Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Videos from the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival 2015

Over 200 people from more than 20 countries gathered in July to explore new approaches to leadership for wellbeing and sustainability. Organised by the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) and the BrathayTrust, the 3 day event offered participants over 40 research papers, 30 speakers, music, dancing, workshops and outdoor activities in England's beautiful Lake District.

The event has kindled a community that is staying in touch on facebook and linked in, with a reunion planned for April 2016 during a Spring School in Sustainable Leadership offered by IFLAS.

The first videos are now available.

A taster of the speakers and delegates present at the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival at Brathay Hall, July 16th–18th, 2015, with music from Cate Ferris, who performed at the Festival from No Routes Found on Vimeo.

Snippet from the Plenary Keynote by Charles Eisenstein: “A new story of wellbeing” from No Routes Found on Vimeo.

Other videos include

Some of the Faces, Thoughts and Feelings are portrayed here: https://vimeo.com/134654213
The Plenary Panel “Telling stories of wellbeing” was hosted by Jo Confino, with Sue Adams, Nandita Das, Charles Eisenstein and Lynne Franks (Thursday 17th July): https://vimeo.com/134628972

The Plenary Keynote “Roots and Wings: from Cultural Heritage to Wellbeing and Sustainability” was delivered by Anna Zegna (Friday 17th July). https://vimeo.com/134646467  

The Plenary Panel on “Business Leadership for Wellbeing and Sustainability” was hosted by Ed Gillespie, with Richard Little, Mark Drewell, Ariane Thomas and Mark Cropper (Friday 17th July) https://vimeo.com/134640737  

The Plenary Panel “On Love and Leadership” was hosted by Lynne Franks, with Ramin Kaweh, Zeffi Kefala, Charlotte Millar and Jo Confino (Saturday 18th July). https://vimeo.com/134663059

More videos will be available via the facebook group.

More about the festival, including links to the programme and the presentations, is available at www.leadingwell.org

This welcome to the Festival, from Professor Jem Bendell (Founder of IFLAS) and Godfrey Owen (CEO of Brathay Trust), explains the philosophy of the Festival.


Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books; Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks; Why all this toil and trouble?
... Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife: Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life, There’s more of wisdom in it.

These verses from local William Wordsworth, written over two hundred years ago, reflect our festival spirit. We like scholarship, but immersing in nature and refreshing our creative desires

is key for developing practical wisdom. This festival is an exploration of ideas and also format, by mixing engaged scholars with radical professionals from across sectors and cultures. We aim at a maximum mix of people, ideas and processes with few frills. We are chuffed to welcome scholars presenting over 40 papers, and speakers who are participating without charge, some coming from across continents.

We are aiming for interaction and reflection, with the Open Space, World CafĂ©, Open Mic and Storytelling sessions, amongst provocative plenaries and interviews. Underlying the range of sessions is the deeper question: “How might I lead greater wellbeing?”

It is an important question, because while more people speak of sustainability, the environmental news is really bad. While more people work on wellbeing, austerity bites and few address the
power relations that undermine opportunities for collective wellbeing. While more people call for leadership, we risk forgetting the need for us all to lead together. But tough issues don’t have to be explored in a tough or dull way. We can enjoy getting to know people on a deeper level as we explore whether to let go of our old stories of success and wellbeing, and where that will lead our work and life. That kind of fresh thinking likes fresh air, so we have organised a range of outdoor
activities for you.

The festival is also a celebration. We want to share our good fortune being here in the Lake District, which inspires through the cultural heritage and contours of the landscape (check that view!). It was here in the 1800s that contemporary conservation was born.

The festival could not have happened without our supporters Futerra, Reagent Switzerland and Heart of the Lakes. A huge team are involved, with top-level coordination by Lucy Maynard and Philippa Chapman. We look forward to meeting you during the festival. If you have any complaints, don’t fret, just come find us on the zipwire or in the bar ;-)

So, Up, Up, friends, these days are a unique moment of exploration. They are a time for us to share and learn. As you mill around before sessions, paddle on the lake, dance the tango, or buy a drink, try asking someone “What do you stand for?”

Jem Bendell (Director of IFLAS, UoC) and  Godfrey Owen (CEO, Brathay Trust)

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Metric Tide: Report leader to present a new agenda for responsible indicators in research

A talk by James Wilsdon
Professor of Science & Democracy, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex

October 13th, at the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria, Lancaster Campus.

