News Update - June 2010
Q&B NewsUpdate - June 2010
linking the Quaker business community
Greetings all. It’s a bit long, with numerous writers & improvers - thanks to you all, Friends - so here’s the guide:
A. 4 Coming Events;
B. 3 Recent Events (Spring Gathering, NxDs, BYM);
C. 2 New Initiatives (Governance, Love & Trusteeship; a Quaker Bank & Finance entity?);
D. Officers’ report on strategy implementing; – plus: E. An Appeal from a new, Keighley LM, Quaker Charity: Scholarships for StreetKids in Burma – read all about it.
Feedback VERY welcome – to me or any of the contributors and Committee members.
A. The THREE Next Q&B Events – please diarise now
To book, Contact us or Join Q&B: Use our website:www.qandb.org
Or Call us on: 0300 321 4649 (Q&B’s new direct dial, local rate phone number)
1. Getting to New Light: Spirit founded Coaching skills for owners and managers: 5pm Tues 2nd- 5pm Wed 3rd November, Charney Manor, Oxford)
Alistair Russell and Sandra Goddard are providing a workshop on spiritually founded coaching skills for managers and owners. The workshop will help you recognise opportunities to coach in the maelstrom of daily working life - and grab them. The workshop should enable you to: develop your team to enable you to delegate more; help your colleagues to recognise the resources they can bring to problem solving rather than being stuck with the problem; support your colleagues in thinking through difficulties; challenge your team to see issues from different perspectives and enable them to address them in new successful ways. The workshop will be highly interactive with a variety of exercises to support integration of your learning and its practical application. I am confident that you will have a productive and fun learning experience.
Or, if you have these skills, offer to help run a Q&B Workshop! Otherwise, do come along.
2. Quaker Business Conference 2010: Best business practice in our uncertain times
Friends House, Euston Road, London, Evening Tues 16th – Fellowship event. Get to know other members of the Quaker business community.
All day Wed 17th November: Under conditions of extreme uncertainty, what distinguishes Quaker businesses and their leadership and responses to extreme uncertainty. Using the Quaker Business Method, we will discern ethical responses generally, and for your business, in this time of turmoil. As usual, we’ll have sharing and problem solving in small group workshops with advice and guidance from leading entrepreneurs.
3. Q&B Spring Gathering & AGM 2011:
Ethical Futures for economies and businesses in a sustainable world
Saturday 2nd April, Friends Meeting House, Edinburgh Our first North of the Border!
We’ll seek to gather the Quaker business community, link well to Scottish Friends processes, supply you with sound, local B&Bs info, lay on good speakers on the theology and theory of Ethics & Sustainability, plus on its leadership, banking and investment requirements, along with out trademark discussion processes and networking time. Watch this space for more….
4. NXD 2011
Next year’s Non-executive Directors Networking event will be on 6-7th June 2011, again at Woodbrooke. It is for practising company directors, owners and those with leadership roles in business and charities, plus those who aspire to such roles.
B. The Three events since the March ’10 NewsUpdate
1. Spring Gathering 2010, Bristol Redlands FMH
Building Truth & Integrity Through Our Business was our theme. Tim and others report:-
Ian Christie on Sustainability and its business opportunities, John Bennett of Pack-IT Group (the Best Small Social enterprise 2009), and Tania Pascoe now of The Commitment Company, recently of Givaudan (they provide the taste and smell chemicals in all manner of manufactured products, including ones near you), on driving sustainability in larger companies, were our speakers. So, we covered the big picture of climate change and how to think through what sustainability means in theory, and then were led into how to create sustainable businesses at the small and large scale. Riveting stuff! New members came from the South West area, justifying our policy of holding events throughout the land as well as throughout the week and weekend. Something on content:
humankind has an impact on our planet’s environment. We may not know fully yet how the environmental system works, but we do know we are affecting major parts of it and most probably are influencing the overall balance of the system. That makes us responsible, and we cannot simply turn the clock back to a golden age: complex, adaptive, self influencing systems do not work like that – they move onward to new states of flux and equilibrium.
