Empowering Young Leaders at the Presidents’ Meeting 2015

On a warm Friday afternoon, precisely October 23rd 2015, around 40 oikos presidents and representatives arrived at St. Gallen’s train station with bags full of enthusiasm, expectations and the urge to learn. On the other side of the city, the Youth Hostel was ready to welcome them and the conference room has a circle of chairs in its centre where all participants of the Presidents’ Meeting would sit for the introductory session.

At exactly 2.40pm, once all participants had registered and check into their rooms, AnitaIMG_7695 Negri, the President of oikos, took the word to welcome everyone to oikos LEAP, which officially started with the Presidents’ Meeting. Two ice breakers followed. For the first one, presidents had sent a picture that represented them. They had to then form small groups and exchange how that picture represented them. The second ice breaker was a self-organized exercise where presidents had to commonly form their definition of sustainability. Participants had already sent their personal definition of sustainability and they now had to come up with one definition that united them all. This was followed  by an exercise to map the participants’ expectations. Each person had post its and the result was a flip chart filled with post its and expectations. Anita concluded by introducing the philosophy of the Presidents’ Meeting to the participants. This year’s Meeting was an experimental methodology and, amongst others, the Meeting featured a moderation guide. This meant that it was not the oikos President or Executive Board who would moderate the meeting, but rather the participants themselves.

The floor was then handed to Adriana Troxler, who presented oikos LEAP once again. The interactive presentation featured some dancing and exercises that depicted the activities that will be executed in LEAP. The FutureLab team was then introduced and Renee Horster, responsible for the programme of the FutureLab, introduced the task for presidents at the FutureLab. Participants were then given a quick break to recharge their batteries and have good Swiss cake. The afternoon ended with a session on personality assessments. The first participant to take up the innovative moderation methodology, was Ucha Khmaladze, the current president of oikos Tbilisi. He instructed participants to take three personality tests. Participants then got into groups and discussed their outcomes with the support of guiding questions that were intended to make participants reflect on their ‘being’ and the differing perspectives they can have on themselves and on others. Participants were left excited and, some astonished, at the results and open and reflective group sessions.

IMG_7881The second day commenced with a dancing session! The presidents of oikos Brussels and oikos Reims took over the moderation and asked participants to dance the Macarena. Participants grouped outside in the mist, and sang and danced the Macarena. Post the morning session and some reflection of the first day, Omid Ashari, expert in responsible leadership and Director of the #1 Financial Times Master, joined the presidents in the conference room. Omid provided a spectacular hour and a half of inspiration that left participants open-mouthed and full of questions. Moving on, the presidents of oikos Paderborn and oikos Vienna took over the moderation for a journaling session. The session started off with an inspirational video asking participants whether they ‘dare to follow their dreams’. Participants then went off to take the journaling exercise. Presidents finally gathered in groups where they honestly and openly discussed the journaling questions.

Post lunch, the moderation was taken over by the president of oikos Vellore and vice-president of oikos Baku. This session was all about responsible education. The session started with the reading of eight different articles on the challenges and opportunities of different aspects of economics and management education. Participants felt open-eyed by the papers whilst analyzing and debating about them. Summaries of the papers were created and participants shared their outcomes via short presentations to the entire group. After a short break, with some cake and crisps again, participants engaged in a very advanced leadership exercise. Adriana led this exercise, as a demonstration of what is possible by simply eliminating prejudices and too much talking. The results of the imaginary exercise moved several strings within the participants’ souls. The second day ended with a fantastic dinner at netts, St. Gallen, in their newly renovated dinner room. Participants lived a real Swiss experience in the house of the local beer.

thumb_IMG_8266_1024The third day of the Meeting, started with a feeling that time was going too fast. Nevertheless, presidents of oikos Jena and
oikos Konstanz took over the moderation and woke participants up with a Georgian dance (assisted by Executive Board member, Mariam Kakhidze). After another reflection of the previous day, presidents of oikos Kolkata and oikos New Delhi moderated a session of impact. Participants discussed the definition of impact and why it is so important for our organization. Two oikos alumni then joined participants at the Youth Hostel: Niels Rot and Oliver Schmid-Schonbeim. Niels and Oliver, both successful entrepreneurs in the field of sustainability, spoke to participants about their stories and journeys and their success in oikos and beyond. Participants were enthusiastic to hear about what is possible and gained some insights into some opportunities for their future.

