the Currencies

These relational currencies, when acknowledged, respected, and activated, hold the potential to build and support satisfying, successful and highly generative systems.

Digital scales of justice illuminated amidst a network of interconnected nodes and data points, representing the potential to Generate Impact in the realm of law and technology.

Currency as generally understood (see OED definition, expanded) refers to a medium of exchange. In our work we attend to a more comprehensive set of currencies and capital, beyond just money/wealth, that is moving through each system, hour by hour, moment by moment, day by day.

We find it valuable to focus on all currencies, and most systems struggle to navigate the deeper layers, the more intangible currencies and capital that are equally as important but often go unacknowledged or are relegated to a lower status than money. This can be very problematic as systems are comprised of people and people are relational.

We find that once our clients make the shift into working within a comprehensive currency model, we begin to make change rather quickly.


The fact or quality of being generally accepted or in use. Something that is used as a medium of exchange.

Currency is the primary medium of exchange in the modern world, having long ago replaced bartering as a means of trading goods and services.

something that is in circulation as a medium of exchange.

the state of being commonly known or accepted, or of being used in many places:

  • His ideas enjoyed wide currency during the last century
  • Many informal expressions are gaining currency in serious newspapers

Core Relational Currencies

The Currency of Trust

Oxford English Dictionary Definition:

  • firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
  • “relations have to be built on trust.”
  • believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.
  • an arrangement whereby a person (a trustee) holds property as its nominal owner for the good of one or more beneficiaries.
  • “a trust was set up.”

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

Reliance on or confidence in the dependability of someone or something. 

In interpersonal relationships, trust refers to the confidence that a person or group of people has in the reliability of another person or group; specifically, it is the degree to which each party feels that they can depend on the other party to do what they say they will do.

The key factor is not the intrinsic honesty of the other people but their predictability.

Trust is considered by most psychologists to be a primary component in mature relationships with others, whether intimate, social, or therapeutic.

The Currency of Power

Power is both a currency and a theme.

Oxford English Dictionary:

  • energy that can be collected and used to operate a machine, to make electricity, etc.
  • the quality of having great power or force, or of being very effective
  • physical strength used in action; physical strength that somebody possesses and might use
  • the ability or opportunity to do something
  • a particular ability of the body or mind
  • the right or authority of a person or group to do something
  • the ability to control people or things

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

The capacity to influence others, even when they try to resist this influence. 

Social power derives from a number of sources: control over rewards (reward power) and punishments or other force (coercive power); a right to require and demand obedience (legitimate power); others’ identification with, attraction to, or respect for the powerholder (referent power); others’ belief that the powerholder possesses superior skills and abilities (expert power); and the powerholder’s access to and use of informational resources (informational power).

The Currency of Values

Ethics Unwrapped - McCombs School of Business – The University of Texas at Austin:

  • Values are individual beliefs that motivate people to act one way or another. They serve as a guide for human behavior.
  • Generally, people are predisposed to adopt the values that they are raised with. People also tend to believe that those values are “right” because they are the values of their particular culture.
  • Ethical decision-making often involves weighing values against each other and choosing which values to elevate. Conflicts can result when people have different values, leading to a clash of preferences and priorities.
  • So, whether values are sacred, have intrinsic worth, or are a means to an end, values vary among individuals and across cultures and time. However, values are universally recognized as a driving force in ethical decision-making.

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

  • Is there a mutually agreed upon set of guiding values for the system to operate within?
  • Is the system being challenged by a lack of alignment around or a set of conflicting values?
  • Will your system benefit by establishing or re-establishing the shared set of guiding values that guide the group’s work?

The Currency of Communication

Oxford English Dictionary:

  • The imparting or exchanging of information or news.
  • A means of sending or receiving information, such as phone lines or computers.
  • The successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.
  • lines of communication—the connections between an army in the field and its bases.

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

  • the transmission of information, which may be by verbal (oral or written) or nonverbal means (see nonverbal communication). Humans communicate to relate and exchange ideas, knowledge, feelings, and experiences and for many other interpersonal and social purposes.
  • Non-verbal: the act of conveying information without the use of words. Nonverbal communication occurs through facial expressions, gestures, body language, tone of voice, and other physical indications of mood, attitude, approbation, and so forth, some of which may require knowledge of the culture or subculture to understand.
  • Non-verbal behavior: actions that can indicate an individual’s attitudes or feelings without speech. Nonverbal behavior can be apparent in facial expressions, gaze direction, interpersonal distance, posture and postural changes, and gestures. It serves several functions, including providing information to other people (if they can detect and understand the signals), regulating interactions among people, and revealing the degree of intimacy between those present. Nonverbal behavior is often used synonymously with nonverbal communication, despite the fact that nonverbal actions are not always intended for, or understood by, other people.

