I’ve been skimming a document called Attaining the dynamics of Growth. It’s a recent publication from the International Teaching Centre that explains how Ruhi — or more specifically, Intensive Programmes of Growth — are doing. The text indicates that things are going very well, but the accompanying data seems to tell another story when you take a close look at it.
For example, here’s some data about a cluster in Colombia,
Note that we are told that “the table shows the steady increase in participation in devotional activities over several cycles”. But the growth lasts for just six cycles, after which there’s a plateau or decline. You can see this much better with a graph, which I’ve created:
I’m giving just one example, but there are many more in the document, and the examples are across five continents. Unfortunately, there’s very little mention in the document of the fact that the cycles of growth — even in model clusters — seem to peter out after 3-6 iterations.
Unless there’s some amazing out-migration / falling away of trained tutors, the problem can’t be lack of tutors — the programme creates tutors, for heaven’s sake! I’m guessing the problem is that the programme’s participants quickly get a bad reputation for turning into tedious one-track Ruhi zealots. The programme loses its attractiveness to capable people, who see it as potentially very cult-like and socially isolating. Tutors and participants — particularly the more capable — see the light and become inactive. The programme ends up attracting and retaining only needy people and starts to collapse under its own weight, dysfunction and low morale. But that’s just a wild guess.
Mormons have been doing Intensive Programmes of Growth for decades. They call them “missions” and they seem to have managed sustainable growth over many decades, to the extent that Sociologist Rodney Stark thinks Mormonism could be the next world religion.
Baquia has identified a possible problem with the Baha’i programme-driven approach. Willow Creek Megachurch realised that its expensive programme-driven approach didn’t create strong disciples with an internal locus of control. Those few self-starters soon became dissatisfied with Willow Creek and generally moved on to other churches that catered better to their needs and abilities. Those who weren’t self-starters just filled the pews every Sunday and listened mindlessly to the same old recruitment message endlessly repeated.
I think of Ruhi and Intensive Programmes of Growth as attempts at self-fulfilling prophecy. The AO keeps doggedly saying how good they are. (Yes, yes, and pigs will fly.) It needs to create a buzz to induce otherwise sane people to take the plunge and become friendless teach-it-up zealots, thus feeding the process. Those people will get converts with their full-on activities provided they concentrate their attention on needy populations. The AO is trusting that the process will at least semi-snowball in enough places to generate the good news stories needed to keep the recruitment going elsewhere.
Think of Ruhi as an unstable, fast-mutating ‘flu’ virus. After millions of go-nowhere changes it’ll accidentally get all its RNA in a row and you may possibly have yourself a pandemic. However, in most cases the virus has a fatal flaw or two.
Likewise, Ruhi may well “take-off”, briefly, in certain parts of the world. Actually, the original pre-1994 Colombian Ruhi “strain” probably had a better chance of catching on because it was more grounded in social action and economic development projects, and thus had a better chance of lifting a community — socially, spiritually and economically. The current “strain” has moved towards the inherenly unsustainable Amway pyramid scheme model, where the product — balanced development of a community — is much less important than the “two essential movements” — clusters moving from C to A and participants moving from Book 1 to Book 7.
The ITC strain is quick-acting once someone is infected, but it seems to have two fatal flaws
- Those infected with the the virus generally transmit it only to people a lot more needy than themselves. Since it has a very limited capability to make those infected less needy, the virus runs out of folks who are sufficiently needy after being passed on a few times.
- The target population seems to develop an immunity to it.