Farewell to the oikos Foundation: Launching the Next Phase
On June 25, 2019, oikos had the pleasure of hosting a farewell party for the oikos Foundation to celebrate its impact during the last three decades before it formally closes its doors in the coming months and oikos thus turns into a fully student-led organization.
The oikos Foundation was launched in the spring of 1990 as a result of the successful engagement by the students of oikos St. Gallen for a foundation to support the integration of ecological issues into research and teaching of economics and management.
Since then the foundation has come a long way. In 1991 and 1992, it welcomed the first oikos visiting professors to the University of St. Gallen. In 1993, it was among the initial funders of the university’s Institute for Economy and Ecology. A few years later, it supported the establishment of oikos International as the new umbrella organization of oikos chapters around the world. The oikos Young Scholars Academies, the oikos Virtual Campus, the oikos Case Writing Competition as well as the oikos PhD Fellowships are examples of the many activities that followed. These programs enabled young scholars to take up research in sustainability, created novel and inspiring teaching materials for universities worldwide and facilitated the integration of sustainability into economics and management faculties across the globe.
Over the last years, a significant part of the foundation program has been devoted to supporting the impact of oikos International and the impressive engagement of the local oikos chapters that are its members. “Today, with close to 50 oikos groups worldwide and with an amazing team of students in the driving seat, we want to give the entire organization into the hands of the young generation and turn oikos into a fully student-led initiative. We are greatly looking forward to this next phase”, said Alexander Barkawi, President, oikos Foundation.
After the delightful farewell event in Cabaret Voltaire celebrated with kind wishes from long-time oikos friends and great Delinat wine, the oikos Foundation will formally close its doors in the coming months.
Mark Wade, a current foundation trustee will continue his engagement in oikos as a member of the international advisory council. oikos trustees Alexander Barkawi, Mathias Binswanger, Thomas Dyllick, and Gary Steel are ending their oikos roles with the foundation’s closing.
Thank you hugely for all your guidance and support in the past decades!
The Germany Meeting 2019 took place in Cologne from 7th to 9th of June. Thirty oikees from seven different chapters gathered under the motto „Take the lead for Change! – Us for a sustainable future“ to spend a nice weekend together with a colourful program and a lot of inspiring conversations. Read all about the Meeting in this article from the team.
During the first day of the meeting, we were focusing on getting to know each other and ourselves better. After welcoming the participants at our university we had some Ice-Breaker-Games and a short introduction of oikos international including an online pitch about the Curriculum Change Program. After that followed an Empowerment Workshop with professional Coach Viola Wünning, who helped us paint a better picture of ourselves and of the various individuals taking part in the meeting. With inspiring methods, she guided us to open ourselves to positivity and motivated us to follow our beliefs and strengths. After the session the first evening faded away with a shared dinner in a nice venue, giving the participants the opportunity to chat and socialize in a cosy atmosphere.
The program on the second day was then full of highlights. Starting the day with an optional “consume critical” morning walk through the city, where we reflected on the way society consumes these days whilst looking at some of the good and bad examples in the shops and on the streets. We then gathered together at the university for a panel discussion. Four speakers from various positions – a professor on energy science, a Fridays for Future activist, a founder of a local Zero Waste Shop and Club and a representative of a sustainable bank – discussed different approaches for tackling modern sustainability challenges. It was a very stimulating discussion moderated by one of our team members and provided the audience with a lot of new impulses. After a lunch break, we reflected on the discussion from the morning and looked closer on how to make a change in the world by differentiating the individual, the societal and the political possibilities and challenges to act for a better future.
During “Inspirational Fair”, we gave further examples on how to act for sustainability by opening a forum for exchange in which various local initiatives were able to present themselves and get in contact with the participants.
After these theoretical inputs, during the big oikos Summer Clean Up we went outside to take real action and clean the environment around the university. Thanks to a moving DJ station, we brought our activity to the attention of the passers-by. Many of them joined us collecting the trash and we were able to raise awareness for waste issues. After two and a half hours in which the rain luckily just very shortly came down, we collected about eight big bags of rubbish, separating crown corks and cigarette buts to recycle them. We ended up back at the park close to the university with a big vegetarian barbecue and an open-air party where we enjoyed the great fun of spending time together as the oikos community.
On Sunday, we spared some time for inputs from the participants. Since the last night’s party was affecting our punctuality and fitness, we started with cosy breakfast & coffee until most participants arrived. After a quick and funny warm-up in the sun, we heard some more information on the oikos international programs, dates and alumni-work, before having an individual workshop session, with four interesting workshops facilitated by visiting participants. After another coffee break, we ended with a round of reflection where the oikos spirit once again spread its wings, making us all feel grateful for taking part in this inspiring event and motivating us to take further actions in the future.