After the break, the moderation was taken over by the oikos Pune president and representative of oikos New Delhi. Their session was all about further understanding responsible leadership. Participants had four articles at their disposal on various aspects of responsible leadership. After two exercises by the moderators, that made participants reflect on the metaphors for good leadership, groups were formed to analyze and discuss the articles. Conclusions were drawn and shared with the rest of the larger group and presentations closed the session to understand what relevant behaviors we should be internalizing in our work and our person as a whole. Lunch followed and the afternoon was dedicated to organizational matters.

thumb_IMG_8268_1024Firstly, the moderation was taken over by the presidents of oikos Cologne and oikos Leipzig. Participants were asked to divide in two groups and follow sessions given by the Executive Board on communications and strategy. After those sessions, participants mapped their impact and share best practices. The afternoon closed with a presentation by Executive Board Members of their recommendations and work and a presentation by Anita on organizational structures and the passion that binds us. The evening then continued with a cultural exchange, a presentation by the president oikos Kumasi and an amazing sweets exchange.

The fourth and final day of the Meeting, started with Indian dances. The first session was moderated by the president of oikos Chennai who introduced participants to the tradition. After the dancing, presidents were asked to draw a reflection of the previous day. The whole morning was then dedicated to preparing the presidents’ presentation for the oikos FutureLab. The main idea of this session was to prepare a presentation that propagate the lessons learnt during the Presidents’ Meeting and touch many more people. Participants worked on all the lessons learnt in the past days and completed a breath taking presentation (the presentation can be seen on the oikos YouTube channel). A regional meeting lunch followed the hard work of the morning. Participants gathered with their Executive Board Members in their regions and had fruitful discussions on how to advance their activities and impact.

The afternoon continued with a session on reflecting about the Meeting as a whole, and ourselves as people. The group created one final drawing around the word ‘oikos’ that reflected their feeling. The groups then had a final round of reflections moderated by the presidents of oikos Lund and oikos St. Andrews. Presidents then received certificates of participation and headed off to the getting ready for the oikos Legislative Meeting.

“The Presidents’ Meeting has changed a lot in my life and for my future.” – Gizela Wojtynek, oikos Opole, Poland

“I am so humbled by the receptive environment. The contents of the Meeting were so amazing and really have taken me to another level of life. It has really shaped my thought positively and has equipped me with ideals for quality leadership.” – Isaac Owusu, oikos Kumasi, Ghana

“At the Presidents’ Meeting I learnt to act as an active team player. Now, I deeply understand the values and ideas that sustain oikos.” – Vusal Abasov, oikos Baku, Azerbaijan 

“Thank you for a great Presidents’ Meeting. It was very inspiring!” – Julie Jungen-Jensen, oikos Copenhagen, Denmark

“On the first day we spoke a lot about our dreams and fears. The exchanges have helped me a lot to name my fears. I will now go improve myself” – Anonymous Reflection Journal, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015

“I found that we are so diverse, yet so similar. Our visions and how we define sustainability are also very close. I realized, through some exercises, that we don’t know ourselves very well. I have a lot to learn” – Anonymous Reflection Journal, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015

“This meeting made me realize that to lead we need to understand ourselves better, so our dreams will become our goals” – Kapil Garg, oikos Chennai, India 

“The meeting was the best platform to find solutions to our common problems. Our chapters are a great source of inspiration” – Anonymous Reflection Questionnaire, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015

“I reflected a lot on my personality throughout the meeting. We were exposed to very different approaches to leadership and sustainability” – Anonymous Reflection Questionnaire, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015

Many thanks to the ch Foundation and Maestrani for having supported the oikos Presidents’ Meeting 2015.

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oikos International

posted October 31, 2015

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Performance Index for Social Enterprises

Through the development of a Performance Index for Social Enterprises, the author aims at two main goals: Firstly, to help investors in their sustainability assessment of social enterprises (socially, environmentally and financially); secondly, to provide an analysis tool for the process of strategy improvements conducted by the management boards of social enterprises.

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oikos International

posted October 28, 2015

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Interested in Renewable Energy Finance 2.0? We’d love to hear from you

photovoltaic cells and high voltage post.

