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interactive matrix describing relationships between human needs and safety

Organizational Consulting

The challenge comes in translating theories about organizational knowledge into practice, especially in human service settings where resources are often limited, is the continued emphasis on “doing more with less.”  Oftentimes, needs are only partially met, and when that happens, a cycle of stress, micro-violence and frustration develops leading to more staff turnover and more stress for everyone.

One of the keys in reducing this cycle is to align the work done by clinicians and managers, direct support staff and supervisors, teachers and principals, etc.  There is often a disconnect between “us and them” and the ways in which answers to problems are found are often primarily related to whether a person is in the “us” or the “then” camp.









The Matrix of Needs gives all the stakeholders in a human service organization a way to look at the challenges experienced by people from the same perspective.  Bob Bowen has experience as a direct support professional, administrator, researcher, academic, and trainer.  The Matrix of Needs model he developed was influenced in large part by his experiences as both an “us” and a “them.”  When organizations embrace the concept of Interdependent Actualization as the highest need of becoming human, our focus is now on all of us together instead of all of us apart.


The most important need is for safety.  Not just physical safety, but all forms of safety, including physical, psychological, and emotional safety.  Safety is not simply one of the needs, but an all-encompassing need throughout the life of an individual, and an organization.

The next needs, called Core Needs, are for Subsistence and Bodily Integrity, Communication, and Attaching Relationships.  One way of understanding the centrality of these needs to the human experience is that they begin to be met in the womb!  As such:

  • Organizations must arrange their resources in such a way so as to ensure safety for all people – those being supported, and those providing the supports. 

  • Subsistence needs, such as food, hydration, shelter, and sleep must also be supported by the ways an organization structures its’ resources. 

  • Communication is not just a way to get our needs met, it is a core need for all people.  Human beings need to communicate!  Most of the information about organizational theory stresses that communication challenges are a primary, fundamental concern for everyone!

  • Attaching relationships are pivotal to human development, and everything we do to strengthen the most important relationships people have will have significant benefits in the present and the future.


When the needs of individuals are met, the needs of the organization are easier to address.  This simple yet powerful statement is central to the ways in which The Matrix of Needs can be used at both an individual and an organizational level.  For more information, please contact Bob Bowen at   You can also read the article he wrote at

Applying the Matrix of Needs model to integrate individual and organizational needs.
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