Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

Jem’s Quarterly: Le Freak, Ain’t Chic

Posted by jembendell on June 21, 2016

Are yoChicfreaku freaked out by climate change? We should be. But it is difficult to stay freaked out for long. So I’ve often distracted myself with other important things to do. Or with fun. Or retreated into existential naval gazing. I’ve sometimes thought about tuning out and living lightly. But I’ve kept coming back to the question: “if the shit’s coming, how I am helping?” Wondering about the meaning of life, being nicer to mum, or stopping flying, just doesn’t seem to cut it.

It has become a conversation I have with colleagues quite often: “Given what we think we know, how are we helping?” Our discussions helped me to realise that everyone will find their own answer for what to think, feel and do, and what is key is asking ourselves the question. Regularly. In my case, whatever hat I’m wearing, I’m mostly a communicator. But since the 90’s, raising the alarm hasn’t seemed enough. Instead, I focus on promoting insight and action on two areas that are key for rapid mitigation at scale, and preparing for the troubles to come. I call them “sustainable leadership” and “sustainable exchange”.

When scared or frustrated, we may look for leaders. But this can be counterproductive. Because there’s no one coming. We all need to take our turn; to lead in some way, together. And those of us who have knowledge and networks to attempt more systemic change have a responsibility (and opportunity!) to try. But as professionals in sustainability how often do we ask ourselves if our actions respond to our awareness of the challenge? To trigger such discussion, my article “Carry on Flying: why activists should take to the skies” was a touch provocative. I’d welcome your thoughts in the Sustainable Leaders LinkedIn group.   

Having a “theory of change” is something we explore on the Sustainable Leadership course that I tutor, the next of which involves 6 days in the English Lake District this September. I was pleased to see the global management trainers Impact International conclude that our courses are cutting edge.

One idea we explore at the Institute is whether we are so encased in our corporate lives that we need opportunities to awaken to our ecological selves. So I’m pleased to welcome Jo Chaffer to study for a PhD on the role of wilderness in leadership development. She has been taking people into the Himalaya for leadership development for years. Jo tells me “Heart Mountain is a trip of creativity and exploration. Seven days’ magical trekking under the eyes of Everest region staying in luxury lodges.” This November, Jo guides the trek with Jamie Catto, the creative genius behind the band 1GiantLeap. If you fancy some adventure, personal development, coaching, and playfulness, see here

I will be co-leading a wilderness-based leadership development course in Costa Rica, for 5 days from January 3rd. It is a project with another student at IFLAS, Georgia Wingfield Hayes, who used to work in the nature reserve we will visit. Profits from “Leading Wild” are going to support the amazing place. Georgia is writing some great poetry that evokes some of the essence of what we work on. If you know people in either Central America or the Indian subcontinent (for Heart Mountain), please forward them the info on these two retreats.  

My theory of change involves transforming economic governance. Part of that means aligning global capital markets with progress on the various “sustainable development” issues. I wrote about that here for the World Economic Forum and here for the Huffington Post – and took this message to the WEF’s ASEAN Summit, among other events. With other WEF Young Global Leaders, we will launch an initiative to promote investment aligned with the Global Goals for sustainable development (if you work with an institutional investor please get in touch). Much can be done even within existing rules, as we are discovering at Trimantium Capital, where we make significant investments with an “impact investing” mindset.

Another aspect of this agenda is far deeper and tougher: changing the monetary system so it doesn’t drive us toward unsustainable maldevelopment. One approach to that is currency innovation, and so I gave a keynote talk at a conference of local currency innovators, focusing on implications of the end of cash for local pounds. Innovation doesn’t happen in a policy vacuum, so I pitched in on the Brexit debate, with an article in the Daily Telegraph, about the need for regulations to support financial technology start-ups to compete with the big banks. I also promoted fresh thinking on these topics on the World Economic Forum blog, suggesting Capitalism could use a little Marxism. This summer at IFLAS we host retreats for both the Finance Innovation Lab and the Positive Money campaign and offer our free online course on Money and Society (over 4 weeks from August 21st… so this is your last reminder – enrol!)   

I’m doing a bunch of talks and seminars in Cumbria and Lancaster this summer, so if you are nearby, the best way to keep in touch is by joining the email group that participants of the LeadingWell events have set up.

All of this can seem quite far from climate change, but not if you understand it as the outcome of economic governance shaped by worldviews that undermine our ability to collaborate for the common good.

And at least it feels better than freaking out.  