For investments in renewable energy consumers, electric utilities as well as private and institutional investors use a wide range of financial instruments. In the past few years, innovative models like leasing, power purchase agreements, green bonds, yieldcos and crowdfunding – “renewable energy finance 2.0” – have moved up the agenda in this context. Earlier this week, we invited 22 participants from academia, business, policymaking, NGOs and the media to discuss these instruments during a roundtable in Zurich, Switzerland. The goal of the event was to strengthen the links between theory and practice, to develop an overview on innovative financing models for renewable energy and the existing research thereon as well as to identify knowledge gaps and possible research questions. It was the first “oikos Roundtable” that we organized – and in view of the encouraging participant feedbacks most probably not the last one.

Martin Stadelmann from South Pole Group introduced the topic by outlining the traditional financing model for renewable energy: around 30% equity and 70% debt are raised; project returns come from energy market prices or feed-in tariffs. He gave two examples for innovative instruments: an Indian concentrated solar power (CSP) plant using a power purchase agreement to market its energy and a Turkish geothermal plant using leasing; both plants were partly financed with loans from public sector institutions. He also highlighted the role of support funds like the Swiss technology fund that provides loan guarantees for small and medium enterprises, of CO2 certificates for the funding of electricity production from bio methane, of electricity certificates and of up-front-sales of green electricity to end consumers.

Johanna Köb from Zurich Insurance Group presented yieldcos, securitization and green bonds. While yieldcos allow energy firms to spin off and go public with power plants that already provide stable returns, securitization offers a way to mix, package and standardize financial claims on different energy assets in a way that meets the risk and return requirements of different investors. Institutional investors, like pension funds and insurance companies, often have a preference for stable and foreseeable returns, which is why they invest most of their portfolios in bonds. Consequently, emission of green bonds, whose returns are earmarked for environmental activities, has seen rapid growth in the past years. Since green bonds currently provide similar returns to their non-green counterparts, the green focus is predominantly a transparency and sensitization tool. The market for green bonds is likely to diversify and develop more sophisticated and impactful products over time.

Benjamin Schmid from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) gave an overview on the state of Swiss renewable energy cooperatives. He circumscribed energy cooperatives as one possible form of community energy where a regionally defined group of citizens provides the majority of the capital for an energy facility, co-manages the project and often shares certain non-financial goals. Over the past 120 years in Switzerland energy cooperatives have developed in three phases: one early boom around the turn of the century (construction of local distribution grids) and two recent ones (focus on renewable energies). The introduction of public support policies for renewable energies as well as the accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima had an increasing effect on the development of energy cooperatives. Today, almost 300 cooperatives exist, which, however, manage relatively small energy capacities or solely operate the local distribution grids. They are mainly financed through a high share of equity and through classic bank loans.

Vivid discussions started during the presentations and were continued in three break-out sessions. The group discussions also served to develop the following more detailed research questions in the three topic areas:

Power purchase agreements, leasing, contracting, loans and grants
• Which actors are able to bear which prices and risks? This question is important, inter alia, when transitioning from public support-based schemes to market price schemes in renewable energy financing.
• Which financing instruments can reduce risk in which market segments (different technologies for electricity and heat, small scale vs. commercial/industrial vs. large scale)?
• Are end consumers in Switzerland and Northern Europe as open as North Americans to the leasing model for renewable energy? Or do other means to integrate end consumers have more potential, like the up-front-sale of electricity as currently offered by the city of Zurich’s utility?

Green bonds, yieldcos, and securitization
• Is green really green – do green bonds need a central certification scheme to protect their credibility?
• What does it take for institutional investors to increasingly invest into sustainable infrastructure, e.g. changes in financial regulation, adjustment of financing models to better meet institutional investor needs, proof of derisking via ESG integration?
• How can we overcome the bottleneck of a lack of bankable projects? This is linked with the question of how to make small, decentralized projects bankable, e.g. in Switzerland.
• How will the pricing system of the energy market be organized in the long run – energy only or capacity markets?
• Do sustainability criteria in infrastructure lead to lower risks?

Energy cooperatives and crowdfunding
• How can the legal definition of “own consumption”, which gives favorable terms to small producers and direct users of renewable energy in Switzerland, be widened to also include production and consumption from bigger power plants owned by cooperatives?
• What are models for fruitful cooperation between utilities and cooperatives?
• How can the full potential of cooperatives be tapped by implementing a favorable regulatory framework?

If you are interested in tackling one of these questions in your bachelor, master, or PhD thesis, we’d love to hear from you.