Citations, journal impact factors, H-indices, even tweets and Facebook likes – there are no end of quantitative measures that can now be used to assess the quality and wider impacts of research. But how robust and reliable are such indicators, and what weight – if any –should we give them in the management of the UK’s research system?

Over the past year, the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management  has looked in detail at these questions. The review has explored the use of metrics across the full range of academic disciplines, and assessed their potential contribution to processes of research assessment like the REF. It has looked at how universities themselves use metrics, at the rise of league tables and rankings, at the relationship between metrics and issues of equality and diversity, and at the potential for ‘gaming’ that can arise from the use of particular indicators in the funding system.

The review’s final report, The Metric Tide, was published 9th July 2015. In this open lecture, Professor James Wilsdon, who chaired the review, will outline its findings, and propose a more responsible agenda for the use of metrics in research management and policy. 

A discussion on the implications of Professor Wilsdon's talk will be hosted by Professor Jem Bendell, founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS). Academics, students and stakeholders in research from across the North West are welcome.

Hugh Pollard Lecture Theatre
University of Cumbria, Bowerham Road, Lancaster, LA1 3JD
13 October 2015, 5:30-7:30pm

To register for this free Open Lecture, please contact: iflas@cumbria.ac.uk

Read about the report in the THES.
Discuss implications for applied research for social progress, in the IFLAS Sustainable Leaders discussion group.

Discover more about the Institute at www.cumbria.ac.uk/iflas

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Meet the Leading Wellbeing Festival speakers: Jon Alexander and the ‘citizen’ vs the ‘consumer’

With the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival just around the corner, we thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to some of the inspiring minds and thought-leaders attending and speaking at the event from 16-18 July.

Jon Alexander is Director of the New Citizenship Project, based in London. Jon will be taking a key role as MC at the festival, and is also participating in a timetabled discussion on activist leadership.

I first came across Jon's work when reading a report he co-authored in partnership with WWF-UK, called 'Think of me as evil? Opening the ethical debates in advertising' (you can find a copy of this on the New Citizenship Project website).

Jon founded the New Citizenship Project after spending a decade in the advertising and marketing industry. He believes passionately that we should think more carefully about how we use the industry's knowledge, and that it can be used to achieve substantial positive social and environmental outcomes. At the heart of his work is the idea that we should see ourselves as 'citizens' rather than 'consumers', a subtle but important distinction that can empower us to think and ultimately act differently in our everyday lives.

The project works with a variety of organisations to make citizen participation a reality. One of its earliest collaborations was for an experiment called MyFarm, which saw the decisions behind running a National Trust farm opened up to the public using an online voting system.  

Jon recently took part in the first of a new video series for the Guardian, called BackChat, and discusses whether the era of the consumer is beginning to come to an end - if you haven't already seen it, it's a good, short introduction to some of the arguments:

Jon and I recently made contact about the festival, and I put the following questions to him:

Q1. What does the term ‘wellbeing’ mean to you?

I think, for me, wellbeing is really about meaning and purpose. I’ve always had a problem with the ‘contentment’ story, and with terms like ‘life satisfaction’ that some associate this language with, as I think those tend to keep us in the trap of thinking first of the material conditions of life rather than of deeper considerations of quality and meaning. I think we’re in a moment in time when there are some big choices to be made, at individual and societal level, about what kind of future we want – and wellbeing, when understood as a need for meaning, could provide a powerful compass in that moment. If we can find ways to discuss and share our individual search for meaning with one another, that could open up something very special. That’s really what’s behind this idea of citizenship as opposed to consumerism – an idea of people as beings with purpose, and the capacity to share that purpose with one another; rather than as material preference maximising machines…

Q2. What aspect of the festival are you looking forward to most?

Meeting everyone! I love getting to know different people, understanding what drives them, and seeing the world through their eyes as much as I can. That’s what made me so keen to take up the MC role when Jem suggested it – I have the best seat in the house!

For more information on Jon's work and the New Citizenship Project, visit: http://www.newcitizenship.org.uk/

You'll also find him tweeting as @jonjalex and the project as @NewCitProj

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Can CSR now Support International Law?

By Professor Jem Bendell, Founder, IFLAS

This week a coalition of international business organisations announced cautious support for an initiative at the UN's Human Rights Council to negotiate a treaty on business and human rights. Although tentative in its support, this stance from organisations that have in past decades been negative about intergovernmental collaboration on treaties on business and human rights is an interesting development. It could signal how many large firms' commitment to voluntary corporate responsibility is now maturing to recognise a valid role for intergovernmental agreements to ensure that no firms can gain market advantage by abusing people's basic rights.

