Building the future of finance at a festival

The Lab was invite to host a workshop in the Natures tent at Wilderness Festival, a ‘celebration of arts and the outdoors’ in Oxfordshire.

It was a somewhat different audience from our last workshop, which was on The Future of The Audit profession, but we were delighted to take up the challenge. And we were inspired by the engagement, passion and interesting ideas that emerged for the session.

What did we do?  

We shared with the thirty strong audience, some of what we’re learning about systems change in finance. We also offered a sneak preview into some of our ‘Design Principles’ for systems change.

We have been reflecting on our last four years of work and distilling some key things we’ve learnt about the process and culture that creates change in a system.

These will form an important part of our strategy, which we will be launching this Autumn.


Some of our Design Principles for systems change

  • Relationships

No one organisation, government or individual can tackle the scale of challenges alone. We need to act together in new ways.

This means bringing together different nodes in the network, people who don’t normally talk to each other, to build trust and understanding.

  • Do it yourself

Take responsibility for the things that you care about. It’s easy to blame the bankers, but we are not victims of the financial crisis. In some way we were all part of it. We need to move away from the idea that a politician or business leader will ‘save us’ and realise that if we want to things to change we have to do something about it. The Lab uses a bottom-up process that allows people to contribute to things that are deeply important to them.

  • Creativity

We are calling for systems change in an increasing number of our systems; finance, media, political. We are not going to get to a new world by just talking about it, we have to start to try and build new parts of it. This requires a re-frame, a chance to play with new ideas, models. Using creative process can help us not to get too bogged down in the complexity of everything, but to come up with innovative solutions. We use drawing, slam poetry, we ask people to build systems out of stuff.

  •  Meaning

Many people have jobs that offer them no sense of meaning in life.

As Aristotle said ‘where the needs of the world and your passion overlap, there lies your vocation.’ We help people build their ‘inner mastery’; to have a clearer idea of their intention in life, of who they are, what their ‘hot spots’ are that stop them being everything they could be, what gives them meaning, pleasure and what they are good at.

We find that people who have built a clear idea about what they want to achieve in life and an authentic reason why, they attract money, resources, support for their ideas quickly.

  • Mystery

No one has all the answers.  Deciding to build better systems means going into the black space. You have to get used to uncertainty, not knowing what is the right thing to do. Using gut instincts, emotional intelligence, hunches becomes important and finding others who you can make sense with.

What are the characteristics of a financial system that better serves people and planet?

We asked participants to get into groups and share their thoughts on this question. We then asked them to build a better one out of ‘stuff’ we had brought with us, which included;  Christmas decorations, a wig and a banana.

Participants, many of whom by their own account hadn’t really thought about the financial system before, came up with some great ideas.

We need;

  • more women in the financial system – they think differently
  • more local investment
  • to think more widely. Money isn’t the only currency we have – we can use people’s time as a resource
  • transparency
  •  to reduce complexity
  •  to creating products that would service the real economy, for example renewable energy

What’s great about these findings is that they back up and build on the results of previous sessions we’ve held for the Lab, where we have asked the same question.

These are the results from the Summer Banking Summer School workshop we hosted last Summer.

We had much longer session with this group of  social bankers from across Europe, but they came up with similar answers.

A consistent picture is emerging of the change we want to see.

Now all we have to do is empower people to build it.