Dr Jem Bendell

Professor of Sustainability Leadership, Institute For Leadership And Sustainability (IFLAS)

Non-Executive Director, Trimantium Capital

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Postcard from Post-Britannia

Posted by jembendell on May 23, 2016

A history of the end of the UK 2008-2018..
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After bankers ransacked the country in 2008, the resultant unhappiness from unemployment and austerity was directed by corporate and government media away from banking and towards others that people could feel self righteous about: the unemployed, immigrants, muslims. This was stoked by a party previously founded by the bankers, called UKIP.
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The narrow vote to leave the EU was mostly based on worries over immigration rather than doing anything about banking, tax evasion or any of the other more material influences on citizen’s wellbeing. Psychologists found that people’s vote for Brexit was largely about people feeling that they could exert some power at a time when they increasingly felt powerless.
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This result led the SNP to demand a referendum within a year so they could leave the UK and stay in EU. This was rejected by Westminster but the Scottish Parliament voted to go ahead anyway. A difficult period ensued and as violence threatened to escalate, so Westminster caved in and Scotland left the union the day UK left the EU. The government fell and Boris Johnston became Prime Minister. Anticipating problems with trade and finance as a result of leaving the EU (and some argue to help his friends), he scrapped various taxes for corporations and banks. This created a balanced of payments crisis and was used to justify even more draconian cuts on the welfare state. Now people had to pay for their children to go to school, not just university.
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A vote for the Tories in 2015 General Election should have been seen as a risk to the UK due to how a EU referendum could lead to Brexit and thus Scotland demanding a new referendum. But the Labour party had been so completely paralysed by concern for appealing to everybody (including their own grandees) that they had no core analysis and narrative and reacted to the media rather than setting agendas. Therefore they let the mass media repeat the story that Labour was a threat to the union and they lost, ushering the end of Britain as it was known.
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As the banker rule of the remainder of Britain continued and government ministries began to be merged or shut down and all responsibilities moved to new regional governments, so serious movements began to emerge for Cornwall, Yorkshire and other regions to secede from the UK. Many intelligent people such as Tristram Hunt MP welcomed this in the name of greater democracy, and were given much air time for their views, as none of these new entities could do anything about regulating banking.
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Unfortunately an influx of millions of pensioners returning from abroad after losing their residency in Europe was the straw that broke the back of the NHS, which was finally bought by a Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund. Boris’s campaign for Britons to buy more petrol to generate more oil profits so Kuwait would have the money to invest in new hospitals was criticised by Friends of the Earth but welcomed as realistic by Britain’s tabloids. “Given that Britain is now a small federation of local parishes, we can’t expect more of our government than funding Trident” explained the editor of the Daily Mail, in 2020.
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That year Labour were elected into coalition government. In what the public hoped was merely a first step, they passed a law that Kuwait would only be able to sell the NHS to another sovereign wealth fund. Accused of breaking their manifesto pledge, a spokesman said  “We believe in the public ownership of the NHS. We didnt say it had to be our own government.”
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A post card from post Britannia: fearmongering, farce or forecast?

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Wild Over Algorithms: Jem’s Quarterly 5

Posted by jembendell on March 14, 2016

I ignored it for a while. But as a Prof, it was time to submit to Google Scholar and let their algorithms pass judgement on my work. So I’ve an h-index of 20 and an i10-index of 35, from over 2000 citations. Have I lost you yet? Well at least most of my publications are now in one place. My latest thoughts are on the “Impasse in Western Leadership” which I presented at a conference on leadership in Asia in January.

I continue to work with Dr Neil Sutherland and Richard Little on a collection on leadership and sustainability that arose from the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival last summer. On April 9 the team at IFLAS are hosting a reunion in Ambleside, which will be a great weekend to share relevant initiatives. These ideas relate to our new MA in Sustainable Leadership Development, which is designed to fit around the work of busy leaders. It kicks off with a week in the Lake District this September.

I now work part time with the University of Cumbria, and am adapting what I know to offer wilderness retreats for leadership development. Working with Georgia Wingfield Hayes, our first Leading Wild retreat is in Costa Rica in January next year. We conceived the Leading Wild retreats because we know the most powerful learning is difficult to enable in typical corporate formats. I like hosting learning where we are ready to let go of what brought us success and think afresh about the situation we face. A wilderness retreat invites that approach. 25% of revenues will go into forest conservation. It’s also 25% off if you book now!

Somewhat sooner, if you are in London on April 13th, please join us near the Docklands for a lecture by the founder of the Positive Money campaign, Ben Dyson. At 530pm he will talk about how government issuance of digital cash could kick start the UK economy and pay down the debt. It’s an opportunity for participants in our free online course on Money and Society to gather. Over 120 are currently completing this MOOC that I developed with Matthew Slater (Global Ecovillage Network) and 8+ will study our Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange in April. This will be co-tutored by Leander Bindewald, whose PhD at IFLAS on the (misleading) discourses of money is getting interesting. I’ll be sharing some of our ideas in a keynote at the Guild of Independent Currencies conference in Liverpool on April 20th.

In February I visited Melbourne to work with my colleagues at Trimantium Capital. They ran an event at Parliament House on the future of superannuation (pension) investments for a more sustainable Australia, and introduced tech investors from Silicon Valley to a range of Australian start-ups. En route back to the UK, I visited the Indian Institute of Directors, to discuss with board directors how we can encourage cultures and systems for firms to seek disruptive innovation for sustainable development. In 2016 I will be doing more work on “impact investing”, to promote the necessary transition to a better economy.

At the Indian Institute of Directors course for non executive directors, where I lectured

At the Indian Institute of Directors course for non executive directors, where I lectured

I’ve listed my future event attendance below… maybe see you in London, Lancaster, Lake District, Kuala Lumpur, Geneva, Tokyo, Brisbane, Melbourne, or Boston?

Thanks, Jem

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Upcoming Lectures, Panels and Event Attendance

Leading Wellbeing: from theory to practice, Co-host of workshop on sustainable currencies, Ambleside, April 9. Link.

