short news from ebbf members
Want to get a few highlights from the recent international ebbf annual event and some of what we learnt in that four day journey?
And for one week only, you can enjoy a very special return event rate for the next ebbf international event.
An opening keynote summary by ebbf member Iko Congo
Carl Emerson introduced Arthur Dahl as an exceptionally experienced person who consults for the UN WEF, World Bank, President of IEF and a professor, someone who is involved in many things and has over 200 publications. His keynote was about systems science beyond diversity and humorously noted that the way to start this business conference was a scientist.
He started his talk by conceiving diversity and offering different metaphors. When seeing diversity as a variety of different things in an assemblage, we can see the beauty of a garden with flowers of different sizes, colours and aromas. He went deeper asking a few questions. Is it enough to have a bunch of different things together? If was not for the gardener how long would the beauty of the garden last? Would weeds come in?
Reflecting then this truth into a human community with different races, cultures and languages, what would happen if some consider themselves superior over others? How would this community function? Would wars and quarrels ensue?
Arthur’s speciality is coral reefs which are a prime example of interdependence 400 corals, 4000 molluscs, 1500 fish just on the Great Barrier Reef. A very high number of different species support each other, live not only in harmony but in cooperation, where each life form helps to maximise total productivity.
The point I believe he was making was that what is important in a complex system is not the just the number of different entities but how they interact. How do they contribute to something larger than individual parts? “Much of it comes down to communication”. Something he hoped during the weekend the conference participants will have.
He then moved on to his talk to explore diversity in human society. Arthur shared a quote from the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity
“Much of the human body, the interdependent body of humanity is composed of diverse elements whose wellbeing can only be achieved through integration and coordination. No cell or organ lives apart from the human body, and the well-being of each derives from the well-being of the whole. At the same time, it is the unity and interdependence of the body’s diverse cells and organs that permit the full realisation of the distinctive capacities inherent in each.”
He introduced Peter Turchin as someone who tried to model history and study the rise and fall of civilisations. Turchin, despite being an atheist, pronounced that he could only find religions as the factor that allowed for groups of people to transcend the differences that initially divided them as religions acted as catalysers for ethical values that enabled groups to build trust and increased level of altruism among leaders.
He then spent the remaining time of his talk exploring a letter from The Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the worldwide Baha’i community, on economics where the institution offers some thoughts on the current conditions of the world and potential alternatives in light of the Baha’i writings. He explored rich themes such as the moral dimension of economic life, the materialistic vision of human purpose, the seductive messages in our contemporary society, the economic systems failure, the overcoming the dangers, the challenging economic assumptions, the reorganisation of human society and the higher purpose of economic activity.
Following is one excerpt from the message he shared: “Every choice one makes—as employee or employer, producer or consumer, borrower or lender, benefactor or beneficiary—leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands that one’s economic decisions be in accordance with lofty ideals, that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims.”
He finished the session with three questions for reflection:
Can a systems perspective help you to explain to others the need to go beyond the materialist and individualist economic paradigm?
How can we avoid unwittingly adopting the materialist ways of seeing the world?
What opportunities may be open to you to experiment with new approaches to your economic life?
You can find the documents he referenced in the following links:
The paradox of doing wrong to achieve good
Dhairya Pujara, founder and CEO Of Ycenter, open the Friday morning program with his keynote.
He went to a private school but after school he stayed with her mother, in the corner of a class of a public school where his mother was a techer. At school he received a value based education. At school he noted diversity, e.g. Having and expensive pencil box or not having it. Another kind of diversity was gender based.
Moving forward to college he launched a website to share used books at low prices for people who couldn’t afford to buy new ones. Take the bottom up pyramid of human needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization. He started from the top, asking himself about his purposed. Then he moved to US, quit his job and joined the university service sending people to Mozambique.
Intention, action, impact: these were the three concepts he focused on. He started fixing medical equipemnts but he soon realized that he needed to fix the education gap.
He founded Ycenter, starting to build a community project, Ola Health, requiring to send a text to get cures. Microsoft funded it for three years but it didn’t work, people felt intimidated about sending texts. A card game about malaria prevention created with the local population was succesful instead. Now he’s running various successful programs in India.