The initiative at the UN recognises that “transnational corporations and other business enterprises have the capacity to foster economic well-being, development, technological improvement and wealth, as well as causing adverse impacts on human rights” and sees a natural role for intergovernmental human rights law to help address the downside. It seeks to build upon the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” sometimes called the 'Ruggie Framework', that were adopted a few years ago by the Human Rights Council and connect this to international law.

The statement of cautious support came from an influential coalition: The International Chamber of Commerce, International Organisation of Employers, Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. They said they “are committed to constructively engaging in the work of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG)” and mapped out the need both for further improvement in business performance on human rights issues and for the IWG process to build on what is being done by leading companies in the context of the Ruggie Framework.

Since the 1960s there have been various failed attempts at the UN-level towards treaties on the ethical conduct of international firms. Often many Western governments were against them, heeding the influence of transnational corporations that did not want any possible checks on their activities. The rise of contemporary forms of voluntary corporate responsibility, ranging from famous brands like Nike adopting codes to ensure good working conditions in its supplier factories to manufactures like Interface committing to achieve zero carbon emissions, has changed many business cultures towards recognising the importance of issues of sustainable development, including human rights. However, the growth of what some call Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has often been used by right wing elements in the business community to argue that no new regulations on business conduct are needed. Not just ideological, that view is clearly illogical, as leadership by some businesses does not mean that all businesses will improve. Enough people in centuries past were NOT satisfied with praising those companies not using slaves and saying that meant we did not need to abolish slavery. In the same way, I don't know any business person today who wants to have to compete with firms that can be cheaper by hiring kids, shooting strikers or dumping their waste in the nearest river. Or, indeed, wanting to compete with those using the over tens of millions of slaves working in our supply chains this very day (according to the ILO).

A global survey of a 1000 CEOs of the world's largest companies, conducted two years ago by Accenture for the UN Global Compact, found that business leaders have this more mature understanding of the complementarity of CSR and improved government regulation. 83% said they wanted government to create a better enabling environment for addressing sustainable development. That view reflects how, after 20 years of the contemporary form of CSR and its variant concepts, widespread business malpractice persists and the global social and environmental challenges become more threatening. Therefore, if voluntary business action for sustainable development is to be transformative it needs to work with efforts to raise the global floor, rather than be used in reactionary efforts to thwart such developments.

So a key question today is whether the corporate responsibility profession is up to the challenge? Can it be a corporate responsibility movement, contributing to wider social transformation? Many professionals in this field self-identify as being part of a movement, and I explored the implications of that in my 2009 book The Corporate Responsibility Movement. A key sign of whether the movement will rise to the occasion is how the major CSR networks respond. Will the leaders of those networks recognise that intergovernmental law can help hardwire CSR into business, and protect their leading companies from unfair competition from the laggards that don't care? Will they curb the ideological views of a minority of their business members who seek to undermine any regulatory developments?

One year on from the launch of the initiative, a look at the websites of the key international networks working on CSR and related responsible investment, reveal they have said... er... nothing. At least not in public. That includes the UN Global Compact (UNGC), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), World Economic Forum (WEF), and UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI). If we do not see statements of support and engagement in the coming weeks, then we would wonder what that Accenture survey really meant. Do the CEOs know what their political affairs teams are up to, or their trade associations positions are?

A broad spectrum of countries from Africa, Latin America and Asia supported the launch of this process. Given past criticisms of China at home and abroad, it was welcome that China also voted for the initiative. Those who voted against might have difficulty in explaining why they wont be seen as the hypocrites of human rights: the United States of America and nations of the European Union. Even Saudi Arabia abstained.

Clearly there is a role for more large firms that have a mature understand of CSR to encourage their government delegations to support the development of international law in line with the evolving strategies and value propositions of their successful global companies. Anything less than public support in favour open deliberation of the content of a new treaty would be irresponsible and should therefore be punished through downgrades by responsible investment analysts. To help that, specific initiatives we could see are joint statements by the world's largest investors to welcome the effort to clarify and confirm legal responsibilities of international business on human rights issues and call on firms they invest in, and the lobbyists they fund, to support not hinder processes at the UN in this regard.

So watch this space, to see if hypocrisy or responsible pragmatism shapes the global agenda.
The first session of the (deep breath) “open-ended intergovernmental working group on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect for human rights” starts on Monday July 6th 2015 in Geneva.

The network BHRRC is following the process closely, so is the place to go for updates: http://business-humanrights.org/en/binding-treaty