The Currency of Collaboration

Oxford English Dictionary:

  • to work together with somebody in order to produce or achieve something
  • a desire/willingness to be helpful and do as you are asked

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

  • the act or process of two or more people working together to obtain an outcome desired by all, as in collaborative care and collaborative learning.
  • an interpersonal relationship in which the parties show cooperation and sensitivity to the others’ needs.

Cooperation: A process whereby two or more individuals work together toward the attainment of a mutual goal or complementary goals. This contrasts with competition, in which an individual’s actions in working toward a goal lessen the likelihood of others achieving the same goal. In game theory, cooperation is regarded as the strategy that maximizes the rewards and minimizes the costs for all participants in the game; this is sometimes posited as an explanation for altruism. Studies of nonhuman animals often suggest cooperation, but whether animals understand that individuals must act together to reach a common solution or whether they act randomly and occasionally appear to cooperate by chance is still unclear. Often cooperation leads to outcomes, such as increased food, predator avoidance, or survival of kin, that make it adaptive (see adaptation), but the benefit to each individual is not always obvious. 

The Currency of Courage

Oxford English Dictionary definition:

  • the ability to do something that frightens one.
  • “she called on all her courage to face the ordeal.”
  • strength in the face of pain or grief.
  • “he fought his illness with great courage.”
  • mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

  • the ability to meet a difficult challenge despite the physical, psychological, or moral risks involved in doing so.
  • Examples of acts of courage include saving another’s or one’s own life against a meaningful threat; coping with a painful, debilitating, or terminal illness; overcoming a destructive habit; and voicing an unpopular opinion. Also called bravery.

The Currency of Conflict Management, Resolution, and Repair

Merriam Webster Definition:

  • competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons)
  • a conflict of principles
  • mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands
  • His conscience was in conflict with his duty
  • the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology:

  • Conflict: the occurrence of mutually antagonistic or opposing forces, including events, behaviors, desires, attitudes, and emotions. In interpersonal relations, conflict denotes the disagreement, discord, and friction that occur when the actions or beliefs of one or more individuals are unacceptable to and resisted by others.
  • Conflict Resolution: the use of collaborative, salutary methods, such as bargaining, negotiation, accommodation, and cooperation, to resolve interpersonal or intergroup disagreements.
  • Conflict Repair: In relationships, repair is less about fixing what is broken, and more about getting back on track. You can attempt repair at any point in an argument, even if things get heated — but it’s best to try to repair early. Repairing is not an admission that of “rightness” or that the other has “won”. Rather, a repair attempt is an act of respect and care for the relationship. Dr. John Gottman

The Currency of Resilience

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Definition:

  • an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
  • In physics, resilience is the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber or animal tissue) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape. The recovery that occurs in this phenomenon can be viewed as analogous to a person's ability to bounce back after a jarring setback.

APA (American Psychological Association) Dictionary of Psychology: 

The process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands. 

A number of factors contribute to how well people adapt to adversities, predominant among them (a) the ways in which individuals view and engage with the world, (b) the availability and quality of social resources, and (c) specific coping strategies. 

Psychological research demonstrates that the resources and skills associated with more positive adaptation (i.e., greater resilience) can be cultivated and practiced.

Positive Psychology:

  • The resilient individual often does more than simply bounce back. Following a significant event, even the most resilient person is unlikely to return to the path they were on—or at least remain unchanged.
  • Instead, psychology recognizes that resilient individuals going through significant life events do not always recover effortlessly; they often find a new path. Even when knocked by what has happened, the darkest times still typically lead to growth.
  • Resilient people become aware of unexpected abilities as they rise to each new challenge. They tend to have both enriched and clarified relationships and a new and possibly more focused perspective can remove what is unimportant and clarify and motivate meaningful values, life goals, and priorities. “Studies have found that having a clear and valued purpose, and committing fully to a mission, can markedly strengthen one’s resilience.”
  • It is worth noting that resilience is not a fixed trait but can be developed and grown over time.