The Guild of Independent Currencies Annual Conference, Keynote, Liverpool, April 20th, Link.

Global Prosperity Institute, UCL, Participant, London, May 10. Link.

The World Economic Forum on ASEAN, in Kuala Lumpur, June 1-2. Link.

HELP University, Lecture on “Leadership Lessons from WEF”, Kuala Lumpur, June 3 (tbc)

University of Geneva, CSR Leadership lecture, CSR Summer School, June 30. Link.

Finance Innovation Lab, Fellows Retreat, Ambleside July 1-3.

Cumbria Research and Enterprise Conference, Lecture on Sustainable Enterprise Zones, Lancaster, 8 July.

Positive Money Leaders Retreat, Lectures on Leadership and Currency Innovation, Ambleside, September 9-10.

Forum of Young Global Leaders Annual Summit, Tokyo, October 18-21 Link.

Griffith Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, Open Lecture on “Leadership for Sustainability”, Brisbane, last week of October (date tbc). Link.

The New Metrics Conference, Keynote on “Sustainable Impact Investing,” Boston, November 15-16  Link.

Leading Wild, Retreat Co-Host, Corcovado, Costa Rica, Jan 3-8, 2017 Link.

Posted in Academia and Research, Corporations, Sustainable Development | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

2015 Publications

Posted by jembendell on January 29, 2016

In 2015 my research focused on currency innovation, leadership and corporate social responsibility. I shared some of this research via publications. Here are the links…j-wn2CSbMMczqXXYTG5TFemn3De1qB1wC1UgJVIKg34,5WewfNosQC6fP5dUNe-oD1hg7Icy5uBVH1QSITeVogE

My published academic outputs from 2015

On monetary reform and currency innovation…

Ruddick, W., Richards, M. and Bendell, J. (2015) ‘Complementary Currencies for Sustainable Development in Kenya: The Case of the Bangla-Pesa’ International Journal of Community Currency Research, 19.  ISSN 1325-9547. Download here.

Bendell, J., W. Ruddick and M. Slater (2015) Re-imagining Money to Broaden the Future of Development Finance: What Kenyan Community Currencies Reveal is Possible for Financing Development, Working Paper 2015-10, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva. Download here.

On leadership…

Bendell, J and R Little (2015a) ‘Searching for Sustainability Leadership’, IFLAS Occasional Paper No. 1, University of Cumbria, UK. Download here.

Bendell, J. and R. Little (2015b) ‘Seeking Sustainability Leadership’, Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Issue 60, pp. 13-26(14). Download here.

On corporate social responsibility…

Bendell, J. (2015) ‘What if we are failing? Towards a post Crisis agenda for the Global Compact’, in McIntosh, M. ed (2015) Business, Capitalism and Corporate Citizenship: A Collection of Seminal Essays, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield. Download here.

UNCTAD (2015) Enhancing the Contribution of Export Processing Zones to the Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), New York and Geneva. Co-authored by J. Bendell. Download here.

My mainstream articles about this research

On monetary reform and currency innovation…

Bendell, J (2015) From castle to cage: what to do about the housing crisis? Open Democracy, 22 April 2015. Download here.

Bendell, J (2015) What happens to democracy in a cashless society? Open Democracy, 8 April 2015. Download here.

Bendell, J (2015) Could electronic parallel currency ease Greece’s big cash freeze? New Scientist, 6 July 2015. Download here.

Bendell, J (2015) 4 sinister threats that loom for the cashless society, New Scientist, 3 June 2015. Download here.

On leadership…

Bendell, J (2015) To save growth, we must leave fossil fuels in the ground, World Economic Forum, 30th November. Download here.

On corporate social responsibility…

Bendell, J (2015) Could enterprise zones help us achieve the Global Goals? World Economic Forum, 14th December. Download here.

But not just official publications…

Like many of us, I blogged on these issues both here and at www.iflas.info and also shared my research via 12 public talks in 5 countries.

To be able to do this research and share it I’m grateful to colleagues at the University of Cumbria, UNCTAD, UNRISD, Impact International, WEF, Grassroots Economics, Community Forge, New Scientist, Greenleaf and Open Democracy.

It is difficult to know what the impact of my publications are. Citations, like via Google Scholar, give you a bit of a feel for that (ooh, an i-10 index of 35!), but that takes time.

Looking back on 2015, I think the main impact on people’s learning and unlearning via the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival and the free online course on Money and Society (which starts again on Feb 21st 2016).

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Beyond the Leadership Impasse

Posted by jembendell on January 18, 2016

Books on leadership are flying off the shelves and managers are flying in to leadership courses around the world. Is this helping them, their organisations and wider society? Or might some of the advice and training do more harm than good?

More research on leadership is exposing some of the limiting assumptions of mainstream ideas and teaching on leadership and its development. This is coming to be known as “Critical Leadership Studies” (CLS).

This week I’m attending the Lead in Asia conference in Indonesia and will be presenting a summary of CLS and what it could mean for non-Western scholarship and training. Ive written the paper with Richard Little of Impact International and Dr Neil Sutherland of Bristol Business School. I’m hoping to learn of critical approaches already underway in the region and also sense the way critical social theory might be further utilised in the management academe in East Asia.

