As most of you know by now, we celebrated the oikos 30th Anniversary in St. Gallen, Switzerland! We were extremely delighted and excited to share this happy ocassion with the many of you who traveled from different corners of the world to attend the LEAP Meeting, FutureLab, oikos St. Gallen Conference, and Alumni Day.
This is a double issue of the Newsletter since we are including the news of the past two months, and there was a lot happening in that time! In this Newsletter you can read about the 30th Anniversary events as well as the University of St.Gallen’s President Statement to congratulate us for three decades of commitment to sustainability in economics and management education. You can also find out about the new Knowledge Exchange Expedition in India, and read about the annual Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Meeting that was organized and hosted by the oikos chapter in Baku, Azerbaijan. Read about the truly international oikos LEAP Meeting which took took place from October 7th to the 11th in scenic Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. Learn more about the oikos Finance Academy at the University of Zurich, which was held from September 4th to the 6th. There is also a call for new cases for the oikos Case Writing Competition 2018. In our “30 seconds with” section, meet J.Christopher Proctor, the new oikos Associate in Pluralist Economics.
Lastly, we want to bring your attention to the call to become a part of the FutureLab 2018 Organizing Team! Are you looking to make a difference in the oikos community? Do you like interactive learning experiences? You just might be the person we are looking for to help organize the next FutureLab! Apply Now
Enjoy this double edition of our Newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated.
Economics can be a pretty dull subject, both in the way it is presented and in the types of ideas it includes. But oikos is working to change that!
For last month’s Futurelab, oikos Associate J.Christopher Proctor led a team that developed an interactive workshop which introduced oikees to a new kind of economics. Using a number of engaging role playing games, the workshop asks participants to step into the shoes of various types of economists to make speeches, act out plays and even create ‘economic’ street art.
Participants come away from the workshop with a better understanding of economic approaches such as behavioral, ecological and feminist economics, and with an idea of what it looks like to study ‘pluralist economics’ in which diverse frameworks and ideas are taught alongside one another.
There is currently an active international student movement to promote pluralist economics, with groups like Rethinking Economics, PEPS-Economie, and the Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik arguing that new ideas and critical debate are desperately needed in economics and business schools.
Now is your chance to introduce your local oikos group to the world of pluralist economics! In the coming months, J.Christopher will be taking his workshop on tour to try to reach as much of the oikos family as possible. He’ll also be holding webinar-workshops for groups he’s not able to visit in person.
LEAP 2017 Kick-off – Getting Comfortable to Get Uncomfortable
by Renée Horster
From Saturday, the 7th October to Wednesday, the 11th October 2017 a group of around 60 participants from 25 nationalities got together in Kreuzlingen to kick-off this year’s LEAP program. Over these four days they talked about their values and the strategy of the oikos network, shared what they do in their local chapters, facilitated workshops in various topics from non-violent communication and environmental psychology to design thinking and climate simulations, as well as practiced their active listening skills and engaged in a panel discussion about the role of youth organisations in society. In all those different sessions, or somewhere in between, a few other things happened: the participants became friends, they questioned some of their beliefs and found confirmation for others, they tried new things and got out of their comfort zone and they inspired and encouraged each other to do nothing less but be part of changing the world. In short, it was a powerful experience – not only on an individual level for each participant, but also on a societal level. The work of organisations like oikos in meetings like the one in Kreuzlingen are key to drive positive change in the world. Without them, sustainability practices are in danger of remaining abstract, fixed concepts, rather than dynamic, ever-changing processes towards a better future. I was able to see how important this is, when I reconnected with oikos for this year’s LEAP Meeting, two years after being an active member. Having moved from student engagement to working in the social sector after graduating in 2015, I fell in love with the oikos spirit all over again and understood on a deeper level, why this organisation is so special for its members and so important for society.
When I joined oikos during my undergraduate and went to my first international meeting, it was game-changing. For the first time, I met people, who were just as confused about what we were being taught in management and just as concerned about climate change and who most importantly were just as excited about the many different ways we can help to change things. The oikos community was and is very inviting. In most local chapters, there are plenty of public events one can join and low barriers to becoming a member. Once part of it, it is easy to get more involved. There is a huge variety of projects on a local and international level, so that anyone’s personal take on sustainability will resonate somewhere. While the founder’s mission of brining more sustainability to management and economics education is still at the heart of the organisation, oikos has become the home of so much more. Local chapters invite students from all disciplines and the oikos culture emphasises doing. If you want to get a project started, it will most likely find encouragement and support in the oikos community. The openness and diversity of the oikees is empowering. Rather than imposing one specific sustainability agenda, oikos embraces lots of different approaches. This is reflected in the fact that oikos opened up the LEAP Meeting to other organisations, who follow a similar mission. At the meeting representatives from rootAbility, GRLI, NUS, and CSS (Chalmers Students for Sustainability) joined the conversations, ran workshops and used the occasion to strategize together about how to best support each other in their joined cause. To come closer to a more sustainable world, we need many different people, driving change in many different ways, to really tackle the equally diverse sustainability-related problems of our time. In the LEAP-program, oikos not only appreciates these various approaches, but actively supports members to find their own personal one. LEAP unlocks the potential and determination of its participants. And what could be more crucial in driving change, than committed individuals with an attainable vision for the future?