It was a great and inspiring weekend with a number of things to cherish: Getting to know all the like-minded oikos people and their different ideas and perspectives on how to change the world was a truly enriching experience.
Welcome to the June edition of our newsletter! This summer oikos will open the door to new opportunities: apply to our flagship program FutureLab 2019 or join the Case Students Committee to select winners of the oikos Case Writing Competition. But before, take a look at the oikos impact around the globe and learn what our community has been up to in the preceding month.
On 16th July at 17:00 CEST, oikos and other youth organizations will present Positive Impact Rating.
oikos is one of the organizations participating in the process of creation of the Positive Impact Rating (PIR). PIR is an international innovative university rating to bring a change in the higher education system and encourage institutions to equip their students to tackle the environmental and societal challenges of today and tomorrow.
The purpose of the Positive Impact Rating is “measuring how business schools contribute to the resolution of societal challenges by energizing the school and its culture, by educating current and future leaders, by providing relevant research results and offers for continuing education, by participating in the public debate and by being a role model institution”.
Help us scale up the level of engagement in this innovative rating system and invite your home institution to participate in a ranking system that seeks to identify universities that are the best for the world. Will you join us? The multitude of global institutions and other student organizations coming together to improve our university ranking system. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of such a beautiful journey and help get closer to the oikos vision.
By running this rating in your own higher education institution, you would give a voice to students and provide them with an opportunity to influence and make the change towards bringing a greater positive impact on students and society.
Come and ask all your questions during the information call on July 16th at 17:00 CEST.
This June, take 30 seconds to meet Fabienne Zbinden, an amazing participant from our workshop at Helvetia. Fabienne is a trainee at Helvetia and after the workshop decided to engage with oikos in order to learn more about the organization and contribute to our vision and mission.
I became aware of oikos through a workshop on sustainability during my trainee program at Helvetia. Adriana Troxler, oikos Program Manager, conducted the workshop together with Kristina Nyzell, an expert on sustainability in the economy. Adriana introduced us to oikos, the LEAP program, and her work at the organization – I was immediately thrilled!
Out of a number of workshops I have attended so far, this workshop definitely stood out. I learned a lot about myself. I had the opportunity to think about how I can use my passion to benefit the environment and what concrete actions I can take to achieve that.
Since I have only known oikos for a short time, I don’t know very much about the organization yet. What immediately excited me, however, was the LEAP’s approach that you first have to be able to lead yourself in order to be able to lead others. oikos has taught me that in terms of sustainability, it is really important to start with yourself in order to be a role model for others. I think this is the mindset that each of us requires in order to ensure that we take care of our planet and life in a more sustainable way.
After the workshop, I decided to learn more about the organization and had a video call with Adriana. When I told her that I had never met a person who really had a passion for economics, she said that this would change immediately. I am very much looking forward to getting to know all of you and to supporting oikos as a volunteer. For me, it is a great opportunity to grow personally and make a small contribution to your cause. Thank you for making this possible, Adriana.
Inspiration Day: oikos and DisruptivePlay teamed up to discuss leadership and sustainability with young Helvetia employees
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. oikos and DisruptivePlay came together on 17th April 2019 to organize a workshop for trainees, interns and working students at Helvetia, one of the leading insurance companies in Switzerland, that has supported oikos for over two decades now. We exchanged ideas, built towers and, above all, learned more about our values and identity. We, furthermore, discussed how our actions could aid a broader societal purpose, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and create a more just and sustainable world. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
The room was filled with a soothing voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator as the images of peculiar children and outstanding humans who have disrupted the world around them projected on a wall of our workshop room: “The greatest of people that have ever been in the society, were never versions of someone else. They were themselves… They carved niches, that represented the unique expression of their combination of talents.” With these inspiring words, we encourage our participants to rediscover their values and began the day with a duly titled “values exercise”. This session helped our participants to see each other in a different light. We tried to bring forth their personalities, and uncovered them as stronger, more vulnerable, generous or braver than others expected them to be. The participants connected their values with their real-life experiences and reflected how these values had driven their decisions and actions in the past. In pears, the participants shared their stories and listened without judgment: in silence with no advice, questions or discussions, learning that sometimes being present, “being there” is the most important way to show support.