You can download the pdf here: Leadership Impasse.

We base some of our leadership courses at IFLAS on these ideas, including the PGC in Sustainable Leadership and the new MA in Sustainable Leadership Development.

Feedback welcomed, especially via the Sustainable Leaders group on LinkedIn.

 

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Cutting Love – 4th Quarterly

Posted by jembendell on December 14, 2015

Every 3 months I send an update. In my 4th I focus on listing some links for resources and events, before a few thoughts on “cutting love.” You can sign up to receive this Quarterly Bulletin.

First up, the culmination of a year’s efforts, today the UN publishes a paper I co-wrote on how Ewtonterprise Zones can contribute to the new Global Goals for sustainable development. These zones are popular with some governments, from India to the UK, but they aren’t without criticism, in terms of what they achieve. Now with changes in trade rules, Zones are going to have to come up with new ways of staying competitive. We argue that embracing social and environmental excellence is a clever response. I explained this in my article for the World Economic Forum. I was pleased to present the preliminary findings at the public forum of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva in October, and the report is launched this week in Nairobi at the ministerial. You can read it here (pdf). I’m grateful to Dr Tony Miller at UNCTAD and also for colleagues at the University of Cumbria for supporting me to do this work.

In September I stepped back from Director of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) so I can focus on my research and teaching as a Professor of Sustainability Leadership (as part time) as well as new role with an impact investing fund. I’m pleased Dr Caroline Rouncefield is the Acting Director and joins an Institute with 5 MBAs growing well (over 2000 international students), as well as co-delivery of an MSc in Strategic Policing and a new MA in Sustainable Leadership Development. One of the last projects I worked on was to initiate a partnership with the National Trust, to promote innovation in the heritage and conservation sectors, which was recently launched with some fanfare. Our Deputy Director Dr David Murphy will lead on the project for IFLAS.

Trimantium Capital are the Impact Investors that I’ve joined the board of. Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, it is making waves for attracting hundreds of millions of dollars into a fund directed at financial services and health technology with a clear social and environmental purpose. As the Paris climate summit started, I shared what some of us impact investors are thinking about the future of fossil fuels, in a WEF article.

Looking ahead from the winter, at IFLAS we will turn our efforts towards to the IFLAS Spring School, for two weeks in both London and the Lake District. It kicks off our new MA, but can also be attended as a stand-alone course. Lots of mid-career execs do our courses and become co-conspirators on future projects. The Spring School will also involve a reunion of participants in the Leading Wellbeing Festival, on April 9th in Ambleside, which will also be the annual meeting of the Cumbria Environmental Network. If you are interested in the new MA or the Spring School, please fire off an email to iflas@cumbria.ac.uk

Some of the ideas behind the MA are contained in a co-authored paper just published by the Journal of Corporate Citizenship (JCC). I’m grateful to Richard Little at Impact International for having schooled me in critical leadership thinking these past 3 years. I also presented the paper at the International Leadership Association in October and will share some similar ideas at the ‘Lead in Asia’ conference in Bali on the 21st January.

The 2nd cohort of our Mass Open Online Course (MOOC) on Money and Society went well, with around 100 people completing all 4 assignments over the month. That means they can now progress to the Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange, with the 5 day residential happening in our London Docklands Campus in April (as part of that spring school I mentioned). This labour-of-love for me and course co-tutor Matthew Slater, this free course is “bloody brilliant” and “mind bending”. The next cohort starts on Feb 14th and runs for a month online. Read more and sign up here.

Since my last update I was pleased to receive an award for my past work on cross-sector collaboration for sustainable development. The award made the local news, and my paper on the future of such partnerships (think disruption and revolution) is available here.

That’s nothing compared to being made an honorary fellow of the University of Cumbria. In November, my friend Funmi Iyanda became the first African Woman to be recognised in this way by the University and gave a powerful speech in Carlisle Cathedral. Her talk really reflected our ‘transmodern’ times, where we purposefully and playfully mix old and new ideas from all corners of the world to discover ways of rethinking progress today. Read her super speech here on the IFLAS blog, which is now also home to a regular series of articles on leadership themes.

In October I was pleased to host Professor James Wilsdon’s at our Lancaster Campus to discuss the future of how we are going to be assessed as academics. James is the chair of the Campaign for Social Science. As the University sector has been blasted by austerity measures over the past years and will continue be, James does important work reminding everyone why it’s good that we do what we do and how to do it better. Britain has an incredible heritage of intellectual leadership of international importance, based on the country’s love of learning and its institutions of research and education. Sadly we have now become the most expensive place in the world to get a degree, while many Universities cash in on their heritage in the form of sponsored buildings and uninspiring pack-em-in courses.

Unfortunately just the week after the celebrations in the Cathedral, a large part of Carlisle went underwater due to a storm that damaged many towns, villages and roads in Cumbria. The increased frequency and intensity of extremes of weather is in line with predictions from climate models. The events in Cumbria made climate change that much more personal, as explained in a first hand account by IFLAS Advisory Board member Becky Willis. The beginning of climate chaos is already upon us, with weird weather fuelled by a raised global ambient temperature of 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past century, along with seas warmer by 0.7 agrees and higher by 8 cm, on worldwide averages. The most concerning thing is the extremes, with the north-pole being about 5 degrees warmer than hundred years ago. After the floods people have begun to ask why the investment in flood defences and watershed management wasn’t increased in line with the known growing threat from a disturbed climate. The answer, again, is austerity. The floods are a reminder that you can’t ignore nature because of your politics.