Of course, such different approaches may also lead to conflict. At every oikos meeting I have been to, including this year’s LEAP kick-off, someone points out things like that meat is being served, or that they feel it is strange that people take short-distance flights to get there. It is good that people notice these things, because it fosters critical thinking, it creates discussions and it encourages reflexivity. Noticing them in a context like the LEAP Meeting is even better, because there will be many people willing to join the discussion. It is in such conversations that oikees get to define and refine what sustainability means to them. Another point of criticism that sometimes comes up and which was also discussed in Kreuzlingen, is the idea of preaching to the choir. While many oikees explicitly enjoy being around like-minded people, they are also keenly aware that who they really should be talking to, are the people who are different-minded. While these discussions are equally important as the once just mentioned, this tension is also where the transformation of LEAP happens. Spending time with the choir is needed to be able to go out there and listen to and speak to the unconverted. This sometimes conflicting, sometimes empowering energy will give the LEAP participants strength, when they are talking to someone, who might not be as aware of or care about sustainability (yet).
Telling from the feedback forms, the LEAP participants had an immediate experience of this transformation. To a large extend, this may be because learning and acting are so close together – even merged – in the program. Designed as a participant-driven experience, the oikees were encouraged to try out new things and to push their comfort zone a little bit. And they really did. Many stepped up to facilitate parts of the agenda in the form of energizers or added to the program by organising running, meditation or jamming sessions in the evenings, mornings and lunch-breaks. Some facilitated whole workshops, sharing their interests and creating learning experiences for their fellow LEAPers, while others joined the final panel discussion, which was live-streamed over Facebook. Having had those experiences, participants left feeling more confident in their own abilities to make a difference. By offering these opportunities, LEAP provides a key element in driving change. It offers a save space to try out and practice new skills, that are widely recognized to be essential for a sustainable future. Such skills include active listening, facilitation of workshops, taking initiative, as well as being empathetic and open-minded. The academic literature continuously calls for such competencies (see for example Weick et al., 2011), yet many higher education institutions do not include them in their curricula. oikos has criticised this and works towards changing it. In the meantime, LEAP fills in the gap and adds a deeply experiential learning experience to the oikees’ education. Like this, oikos pilots a vision of an education system, in which learners are supported in their potential, rather than restricted by rigid hierarchical structures.
The LEAP Meeting shows us what education could be like. It provides opportunities to try out new things and encourages reflection. It creates a strong community of people, who are dedicated to driving sustainability. People, who after their time as oikees will go on to work as sustainability managers, policy-makers, social entrepreneurs or activists. They will be able to listen carefully and speak with intention. They will know themselves and that they do not have to change the world all by themselves. They will be able to handle uncertainty and overcome whatever holds them back. Most importantly, they will be comfortable to swim upstream against the currents that drive climate change, because they are prepared for it and because they are backed up by a network of like-minded people. For me, becoming an oikos member was the first step in what I hope to be a career dedicated towards sustainability. I believe the LEAP Meeting prepares oikees to become changemakers in their organisation, community or city and in their own individual way. What oikees learn during LEAP will help them to take action for sustainability, beyond and long after their time as active members. No wonder the importance of a strong alumni network came up more than once in Kreuzlingen…
It’s that time of the year! We are looking for motivated and passionate individuals who would like to organize the biggest event in the annual oikos calendar – the oikos FutureLab. The FutureLab is a 2-day platform for the oikos community to be inspired, to discover and develop joint perspectives on the future of sustainability in management and economics. It is intended as a catalyst for projects and collaborations in the oikos network. The conference is to be held in October / November 2018.
As a member of the oikos FutureLab Team you will have the opportunity to:
Design, develop and implement the concept of the oikos FutureLab 2018;
Organize an international conference in a highly international team;
Acquire leadership and management skills
Engage with the oikos community and support its development.
The team will develop together the concept of the conference in 2018 and its members will work on tasks according to their areas of interest, such as, program, logistics, marketing and fundraising. You will be responsible for one of those focus areas, but you won’t be alone, since we foster a very collaborative environment.
1-year commitment: January 2018 to January 2019
Meetings (virtually and/or onsite, depending on the budget):
We generally have monthly calls and, as we get closer to the conference, weekly calls.
