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Want to get a few highlights from the recent international ebbf annual event and some of what we learnt in that four day journey?
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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