Looking across the country, the cuts in government spending can be seen as cuts in a nation’s commitment to its shared assets. Whether it is flood defences, education or care for the disabled, all the things being cut are the things that reflect a country’s capacity to love itself: to care for its towns, its people, its culture and its future. When a government is cutting back on love, people must fill the void, as has been the case in Cumbria, with a wonderful community spirit emerging. If you want to help support people who have been flooded, please see the Cumbria Foundation or Spirit of Cumbria.

Although an agreement in Paris is important, the key is implementation. To make changes quickly, finance and trade ministers will need to shift incentives, hence the reason for my WEF blog. Ultimately we will need to redesign of our monetary systems, to allow us to thrive without requiring exponential economic growth, as I explain in the free intro to my last book.  A COP21 climate agreement is a piece of the puzzle; but the puzzle is already burning. We will have to live with the weather that’s coming and that calls for us to go deeper in our discussions and planning, as I described for Open Democracy earlier this year.

If any of these topics interest you, then do engage in the Sustainable Leaders linked in group, or see my latest musings at www.jembendell.com

I hope you have a good holiday wherever you are,
Jem Bendell

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Explaining UK Parliament on Syria: Or, what did Stella say?

Posted by jembendell on December 3, 2015

The UK’s Parliament just voted to attack Daesh targets in Syria, which will involve bombing densely populated cities, and with no expressed plan for how this will enable decent people to retake control. The Kurdish forces arent anywhere near, the UK says it wont collaborate with the Syrian government, and the rebel groups are disparate and many allied officially or informally with Daesh.  Maybe the secret plan is to secretly collaborate with Russia and the Syrian government, as that would be too awkward for the Government to admit given that they wanted to bomb the government army just a couple of years ago. So it’s a bit of a mess.

Instead of the recent focus on airstrikes, Britain would have been best to make a concerted effort to show solidarity with the victims of terrorism in France and elsewhere by:

a) allying with other states on cutting funds and arms to Daesh
b) delivering better coordination of intelligence and policing across the EU
c) making amends for helping cause the rise of Daesh by accepting hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees asap

So what happened?

Could it be that tabloid-regulated politicians, lacking context on commercial drivers of militarism, with a racist lesser-level of concern for the lives of Middle Eastern civilians, voted to be treated nicer on telly?

Well, we can only understand the politicians in the UK through understanding the role of mass media in the UK. The media has constantly sought to keep a focus on superficial and reactionary debate, relegating thoughtful analysis to a few columnists who have niche followings.

Some politicians feel these types of critiques of their thought processes to be churlish and and not respectful of the depth of their thinking. Yet it is not cynical, it is scientific. There is masses of research from social pyschology, linguistics and critical sociology that shows how dominant discourses are shaped through mass media and act on us at a subtle level so that we think we are coming up with our own ideas and feel good about ourselves. We create explanations and narratives to personally cope and progress within dominant narratives in our society. That is why education must always involve attempts at creating critical consciousness, so that more of us become aware of the way dominant duscourses, combined with interest in one’s self esteem, shape our perceptions of issues.

So of course some politicians have an emotionally difficult time convincing themselves of ethical reasons for being able to look good on telly and tabloid. An apparently quite decent chap, Tim Farron looked particularly sweaty, as if different bits of his soul had been squabbling all night. Yet it does appear many politicians have voted suitably in line their own career strategies. For Conservative MPs that’s easy, just stay within the herd of the Tory mainstream. In the case of Labour, some career trajectories require it to return to a wishy washy party of right wing foreign and economic policy with some slightly lefty social initiatives to get the party activists engaged and Guardian readers onside. Why respond to how the majority of one’s constituents and party members are against something when you can switch the focus onto a few abusive people? I wonder if Stella and Chukka’s future autobiographies could copy paste Blair’s autobiography description of the anti-war electorate as a “demonic rabble”. A greater critical consciousness amongst MPs might help them to realise what thought processes they are going through. Sadly most I meet want to talk about “narrative” as if what is right and true is what can be explained quickly to a journalist. Yet the question of narrative should come second, once you have worked out your views.

Some MPs have claimed that they were swayed by last minute oratory (as if they were neutral on fighting fascism before 930pm on December 2nd 2015). It’s not a claim that stacks up if you look at their pre-debate focus on how to make any bombing as caring as possible and suggests once again that MPs play loose with the truth if they spot a handy narrative like “Hilary moved me” (not Clinton folks, we have our own ‘warmongering’ Hilary too :-)). It was quite depressing to see skills of oratory and rhetoric used in a mendacious way in Parliament today. Everything that Hilary Benn said could have led to a conclusion to do something helpful rather than counterproductive bombing without a credible plan. That MPs who voted for the Iraq invasion of 2003 and still havent apologised profusely and slopped off to the back benches, were able to step forward to influence views on Syria shows once again how remiss the mass media has been in holding rulers to account.