Empathy is really important to him. It allows him to overcome the lack of diversity in his perception. Because lack of diversity is the problem in fixing problems.
Evening keynote by Payam Zamani at the #ebbfdiversity conference in Geneva
Before telling his personal experience he started the session with the Ocean water video.
A 2007 study of the Science Foundation states that a healthy population depends on genes diversity. Nature is telling us that diversity is a must. Loss of diversity threathens species diversity.
Payam has a personal story of diversity, as a member of a minority in Iran, the Baha’is, and as an immigrant to the US without speaking a word of English. He was born in a Baha’i family and their parents always wanted to be pioneers in places where there are not Baha’is , starting from remote location in Iran. In 1987 he moved to Pakistan than to US in 1988.
Diversity was the first thing he noted when he arrived in the US. He joined the College in Modesto, California, where he falled in love with the idea of community building. In 1994 he graduated from the college and loved the idea of launching a business on the Internet. In 1999 he made the AutoWeb IPO lasting till the 2001 Nasdaq crash. Some years later started to reemerge and in 2015 he launched One Planet Ops. A new story, based on his personal learnings, began.
An encouraging year for ebbf, its members and the increased impact this now global organization is reaching.
It has also been a year of useful learning both in the way the organization is developing internally and in new learnings as its members increase their interaction in local activities.
We invite members to actively participate in ebbf’s Annual General Meeting to be held at 17:00 on Saturday 6th of May at the venue of its next annual conference in Geneva.
The board is asking its members to specifically come and consult on three strategic areas:
a) ebbf reaching sustainable financing
b) fostering current partnerships and extending to new relevant ones
c) expanding local ebbf activities, their impact and learning
The small room in a corner at Sprüngli in Zürich Paradeplatz quickly filled up last Wednesday 5th of April early morning for the regular ebbf breakfast that took place there, the 6th in Zürich since it began last year.
26 young and young at heart gathered to listen to Alex Inchbald, painter in extreme settings, talking about creativity. He shared many thoughts that he gained from his research on the topic and his experience as painter, husband and father of two small children.
Here are few thoughts he presented, or that were discussed in the group:
Everybody has the capacity to be creative, and has his own way of being creative, which can take different forms and is unique in the world.
Our education system does not at all focus on creativity, but mostly on intellectual capacities, not on the inner world but mostly on the outer world. Does education kill creativity?
We are mostly focused through our five senses on the outer world, eventually even kept captive by these five senses.
To the question Alex asked about when we are most creative, the participants answered that they are mostly creative when not at work or occupied with daily chores. That is when they are calm and relaxed and detached from the ego and its goals and fears related to the outer world like f.ex. certainty or significance.
Detaching from the ego, concentrating on our inner essence and meditating helps one to attain inner peace. Inner peace enables creativity, which is endless and in this sense more related to a process than an outcome. It is a process that starts from our inner essence, which as Alex found in some research is in need of contributing and growing.
We all enjoyed the talk and many diverse contributions were made to the conversation on the topic. We all appreciated the time we had to connect or reconnect with new and old friends.
sneak preview of the video; here is the film of me painting in the snow; download the main concepts
ebbf annual conference speaker Fateme Banishoeib is a perfect living example of a multicultural background and she offers below an interesting angle on the theme of the event “How can ethical business build the future going beyond diversity?” .
She even just recently wrote a book “The Whisper” which you can find more about including a video introduction on her website here https://rnewb.com/the-whisper/ or even go and purchase her book here.
The way she introduces her book is “I became a scientist because I wanted to save lives and I wrote poetry to save myself. My book of poems, The Whisper, is a lyrical conversation I had with the tiny voice that I had ignored for years while I climbed the corporate ladder.”
Here below is that Fateme had to share about the theme of the ebbf event.
“Diversity is a burden
We hear a lot about diversity. It became a buzz word. As we hear it and read it daily we might have the impression that is the holy solution to all our problems. Especially because it is presented as a source for innovation, increased performance, competitive advantage and creativity. This potential, however, is only accessible when we practice inclusion. Diversity alone is not enough. Diversity becomes a burden when not paired with inclusion, only when combined they become a competitive advantage. The real advantage comes for engaging into a conversation with the world that enables creativity, freedom and true sense of purpose.