Our civilisations’ economic systems are impacting the planet’s environmental systems. We are responsible for those impacts, so we’d better design our economic systems to tend towards the environmental patterns we would prefer to have. Again, with power comes responsibility, unavoidably, and it comes with accountability too.
There is no escape: theologically, we have bitten again into the apple from the tree of knowledge.
We sense that the planet’s finite resources cannot support the consumption levels required for 6 + billion people living at the standards of today’s super-rich. Continually expanding economic development and so consuming the planet’s natural resources at an ever rising rate, well above its natural replacement rates, we uneasily know in our hearts, is unsustainable.
Further, we now have powerful evidence that today’s levels of financial inequality cause today’s levels of social evils. The evidence shows too that, once a certain level of economic development is reached in a country, more happiness is not achieved by yet more economic development. The implications are clear: reducing financial inequalities across the world and within countries could, possibly, increase happiness and reduce social evils. (Read: The Spirit Level)
So, at our own personal, human scale, what can we do to move the systems we live in, are sustained by and in turn sustain – or destabilise? Our businesses, our buying, selling, and the ways we do our transactions are part of the economic system. So, how can our businesses bring each of our senses of the Truth, of the spiritual, of God’s love for us each and all the creation here in us today, to bear on our self inflicted growth of exciting new knowledge and scary new problems, and do so with Integrity? What has our Quaker faith to say to our 21st Century works?
Ian, John and Tanya showed us experienced-based ways through this modern labyrinth, emphasising science and responsibility, humanity in organisations and the power of truthful advocacy to effect change – when it gets a hearing. Try googling The Natural Step …. Friends, we saw Sustainability as the way forward – sustainability based on love, ethics and integrity – innovatively woven into our own practice. Inspirational – so, onward to apply the message back home!
Emergently, we also reflected a little on sustainable finance … see below.
2. Quaker Non-executive Directors (NXD) Network Event, Woodbrooke
Elizabeth Redfern and Alistair Heslop report:
We came to the NxD gathering with open minds, as first time visitors to Woodbrooke, as new members of the Quakers and Business Group, and with limited experience of raising business funds through borrowing. We owned our own software development business from 1991 to its trade sale in 2006, and we count ourselves lucky that in all those years we were self financing. Using our savings to start and initially fund the business, and then profits to support its steady growth.
We started on Monday evening with a presentation from Charles Middleton, Managing Director of Triodos Bank in the UK. This bank focuses on lending to Social, Environmental, and Cultural enterprises, and has had sustained growth in an industry that has generally suffered through recent financial turmoil. Triodos is a first class example of sustainability also making good business sense. While being very successful Charles highlighted that in the world of banking Triodos remains a minnow, compared with the likes of HSBC; but it isn’t without influence. By being prepared to invest in businesses in niche areas, borrowers are able to prove their business models. They are then seen as more mainstream and are able to access funding from larger providers.
This theme of mainstreaming was picked up the next morning by John Meadley, a founder member of the Q&B NxD network, who shared his experiences of working with new businesses in Africa, where over time the poor had proven their bankability through small innovative enterprises. John gave us a great example of the use of alternative finance routes, where ‘pay per use’ public toilets are being built in Malawi using a combination of the entrepreneur’s own cash, preference shares and bank debt.
Ian Rothwell, Development Manager of Community and Co-operative Finance, came next and immediately emphasised the need for a personal touch. One of the reasons that his organisation has such a low default rate, at under 4%, is he believes down to the three stage application process that is based on a face-to-face approach. This includes visiting potential customer/borrowers for at least a day to really get under the skin of their businesses. He felt that the personalities of the individual co-operative members is the major driver of success, and these can only be assessed by building a personal relationship between the lender and borrower. Ian also felt that the high rate of success in co-operatives is rooted in the very nature of their shared ownership structure. Maybe this is the essence of sustainable finance where a ethical lender is prepared to go the extra mile that the usual providers are not because they lack the understanding of the business environment and the personal relationships required.