What is worse, they still get to pretend to know and respect international law! The UN Charter forbids military action against or within other member states unless invited by that member state, in this case by the Syrian government, or unless an explict resolution is passed mentioning chapter 7 of the Charter. The resolution 2249 says “take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter” .. Yes, the UN Charter! None of the Security Council members mentioned military action in their comments on the resolution. I learned about this stuff as I was working at the UN in 2002 and 2003, when these matters were high on the agenda. So, as the Syrian government didnt request it, MPs voted for an illegal bombing. We know from the past 14 years that the Foreign Office plays fast and loose with international law… but MPs shoudnt’ be so gullible, unless they want to be.

What is heartening is that despite propagandist mass media, the majority of Brits were against this action for the reason that to sacrifice civilians without having a coherent plan for how to achieve stability in Syria is an unethical judgement to make and likely counterproductive in our efforts against terrorism at home and abroad. Fortunately the lives of British service men and women arent likely to be endangered if good coordination is achieved with the other counties involved, but there is still a risk.

The other glimmer is that hundreds of MP voted against the suck-a-bomb-and-see plan, including the leader of the opposition. They are not cowed by the tabloids. Now the push from them and the public needs to be towards A, B, and C above, and to prepare against the racist hysteria and anti-democratic agenda that will be promoted when the next Daesh murders occur in the UK. We might also press for any strikes to be focused on oil exports, rather than in the cities.

A broader challenge is how to transform British media, as for all the talk of “strong leadership” from MPs and the media in the UK, we just witnessed how many of our politicians arent able to lead themselves, let alone others. So I remain convinced that those of us who mobilise critical social theory in our research, education and training, in all walks of life from politicians to business managers to the police, have important work to do.

 

 

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On Fests, Currency, Zones & The Police: Quarterly #3

Posted by jembendell on August 6, 2015

I’ve been looking back on how I accidentally became a festival organiser. It all started this time last year I looked out from a stately hall across emerald lawns to England’s largest lake. In the distance, I could see a group in a boat, rowing across the sparkling blue of Windermere. Young people, on a summer camp, doing one of the many outdoor activities offered by the Brathay Trust. This would be a great venue for a festival, I thought. Could we combine a research conference and ideas festival with lots of outdoor and creative activities, from kayaking to drumming, storytelling to flying the zipwire? “Great idea” said Kaz, then head of research at Brathay. After a month of emailing and phone calling, we had an initial programme of remarkable speakers and cool music, complemented by an academic committee, special issue of a journal and sponsorship from Futerra and Reagent.

On the lake at Leading Well with Charles Eisenstein, Nandita Das, Sue Adams, Mathew Slater and new friends

On the lake at Leading Well with Charles Eisenstein, Nandita Das, Sue Adams, Mathew Slater and new friends

In 2013 I had given the closing keynote for Brathay’s first wellbeing conference, where I argued that individualistic and purposeless notions of wellbeing can be unhelpful, as we must recognise the importance of collective wellbeing – or “sustainability” – and the importance of serving a purpose beyond our selves – or “leadership.” Fast forward two years and I was welcoming 200 people from 20 countries to an event that started with that premise: the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival. It was seamlessly organised by my colleagues Phil, Lucy, Jane, Wendy, Martin and Leander. I recommend you see some of the videos from the festival, including Charles Eisenstein, Nandita Das, Jo Confino, Lynne Franks and Anna Zegna. Or read a reflection on it on the blog of our Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS).

As participants wanted to stay in touch we have created a facebook group. Some of the participants will reconvene in the Lake District on April 9th for discussions, barn dance and a hike. If you want to join, please tell us via iflas@cumbria.ac.uk That reunion occurs during our next offering on the same theme, which is our Sustainable Leadership Spring School. That also represents the first intake of our new MA in Sustainable Leadership Development. I’ve designed and co-tutor these courses. Click here to learn more about it.

In October I will present some of the ideas on leadership that underpinned the Festival and the new MA, at the International Leadership Association in Barcelona. That paper (pdf), co-authored with Richard Little from Impact International, is also relevant for academics with interest in submitting a paper for the special issue of the academic journal we are editing. The deadline for submissions is September 1st 2015.

Before then, my next teaching takes the form of a free online course on Money and Society, with one lesson a week for a month from August 23rd (i.e. soon!). The tension between a troika of institutions and a Greek government mandated to resist further austerity has brought the importance of our monetary systems for the future shape of democracy into stark relief. Therefore, in an article for the New Scientist magazine in June I explained the importance of currency innovation for countries facing austerity. Our free course, which I encourage you to enrol on, delves into the very essence of money, its history, current formation and possible future due to currency innovation. An 18 minute lecture presents some of the opening critiques of our current system of bank-issued money.

Unfortunately most governments have thus far ignored this aspect of contemporary banking systems in their discussions on an agenda for financing development, which they concluded in Ethiopia in July. Some of us who work on currency innovation sought to inform the negotiations via an inter-agency task force of the UN, but were ultimately unsuccessful. However, on the eve of the UN summit in Addis Ababa, the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) published a paper on heterodox monetary theory and currency innovation for development, which I co-wrote with Matthew Slater and Will Ruddick. As far as I’m aware, it is the first UN paper to discuss the implications of Bitcoin and currency innovation.

