles:

A Woman’s Place

Opting out: exploring reasons behind the corporate gender gap in Japan through the experiences of bicultural women.

ラブ・エシック –愛の倫理–

2012年のオープン以来、Ryozan Parkは様々なメディアや企業、自治体などから多くの注目を頂いてきました。皆さんは、なぜ私たちのコミュニティが今のように発展を遂げたのかを知りたがっていました。そして、このコミュニティのメンバー達は、オフィスや住居サービスを必要としなくなった後でも、なぜこのつながりを持ち続けようとするのか、ということも。通常、私は、それはこの小さなビジネスがコミュニティ内部にいる近親者達の手と、家族によって運営されているからだと説明しています。2012年の創業初期に、義母がシェアハウスのメンバー達のために料理を振舞って、ついにはそれがきっかけでそれぞれが料理をするようになり、共に食卓を囲むようになったことなども。シェアハウスでの出会いにより、何組も結婚し、赤ちゃんが誕生したこと(少なくとも17例はあります)など。そうしたことをお話しするようにしているのですが、まだそこにはハッキリとは言いきれない、何かがあるのです。それはおそらく、私たちのビジネスの手法に関わることかもしれません。







 そうこうしているうちに、私のリサーチは、愛を基盤とする公共サービスをテーマとした様々な学術論文に辿り着きました。例えばスウェーデンの介護事情や、オーストラリアでのソーシャルワークなどです。そして、そのミッションの中に「愛」を前面に掲げる企業達にも出会いました。カナダの持続可能性を追求する住宅専門会社Future Proofは、「利益を生み出す愛を基盤とする経済」という彼らのビジョンを掲げています。それは持続可能性、責任の所在をはっきりさせること、環境保護に注力するという考えです。それからポジティブな影響を社会に与える映画作家のグレッグ・ハミングス。彼の自己存在をかけた目的は、現行の「貪欲な経済」を「愛の経済」に変換させる必要性を人々に訴えかけることだそうです。こうした人々のビジネスモデルでは、人間、健康、幸福、環境が最も大切にされているのです。


では、私達のRyozan Parkは「ラブ・エコノミー(愛の経済)」なのでしょうか?多分、そうかもしれません。おそらく、それは偶然に。もちろんこの私達のプロジェクトは、いわゆる高尚な思想を基にして生まれたものではありません。私たちの目標はコミュニティ作りです。それは昔ながらの家族経営の不動産賃貸会社が行った、新しい世代における初の試みでした。コミュニティの構築、人事のマネジメント、メンバーの危機管理などに対しての準備は当初は全くありませんでした。出来事が起きてから、その時の必要性に従って対処してきたのです。しかし、今になってみるとラブ・エシック(愛の倫理)は、役員たち(例えば私の義理の両親たちです)の本能的な経営方法であったように思えるのです。彼らが、それぞれのテナントや住人達、雇用者に対し愛と尊敬をもって交流するのを見ることで、私は学んでいきました。また彼らは、それぞれの存在が貢献しあうことでコミュニティを強化し成長させ、やがてビジネスに価値を与えるだろうことを信じていたのです。私達の顧客や雇用者が不幸であったり、健康状態が悪かったり、経済的または感情的に苦しんでいる時があれば、それは私達にとって他人事ではありません。当たり前ですが、できる限り助けようとします。もちろん、いつもそれが可能とは限りません。上手くできるとも限りません。でも、私達は、私達が心から抱く「人々が調和しながら生活し、働く場所を提供したい」という思いが、いずれコミュニティ内部の人々に伝わっていき、内部のメンバー同士のやり取りや、彼らのコミュニティの外でのやり取りにまでも波及効果を与えていくことを願っています。マニフェストもなく、道徳やルールに縛られる訳でもありません。「誰にとっても正しい」とは言いきれませんが、少なくとも私たちは「人間らしさ」と「真心」を相手に差し出すことができます。そして、私はそれこそがまさに、私達に出来る最初の一歩だと思うのです。


A Woman’s Place

Opting out: exploring reasons behind the corporate gender gap in Japan through the experiences of bicultural women.