Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

Archive for November, 2011

Have You Stopped Pussyfooting Around the Planet?

Posted by jembendell on November 23, 2011

Radical problems call for radical solutions. Incrementalism is no longer pragmatic, moral or even professional.

So I’m looking for associations with academic and other institutions where I may be a less-tempered radical. I want to work with people asking core questions including:

    – How does large-scale change occur?
    – How can we create economies and organisations that support our self-mastery and self-transcendence?
    – How can sustainable currencies be scaled?
    – How can we bring these questions into the minds and projects of those who care for the well-being of people and planet (or who are employed to administer resources allocated for such caring, whether by government, charity or business)?
    – How can we learn about these questions through reflective action, and in a way where we are not insidiously guided by self-interest or institutional demands?

If you know where I can do that, it would be great to hear from you.

If not, but you are exploring the same kind of questions, or applying solutions in the same spirit, Id be happy to hear from you IF you have a specific proposal to discuss.

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Posted in Academia and Research, My Life, Sustainable Development | 4 Comments »

New Italian premiere Mario Monti vows to make Neutrinos run on time

Posted by jembendell on November 20, 2011

After announcing his new cabinet, which includes no elected politicians, Mario Monti got to work in reassuring the public and markets of their focus in restoring confidence in Italy. “Further evidence this week that Italian scientists have measured neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light, has damaged confidence in Italian precision and efficiency,” said banker Monti. “I vow to make the neutrinos run on time,” said the leader of Italy’s first unelected government since the War. Along with creative austerity measures, such as making politicians redundant, Italy may be able to restore confidence in its bond issues. “This will enable us to fund international banker bonuses for another two years” explained Monti, demonstrating an acumen from his vast banking experience.

Some speculated that if the physics experiments are actually correct, it could be more unsettling to the markets. “For a neutrino to arrive faster than the speed of light means we must ask whether it is the same neutrino. Instead, could it be that the neutrino is being created out of nothing in the expectation of the arrival of a future neutrino? Might that create a momentary quantum debt that could be unsustainable if replicated on a larger scale?” pondered a theoretical physists who preferred not to be named. It is rumoured that the potential for this quantum-debt-default alerted Monti to settle the markets by outlining his neutrino doctrine. “There are so many quants in banking, who design the algorythms that do the high frequency trades, these neutrino results could knock their confidence in Italy’s science, or worse, in Italy’s time-space continuuum,” said the anonymous source. He added “being a Goldman Sachs man, Monti is used to controlling the universe, so subatomic adjustments might not be beyond his imagination.”

Unfortunately Professor Finzione, from the Italian laboratory Gran Sasso, was unable to attend the press conference, after his train was delayed. He sent your correspondent the following sms: “Time is not so linear. It could be a little bit of history repeating… Me ne Frego! [I dont give a damn!]”

[For more news of this type, check out the onion, news biscuit, daily show, colbert report, or, well, the latest headlines!].

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Bonfire Banking

Posted by jembendell on November 5, 2011

As Brits ritually remember Guy Faukes’ attempt to burn down the Houses of Parliament in 1605, it’s worth remembering when Parliament did actually burn down, why and with what implications. It was 1834, and money was involved.

The British economy had a few types of currency back then, one of which was called “tally sticks”. These were used by the Exchequer to record credits and debts and thus acted as money.

But banks didnt like these tally sticks, which meant the government could issue their own money as they pleased. They wanted to be the ones to create money, by issuing their own notes, and to charge interest on loans of notes and coins.

So they lobbied Parliament and got the tally sticks abolished in 1826. A few years later some were still being used. That wasnt good enough for the banks. They wanted them gone. A decision was taken to burn them. Where? In the stoves of the Houses of Parliament. When? In a rush. Why? Who knows, but the histories we read tell of how the chap burning them wanted to go home early, and put too many sticks in the stove.

As a systems thinker, Im always a bit suspiscious of the pilot error, lone gunman, individual madman view of historical events. But who knows? It was handy for the bankers that if a fire broke out from burning these pesky sticks and it burned down the Parliament, that the government would have to go into debt to the banks’ own forms of money to build a new one. There was no more tally stick money to go back to, to buy the materials and pay the workmen. So the government borrowed 2 million in bank money, to build a new Parliament. Its good to have your government owing you money, paying the interest, keeping you happy.

Reading this history, I wondered… would it make more sense to burn a different effigy on bonfire night?

(thx to Cairan for alerting me to the tally stick burning history. happy bonfire night!)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Learning About the Monetary Crisis

Posted by jembendell on November 2, 2011

Ive been delighted in the interest generated by my TEDx talk on money in September. In addition to general enthusiasm, some friends and others have asked me about monetary systems, or challenged me on my depiction of them. These conversations have not got onto what to do about flawed monetary systems, as they are stuck in simple misunderstandings about the history of money, the current nature of money, and its implications for our economy, society and environment. As I mentioned in my talk, we have so many unfounded assumptions about money. Im amazed at how many high flyers in various walks of life confidently make outlandish statements about the history, nature or effect of monetary systems. We need a better understanding of these issues to then have an informed debate about solutions, and to know where to put our efforts. Ill write more about those solutions and how to get involved in a future post, but for now, here are some resources to wise up on money.

Books on the problem of debt-money:
The End of Money and the Future of Civilisation, by Thomas Greco Jr
The Future of Money, by Bernard Lietaer
The Ecology of Money, by Richard Douthwaite
The Lost Science of Money, by Stephen Zarlenga

Videos on the problem of debt-money:
Money as Debt
Money as Debt II
Money as Debt III, available from http://www.moneyasdebt.net/
Money Masters
Also see The Money Fix, Lets Make Money, and 97% owned, which can be ordered online after searching.

Interviews with an academic explaining monetary systems:
Professor Richard Werner

For proposals, training, action and analysis of action, focused on complementary currencies (rather than other solutions to the debt-money problem) see:

Value for People
International Journal of Community and Complementary Currency Research
Community Currency Magazine
Community Forge
And there’s a list of more blogs on complementary currencies.

For information and campaigns on monetary reform:
Positive Money campaign in the UK
American Monetary Institute in the USA

A multi-stakeholder dialogue on the future of finance, that includes sub-groups working on this issue is the Finance Innovation Lab

A couple of entrepreneurs looking at business opportunities from these issues include:
http://www.chrismartenson.com
http://www.simondixon.org

(For transparency: I co-developed the concept for The Finance Lab when at WWF-UK in 06/07 and am an advisor to Community Forge since 2010).

Once you read into some of this you might start wondering if its all to big to tackle… but it isnt, there are many things we, and importantly, our organisations, our employers, our local governments, can do right now. More on that in future blogs.

My ted talk is online.

Feel free to add more links to relevant resources.

Posted in Academia and Research, Counter-Globalization Movement, Sustainable Development, Talks | 11 Comments »