Banks for a better world – Innotribe @ Ashoka Changemaker’s week

23 Jun

The Innotribe team was out in Paris to run a segment in Ashoka’s changemaker’s week (link to the description of the event) – for the first time we experimented with our “banks for a better world” subject (the baby of Innotribe’s @Petervan)  which will find its way into Innotribe@Sibos in Toronto. Below is a short 2:30 video showing the incredible enthusiasm and good vibe of the participants to the workshop.

Untitled from Copernicc on Vimeo.

Here’s a very inspired summary blog from the Master of Ceremony of the event, Innotribe’s Martine de Weirdt.

Absence of sorrow

That’s what Ashoka means. And that’s the conference I attended with a few colleagues last week in Paris. Such a name raises a lot of expectations. And they were more than met from a human perspective.

Take a university campus on the outskirts of Paris. Add 1000 authentic people with their stories, dreams, achievements and immense compassion and even more importantly their hearts and souls. And you have all the ingredients for a truly human experience with beautiful encounters, surprising experiences and a strong feeling of connectedness.

The diversity of participants was quite amazing. Ashoka succeeds in bringing together social entrepreneurs (and after all this is their original scope and mission), but also European commissioners, bankers, academia, private and public sector representatives.

As a result, you find on stage speakers who talk about financial regulation, people who share their personal stories and how these triggered their current engagement in social entrepreneurship, partners and sponsors who explain why they are supporting Ashoka.

During lunches and dinners under a huge tent, we had the opportunity to meet amazing people. Bart who lives in Africa and teaches rats how to detect mines, a Danish gentleman (and I am awful with names so I am afraid I do not remember his) who mortgaged his own house since no one accepted to fund his idea and now has created a self-sufficient company that employs autist people and sends them as consultants to so-called normal companies where they are used for their incredible eye for details. There is this 19-year old girl who almost died of anorexia and has decided to use this painful experience to create a worlwide network for girls with eating disorders. And all the amazing African women who fight for their sisters and their countries.

And then, this most incredible experience of a lunch in the dark. The day before this lunch, I sat next to 3 visually impaired young people and we had such a nice chat about their passions such as dancing and photography (yes, this is not a typo, they use special cameras and their pictures are better than mine and I have two good eyes). Little did I know how much I would need one of them, Ramona, the following day.

Inspired by a project launched by the first Ashoka fellow, Andreas Heinecke who created Dialogue in the Dark, a young lady has extended the concept and organises lunches in the dark. Imagine a pitch dark room (and I mean dark) and 24 of us entering by groups of 6 hanging on to each others’ shoulders and being guided by Ramona who in this case is our eyes. We finally reach our table, find our chair and have to probe with our fingers to find plate, cutlery, glass and napkin. Someone is crying in the dark at another table….Ramona is great. She gives us some tips so we do not spill our glass and end up with food on our lap. We have to introduce each other. And that’s when all of us realise how we rely on our eyes in a conversation. Here you need to really listen to the other person and respect some silences.

What was SWIFT doing there?

Well, thanks to our colleague, Catherine, we were introduced to Kurt who is in charge of Ashoka Belgium. We decided to sponsor the conference as part of our CSR strategy and also because we wanted to initiate a dialogue around ‘Banks for a better world’. What does it mean? What does it cover? Is there collaborative space within the industry to discuss this further? Are we talking about financial inclusion, new financial instruments for social funding, setting up a fund, etc.?

We were lucky to have some bankers with us, but also the social entrepreneurs who confirmed that their biggest issue is funding. We ran two interactive workshops, including one where we built 3 dimensional models of an alternate financial system in a world of abundance (ie everyone’s basic needs being met, not everyone being rich).

We produced a draft Manifesto which we are fine-tuning at the time of writing and we decided it is worth continuing the discussion around ‘Banks for a better world’, in a social but also sustainable business model for the banks. This is only the first step in a long journey. And it is already exciting!


One Response to “Banks for a better world – Innotribe @ Ashoka Changemaker’s week”


  1. Innotribe at Sibos: Banks for a Better World « - 14/09/2011

    […] Have a look at the first workshop on this subject we did in Paris at the Ashoka Changemaker’s week. […]

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