When it comes to philanthropy few are in the enviable position of UnLtd who give away millions of pounds a year to worthy social enterprises. Their Director of Ventures, Jonathan Jenkins, highlighted the funding gap that exists between their grants which range from a minimum of £1,000 to a maximum of £20,000, to the entry level for lenders such as Triodos Bank who start at roughly £230,000. Jonathan highlighted the change of mindset required by social entrepreneurs as they move from being an organisation reliant on grants and hand-outs, to being a profitable, sustainable and properly run business.
Are our existing financial systems still fit for purpose, sustainable and ethical, in the light of the recent financial turmoil? This was the question posed by Richard Spencer, Sustainability Manager at the Institute of Chartered Accountants and co-facilitator of the Sustainable Finance Lab. The purpose of this on-line community is to develop new financial processes underpinned by different ways of measuring value, not just through profit. Richard was keen for anyone to join and contribute.
The final presenter was Peter Lang, an adviser to Riversimple, trustee of the London Pension Authority, and Co-founder of Greens on Board. As an avowed environmental campaigner and journalist, Peter highlighted that where many corporations state their commitment to the environment and Corporate Social Responsibility, this doesn’t necessarily translate into these issues being considered as part of board level decisions. Peter felt that many environmental issues don’t get included in high-level strategic business plans because their link with financial performance isn’t analysed or understood.
By lunchtime on Tuesday as a group we had absorbed lots of useful and interesting information from the presenters, and it was time to reflect, draw together the many threads, and highlight the key points. It was interesting to see how much the group agreed on a route forward, which is reflected in the practical actions listed in the Minute.
What stood out for us was that there is an opportunity for the Quaker movement to re-engage with its banking roots by providing access, or signposting, to funding for worthy enterprises, with the guarantee that the money comes from ethical sources: And re-establish the critical personal relationship between the entrepreneur and the lender, the provider of finance.
In conclusion, we thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Woodbrooke. The NXD Network meeting was welcoming, friendly, lively, and we learnt a lot. We look forward to attending future meetings of the Quakers and Business Group.
3. Q&B at BYM 2010
Alan Kirkham and Jo Poole report: The main sessions at Britain Yearly Meeting touched on several themes especially relevant to Q&B. There were sessions on the Ministry of giving, and engagement with the political process. We were reminded that our Quaker heritage still carries weight and we must continue to live up to it. One Friend ministered on how she had been effective in reducing pesticide use in cotton production by engaging with the business in question on issues of how it could increase their profits, rather than approaching them as an NGO. This was most encouraging, and by the time of the Groups Fair on Sunday evening, Friends were optimistic about the relationship between Q&B, Quakers and the business world, and many interesting conversations were had. The full BYM epistle is at http://www.quaker.org.uk/yearly-meeting-2010-epistle
About twenty people came to the our workshop at BYM and numbers stopped to chat with us in the Groups Fair. One strong theme coming through was that Friends felt Quakers should take business more seriously.
- Our position on debt forgiveness was raised. This was prompted by the statement in our Business Principles that we hesitate to take people to Court, especially those weaker than us. This was considered by some Friends to show weakness and had led them to feeling prevented from putting links on their sites to our Business Principles. We in Q&B feel strongly about this: overdue and bad debt chasing means starting from love and moving with great clarity. Did we make a mistake in placing the business with them in the first place? What might they be tempted to do if we ask them for repayment – scam elsewhere? Who will suffer if we do or do not prosecute? Our Principle we see as a statement of loving strength in action: not easy, but with prayer, possible.
- Some feedback was that Q&B is a "macho organisation". As women at tend to be in the majority at Quaker gatherings, it may just be that an event mainly attended by men stands out, but it is a useful piece of feedback which extends beyond the Management Committee, and is most relevant to all our communications. Are we macho? How can we be assured of balance?
- Friends requested testimonies from us as resources, saying: “Quaker businesses should be at the forefront of our relevance to world”. "Businesss is both the wealth of the nation and a resource"
Whilst "Politics is the allocation of resources."