We need to be aware and acknowledge the fact that for example in the workplace (and outside too) diverse teams face higher chances to get into conflict compared to more homogeneous or less diverse teams. By diverse I refer to different opinions, background, skills, values, beliefs and more.
Those conflicts get on our way to advance inclusion. It is not uncommon to associate negative meaning and even emotions or feelings to the word conflict. This is the result of our upbringing and evolution. As a result, we tend to suppress it by exercising power. Yet, I believe that we can find the resolution to conflict in the tension that generates from it. In so doing we become more inclusive.
A typical example is conflict arising from diversity of value system. To be able to overcome such a conflict we need to find a language to communicate and resolve. We need to have real conversations which means we must listen to all the voices that take part to the conversation. It is crucial we understand where our own core values and others’ lay for engaging into a conversation. Only then we can think about our own motivation and needs and articulate them with a true voice, while remaining, at the same time, open to others’ voice.
As we engage in these conversations we need to be aware that tapping only into our intellect, wont be enough to solve any conflict. I honestly do not buy any formula that prescribes us to leave the emotions out. First of all I do not believe that is possible and second I am truly convinced that instead we need to find ways to access them. The understanding of our emotions and the needs behind them helps us to engage in the creative process to find resolution. We need to find a common ground that integrates both the rational and emotional starting first with ourselves and then include others.
One tool we have to integrate both rational and emotional is writing. Through writing we can access our thoughts and emotions so that they do not remain unconscious. We know, and science has proven it, that beyond logic and reasoning, emotions and intuition are critical to what we do and how we make decisions, either we are aware of them or not. As we gain clarity and self-awareness around our emotions and thoughts, we learn how to self-manage ourselves. We understand more of what trigger us, what nurture us and by understanding more about ourselves we learn how to relate to others more effectively.
My motto is “Inclusion starts with self” this means that we need to start by being inclusive of our emotions without shaming or repressing them. By being inclusive of our own emotions and thoughts as of others is the key for meaningful conversations.
You can meet with her and all the other speakers and global audience at ebbf’s next international event in Geneva
more info here, only very few places left if you are interested.
<a class=”LinkButton” href=”http://ebbf.org/event/ebbf-diversity-annual-conference/#ebbf”>More info on the ebbf event and speakers</a>
Arthur Dahl is one of the speakers from over 15 countries who will engage with the diverse global audience during this next ebbf annual conference 4-7th of May in Geneva (more info on the event here) . He offers this article to introduce our understanding of diversity, main theme of the event.
“Diversity refers to the variety of different thing in an assemblage. We may use the metaphore of a beautify garden with many different varieties of flowers, with different colours and shapes adding to the visual interest. But is that enough? If it was just the gardener who planted them all side by side or in some aesthetic arrangement, how long would that beauty last? Over time, would some die out and others take over?
Suppose that you put in the same community people of a wide variety of races, cultures, languages and classes, all of whom though that they were from the superior group. What would that diversity contribute to efforts to build a sense of community? Quarrels and boycotts, or worse?
Imagine a zoo, with all kinds of animals in separate cages, fascinating to admire perhaps, but far from being a harmonious ecosystem and totally dependent on the zoo keepers for their survival.
Systems science can help to explain these phenomena. What is important in a complex system is not just the number of different entities and their distinct qualities, but how they interact. Will they simply fight until one comes out the winner? Or do they have a common purpose, with an organization that is more than the sum of the parts?
Fortunately we have examples from the natural world that can illustrate what is necessary beyond diversity. They show that diversity is the dynamic driver for greater systems complexity, integration, efficiency and resilience. Through long processes of evolution, and both individual and group selection, interactions are selected for that enhance the interrelationships beneficial for all concerned. The greater the number of potential interactions among diverse entities, the greater the capacity of the system to evolve higher levels of complexity.
