This 2009 summary of research assessing the size, wealth, cohesion and scope of the UK Anthroposophy movement is the second of its kind. It updates a first summary published in 2007.
There is ongoing debate and controversy about the nature of Anthroposophy’s core beliefs. It is the intention here to shed light on Anthroposophy as a movement rather than critique or examine the beliefs it holds and applies practically.
The study concentrates on UK organisations operating from an Anthroposophic perspective, the organisations enacting Rudolf Steiner’s beliefs as expressed in the Anthroposophy movement he founded.
Applications of Anthroposophy probably familiar to British audiences will be Steiner or Steiner Waldorf schools and Camphill Communities. Camphills have a focus on therapy, support and remedial education in residential or community settings, Steiner schools offer private education as an alternative to the mainstream state schools.
Anthroposophy is enacted in other, less familiar, ways such as in agriculture as ‘biodynamic’ farming where it is represented in Britain by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association. In the financial/economic sector there exists an Anthroposophic bank (Triodos Bank) and in medicine there are therapists and GP’s offering Anthroposophic medicines and treatments. Additionally there are publishing houses, colleges and businesses run to Anthroposophic principles.
There also exists a formal religion based (and part founded by Steiner) on Anthroposophic belief. This religion is known informally as the Christian Community and its formal name is the Christian Community – Movement for Religious Renewal.
An administrative infrastructure to service the worldwide Anthroposophy movement has its headquarters at Dornach, Switzerland. There are 50 countries having Anthroposophy societies listed on the Dornach headquarters’ website (Feb 2019: no longer listed). The UK’s own national society, formally attached to Dornach, is the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. It supports and promotes the Anthroposophical applications such as ‘biodynamics’, Steiner education and so on.
Confusingly, some Anthroposophical applications consider or promote their activities as movements in their own right. Thus, in addition to the formal national Society, the Anthroposophy movement has movements within a movement. In the UK, for example, we have a national Camphill movement, Steiner schools movement, Movement for Religious Renewal and national bodies for biodynamics and Anthroposophical medicine.
A novel aspect of the research has been the use of social network analysis software to examine the relationships within and between the organisations and the ‘movements within a movement’ to ascertain how cohesive a movement the UK’s Anthroposophy movement is.
The research intends to be transparent and open. There is no copyright on content but please acknowledge your sources if you recycle anything. The full report of the 2007 study will be available on the home page of my blog, the previous summary findings of it can be found online here. Feedback relating to the study is very welcome and can be sent to the researcher, Mike Collins, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisations are tested using operational definitions and recorded in a Register providing they hold to, advance or operate in accordance with Steiner or Anthroposophic belief and principles. Organisations are found by using existing directories of Anthroposophical organisations, by searching charity and business databases using known Anthroposophical search terms, titles and phrases (e.g. Waldorf, biodynamic, Steiner) and by search of the internet and through personal contact.
The information recorded about each organisation is of the same kind for all cases and is quite extensive. Information is gleaned from the latest three sets of its annual accounts, from online resources and by direct enquiry of organisations themselves and is added to the Register for later analysis. Any personal data it may contain is already in the public domain. Even so, every attempt is made to keep the data secure.
At irregular intervals the above cycle is repeated. The results of the latest analysis of the data are presented in brief below.
Number of recorded Anthroposophical organisations
242 organisations are recorded in the Register. Of the 242 organisations recorded, 73 are defunct or in the process of winding down or liquidating, 169 are active and 8 of these are subsidiaries of other active organisations. The number of active organisations recorded now is about 20% higher than was recorded during the 2007 research. The majority are incorporated charities (over 50%), some 35% are stand alone charities and 15% are incorporated but have no charitable status. This latter group consists in the main of businesses but includes a clutch of Industrial & Provident Societies.
Location of recorded Anthroposophical organisations
The organisations are thinly distributed over much of mainland Britain with noticeable clusters of organisations in Bristol and Gloucestershire, Forest Row in East Sussex, in Aberdeen and in Edinburgh.
