Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Dear friends, co creators of a modern world!

Happy New Year 2013

Let us co create this promising new eco civilization 

and support the process that leads to a
thrivable Planet.

Vibacom team

VIBACOM in the year 2012:  the most unpredictable year, so far; the most dynamic year, so far; the most successful year, so far:
  • Internationalization of Vibacom models, of our school of thought, and the experiences of Slovenian (business) environment
  • Coordination of the program design team within the ISSS global  team for the conference in Vietnam 2013
  • Innovative breakthroughs with all our major clients (business models, market definitions, business relationships)
  • An active role in socially responsible projects (participating and generating)
  • An active role in a search for creative inspirations domestically and globally
  • Business rating AA the third year in a row
Thank you for an opportunity to cooperate and co create with you!

Vibacom team

Monday, December 3, 2012

Social Entrepreneurship in the Hands of the Youth

Slowly but surely, our society is changing into a society of trust, integration, enthusiasm and inner strength with growing opportunities for manifestations of these qualities. From the behind the scenes, from under the roots, and from behind the clouds, a new light of the good, the true and the inspired, is finding its way into our midst. All we need to do is open our slightly rusted hearts and allow the light to come in. There are but few people perpetuating this change. They don't make accusations or criticize the past. They have simply embraced the light. Matevž and his crowd carry the light in their hands, eyes and their activities. This is their (his) story.

VB: Who is Matevž Slokar?
Matevž Slokar (MS): Surfer with a briefcase. A fighter for ethical capitalism, for social entrepreneurship. A person enjoying his life and seeking fun in everything he does - work and life in general. Life is too short to worry about insignificant things. As long as we are healthy and at ease with ourselves, everything else is insignificant.
Matevž Slokar already stood out from his peers at a very young age. As soon as he came of age he opened his first restaurant, Dama in Ajdovščina. It didn't take him long to realise that playing the boss was not going to lead to the desired results, so he rolled up his sleeves and took on any work in the kitchen. In a few years he relocated the Dama to a new, larger location in Ajdovščina. His first steps in the catering business led to numerous other projects whereby he gained experience and sought knowledge in reading. His company, Slo-bar d.o.o., received an award for best business idea from the local business daily - Finance. Following a year and a half of managing the Dama restaurant and the brand in Ajdovščina, he accepted the position of production manager at the Pristop marketing agency. In his two years at Pristop he managed and developed the image for several Slovenian brands. His responsibilities ranged from developing communication strategies to managing communications of various bands. Nowadays, he dedicates most of his energy to a social entrepreneurship project, called "S project", whose goal is to help vulnerable youths to leave their environments, trains them at the "S akademYa" to become chefs and helps them to find employment. The S project creates opportunities for young people. His courage, positive energy and ethics at work have led him further where his path intersected with the people running the Jamie Oliver foundation. They became strong supporters of the S project, currently training six youths from various parts of Slovenia. And this is just the beginning. His goal is to set a new milestone in social entrepreneurship, internationalise it and thus create opportunities for even more young people - and not forgetting how to have fun along the way. He has also been devoting a lot of energy to his company Slovely Ltd. in London, selling Slovenian high quality food products under the Slovely brand. The company supplies several high-end restaurants and food stores in London. 
VB: What was the strongest influence on your personal development so far?
MS: My parents influenced me the most. They provided me with all the basics for life. They taught me to respect all people and to appreciate what we get in life. Spiritually I have learned a lot from Dalai Lama. Life is too short to worry about insignificant things. Finding inner peace is one of the keys to leading a full life. I would also like to mention Richard Branson and Edward deBono. Branson because he puts having fun before work and money, while learning from deBono helped me develop my creativity and ideas. Reading books also significantly contributed to my development in general. I put a lot of theory that I had learned from books into practice, I learn from my mistakes and move on to new projects.