Jo concludes with: “We ARE relevant and I did not encounter a single Friend who did not see the potential of Quakers in business and the potential of the RSoF in this wider part of the world's affairs”.
Hence, perhaps we need to be raising far more strongly in Friends’ minds just what we are doing in the business world …
So, please, Friends, speak up in your Local and Area Meetings for our approach to business!
C. Now for Somethings new…
1. Governance, Stewardship and Trusteeship
At NxD, part of our conversation focused on governance issues in business: ie, on the way control is exercised in a business. Who has the power? Who gets the spoils? Who owns the assets? Who gets left out? Why? What’s right? We recognized that this is a topic Q&B needs to turn its attention to more fully. Accordingly, to surface the issues in this difficult but fundamental area, Ray Sheath, Eoin McCarthy and Tim Phillips are now working towards a Q&B event to be held in the early autumn of 2011 on Governance and Trusteeship – for companies, for charities and public bodies serving their communities for profit or from donations, subscriptions and taxes.
2. A Quaker Bank – or presence in the finance space…?
Another concern and idea which surfaced at both the Spring Gathering and at NxD, is that of a Quaker finance entity based here in the UK. For shorthand – “Why not lets create The Quaker Bank?” Now, Banks have to comply with loads of regulations and have licences, and banking is fraught with pitfalls and disasters for the unwary. BUT, the idea had appeal: there is no longer a Bank which seeks to live in the Light and of values Friends hold dear. Using the broader term financial institution, there is no well linked Quaker finance network within the finance space, to serve needs left unmet by the hedge funds, private equity men, and other investment institutions. Yes, there are some remainders from our past and some excellent local initiatives, some banks and institutions we favour over others. But is there a way we could create a finance entity which would express Friends’ principles and values in this core part of the business world, which could learn from our Quaker banking and finance history, which could cooperate with entities we find more acceptable than others, which could serve unmet needs (eg: channelling some Quaker funds to Quaker projects; invest in sizes of new venture others at present do not serve…) AND sustain its independence and values over time, in the not always reliable, ethical or friendly marketplace?
D. Q&B Officers’ Report
Your four officers (Jo, Paul, Tim, Eoin – see the website for details - ) continue to put in much time co-ordinating members' voluntary efforts arranging events and managing group matters. As a result:-
• We expect some new joiners to the Mgt Cttee next time, together with, as usual, some observing to learn how we do our business.
• Mass mailings to all members and to our wider following from Q&B will be agreed between 2 officers, and signed. Elders, officers and the website manager will have access to this facility.
• A Q&B visiting card has been created. These are available on request from Jo Poole. The cards carry our new local rate Q&B Phone number – 0300 321 4649 - for use on stationery, by members and enquirers.
• The Corporation of the City of London has invited Z/Yen to arrange a conference on Long Finance in the Guild Hall London on 20th September 2010. Q&B have been asked to lead a workshop on "Skills for Long Finance" 10.30 AM to 12.30 PM. Bob Tilley and Eoin McCarthy hope to lead this. If you think you will be able to make it, put the date in your diary. The overall event finishes at 6, with a reception to 7 pm
• One of our newest members, Andrew Radford is to collaborate with Tim Phillips on the 20th Century Quaker History project. Others interested should contact Tim.
E. Giving to a Good Cause
Scholarships for Street Kids (S4SK)
John McConnell writes: S4SK creates educational opportunities for young people from very poor backgrounds. We provide:
· Informal education linked with family support for begging and scavenging children,
· Private tuition for poor kids in their matriculation year,
· Scholarships for vocational training and higher education
Till next time – see you at one of the events. Let us know how you want to strengthen the Quaker business network and your own business service.
If you’d like to attend the next Management Committee meeting as an observer (we have a few slots each time), please let Eoin and Jo know – emails as above. Its on Mon 6 September, in Friends House, London.
Tim, Clerk, Q&B
10 June 2010