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oikos International

posted October 23, 2015

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Ways to a Zero-Growth Society. A Comparative Evaluation of Different Scenarios

In this thesis, we will see how economic growth, as it is understood today, cannot be sustained into the future. This is mainly due to environmental limits, but also to the fact that economic growth is usually debt-financed and is erroneously measured. In 1972 already, Meadows et al. have proposed a model of society that would be freed from this growth spiral: the Steady State Economy. Such a society would put constraints on purely physical growth, mostly driven by population and production growth. This thesis enumerates policy recommendations formulated by three influential authors in the field of Steady States economics, namely Niko Paech, Herman Daly and Tim Jackson. The author established a best practice of these policy recommendations and identified education as the most important institution to bring about the necessary changes for a transition towards a sustainable society.

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oikos International

posted October 21, 2015

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Debating Food At the oikos Alumni Debates in Zurich

When you think of oikos, you think about everything sustainability. You think about our passions for multi-culturalism, being entrepreneurial, we love food and constantly staying open minded and debating our ideas. All these elements were present at our oikos Alumni Debates in Zurich on Monday 12 October.

The panel consisted of oikos alumni Christian Bartsch, who co-founded Essento, Benjamin Gräub from the FAO in Rome and Richard Kaegi from Globus Switzerland. The room hosted around 45 people and at its side was a long table full of tasty food. The menu? Insects from Essento, of course, and a catering by Äss bar who sell food that would otherwise have been wasted. The wine came from Delinat, the leading retailer for organically produced wine in Switzerland.

The debate started off with the introduction by Harriet Jackson, ex-oikos President. She was also one of the main organizers of the event. She mentioned she completed her Master’s thesis on the topic of food sustainability and was, therefore, excited to hear more from the panelists and the aware audience.

IMG_4431The first panelist to speak was Benjamin from the FAO. Benjamin explained what kind of work the FAO is doing in order to ensure responsible and sustainable agriculture. He also expressed the different methodologies for being able to feed the world, use our lands effectively and ensure correct monitoring of our soils. Benjamin highlighted the importance of technologies in predicting the control of climate change in agriculture and the fact that some of the current trends in agriculture are actually unsustainable and ineffective. However, the FAO works daily to try improve standards not only for farmers and land use, but also for the sustainability, in all senses, of the food we ingest.

Second, the floor was handed to Christian. After a brief history of how he got to co-found Essento, Christian explained that insects are a very sustainable option for the world and should be mainstreamed as they are rich in minerals and proteins. He also depicted Essento’s struggle for making their business legal, as currently in Switzerland, it is illegal to ‘sell’ food composed of insects (or processed insects) to the public. They are until today only able to sell it to private events. Finally, Richard took the floor and exposed the public to the culture of Globus and their sustainability strategies. Whilst explaining that he has to listen to his client’s tastes, he highlighted two of his main concerns. The first, was the too high quantity of meat we consume. He stated that he tries to consume meat once a week. The second, was that we should learn to eat more seasonal. Richard shared a story of how he battles with some of his colleagues and clients in order to insert these ideals into Globus.

The floor was then opened to the entire audience. The discussions ranged from the consumption of meat, to the too low price of food, to the debate of whether we should make the supply chain of food more km-sustainable and so forth. As always with good debates, people left with differing opinions and hopefully, more open minds on the topic, and difficulty of the topic, of food and sustainability.

See here more information on the event: https://oikos-international.org/programmes/conferences/alumni-debates, and participate to the next alumni debates.

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oikos International

posted October 16, 2015

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oikos Newsletter October 2015

We at oikos, like nature, are also looking forward to transitions in our family welcoming new members with open arms. So, in case you have a love for writing, strategizing or clicking away photos, in this edition we provide you details of the avenues through which you can be part of our team. We also cover snippets from the oikos Summer School 2015 in Georgia and the oikos CEE Meeting 2015 in Vienna. We take the opportunity to invite our alumni members to register for the oikos Alumni Debates in Zurich on the theme, “The Future of Food” and the oikos Alumni meeting at FutureLab, 2015.
Moreover, Julian Treasure, a leading sound expert, will soon address oikos LEAP participants in a webinar  on how to communicate effectively. With great pleasure we once again invite you to submit cases for the 2016 edition of the oikos Case Competition.  In this edition of our “30 Seconds with”, we get to interact with Astrid Bonk part of the organizing team of the CEE Meeting 2015 and member of oikos Vienna.

Let’s go ahead and dive in!

Read more here.