Photo: Violeta Bulc and Matevž Slokar
Source: photographer Matej Kolaković

VB: How do you understand social entrepreneurship and what attracted you to it? What differentiates your company from others?
MS: Social entrepreneurship is fun. It brings profits and helps people. -:) It is different from the traditional business operations, primarily because we allocate a part of the profits, normally paid out to the owners, into the projects aimed at helping people who need it. Young people are always searching for something new and unconventional. I believe that by choosing social entrepreneurship as the core of my activities I was able to utilise my personal values and at the same time I have achieved personal satisfaction.

VB: What are your key projects?
MS: 1. Zavod S - S project! This is a social enterprise that provides young people from socially weak families and regions with an opportunity for a better future. They train to become chefs at the "S akademYa". In addition to the culinary knowledge, we provide them with the knowledge of economics, ethics, etc. The project is financed by our products and services. These are marketed with the help of our partners Slovenian and foreign companies. If you want to know more about our business model, I would be happy to explain it in detail. It's quite unique in Europe. -:) Find out more about us at
2. "Slovely Ltd. in London"... The company I established in London sells Slovenian high quality food products to top restaurants in London. We supply Piran salt, Karst prosciutto and pancetta, Tolmin cheese, olive oil from Istria and a lot more. Find out more about that at
3. "Slo-bar d.o.o." and the "Dama" restaurant ... this is where our social entrepreneurship project is put into practice. The restaurant is located in Ajdovščina and promotes all I have mentioned through our approach and offer. Find out more about that at

VB: Why an academy for chefs?
MS: Simply because we had a kitchen available at the Dama restaurant. We had to start somewhere and we started in a kitchen. But we're not stopping there. In February next year, we will introduce our second "akademYa", which won't be for chefs. More about that after it starts.

"Within six months with akademYe I acquired the knowledge and skills that cannot be obtained anywhere else. Since significant progress in the kitchen, to useful knowledge such as: presentation at interview, public speaking, basic preparation of business plans, writing and managing small projects. Special experience, you're away from home, after 24 hours a day with new people. From The akademYe I leave more independent and confident. And I hope that in the future we meet again."
Member of the first generation S akademYe: Tadej Rezman

VB: Why does your name not appear anywhere on your company's website?
MS: Because it's not about me, it's about the team and the people around me. My projects involve some wonderful people. In order to manage good and creative projects, each of them has to do their jobs. One of my qualities is that I never run out of ideas.

Photo: Tadej Rezman, Member of the first Sakademya
Source: photographer Matej Kolaković

VB: What are your biggest challenges?
MS: Pursuing my personal satisfaction and a full life. I have learnt that the more I give, the more I get. I love it.

VB: Where do you see yourself in the future? 
MS: I am frequently asked this question. And my answer is that I don't really know. I want to live "now" and to the fullest extent possible. What the future brings will, as always, happen for a reason. All I need to do is enjoy what I'm doing. The rest will be taken care of.
It was afternoon, call of Matevž, a former co-worker, and an invitation to coffee. A brief explanation and conclusion: "dare you?" And I did. It was the right time and the right place to build a new success story.
The biggest challenge? S project.
Because we want in addition to training young people and create opportunities for them to establish a new example of good practice in the field of social entrepreneurship. Our efforts go beyond traditional social entrepreneurial projects. We build parallel brand “S” and living through the market with their own projects. But their earnings are not intended for individuals, but the development of the project and the high-rolling approximation of the goals we have set for S project.
And all of this was undertaken at a time when many people are afraid to start. But social entrepreneurship is the right time, because the distress of young people and the worst opportunities for them at least.
The project director: Ana Strand 
VB: The excitement around the "S project" is building up. What is the "S project" and what are its goals?
MS: The "S project" creates opportunities for young people. It is an incubator of knowledge and ideas; it creates unique and applicable know-how under the guidance of outstanding young individuals. Its goal is to help socially vulnerable youths to grow into independent and ambitious individuals who employ their ideas and experience in developing the "S" brand according to our jointly envisioned goals and guidelines. They also participate in training of the next generations of the young people, attending the "S akademYa". The funds necessary to drive the wheels of "S akademYa" are, and will be, generated by the "S" brand products which we are developing together with our partners.

Photo: Holders of  flash S project
Source: photographer Matej Kolaković

VB: Where can we see you next?
MS: Somewhere where is an abundance of positive energy and positive people in our offices where we are developing the most outlandish and fun projects.