Handover and Planning Meeting (in March: before/after the Spring Meeting in Barcelona, Spain)
One intense week preparing and implementing the conference (end-October or beginning of November 2018)
Reflection and handover days after the conference (to be defined with the team)
Passionate about the oikos community and its mission;
Graphic Recording at the oikos FutureLab – Interview
This year, Christian Eggenberger, Graphic Recorder at the innovation-factory.ch, followed the keynotes and workshops of our oikos FutureLab. He transformed what he’s heard into pictures and created beautiful tableaus, giving you – regardless of whether you were there or not – a good summary of the events. Click through the results on the right-hand column and read an interview on Christian’s profession below.
Question: Christian, you frequently join conferences to “record” keynotes, panel discussions and workshops. But instead of words, you use pictures. What makes these “graphic recordings” a better summary than the usual protocol?
Companies and organizations host events, because they want to advance their cause, develop solutions and innovations, and benefit their culture and sustainability. And one of the aims is often to store the lessons learned, the central aspects and solutions for later use. But re-reading dozens of written pages is not in everyone’s best interest – it costs time and energy and it’s difficult to discern the important from the less important. Visuals on the other hand are more accessible and catch the interest of readers more easily. These “graphic recordings” (GR) come to life and transmit the contained knowledge with the help of pictures, symbols and color! Our brain uses images to think, dream, and relate knowledge – it reinforces the visual impulses by making associations, which helps to deepen the experience. That’s why a GR has manifold advantages over the “normal” protocol.
The recordings also resonate with your audiences – after your presentation at the FutureLab, you had by far the longest applause of the day. People are impressed by your art! Do you see yourself as an artist or is graphic recording a separate profession?
First, I’m thankful for the appreciation the oikees have shown! GR actually requires a set of different competencies. The process runs roughly as follows: Preparing for the conference’s content – listening – perceiving – prioritizing and choosing the content to display – choosing the representation – skillfully visualizing – working over the sketches – presenting the final GRs to the audience. With every new assignment, I grow more familiar with this exciting set of tasks. I see GR as my vocation and as an ongoing engagement with ever new aspects of this work. The artistic aspect is one of them.
The context of each conference is different. And often, organizations use their own specific language. For example, in oikos, we assume the audience knows the underlying relationships between business practice and sustainability issues. How do you prepare, so you can follow along any conversation?
As teacher and trainer in different educational settings with more than 30 years of experience – lately I taught exclusively in professional education – I am and keep on being an all-rounder, a jack of all trades. At the same time, the in-depth occupation with the topic at hand, as well as a solid alignment with the organizers of a conference hiring my services, is key! I read in advance, put the event into the “larger picture”, ask questions and sketch out some details in advance. But I must admit, there have been times where I was clueless during the GR. In those moments, I take a deep breath and jump back in at the next point.
The final recording cannot fit every single aspect of a 30-minute talk. How do you focus on the important issues?
My concentration during the GR process is vital: Listening, analyzing, utilizing. I constantly ask myself: What will the observer expect from the GR, what will be useful to him/her? This, too, plays into my recordings. Lastly, I also amend the GR while listening, adding hints and interrelations.
Your work becomes difficult sometimes – for example when the keynote speaker appears online, rather than in person, as happened at the FutureLab. What’s the most challenging job you had to do so far?
Yes, the recording can become quite stressful, especially when I am not very familiar with the topic. This is also why the GR of Peter Lacy’s contribution at the oikos Anniversary 2017 was extremely challenging. The topic, the sound quality of the transmission, and the speed with which he talked…
You come from teaching in professional education and only started the graphic recording a few years ago. How has your job of putting knowledge into words influenced your ability to put words into images?
I continuously enhance my toolkit, the “Pictionary.” I draw, draft and sketch and I work on variations. As a second career I give trainings in “Public speaking and presenting”, often for Swiss industrial corporations. Guiding my professional students relies heavily on visual elements. The flipchart is my favorite tool – and the participants appreciate the concrete, comprehensible visualizations.
Where did you learn to sketch? Is it possible for others to learn it as well?
Up until I was 40, I taught elementary school kids in the subject “Drawing.” About 15 years ago, I began working with visualizations. I participate in international trainings and worked with a coach to perfect my GR. The act of sketching is purely natural, we scribble during phone calls or in class. To learn it professionally, it’s only 20% talent and 80% exercise. It’s really about patience, ambition and the urge to continuously learn new things.
We are thankful for the lasting FutureLab summary you have given us. Is it hard for you to let go of the graphic recordings sometimes?
It’s always a great pleasure to see the papers to be retained and used in the organizations I work for. Sometimes, they are displayed in their HQs or they are published on websites or in newsletters. This helps me to “let go.” But I keep at least one good photograph of each of my GRs. I thank oikos for their invitation to record at the FutureLab and their friendly support. Maybe this engagement and this interview will inspire new opportunities to create long-lasting GRs and an additional benefit for companies and organizations such as oikos.