When the knowledge of policy-makers lags behind key challenges and technologies, it feels right to get on and do what you think is useful and might have a massive future. In the case of monetary reform and currency innovation, that is why I’m pleased to join the Advisory Board of Grassroots Economics, a Kenya association that is launching local currencies with business networks across Africa. It is also why I’m starting as a non-executive director of the impact investors Trimantium. With significant sums under management, an ethical pension fund, and investments in crowd-funding platforms and health technologies, the aim of Trimantium is to make capital matter by putting it into profitable businesses that can be part of a viable future for all. On the board I will join experienced investment professionals and tech entrepreneurs, so am looking forward to learning with them.

While working on these transformative entrepreneurial approaches is important, there is another more reformist paradigm for our efforts, which is to help manage existing forms of global capitalism a bit better. One key component of many nations economic development strategies has been the establishment of special economic zones, or export processing zones (EPZs). These have tended to give businesses preferential tax rates to encourage them to set up manufacturing operations to export to global markets. On the one hand, many countries are expanding these, while on the other hand, rules established by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) now restrict the amount of ‘trade-distorting’ subsidies that governments can offer to attract investment into such zones. So what is the future of such zones? Could social and environmental excellence become a new basis for their attractiveness for investment? Since March I have been supporting the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to research this issue. We will launch the report on the future of EPZs at the WTO on October 1st in Geneva.

Fortunately this type of engagement with international organisations to seek some influence for one’s research is now more welcomed by the audits conducted on the work of academics. The suitability of metrics for our research and teaching is a hot topic in the UK at the moment, and therefore I’m hosting the lead author of the recent ‘Metric Tide’ report, Professor James Wilsdon, at a free open lecture in Lancaster on October 13th

Looking ahead to the new academic year, it is an exciting time for the Institute we launched in 2013, as it diversifies on the basis of the talents and interests of the team. For instance, this autumn my colleague and IFLAS Deputy Director, Dr David Murphy, will teach the opening module of the MSc in Strategic Policing. Through our participation in this MSc, we are integrating our approaches to leadership development, community engagement, stakeholder collaboration, ethics, and sustainability into what is set to become one of the leading policing masters degrees in the UK. Given the strength of international recruitment to this programme it could be an intriguing development for the years to come. We anticipate learning a lot from our colleagues in the policing subject area, and also from the participants on this innovative course.

If you are interested in receiving quarterly updates from me, please subscribe at  http://eepurl.com/beciEb

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Towards a Multi-Currency Eurozone

Posted by jembendell on July 6, 2015

The New Scientist magazine has published my views on the creation, in Greece ,of parallel currencies to the Euro, at both local and national levels. Unfortunately the mainstream financial press continue to mislead the public about the potential for a multi-currency system.

Even the basics are poorly reported, such as how the major bailouts for Greece were for the creditors, mostly German and French banks, not for the Greek government or citizens (as even the IMF recognises). But when it comes to the possibility of governments issuing their own parallel currencies, mainstream journalists move into a mode of lampooning and scaremongering.

Typically we see reports of banking analysts scoffing at proposals for new Government-issued currencies as ‘extreme measures’ of ‘money printing’ that are ‘liable to devaluation.’ It is only possible for such views to sound credible because most of us do not understand the way the banks currently create our money. In advanced economies, well over 90 percent of money is issued by commercial banks when they make loans. As the Bank of England had to correct economists last year: new loans are effectively new money. This process is difficult to justify when a bank’s privilege to create money from nothing and lend it to government for a nice profit starts to clash with democracy, as it may now be doing, given the protests against austerity. The mainstream media continues to avoid representing the informed views of those who completely reject a system where banks create money from nothing and use it to buy government bonds and charge interest on them, even at a 44% interest rate, as happened in 2012. It is why in 2011 at a European Broadcasting Union organised TEDx event I called on over 300 people in media to offer more insight on monetary issues.

In the last few years, the fame of the digital currency Bitcoin has helped people to see that there are alternatives to official money. However, the answer for Greece and other countries facing austerity is not Bitcoin, or any currency that the average citizen has to buy with their scarce funds of official money. Instead, what is needed are new currencies that turn the future value that citizens can produce into a form of IOU today: the types I mention in the New Scientist article. There are many such innovations around the world, with particularly exciting initiatives in Kenya, as I explained at the United Nations recently.

The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, is aware of some of these innovations. He told the Telegraph “If necessary, we will issue parallel liquidity and California-style IOU’s, in an electronic form. We should have done it a week ago.” Better still, he should have done that on Day 1 in office. But it seems the mainstream financial press cant deal with such imaginative ideas. Immediately the Wall Street Journal reported various unnamed sources as guessing the government sacked him for that idea. That’s strange, when previous (less left-wing) Greek governments DID EXACTLY THAT IN 2010, when they issued IOUs for payments of medical supplies as I explain in the New Scientist article. Instead, it seems he stepped aside for the reasons he implied, to stop personality issues being the cause for, or excuse for, a lack of agreement.