One can feel the energy bursting from these words and thoughts. Matevž speaks a different language. A modern one. A joyful, yet terrifically anchored one. He speaks out of his awareness of the moment. He is fearless and trusting. He represents the world of our future. Let us leave the ballast of insecurity, anguish and fear out at the door. Together we can achieve anything we put our minds into. Let us join and support anyone, who wants to do good.

Additional links:
  • Join us for the International Conference of Systems Science and Systems Thinking in Vietnam, July 2013 - see call for papers 
  • FreeFullPDF - spletna stran s preko 80 milijonov brezplačnih znanstvenih publikacij 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Norway is learning and acting

This inspiring interview conducted by dr. Monika Žagar, professor of Scandinavian studies at The University Of Minnesota Twin Cities, with Timothy Szlachetko, an expert on welfare state, and a diversity and integration specialist, invites us to see beyond the ordinary. Invites us to think. To care. To challenge. To act. Within our private worlds, our communities, in public life. We simply need to start asking questions and insist on receiving answers over and over again. Until those that we trusted our vote to, respond with clear, thrivable and ethical answers. Some communities have done it, and they are doing well. They are getting out of the comfort zone. And that means re-adjusting, evolving, and co-creating. In public administration as well. I hope Tim’s story encourages more of us to make the next step. Thank you Monika for sharing it with us. 

Monika Zagar (MZ): I have many questions about Scandinavia in general, but perhaps mainly about Norway as a case study for what can be done for a relatively peaceful integration of global immigrants, including their specifics, while retaining Norway’s identity. Diversity, unavoidable in these times, enriches us but it also presents challenges, small and large.

Timothy Szlachetko (TS): Definitely, and I am here speaking on the basis of my personal and professional experience. I am not speaking on the background of my position in the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity. We are what is called here a center of knowledge and competency on integration and diversity issues. We provide independent advice to the Government. We also provide substantial grants in the order of 6 billion plus Nkr, roughly a billion US $ to municipalities, NGOs, etc., in their integration work. We are a Government institution, we receive our mandate from the Government, which is always politically determined, yet our advice has to be independent and based on the latest research and factual information available. I am a senior advisor and project manager, and have worked in a number of capacities, from negotiating with various Norwegian government ministries, to being an advisor to the director general, more recent assignments are related to strategic policy development. 

Photo: Monika Žagar, personal archive
MZ: Your position is very important, and visible, as you give professional advice on sometimes delicate issues. Would you say that you are, as a Polish Australian, better suited for this position than somebody who is home-grown so to say?