With the help of our unlikely assistants – lego bricks, we tried to further unbind their curiosity and motivate them to reveal their unique qualities. We watched how each of our participants created a model of their self and how mere clusters of bricks were transformed into metaphors for life, each color and shape representing their strength, weakness, interest, virtue or flaw. When towers were built, brick by brick, each of them showcased unique personalities of our participants. Identical shades and forms spoke about different experiences and outlooks on life. When after the exercise the participants were asked to find a tower that looked like theirs, they stood, for a few seconds, bewildered, then one of them exclaimed: “there is not one similar to mine, they are all different”. Sitting around a table, they shared what was the most important part of their model. One trainee pointed to little dolls to tell that their family mattered the most, another participant referred to a flag and their cultural heritage. The attendees also looked at a key learning point that Helvetia has given them. The responses were as diverse as the colorful models scattered around the room. They emphasized importance of working together, communicating openly and building a community. Furthermore, they spoke about the need for being brave, flexible and agile to achieve set goals. They also talked about barriers that are hard to overcome, as well as about personal or political discussions that might hinder one’s walk towards an aim. Finally, they shared about times when they feel at their best and why those particular set of circumstances bring the best out of them.
What followed was a discussion and reflection on our passions and a change we want to see in the world. We wanted to demonstrate to our participants how their passions might be put into service for overcoming societal or environmental challenges.
The participants learned about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many of them heard about the SDGs for the first time but were quick to point out that some goals, like no poverty or zero hunger, had lost relevance in developed states such as Switzerland. SDGs like climate action or responsible consumption and production, however, featured prominently in discussions. The participants also observed how the SDGs are intertwined with one another and how lack of action in one domain might hinder progress in others. The participants reflected on the trivial day-to-day activities, internalized, unconscious habits or actions they take as part of their job without always thinking through them. They contemplated on the toll these activities have on our environment and society and what each of they could do to change it. The participants admitted that achieving the SDGs would require rethinking how persons make decisions as individuals, employees, and citizens. They talked about actions each of them could take in order to get closer to the goals.
At the end of the day, Kristine Schulze, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Helvetia talked about the company’s corporate responsibility and its contributions towards implementing the SDGs. She explained why the goals matter to the business world and mentioned factors like SDGs expression of inequalities and unexplored market needs, their contribution to increased efficiency and cost-saving as well as reputation management. She outlined the SDG areas where Helvetia’s actions are of special relevance. For instance, she emphasized the role of the company in promoting sustainable economic growth in Helvetia country markets (SDG 8) and investing in low-carbon economy (SDG 13).
To advance the goals, it is instrumental to remould the talks on the SDGs to the SDAs (Sustainable Development Actions). The final session of the day did not disappoint, as one of the participants approached Kristine to ask why the company was still using paper coffee cups and what could be done to change it. Her willingness to act on the spot was the desired impact of the day and the very embodiment of our workshop title Inspiration Day. For us it was just a beginning of the conversation towards real transformations to a better world led by a young generation of sustainability-oriented decision-makers.
Young employees, like our participants, will take the reins of the global economy in the coming decades. Therefore, it is vital to expose them to the responsible, self-directed leadership, as well as to the key sustainability challenges and goals of our century. Workshops like ours and companies like Helvetia that welcome open discussions and self-criticism allow these young people to be a part of the solution and not simple spectators of the current corporate system.
In 160 years, the Helvetia Group has grown from a number of Swiss and foreign insurance companies into a successful international insurance group. Today, Helvetia has subsidiaries in its home market Switzerland as well as in the countries that make up the Europe market area: Germany, Italy, Austria and Spain. With its Specialty Markets market area, Helvetia is also present in France and in selected regions worldwide. Some of its investment and financing activities are managed through subsidiaries and fund companies in Luxembourg. The Group is headquartered in St.Gallen, Switzerland.
Helvetia is active in the life and non-life business, and also offers customised specialty lines and reinsurance cover. Its business activities focus on retail customers as well as small and medium-sized companies and larger corporates. With some 6,600 employees, the company provides services to more than 5 million customers. With a business volume of CHF 9.07 billion, Helvetia generated an IFRS result after tax of CHF 431.0 million in financial year 2018. The registered shares of Helvetia Holding are traded on the SIX Swiss Exchange under the symbol HELN.
Futureproof World is a subsidiary of Disruptiveplay and is a strategy consultancy that builds enduring organizations. They work with organizations to prepare for the world of tomorrow by bringing together insights of our changing world to the process of creating strategy. Their focus is to future proof organizations so that strategy and actions are aligned with the changing needs of our society, our environment and the global consumer. They help organisations to make decisions, actions and investments that are sustainable over the longer term and position a company to be a leader in their industry.
The workshop with Helvetia was prepared as a part and extension of the oikos leadership development program LEAP. The program is designed to inspire young leaders to become more responsible and sustainable in their decision making and equip them with insights, knowledge, and tools to do so. To learn more about the program, please visit the LEAP webpage.