What the recorded Anthroposophical organisations do
When grouped according to what they do, education and social care categories account for 80% of the recorded UK Anthroposophical organisations with 44% of active organisations involved in education, 36% in social care.
The wealth of the recorded Anthroposophical organisations
Using data from end of year accounts, usually for accounting year 2008, the total annual income of the recorded Anthroposophical organisations combined was estimated to be £173,300,000 per year and their combined assets estimated to be £608,400,000. Financial data for three organisations has still to be ascertained at the time of writing.
The total income and assets of the various groups of organisations follows the general proportions illustrated in the pie chart above. However, the presence in the Register of the UK branch of Triodos, an Anthropsophical bank, results in a skewing of the financial data in that its balance sheet, treated as assets, would account for some 55% of the estimated combined assets of all of the recorded organisations.
Excluding Triodos, total annual incomings of all organisations is £160,000,000 and combined assets of all organisations would be at least £334,000,000.
Although superior in terms of numbers of recorded organisations, the education group is much less wealthy, on average, than a typical social care group organisation. The average income of active education group organisations is £351,000 whereas it is £2,132,000 for social care organisations.
Similarly for assets – the education group average is £378,000 whereas an average social care Anthroposophical organisation’s assets are £3,768,000, near ten times as high as those of the average education organisation.
Income streams for education organisations, typically a Steiner school of some sort, derive from fees charged for the private education they deliver. Social care organisations, typically a Camphill, also charge for their own service provision, the residential care and support of our most vulnerable citizens. Near all fees for Steiner education are paid by parents electing to provide their children with a private education, fees for social care homes such as Camphills derive in the main from state agencies.
An earlier phase of the research estimated that more than 50% of the total income of Anthroposophical social care organisations derives from the state. Using 2009 accounts for Camphill Village Trust (CVT), a recorded UK Anthroposophical organisation, it can be shown that 55% of its total £27,440,000 incomings derived from the state. CVT enjoys good public support and its fund raising effort is an increasingly sophisticated one, about 21% of its income in year 2009 derived from gifts (donations) and legacies.
Voluntary income of other Anthroposophical social care providers being much less than CVT’s, it is now estimated that generally, CVT apart, at least 60% of Anthroposophical social care providers’ income in any one year will derive from the state. All things considered, it is estimated that in year 2008 the total amount of state derived income reaching recorded front line Anthropsophical social care providers was £60,000,000. The estimate will be further refined as and when the study continues.
Network maps of the organisations
By use of social network graphing software it has been possible to look at the UK Anthroposophy movement as a social network of organisations interconnected by links such as money transfers and shared directors/trustees.
Links between recorded Anthroposophical organisations were logged in the Register.Links consist in the main of directorship/trustee overlaps and financial transactions between recorded organisations. More than 3000 links in all have been logged.
Below is a chart or network ‘map’ of all of the links between recorded organisations.
In the illustration above the circles or nodes represent recorded Anthroposophical organisations and black lines between nodes represents at least one link between them. Note that a link can and often does subsume a multiplicity of links between two nodes. Nodes have been colour coded according to their area of activity. The yellow labelled node is the Anthroposophical Association Limited, the workhorse of the national Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. The red labelled node is the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship(SWSF), the national UK body representing Anthroposophical education. The green labelled node is the Biodynamic Agriculture Association (BDAA), national body for biodynamic agriculture in the UK.
The software (netdraw, available free to download here) used to produce the above illustration includes a very useful routine known as ’spring embedding’, an iterative process that eventually finds the best ‘fit’ between the nodes in a network.
When spring embedded, netdraw treats links between nodes as springs pulling the nodes together so that the more connected nodes move toward the centre and the less connected nodes, or organisations in this case, shift to the periphery. So, the number of links an organisation has determines how centrally placed it appears in the diagram.
As can be seen, the illustration is suggestive of structure or structured relationships and of cohesion between the various categories of organisation in the network.
In place of all kinds of linkages between organisations, only links recording director/trusteeship overlaps and links recording money flows between organisations were charted in the next illustration. Any overlap involving a currently active director or trustee qualified for inclusion. The financial links consist of all loans (excluding mortgages), grants and donations made between organisations. The information for these links was taken from organisations’ annual accounts and reports and can date from any year between 2003 to 2009 inclusive.