TS: I’m not sure about that. But I know that one of the reasons why I was hired was my background. That is not to say that Direktoratet actively promotes people of immigrant background, but they are very aware that it is important that Directorate represents the diversity that exists in the community. It is true that the Director General who hired me and was very conscious of the issues, wanted somebody with an immigrant background. So this white upper-middle class Norwegian man wanted somebody who could say, “your reading with your Norwegian eyes goes this way, but it can also be interpreted this way.”  We actually have about 30% of our workforce with immigrant background, and a large percentage of management also comes from non-Norwegian background, and that is practically unheard of in comparable government offices elsewhere. Other departments don’t even come close to our numbers. Yet this reflects diversity in the country. This has not occurred by accident, the Direktoratet in 2006 decided that they would try to hire in the most neutral way possible. The way people are normally hired in other government institutions is standard white Norwegian background, but here the focus was away from that and more on hiring qualified people from all parts of the community. Our Director believes that diversity is our strength; that precisely because of the immigrant experiences our staff has, these employees sometimes facilitate contacts with organizations internationally and also domestically. I do actually believe that in some situations someone like me has added-value experiences that a standard educated Norwegian might not have.
TIM’s background: I grew up in Melbourne, and my parents are from Poland, Polish Australians. My mother came in the early seventies as a refugee, and my father in the mid-seventies. They came at the time when Australia became officially multi-cultural; only the second country in the world to do so (Canada implemented multi-cultural policy in 1971, Australia in 1973). In the sixties, Australia still had elements of what I would call the white Australian policy where immigration was controlled in such a way as to preference white Europeans. When my parents came to Australia, radical changes were happening in a short period of time. I am a child of immigrants, but also a child of immigrants who arrived at the time of multicultural diversity, so I am in a way a product of a very ideological time. And indigenous Australians were given full citizenship. Multiculturism in Australia is now more pragmatic, Australia is very diverse, it is a fact and you have to live with it, but at the time multiculturism was a radical decision by the Government and the Parliament, which changed the course of where Australia was going. I felt it in my schooling, and elsewhere as I was growing up.
MZ: Where did you study?
TS: I studied at the University of Melbourne where I finished my undergraduate education, my focus was political science and criminology, but I studied everything from domestic politics, international relations, gender politics, and European politics. In my honors work I focused more on European Union issues, and finally during my graduate work I looked at welfare state issues and that brought me to Scandinavia. In 1998 I had a one-year research position at University of Aarhus in Denmark, which is a very good research institution, with a great department of political science. I really benefited from the environment there, and I could observe that you can have a modern developed capitalist economy but somehow also promote equality. I was attracted ideologically to the social democratic model, and when I did my work there I was astounded how open society was, how easy it was to get access to influential people.
When I returned to Australia, I first worked part time in the government’s Department of Education. When elections were approaching, I was in the state of Victoria, which has a population of 6 million people. Then the newly-elected Labor government ordered a major review of education and training policies. I became part of the Commission on Education precisely because of my research in Denmark, and the Danish experience was put into policies. Suddenly I was working with the minister and her staff. I arranged a state visit for her to visit Denmark and Sweden. She met many of my contacts, she met some additional professionals, we finished a fairly radical report for the time with many recommendations, and then I worked on implementation of that report.

Photo: Timothy Szlachetko, personal archive
MZ: You settled in Norway for personal reasons. What was your first job in Norway?
I applied for a teaching job, with English as the language of instruction, on the Scandinavian welfare state at International Summer School at the University of Oslo. I got the job, and three weeks later I moved to Norway permanently, on a specialist work visa, and that is how my life in Norway began. At the time I spoke no Norwegian, I spoke a bit of Danish, I understood quite a lot of Danish.

MZ: Your Norwegian language skills are near-native fluency. How important is it for incoming immigrants to learn the language as quickly as possible and as well as possible? To use language in a nuanced way is important, and as some would say language is power. Or is it?
First, being a product of multiculturism of the time, as I explained earlier, I think, well, that language is not the most important thing. But my experience in Norway was different, although I was working in an English-language environment. I felt I was not part of the society. Being a person who is interested in culture, politics, and so forth, I wanted to understand the news, what people where talking about, be part of the conversation. I then made the effort to learn the language in a short time. Now, I have to say that it is probably fundamental in Scandinavia to learn the language--there is a greater emphasis here on learning the local language than in Great Britain or the US.  So Norway is different that way. I would argue that there is a closer bond—although this is unsubstantiated—a stronger bond between government, the people, and the social organizations, and language is part of that bond. And a group is more important in Scandinavia than an individual the way he or she is important in the US or Australia.

MZ: What does the Norwegian state offers to the newcomers in terms of language instruction?
It depends on what the reason for your residency is. If you are a refugee, up to 600 hours of free Norwegian language education. If you are a labor migrant worker from the EU you have no access to that. The specialist work visa comes with no free language education either but I got the courses for free through the university where I worked. I believe that it is important that you speak Norwegian as best as you can, both for yourself and other people. Still, I think maybe there needs to be an awareness in the majority population that for many people learning languages is difficult. And that some will never speak Norwegian perfectly or even very well. I’ve noticed that there has been a change at least here in Oslo, a willingness to understand others. It used to be that Norwegians got annoyed when foreigners spoke Norwegian, or they switched to English, but now they do not react, but listen for content. Finally, even if it is expected here to know Norwegian, I would turn things around and point out that all those languages add to the richness of Norway.

