Quakers and Business Group
Promoting Quaker values in Business and the Workplace

Minute from our Spring Gathering, 21 April 2012

Facing the future

We have all arrived at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham with a sense of trust and anticipation. We began with a period of silence and we are now gathered in Meeting for Worship.

In the morning session, we explored the world of social media. What are the opportunities for us as individuals and for the organisations in which we work? We heard a presentation from John Chacksfield, Director of Sharpmonkeys. John spoke of the rapid change in sharing media which we have seen in recent years. There was a time when pop music was broadcast weekly on television, by programmes such as Top of the Pops. There is now a range of channels to provide social content on demand, such as YouTube. Equally, there is a range of devices to access this content, including desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

In the same way, the buying process is no longer linear, but also available through a range of channels. Buying decisions are informed through trusted partners, such as TripAdvisor in the case of travel and hospitality. We heard of ‘digital natives’ born after 1995, who have grown up with all this technology. Those of us born before then may be ‘digital avoiders’ or ‘reluctant or eager adopters’.

After coffee, Annemarie Hanlon of Evonomie spoke of the human aspects of social media. The tools have changed but not the rules. We heard how social media, used properly, can be a force for good. Facebook can help keep an older person in contact virtually with family and friends around the world. However, when information has been published, it cannot be retrieved; much as once squeezed, toothpaste can’t be put back in the tube. Information which was private a generation age is now shared routinely. Inappropriate use of social media can destroy a brand as well as build one. Social media can be used to share information and research and buy on line and also better deliver education, social and healthcare.

During the questions and answers session with Annemarie and John, we explored a number of themes; for those without internet access for whatever reason, social media can be isolating and exclusive. We asked how social media may sit alongside our testimonies of simplicity and integrity. Will the rise in social media put more pressure on the world’s resources, such as our need for energy and water? We heard concerns about the corporate governance of some of the largest social media companies, such as the off-shore tax residence of Google and Amazon.

We greatly enjoyed the enthusiastic, informed presentations and thank John and Annemarie for these. We attach their contacts details at the end of this minute.

Lunch was a time to share with each other and with some of the other groups at Woodbrooke, including Being a Quaker treasurer and Seeking an economic system in which Quaker testimonies can flourish.

After lunch, we heard one-minute presentations from Friends:

  • Paula Kingston, volunteering within the Quakers & Business Group

  • Paul Gibson, Social Stock Exchange

  • John Meadley. Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA)

  • John Lovatt, the Quaker Bank

  • Jo Poole, using the Quakers & Business social media accounts.

We held the twelfth Quakers & Business Group Annual General Meeting, for which there are separate minutes.

Our afternoon session was devoted to our next publication, ‘Towards a Quaker View of Business’. This was an engagement session, linked to our testimonies of simplicity, truth, equality and peace. We worked in four groups. We thought about key business dimensions of purpose, ownership and accountability. We look forward to seeing an analysis of the groups’ work. We hope to share our work widely, including the use of social media, in due course.

We enjoyed tea together and farewells, hoping to meet again at our seminar here at Woodbrooke on 28 May, ‘Building trust in business by designing new legal structures for business, fit for creating wealth in the 21st century’. Our Annual Conference 2012 will be at Friends House, Euston on 14 November. We hope to hold Spring Gathering 2013 on Saturday 20 April 2013, theme and venue to be advised.

We closed with a period of silence, thanking the team at Woodbrooke for their hospitality and James Bradbury and others in our Group for arranging this Spring Gathering.

In Friendship and peace,

Paul Gibson, Minute Clerk

 

Contact details of our speakers:

Annemarie Hanlon, Evonomie

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John Chacksfield, Sharpmonkeys

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