In a coral reef ecosystem, full of life in the biological desert that is the tropical sea, it is the increasing cooperation among the thousands of species expressed in mutual assistance and symbioses that make such high levels of productivity possible. Corals themselves are already a community of colonial animals living in symbiosis with tiny algae inside of their tissues, fertilized with their wastes and producing much of their food. Among the many kinds of fish, each has a special role in the community. Damsel fish cultivate seaweeds in their garden for food. Parrot fish bite off chunks of coral, creating bare areas where the larvae of other corals can settle, increasing coral diversity. Clown fish attract predatory fish as food for their anemone. Cleaner fish pick parasites off the skin, teeth and gills of big predatory fish at cleaning stations. Everything has its place and function, and together they create one of the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems.
Unlike the present economic paradigm, where increasing productivity means keeping only the individually most productive and discarding the rest, on the coral reef, the gaps between the most productive are filled by slightly less productive forms, on down to the only marginally productive, because the sum total of all of these is far more than the most productive by itself, not to mention variations in productivity and comparative advantage under different conditions. Different life forms perform different services, all contributing to the overall productivity, resilience and well-being of the community as a whole.
We need to look at human diversity, both individually and its various collective forms, in the same way. Every human being has some capacity to contribute to the material, social, intellectual and spiritual wealth of the society, if we can discover and cultivate those qualities and find the right place in society for them. Our tragedy at the moment is that this rich human diversity, unaccompanied by values of justice, cooperation and reciprocity, can produce the negative reactions and phenomena we see today.
The Institute for Studies of Global Prosperity has described the systems perspective on diversity this way: “Much like the human body, the interdependent body of humanity is composed of diverse elements whose well-being can only be achieved through integration and coordination. No cell or organ lives apart from the human body, and the well-being of each derives from the well-being of the whole. At the same time, it is the unity and interdependence of the body’s diverse cells and organs that permits the full realization of the distinctive capacities inherent in each. The organic unity suggested by this analogy does not imply uniformity. On the contrary, the diversity of the component parts of an organic body permits the full realization of its collective capacity. Within human societies, diversity is a source of inspiration, creativity, productivity, resilience, innovation, and adaptation. Only when diverse segments of society are able to contribute appropriately to the governance of human affairs, within a framework characterized by unity and integration, will real prosperity and well-being be achieved. Such unity can only be achieved, however, as justice becomes the guiding principle of governance at all levels. An essential expression of justice is the desire to ensure that every individual and group has the opportunity to develop their full potential in order to contribute to the betterment of society. A concern for justice is thus an indispensable compass in collective decision making. In the design and implementation of plans, programs, and policies, justice is the sole means by which unity of thought and action can be achieved and sustained among diverse peoples.” (ISGP 2012)
Civilizations have always experienced rise and fall, and ours is no exception. But the decline of an old bankrupt system creates the opportunity to build a new one. Recent historical research by an avowed atheist has suggested that higher levels of ethnically-diverse civilization are catalysed by ethical values from religion, building trust among otherwise competing groups, increasing the level of altruism among leaders, and providing the foundation and energy for new levels of organization and efficiency (Turchin 2016).
Rethinking the economic system
This systems approach is beautifully illustrated in the recent message to the Bahá’í World from the Universal House of Justice, the supreme Bahá’í administrative body, dated 1 March 2017 (UHJ 2017), parts of which are summarized below. It starts by describing the social conditions today, in which the prolonged suffering of so many is evidence of deep-seated structural defects in society causing system failure. It makes the classic systems statement that the welfare of any segment of humanity is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole.
The dominant forces of materialism are in fact a negation of the systems perspective, glorifying the individual at the expense of collective welfare. This is obvious in beliefs that:
– happiness comes from constant acquisition,
– the more one has the better, and
– worry for the environment is for another day.
These seductive messages fuel an increasingly entrenched sense of personal entitlement, which uses the language of justice and rights to disguise self-interest. Indifference to the hardship experienced by others becomes commonplace. Entertainment and distracting amusements are voraciously consumed to cover up this reality. This enervating influence of materialism has seeped into every culture.
The message warns that:
– unless you strive to remain conscious of its effects, you may to one degree or another unwittingly adopt its ways of seeing the world;
– very young children absorb the norms of their surroundings;
– for junior youth, the call of materialism grows more insistent;
– adulthood brings a responsibility not to allow worldly pursuits to blind one’s eyes to injustice and privation.