MZ: Could you briefly explain how Oslo is changing? In my lifetime, it has morphed from a very provincial town to a dynamic, much more beautiful and culturally rich city.
Oslo is a city in rapid development. And in space of ten years the population has increased dramatically both as a result of people moving from other parts of Norway and as a result of immigration. It is an extremely wealthy city: if Norway were a regular part of EU, Oslo would be the third wealthiest city in EU.  The wealth created in Norway is often created in Oslo where there are so many opportunities. Construction is booming, there is a shortage of housing, and we’re building cultural institutions, yea! Dynamic. In terms of demographics: in 10 years the percentage of population with immigrant background has increased by roughly 10 % points, which is dramatic. We’re now at 30 % of Oslo inhabitants of immigrant background, and maybe in 2040 will be around 50%, maybe higher. So yes Oslo is today a different city. Part of the story of Norwegian immigration is that it is very diverse: people come from different world regions, they come for many reasons, and it is both a terrific opportunity for Norway and quite a challenge for policy makers, because we need to have a range of measures in place in order to meet the needs of such diverse people. I would add that my institution, the IMDi, was established on 1 January 2006 to act as a competence center and a driving force for integration and diversity.

MZ: What are some of the policies for the benefit of the new groups, and policies that also dissolve some of the tensions that invariably arise among the incoming groups, and between ethnic Norwegians and the new immigrants? Of course there are many success stories of, for instance, Norwegians of Pakistani origins, who are today doctors, lawyers, and engineers, yet what prevails in the media is either crime stories, or stories about poor illiterate immigrants who come to exploit the welfare state.

Photo: Norway
Source: internet, photography with free access

TS: First about the media: we did a report here at Direktoratet and without a doubt, it showed that the media was dominated by immigration and integration stories, and that often some groups are more in focus than others. To put it crudely: people with Muslim background are more written about than others. At other times, for instance, the focus is on Groruddalen district, the Eastern suburbs with a heavy immigrant population, and poorer.

Policies: refugees benefit from the most intensive integration, they receive an introductory program for two to three years upon their arrival to Norway, which provides income support, language training, maybe vocational training, yet the most important range of policies are not even tailored to immigrants, they are part of the welfare state. Everybody who has a residency has access to the Norwegian welfare system – a system of an incredible support, healthcare, income support, child welfare support, housing support. It reduces the inequality. It reduces economic inequality, for instance, because immigrants are in general poorer. Such policies mean that people are provided with opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.

MZ: Let me be the devil’s advocate, and ask you to address critiques of these equality policies: first, that all these measures are expensive, and second, that immigration is happening too quickly. So how do you address the concerns of Norwegians who would like to slow down the process of immigration growth? When Breivik happened you could hear comments that he is one of those who would prefer a slower demographics change, and in addition, that when the slow immigration proponents voice their opinion, they are immediately labeled as right-wingers.
TS: Well, it is a difficult one, because Norway is a de facto member of EU, it is a member of the Schengen agreement–which means freedom of movement—so there is not much to be done about the labor migration from the Schengen countries, which amounts to about 50%. In addition, it is not even desirable – immigrants are contributing actively to economic growth. You could do something with granting the refugee status, where a lot has been done already, e.g. the policy is now tougher and more restrictive under the current center-left government. You could tighten a few measures that can further restrict the refugee status without actually compromising Norway’s international commitments which are legally binding.

MZ: And the cost? Just yesterday there was an article about the immigration being a huge money drain.
Yes, the cost-benefit analysis…I do have issues with the research that is mentioned in the article. It is a macro-economic analysis without taking in consideration other broader factors. In fact, its starting point may be wrong. It says at one point that all citizens are a cost: when you give birth it’s a cost, when you die, it’s a cost, and so on! To be serious: there are things that can be done. For instance: some argue that people should not have full access to the welfare state so quickly; others argue that we should pressure people to go to work more quickly; maybe some benefits should be reduced, and all this is a political debate which is occurring right now. I am from an ideological standpoint opposed although I see maybe some advantages in reducing some benefits that are deemed too generous and which don’t give incentives to people to actively look for work. Yet these reductions should be done carefully. For instance, if you reduce child support, then you are asking that a parent stays at home, and subsequently does not work. And so forth. We know that if you have an immigrant background, you have about a 25% reduced chance of getting the job. We know that many immigrants tend to be overqualified for the jobs they are in. This all needs to be addressed.

