Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

Archive for July, 2014

Have you let the arms-traders inside your brain?

Posted by jembendell on July 20, 2014

At times of war mongering, and mass media’s de-humanising of others, it is worth remembering the evidence and analysis of the economic drivers of such madness have existed for over a century.

This, in a footnote in 1860 by John Ruskin:

“It is one very awful form of the operation of wealth in Europe that it is entirely capitalists’ wealth which supports unjust wars. Just wars do not need so much money to support them; for most of the men who wage such, wage them gratis; but for an unjust war, men’s bodies and souls have both to be bought; and the best tools of war for them besides; which makes such war costly to the maximum; not to speak of the cost of base fear, and angry suspicion, between nations…And all unjust war being supportable, if not by pillage of the enemy, only by loans from capitalists, these loans are repaid by subsequent taxation of the people, who appear to have no will in the matter, the capitalists’ will being the primary root of the war…”

Perhaps President Eisenhower has read some Ruskin as he thought through his farewell address in 1961 that warned the American public and world of the growth of the Military Industrial Complex that was coming to control US foreign policy in favour of constant war.

So next time you see some “news” that makes you go

“gah, those disgusting…” or

“we should remove that son of a…” or

“we should send in the…” or

“something [violent] must be done…”

stop and wonder..

… have you let the arms-traders inside your brain?

 

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Sustainable Leadership course takes off

Posted by jembendell on July 18, 2014

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Scholarship winners Tom Shakli and Emily Oliver (centre) receive their certificates from guest lecturer Jane Burston and IFLAS director Professor Jem Bendell.

 

On September 1st the inaugural cohort of the Post Grad Certificate in Sustainable Leadership will gather for a week in the Lake District. Lucky them! Around a dozen professionals in the broad field of sustainability are going to explore how to better lead change at scale. Im pleased we have also been able to offer scholarships to two of the participants.

The scholarships have been funded by the Robert Kennedy College, which is based in Switzerland. Together with the University of Cumbria, RKC jointly delivers an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, which regularly brings executives from around the world for a week’s residential study in the Lake District.

Emily Oliver and Tom Shakhli, both from London, have been accepted onto the Postgraduate Certificate for Sustainable Leadership which will be delivered at both Ambleside and the university’s campus in the capital.

Tom Shakhli is co-manager of the Brixton Pound, perhaps one of the best-known community currencies in the UK.

He said: “It is an exciting area of work to be in, because it feels like it’s the start of something bigger. There isn’t really a blueprint for success. That’s why I think it’s important that there are academic institutions such as the University of Cumbria that have departments dedicated to this area of work.

“The Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership seems ideal because it can give organisations such as ours the requisite knowledge to take our initiatives and have them really make a difference.”

Amongst other freelance projects, Emily Oliver has recently founded and currently co-manages FoodCycle Wandsworth and is keen to begin her studies.

She said: “I’m aware that in order to further develop skills in organisational leadership, an understanding of sustainable strategy, and ability to nurture impactful results, I need to study them effectively.

“As I learn best through practice, this course’s experiential approach is an ideal opportunity to do that – as well as build a support network.”

To find out more about courses offered by IFLAS, including the new Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership, visit www.iflas.info

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Financial Freedom: Text of Speech at Guardian Activate Conference

Posted by jembendell on July 17, 2014

Today I spoke at the Guardian newspaper’s Activate conference in London. The audience was mostly comprised of VCs, Financial Tech specialists, Sharing Economy start ups, and others interested in the potential of tech to disrupt the way we pay and co-rent. Here, below, is the text of the speech.

guardian

“Thanks for the introduction, Stephen. Yes, I founded at an institute for leadership and sustainability, in the Lake District. A land known for hiking, sheep, poetry, rabbits… and bitcoin. Earlier this year we became the first public university to accept the crypto currency. We decided to accept bitcoin to learn by doing, as we teach a Masters-level course on currency innovation. In the course we explore how currency systems and sharing platforms might help sustain our communities and environment. But what Ive come to understand is that if we want to shape the future of money then first we must understand the present nature of money. So before I tell you what I’m excited about, let me explain what I’m grumpy about.

About 97% of money we use is created by private bank lending, which comes with interest. When we borrow, the money is created by the bank, not taken from savings. The amount owed to banks, which is the amount borrowed plus the interest, is always more than the amount borrowed. It means that collectively we are in debt forever, so inequality is inevitable.

With this system of money creation, banks decide who gets the new money and for what. So about 80% of new money is created for property loans. That inflates the price of property, so house prices are 8000% higher than in 1950. That’s not market forces, but the result of our monetary system. I know many people who are in jobs they hate, or who have ignored a vocational calling, because of the mortgage. Some people I know have got ill because their mortgage locks them into a certain lifestyle. Unless we start out with a lot of capital, it’s less a property ladder than a property prison.

But what to do about it?

I take inspiration from a South African anti-apartheid campaigner. In the 1970s Tim Jenkin was imprisoned for 12 years for his activism, to be served in a high security jail in Pretoria. Given the injustice of the system Tim considered it his duty to try to break out of jail. Which he did after 18 months, and fled the country. Fast forward to 2003, Tim had returned to South Africa. He saw that people are oppressed by the current monetary system, and he wanted to free them.

He created Community Exchange Systems with free open source software. They now have 50,000 users, in over 700 locations worldwide. Instead of units of ‘money’ being issued into circulation according to a policy or algorithm, peers extend credit to each other. It means people who have little money but have time, skills and resources, can start helping each other and trading with each other, without official money. This is “collaborative credit” as it involves members of a network trusting each other rather than a bank. Collaborative credit doesn’t come with interest demands or create asset price inflation. There are over a thousand such systems worldwide, but they are largely under the radar of the media, VCs or philanthropists.

Bitcoin has opened minds the idea that fintech can help us transact in alternative currencies, but there’s a long way to go. Now we need to understand how currencies can be designed to support communities and the environment. Bitcoin fans often speak of financial freedom, yet the issuance and distribution of bitcoin makes Thatcher look like a communist. Moreover, it is delusional to believe that money should be a thing of value, rather than a way of keeping score amongst people and organisations doing useful things for each other. We can’t eat money, we can’t eat gold, we can’t eat bitcoin. The real wealth is our lives, communities and environment. We need currency systems that support such wealth, not undermine it. We need positive transformation of our monetary systems, not just disruption.

People like Tim Jenkin have launched collaborative credit systems without financial backing. Now fintech and sharing economy start-ups have a role to play, but to do so they need to design business models that will empower people not make them captive. I hear some people in fintech and the collaborative economy looking to exit to a major multinational. That might let their founders and shareholders escape the prison of the mainstream monetary system, but leave that prison with new walls and stronger guards.

We need a considered dialogue about how to prevent monopolistic practices, protect users, and involve them in the governance of new systems for sharing, currency and payment. It starts with recognising our purpose here is greater than feel-good projects, funky start-ups, or getting rich. We have the potential to design systems that will shape economies, societies and environments for decades to come. So why not make that issue our business?”

 

To read more about Collaborative Credit, see my article on the Guardian website. Ill tweet the video of the talk when its available (@jembendell)

You can download the introduction to Healing Capitalism for free.

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