The oikos FutureLab 2014 saw more than 120 participants from 18 countries, belonging to diverse fields and backgrounds gather at a unique forum for idealization and impact. The participants included not just students but oikos alumni, NGO representatives, top-notch faculty members and an extensive array of partners who support our initiatives.
The FutureLab kicked-off with a session entitled “Building the Bridge”. The former President, Lenka Parkanova, and current President, Anita Negri, shared their journeys and led chapter presidents to collectively share oikos’ current impact and aspirations. In this process chapter presidents created the first building blocks of our bridge towards sustainability in economics and management. This bridge would later also link all the Learning Circles and offer a holistic perspective of oikos. By inviting the participants to start building our bridge towards sustainability in economics and management, chapter presidents handed over the floor to the seven Learning Circles (Economics, Finance, Leadership, Management, Energy, Fashion/Supply Chain and Entrepreneurship). Every Learning Circle Manager introduced their Learning Circle’s landscape for the participants to understand the key challenges in their explored field.
Under the able guidance of expert moderators and advisors, the first Learning Circle workshop sessions were primarily devoted to laying the foundations and drafting a framework to tackle the challenges in the respective spheres. Subsequently, the participants had the opportunity to witness a riveting leadership talk by Uwe Lübbermann, founder of Premium-Cola. Through his talk, Uwe inspired the audience with his unique entrepreneurial journey that created a paradigm shift from the traditional cola business model. The critical success factor of Uwe’s business model is the power of human relationships which, he believes, is more important than the business acumen. The audience was left truly inspired by his vision as the theater echoed with rapturous applause. Uwe emerged as a role model for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
The second day began with the “Impact Walk” during which participants were asked to walk in pairs from their accommodation to the conference venue whilst exploring and exchanging their individual connections to sustainability. Subsequently, through a brief activity on self-reflection, participants were invited to reflect upon the challenges they face, their aspirations for the future and actions that would fructify their vision for the oikos community. Yuan Yang, co-founder of Rethinking Economics, and Marloes Nicholls, researcher at Meteos, then took the stage. These two dynamic change makers presented their insights on strategies to campaign for sustainability. The discourse touched upon campaigning techniques, the need and utility of organizing people and the key strategies for change. The second Learning Circle workshop sessions were more action-oriented as the participants crystallized their novel approaches to tackle the identified challenges. Advanced concepts were explored and, based on road-maps, future actions were drafted.
The “Impact Fair” showcased a myriad of innovative and impactful projects by participants from across the world. Through exchange of ideas, this session offered the scope of replicating projects by other chapters. The final session of the FutureLab 2014 culminated with all the Learning Circles coming forward to present their takeaways from the workshops and contributing to build our bridge. Amongst others, the takeaways included an understanding of financial modeling for photovoltaic projects, enhanced interest in the topic of De-growth and the scope of promoting sustainability in finance as a potential topic to write ones thesis on. As the curtains were drawn on the FutureLab, participants were encouraged to reflect upon how they intended to utilize the knowledge they gained at the FutureLab to take action, take forth their Learning Circles, bring vitality to the oikos community and facilitate their future endeavors to be champions of sustainability.
Ucha Khmaladze from Tbilisi (Georgia) shared his experiences saying, “I learned the ways of solving the most common problems in oikos chapters. The FutureLab was a great chance for everyone to get new skills and knowledge. The Learning circles were effective, this type of working was new for me and also the topic of de-growth was new. Nowadays, I try to find more and more information about de-growth.”
“The most interesting part of FutureLab for me was the leadership talk by Uwe. The talk highlighted the important facet of “Mutual respect” in business relations. I was inspired by his model that had no dependency relations, but put all stakeholders at the same pedestal. The key takeaway from the Finance Learning Circle was the focus on impact investment. The discussion about ESG criteria in pricing was really interesting and offered insights into a new way to value social and environmental dimensions in the pricing strategies of companies”, shares Robin Wengi, Lausanne (Switzerland).
Jonas Friedrich, an integral member of the ‘Dream Team’, who organized the FutureLab had several experiences worth sharing. Crystallizing his thoughts, he says, “One of my key realizations was that making mistakes is not that bad. If you are in a leadership position, things go wrong at times. But if you are ready to celebrate mistakes, then they provide you with a special learning. And if you share that with your collaborators then they will even be part of that learning process. Leadership does not mean to run in the front but rather to support what needs to happen from the back – holding the space, supporting, serving. Sustainability is about the listening! The more we practice listening to our social and ecological surrounding the better we can behave in a respectful way.”
Article written by Saurav Kumar Das
Photos by Stürmer Foto