MZ: I talked to two adoptees from South Korea who are, of course, Norwegian citizens with all that entails. When they respond to a job ad, or call about the job, everything is fine. When they show up, and don’t look ethnically Scandinavian, there is always an initial shock. What about the immigrants?
TS: We know that a lot needs to be done in the workplace. Many employers say it right out that they are skeptical of hiring, for instance, workers with Muslim background because, for instance, there is going to be a Christmas party and wine will be served, and maybe pork, and what do they do? I don’t want to trivialize it, it is a major issue for many people, but it is discrimination. It is changing but we need to provide the employers with the right skills for managing diversity. There are many, too often undetected ways of exploitation. On the other hand, Norway has been one of the countries in Europe most active at combating these exploitations. It’s an issue but the labor unions and the employers’ federation have targeted it, and the government has been involved as well. But I was shocked at seeing how often the labor imgrants, let’s say from Poland or the Baltic area, are exploited, regarding the wages, that they would not be given a contract, that they would not be explained what their rights are, the housing provided is often at a level that is unacceptable, but I think this too is changing.  And not to forget that basic competitiveness is at play as well. The economy in Poland is continuing to do well and we cannot just assume that they would continue to stream to Norway. We should also consider Denmark: A very harsh debate about immigration and integration has been a part of public life for nearly two decades, which has actually resulted in that Denmark is now struggling to get the qualified labor that it requires. Research shows that some very qualified people do not want to live in Denmark because of the cultural environment, which is perceived to be unfriendly to foreigners. Let’s take the example of some couples or families who come to Denmark: one person would be hired, and while the partner would also be highly qualified, the labor regulation would not allow the partner to work, and both of them would end up leaving.

MZ: Now to something different. I was here for the Independence Day (or Constitution Day) on May 17th and it was huge in downtown Oslo, as it was in the entire Norway.  Because of Breivik many more people than usually wanted to participate in this event, and show support for the state. For many years I was uneasy about the Independence Day celebration —the procession of children, everything cute like in a fairytale, a bit naïve, everybody marching to the same tune. However, one can see such events as positive social glue creating felleskap (community) and celebrating your state. What are some of your thoughts on this felleskap? Thomas Hyland Erikson’s metaphor of integration as “kompott” seems very appropriate to me: the juice is the community, and the individual fruits come from all over the globe.
TS: Australia is very different, the National Day there is 26th of January when Captain Cook arrived at Sydney Cove, and is an unfortunate day because at the time the indigenous inhabitants of Australia were not recognized as human beings nor did they have the right to own land. I’d call it invasion day. I never grew up with a strong sense of the national day. In Norway, I have to admit, I was deeply uncomfortable with this notion of celebrating the 17th May. But it is incredible how the sight of children disarms you.

Photo: Coexistence and diversity of the natural ecosystem 
Source: personal archive of V. Bulc, 2012
MZ: Growing up in Eastern Europe, I have always been suspicious of state-organized affairs, but here in Norway it seems genuine.
TS: It is probably the best integration measure here, for who would deny children to be part of this day? It’s quite ingenious. You have these stories from the eighties: one of the schools from either Sagene or Sinsen was going to lead the parade, but because it was a school, which had majority of kids from immigrant background, it received bomb and death threats before the parade. That was an eye-opener for many, at least in Oslo. Efforts here are enormous to be inclusive, and maybe the schools in Oslo have anywhere from 30 to 50 percent children who are not ethnically Norwegian at this point. Dramatic.

Well, why does it work? It works because it is apolitical, no political speeches are held, no overt statements that Norway is so great. Political leaders are not posturing, in fact politicians have a very low profile that day; the emphasis is on human rights and inclusiveness. We could argue that there is a somewhat naive notion out there that human rights are intrinsically Norwegian, and I wish there was more reflection on that. And there are always the usual debates about which flags can be flown on that day, which really is a non-issue. But honestly, I haven’t really worked it out completely yet. Of course children are an important part of this ritual, representing the future of the nation rather than looking at the past, like in Poland. I was struck when I visited Poland recently, on every corner there is a monument and the Poles are obsessed with memory. I understand why that is so, but I also wonder how much of a trap this memory is.