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oikos International

posted October 8, 2015

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Learning about Circulation at the oikos CEE Meeting 2015

On a very warm, windy and pleasant Vienna day, the oikos CEE Meeting 2015 commenced. Participants travelled from more than seven countries to be united in learning more about the concept of Circular Economy and generate a flow of interesting perspectives and ideas to share.

On the first day the participants were escorted to the headquarters of Global 2000, a Vienna-based NGO working on sustainability projects. Linnéa Richter, a certified green cosmetics educator, introduced the group to the concept of sustainable cosmetics. First, statistics were introduced such as the fact that, on average, Europeans utilise 10-15 ‘beauty’ products per day. Second, she highlighted that it is difficult for the plastic used to package cosmetics to degrade and be recycled, thus, making the cosmetics industry unsustainable in nature. Third, the focus was shifted onto the ingredients that cosmetic products contain: adding onto the ‘unsustainable’ and ‘unhealthy’ factor. In order for the group to understand how easily one could avoid using commercial products and turn to using DIY products, Linnéa, guided participants to make their own deodorant and body butter. Participants were amused and surprised by how basic, fast and affordable it is to re-create mainstream products in a 100% natural fashion. The body butter was created out of apples, cinnamon, water and bee wax. The deodorant was composed out of oranges, lemons and baking soda. The results were colourful, pretty and participants took one sample of each product home.

On yet another warm second day, the first session was with Prof. Thomas Ertl from BOKU Wien – University of natural resources and life sciences Vienna. The topics of the session were the key elements in water cycles, the stakeholders and factors of efficient and sustainable water management. During the brainstorming, the participants had to answer the questions: How much water do we really use? Why does the water sometimes have no “cycle”? Who does actually need water? Who are the pollutants? Which is better for running the water services – private or public sector? the costs and revenues in water distribution services were also discussed. The second session was with Martin Wafler, from cewas and seecon international made us think about water as a resource. The session was full of interesting and valuable information, numbers and figures that we found unbelievably interesting and it was a natural start for passionate discussion. Participants were made aware of about strategies for saving water and one of the main conclusions was change in consumption habits. The most impressive information shared was the map of hot spots in Swiss water consumption that showed up that Switzerland imports goods mainly from regions in India, Russia and the Middle East. Mr. Wafler also talked about the water treatment and the difficulties of building a sanitation system. In the end it was an interesting workshop about the creating of the water, energy and raw materials flow chart.

Then the participants visited the biggest water bottling company in Austria – Vöslauer. At the company office, full of certificates showing of how sustainable the company is, they heard about the trends and figures in recycling and reusing of the bottles inside the company. The day ended with a visit to a thermal bath in the Vöslauer mineral water.

Day three started at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU – Vienna University of Economics & Business) where the participants were inspired by the brilliant lecture on “waste management” given by Mr. Benjamin Steuer (Circular Economy Researcher, WU). He enlightened them on how to convert the dangerous toxic waste into valuable energy resource which they then got to observe in action a bit later in the day, but also the hazards of how this is done by an informal e-waste recycling industry in China. The second speaker for the day was Elena Komarova from ALBA Group. And she talked about recycling technologies and the specific separation of materials that is essential for high-quality recycling. Very enriching was the discovery of green coal technology or in other words processing of residual waste into substitute fuel. ALBA is also turning used plastics into various forms of recycled plastics as recythene and procyclen which can be straightforward used for producing new products. Then was the visit to municipal department Die 48er waste management factory which served as a starting point for a waste management tour. The tour was aimed to give yhe participants a practical understanding of the lecture that was held earlier. The tour guide explained us the whole waste management processing system like how they convert waste (that smells really bad!) to bio-gas through the bio-mass incineration process. Overall, the tour enhanced the knowledge of the participants on waste handling. The different techniques of how the municipality is collecting and categorizing organic waste into kitchen scrap, gardens trimming waste and forest waste. These wastes are then later converted into bio energies in the form of bio-gas, soil enriching compost fertilizers, nitrate content for agriculture, which improves fertilization and plant health. Thus it clearly proves that the bio-gas plant is functioning in a sustainable manner, helping to eradicate 144,000 tons of carbon-dioxide annually and avoiding the risk of transmission of BSE diseases from animals to humans.

See you next year with more regional meetings!

This article is a collage of articles published on the oikos Vienna Blog, edited by Nimisha Ghorpade

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oikos International

posted October 6, 2015

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