It can be seen that the above two previous illustration are similar in many ways. The Anthroposophical Association node remains central to the network, the SWSF node remains in close proximity to it but the Biodynamics (BDAA) node has shifted to the periphery.
Using only current director/trusteeship overlaps of only organisations that can be assigned to associative groups (the ‘movements within a movement’) resulted in the illustration below.
As can be seen, all of the associative groups are connected by shared director/trustee links to at least one other of the associative groups. Arguably, the Triodos Group is not a ‘movement’ at all but given that Triodos organisations are Anthroposophic and operating in accordance with Steiner’s ‘social threefolding’ economic principles Triodos Group is taken here to be a group representative of the social threefolding movement and so is included in the illustration on the presumption of its representing social threefolding in the UK. Removing Triodos Group, anyway, would not alter the presumed integrative function sharing of directorships/trustees brings to the network.
Regarding the financial importance Triodos Bank has for the UK’s Anthroposophy movement, it was found in an earlier phase of this study that the Bank and its Anthroposophical precursor (Mercury Provident) accounted for 70% of mortgage arrangements between Anthroposophical organisations recorded in the study Register.
Although the above network charts indicate if not demonstrate cohesion, integration and mutual support of Anthroposophical organisations, there remain open and largely unanswered questions as to how integrated or cohesive the Anthroposophy movement is or how its finances compare with other national movements or groups. Networks can be analysed quantitatively and such questions will be considered as and when the research continues and when there is more data to hand.
Longevity of organisations
Taking the date of first registration of companies and charities as their commencement and the date of removal from registers as their completion it is possible to look at their longevity and other ‘demographics’ of the pool of organisations recorded to date.
The study Register has commencement dates for more than 200 organisations and nearly 60 cessations as illustrated below. For dual registered organisations (incorporated charities) only the earliest commencement date was used.
From the illustration above, it would appear that the rate of registrations and of cessations of Anthroposophical charities and companies appears to have steadied over the past decade.
The ‘life expectancy’ of organisations, the length of time a newly registered Anthroposophical organisation might typically be active, is estimated to be about 17 to 18 years.
However, the data set of commencement and cessation dates is not complete for all recorded organisations. In particular, commencement dates for several charities registering in Scotland are currently unknown and would only appear in a tally of new registrations if, as many appear to have done, they later become dual registered as incorporated charities. When graphed, this would have the effect of over-representing later registrations and under-representing earlier registrations. It is hoped to explore this avenue of the research such that it becomes possible to comparethe ‘demographics’ of the two main categories of UK recorded Anthroposophical organisations.
Data quality & methodology, next stage of the study
The quality of the raw data used in this research has been discussed in the first full report of the study. The methodology too has been described and discussed. Thanks to feedback from readers some weaknesses in the methodology have been noted.
As the research continues on from an initial exploratory phase it is becoming apparent that if it is to go beyond fairly simple measures and descriptions of its subject matter then the raw data used in the study needs normalising or standardising in some way.
The raw data collected concerns many organisations of different constitutional forms. Each form of organisation has different levels of requirement regarding reportage of its activities and personnel. This results in quite different levels or reportage/disclosure within the accounts and reports of organisations. The activities organisations undertake are also manifold.
Standardising the data is problematic to say the least. Continuing with the same methods to analyse the data as it stands, though, runs the risk of mixing data types that should be analysed separately else the research begins comparing likes with non-likes, the apples and oranges syndrome.
Ideally the study would broaden to encompass other kinds of social movement or national group. With or without a normalised data set this would allow comparisons to be made between the Anthroposophy movement and other movements and groups. How/if to normalise the data is now under active consideration in tandem with considerations as to how to improve or refine the study’s research design and methodology.
Meanwhile, the research continues as previously described and continues to shed light on a social movement about which very little was factually known previously in terms of its wealth, scale of activity and cohesion. Any major changes to research design and methods used in progressing the research will be described in full as and when appropriate.