MZ: Slovenia too seems to be frozen in time, and bitterly divided over the recent past. There are still poisonous debates as to who was on which side during Second World War and it has paralyzed much of the public debate. My interest in the 17th May celebration is to understand how one can transcend the past and move on, while being proud of your community.
TS: This day is a very important integration measure, but unintentional one. Maybe that is why it works so well! Because it is not made what it isn’t, it is what it is and nothing more, and it is what people make it to be.

MZ: And then there is the king, and the royal family, as positive role models. After 22nd of July, they have made it even more of a point to be inclusive.
We indeed have a royal family who stand on the balcony for hours and wave. From the integration and diversity perspective, they are highly involved and active. For fear of sounding like a royalist, the royal family is actively involved in integration and diversity issues, extremely involved. They have in fact, been criticized by the more centrist and right wing people in the country for being political about it.  For example, the debate on the use of hidjab as part of the police uniform became very heated and unpleasant, and during the debate the Queen visited one of the big mosques in Oslo, or the Islamic Centre, and it was not a visit that had been planned or scheduled. She was accused of being political, but I am certain that it was a sign of the royal family’s support for diversity. The King too: for instance, he mentions explicitly in his New Year’s speech the diversity of Norwegian society. The Queen celebrates the 8th of March, the International Women’s day, by inviting women with an immigrant background to the palace, for tea. These are all small things that add up, and if nothing else, it’s good PR. By and large, Norwegians with an immigrant background adore the royal family; they are like rock stars to them!

M: Right after Utøya, there was some harassment and attacks on Muslims. In general, have hostilities against Muslims increased?
We in Direktoratet, fund every other year, a survey of attitudes towards integration of immigrants, called Integreringsbarometer. There has been quite a marked change in a positive direction. We don’t know whether this is due to 22nd of July but we assume that. Without a doubt there is a skepticism towards Muslims and immigrants; but we’re seeing that with time that the more people have contact with immigrants the less skepticism there is.
Timothy Szlachetko is a political scientist and public policy practitioner. He undertook his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He has been a guest researcher at the Centre for Labour Market and Social Research in Aarhus, the Danish Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen and the University of Oslo in Norway. He has worked in social policy development for government in both Australia and Norway, specialising in education and multicultural affairs. Timothy was also Program Director of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs’ (HECUA) Scandinavian Urban Studies Term at the University of Oslo. He has most recently worked on a major cross-disciplinary review of multicultural policies in Norway, the findings of which were presented to the Norwegian government in 2011. Timothy is currently project manager and senior advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.
MZ: Antirasistisk Senter’s invitation to tea—that Norwegians should invite others to tea—was extremely positive. It was a practical measure, concrete, with real people inviting other real people over.
Yes, people are people and most often have similar hopes and fears, they have families, and when you see that, it is disarming. I would say though that the public debate does not reflect these changes that we think we see in the communities.

MZ: Does the media negatively influence the debates?
It’s interesting how Norway is paying the price for being a small country: we have self-appointed experts and spokespersons on different issues who get a lot of coverage and color the debate. I think too that a lot of debates online through social media tend to be more extreme. People feel they can say anything. I would also argue that Norwegians could learn from countries that have a longer history of diversity, and media debates in general. Norwegians working in public policy criticized, for instance, several Australian states and their policies regulating what can be said in public, in effect regulating hate speech. In the state that I come from, you are not allowed to say anti-Semitic, racist, or islamophobic utterances in public. I’m not saying that Norway has to implement that legislation, but rather ask the question, why do we need to offend each other in order to prove that we have freedom of speech, or to treat each other in such disrespectful ways. It is similar with the anonymous hateful comments on line. It’s unproductive. And it’s not freedom of speech; it’s really bad, uncivilized behavior. It does not contribute to community. It’s one thing to be critical, which you have to be, quite another to be offensive.

