Harvard Flourishing at Work Summit 2024

How does a person “flourish” in life and work? To flourish means to have a well-balanced life, where work is important, but not central. Easy to say, but for many people, it’s harder to do. Steve French, Lx Partners, along with Michael Tremain, Sovereign’s Capital, co-hosted an invitation-only “Flourishing at Work Summit” from April 25th–26th in conjunction with The Human Flourishing Program (HFH) at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. 

ELO is a “Partner” with the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard (“HFH”) thanks to the synergy of ELO’s focus on helping people flourish through living their calling in both life and work. Dr. Richard (Rick) J. Goossen was one of the Summit's invited presenters to speak on various tools to assist attendees in flourishing. He introduced the ELO Oxford Leadership Program and talked about the four aspects of its unique value proposition: place, programs, professors and practitioners, and peers.

As noted in our blog post from April 23rd, “ELO and Lx Partners are each expanding their global imprint by collaboratively marketing the ELO Oxford Leadership Program in Oxford, UK, since 2018, and the Flourishing at Work Summit at Harvard, initiated in 2024.”

One of HFH’s collaborators in Oxford is Katy Granville-Chapman. She is also speaking at the ELO Oxford Leadership Program on “Virtues, Flourishing & Leadership: A Framework for Difference-Making.” Steve French spoke at the ELO Forum Toronto 2023 on, “Never Waste a Crisis: Lessons from Challenging Times.”

There were many great and insightful speakers at the Summit. Steve French did an opening devotional each day. He highlighted that Jesus spent 30 years in preparation for his ministry. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature with both God and men” (Luke 2:40-52). People in his community knew him. “Isn’t that the carpenter?” In Mark 6, Jesus “practiced obedience”—he received no recognition. Steve invited us to reflect if it is acceptable to do something for “an audience of one.”

In his second devotion, Steve continued to look at leadership lessons from the life of Jesus. He noted that the wilderness is the final preparation before a big impact. Jesus did a lot of preparation regarding relationships—that’s how he retained them, not through doing miracles. It's halfway through his three and a half years of ministry that Jesus selects disciples. Steve highlighted that the word “blessed” is better translated as “flourishing.” The Sermon on the Mount is an inspirational vision for the wise way of being in the world.

Brendan Case, Associate Director for Research, HFH, highlighted the chronic unhappiness of people. The concept of the “deaths of despair” is increasing, a slow and unfolding loss of a way of life (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Isolation and loneliness are increasing. Religious participation and marriage are both declining. There is a huge rise in mental illness, especially among the young. There is a concept called the “cost of thriving": How many weeks do you have to work to achieve a middle-class lifestyle? This number has been going up and is more challenging to achieve. Ongoing health challenges have also been increasing.

Brendan spoke about how company culture can be grounded in human flourishing. With respect to meaning at work, there is a difference between “employee distraction” (which undermines effectiveness but is hard to detect) and “employee dissatisfaction” (which is more severe discontentment and more evident). Worker loneliness is costly for companies. Young unmarried men are becoming the most dangerous and problematic workers. Unpredictable work schedules have an impact on developing employee relationships. Most people don’t have vocations or careers—most have jobs, and they don’t derive meaning from their work.

Jeffrey A. Hanson, Senior Philosopher, HFH, spoke on why people need meaningfulness. Life is meaningless if it is not tied to engagement. There are pitfalls concerning calling and work. Employees may be disappointed with their employers and may be taken advantage of in their place of work. There is a danger of elitism and thinking that basic jobs do not have meaning. Jeffrey quoted an Atlantic Magazine article that said, “The religionism of work is making people miserable. A job alone, however, cannot deliver everything required for a meaningful life."

Matthew T. Lee, Director of the Flourishing Network, HFH, focused on “relationships.” He had an opening question: “Take a minute to reflect on a person who has helped you, what and how did it make you feel?” He talked about creating an “ecosystem of sacred hospitality.” He also spoke about the phenomenon of “shining eyes.” By contrast, unfortunately, you see a lot of “dead people” as reflected in a worker's eyes.

In short, as the first Flourishing at Work Summit, it made a great start at bringing together leaders to consider how to keep developing the concept of flourishing in the marketplace.

CONTACT US to be part of:

  • The upcoming ELO Oxford Leadership Program from July 7th – 13th, or
  • To be part of next year’s (invitation only) Harvard Summit (April 2025) 
Categories: Oxford, Speakers