Why are the mainstream media so allergic to currency innovation, especially if led by a government? Is it

a) they haven’t got a clue about monetary economics or the history of currency

b) they are so immersed in the delusion that money is wealth that to consider how communities and governments can create their own money threatens their whole world view of how society should function

c) they are deliberately trying to undermine government and community currency innovation in order to please some in the banking sector who do not want nations to escape the debt-enforced transfer of wealth to the few, via austerity and privatisation

d) all of the above

I hope Yannis now has some more time to work on alternative currencies. It is important way beyond the borders of Greece. As I say in the New Scientist:

Although people are focused on what to do in Greece and the Eurozone now, the implications are far wider, inviting all of us to think about the kind of monetary systems we want in a 21st century where humanity seeks to transition to a fairer, more sustainable world….

…Once the Greek government joins their citizens and entrepreneurs in creating alternative currencies that can exist alongside the euro, we will see the emergence of truly multi-currency societies. It would be apt as the birthplace of money, with the drachma over 2500 years ago, for Greece to lead the way into this future.”

In preparing the article I’m indebted to my friend and colleague Tom Greco, who has been in Greece for the past month working with communities, business networks, local governments and some members of the national administration to create a circulating exchange medium on the basis of future tax revenues. He calls them “Tax Anticipation Warrants” but I prefer to dub them The Greco, The idea is this currency:

1. Be spent into circulation by the government,

2. In a form that can be circulated,

3. As payment at par with the euro,

4. To employees, pensioners, contractors, and suppliers,

5. In amounts no greater than anticipated tax and other revenues in a six month period.

6. That they not be given legal tender status,

7. Nor be redeemable for euros,

8. But only in payment to the government for any taxes and dues, at par.

9. That they carry an expiration date to be one or two years after their first issuance.

10. But be exchangeable at par, prior to expiration, for any new warrants that the government might issue in the future.

Godspeed to Tom and other volunteer alternative currency designers in Greece and elsewhere.

Excited? Bamboozled? Take our free course starting 23rd August. www.ho.io/mooc

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Quarterly Updates – sign up

Posted by jembendell on May 12, 2015

I have started producing quarterly updates… yep 4 emails a year on what Im doing. In each on Ill be linking to written outputs and forthcoming events. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/beciEb

Here is the text of the latest update:

I want to update you on the festival we are organising this summer on the shores of England’s largest lake. The full programme, which includes over 80 experts, plus lots of outdoor activities is now out: download here. As it is during the summer holidays, we are providing a free children’s programme of professionally run outdoor activities – and babysitting. Half the places have now gone, so book now if you are interested.

The research festival is preceded by a 6 day course on sustainable leadership that I’m teaching. We have some wonderful people joining the course.

In the past months I’ve been on secondment to the UN, and as I’ve been in Geneva I presented my research at a couple of events. In April I presented to the UNECE about the monetary cause of the house price crisis that is affecting many cities. I explained, based on my work in ‘Healing Capitalism’, that the more consolidated a nation’s banking system is, the more their lending is focused on real estate, and so this leads to the asset price inflation of housing. Solutions must involve re-balancing the process of new money creation by commercial banks. That can be achieved by promoting more local banks that focus on lending to businesses (e.g. breaking up RBS) and introducing credit guidance so we move away from a situation where over 80% of new credit creation is for real estate. Other options include removing from commercial banks the priviledge of creating money. Given that, according to research, most politicians dont even realise that commercial banks create over 90% of a nations’ money supply, we have some way to go before sensible policies even begin to be considered. I wrote about these issues in Open Democracy.

In May I presented my research on currency innovation to UNRISD. I drew upon a paper that was published earlier this year where we provide a case study of a local currency created in a slum in Kenya that has already boosted trade by over 20% without indebting anyone nor requiring foreign aid. I noted how the current Financing for Development discussions at the UN have completely overlooked monetary issues and currency innovation. As a result of the discussions, recommendations for including complementary currencies are being submitted to UNDESA.

We had a great response to the Money and Society free online course (a “MOOC”), with over 300 people registering and around 100 completing all assignments and graduating to the alumni forum. Some of the participants joined us on the Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange in London. The next offering of the free online course starts on August 23rd and runs for 4 weeks, taking about 5 hours of work time per week. Read more about it, and the accredited course, here. Sign up for the MOOC via martin.pyrah@cumbria.ac.uk
Some of my research to develop this MOOC led me to look at trends in financial technology (fintech). In March, I was asked to speak about ethical implications at the main annual conference on fintech in the City of London. I warned that as we move to a cashless society, we risk becoming dependent on oligopolies that have shown themselves to be susceptible to political pressure. I argued that the issues are so important to the future of democracy that the UN, via the ITU, should be involved, not only banking regulators. I wrote up my speech here.

I was out of the country for the UK election, but followed it with interest. As the results came in, I wondered what some contemporary management theories might imply for the future of the opposition parties. So I shared an idea for a Liberal Green Alliance in Open Democracy.

If any of these topics interest you, then do engage in the Sustainable Leaders linked in group, or see my latest musings at www.jembendell.com

In the coming quarter I will be shuttling between Cumbria, London and other locations due to speaking engagements (see below). I hope to see you at the Leading Wellbeing festival in July.

Upcoming talks and workshops:

Posted in Academia and Research | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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