Conscious of this state of affairs, we need to see past the illusions that, at every stage of life, the world uses to pull our attention away from service (the systems perspective) and towards the self, and to manage our material affairs in keeping with spiritual principles and what systems science says is needed for integration.
How anti-systemic it is for each group to think of its own well-being in isolation, to pursue economic gain without regard for the natural environment, and to allow avarice and self-interest to prevail at the expense of the common good. The extremes of wealth and poverty in the world are becoming ever more untenable, with unconscionable quantities of wealth being amassed, while income and opportunity are spread so unevenly, deepening the fractures that affect societies large and small. These are clear signs of systems failure. The message states that there is no justification for continuing to perpetuate structures, rules, and systems that manifestly fail to serve the interests of all peoples.
Behind this systems failure is a moral failure, since morals, in a systemic perspective, can be considered the principles on which social systems are founded and which create their evolutionary potential. There is an inherent moral dimension to the generation, distribution, and utilization of wealth and resources.
The vision of Baha’u’llah highlighted in the message challenges the materialistic assumptions that self-interest, far from needing to be restrained, drives prosperity; that progress depends upon its expression through relentless competition; and that the worth of an individual is chiefly in terms of how much one can accumulate and how many goods one can consume relative to others.
What, then, are the systems requirements for a new economic paradigm capable of meeting the material and social needs of all people, leaving no one behind as the UN 2030 Agenda calls for? Wealth must serve humanity and be used in accordance with spiritual principles. “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it.” (Baha’u’llah)
The message calls for the reorganization of human society. Collective prosperity can be advanced through justice and generosity, collaboration and mutual assistance, qualities that are essential to integrated and productive human systems. Every choice we make—as employee or employer, producer or consumer, borrower or lender, benefactor or beneficiary—leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands that one’s economic decisions be in accordance with lofty ideals, that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims.
At this ebbf event in particular, we each need to consider how we can make our own individual and collective contributions to economic justice and social progress wherever we reside. We have the responsibility to find ways of addressing the root causes of the poverty in our own surroundings.
Underlying this, we must acknowledge the spiritual reality of humanity, and the nobility inherent to every human being, one of ebbf’s core values. Economic life is an arena for the expression of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, generosity, and other qualities of the spirit. The individual is not merely a self-interested economic unit, striving to claim an ever-greater share of the world’s material resources.
“Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue, and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.” (Baha’u’llah)
“Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.” (Baha’u’llah)
By consecrating oneself to the service of others, one finds meaning and purpose in life and contributes to the upliftment of society itself, a complete systems frame of reference.
In this way, we raise economics out of the slough of materialism, and recognize the higher purpose of economic activity. We can see that ordinary economic activities have the potential to add to human welfare and prosperity.
“Every person must have an occupation, a trade or a craft, so that he may carry other people’s burdens, and not himself be a burden to others.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha)
“Wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts… in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and if it be expended for philanthropic purposes.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha)
“Wealth is most commendable provided the entire population is wealthy.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha)
An important theme in the message is the need for learning based on practical action. We do not have a complete model of an alternative economic system, but only some spiritual principles that should be reflected in systems to emerge in the future. What we can do now is experiment, in our businesses, workplaces and communities, with alternatives to the present ways of doing things, and through action, reflection and consultation in a humble posture of learning, try to take some small steps towards a new vision of the economy.
I hope that, at the end of this event, you will go away with feelings of contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the divine will, as we work from the bottom up to transform the economy and society.”
ISGP. 2012. Reflections on Governance. Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity, Bahá’í International Community. Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa, Israel, 21 July 2012. http://www.globalprosperity.org/documents/ISGP_Reflections_on_Governance.pdf
Turchin, Peter. 2016. Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth. Chaplin, Connecticut: Beresta Books.
UHJ. 2017. Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of the World, 1 March 2017. Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa.
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how can ethical business build the future, going beyond diversity?
We ask you:
What does diversity mean to you?
What opportunities and challenges does diversity bring to your life?
How do you go beyond diversity to create unity and why?you could win one of three free tickets to ebbf’s annual conference by posting UNTIL 22nd MARCH your ideas, articles, images about the theme of ebbf’s annual conference.
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