MZ:  I’d like to talk about the so-called happiness report. While problematic in many respects, the report can help us reflect on what it means to be happy here and now. Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands are the countries where people can find happiness fastest. The 158-page report, published by Columbia University's Earth Institute, was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness. In addition to income, the following indicators were taken into account: family arrangements, job security, health, political freedom, corruption, a sense of engagement, strong communities, trust in institutions, etc. While the starting point of the report was to show that happiness does not equal high income, the results actually confirm that material security is crucial, for European countries lead the scale while such African countries as Sierra Leone and Togo are last. Still, provided that a certain material security has been met, what factors in your opinion influence happiness? What do you think goes into being a happy Scandinavian?
The 158-page report, published by Columbia University's Earth Institute, was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness. In addition to income, the following indicators were taken into account: family arrangements, job security, health, political freedom, corruption, a sense of engagement, strong communities, trust in institutions, etc.
TS: The welfare state has been fundamental in this regard, it has taken away many of the risks that can make life very hard for many people. Extreme poverty, for instance does not exist here, people don’t have to struggle with basic things. Further, that one has a relatively humane labor market, access to health care, to a relatively good and free education from kindergarten to university, access to influence in society in which your voice is heard, that the distance between citizens and politicians is not that great, all these factors are extremely important. From my own perspective, I really like the level of trust here, and subsequently that life is not that complicated. Also, work/life balance is excellent here, the welfare state enables people to have time to do other things in their life than work, to focus on family for instance.
If you look at the World Social Value Survey report, problematic perhaps but still a barometer, it shows that basic economic independence and progressive values allowed Scandinavians to develop personal qualities that they would have not been able to do otherwise. Since this is not really my field, I’m not quite sure how the connection works exactly, but we could look at research by a group of scholars at the Senter for sivilsamfunn, that argues strongly for that. Dag Vollebæk for instance, has written how there is a connection between trust in the government/and/or politics, and active participation in the civil society, with values and feelings of happiness. They would also argue that the role of religion, or more specifically the lack of religion in Norway, contributes to happiness in Norway.

M: Slovenians are at present in a deep crisis, unhappy and complaining, often rightly so, but there is also a sense of entitlement without active engagement, as if the state is not each of us. In addition, complaints about corruption among politicians are rampant, and consequently, the level of distrust of the governing elites is sky-high. In Norway, it seems that, in spite of some scandals, the level of trust in government is solid, which contributes to happiness. Too simple?
There is something to it. Here people are certainly skeptical of politicians whom they watch carefully, but there is trust in the state and state institutions. The state is something larger, the state is your friend, everything from the kindergarten to school to the maternity health nurse, represents a larger framework that we are all part of. People generally are willing to pay high taxes here because they trust that they get something in return. If people see that there is effective use of the money collected, and that they benefit, they will contribute even more. What worries me at this point is research that questions whether or not the welfare model is sustainable with a very diverse community, so we’ll have to see how this develops.
Here people are certainly skeptical of politicians whom they watch carefully, but there is trust in the state and state institutions.
MZ: We cannot avoid the Breivik murders. He killed ethnic Norwegians not the immigrants, yet he holds the ruling party accountable for the course Norway is in right now. Is he part of a larger network, or is he a loner?
For me it is still very hard to talk about the 22nd of July, and strange. It is hard to say what effect it had on our society. I wonder how it was possible at all. I guess he was a loner in the sense that he did it alone, and that there are perhaps only a few others who would go as far as he did. I was astounded, however, at how people were shocked over what he had written in his manifesto, and how they were asking where he was getting these ideas from. Well, he quoted from other writers from Norway and used their thoughts for his argument. Fjordmannen and some organizations that have similar voices have existed for a while, and people in general now wonder where have they come from!!!  Here in Direktoratet we know fully well that there are those opinions out there--you just need to read the online media. A number of very good books have been published since then, for instance Det mørke nettet – om høyreekstremisme, kontrajihadisme og terror i Europa by Øjvind Strømmen, a book with an self-explanatory title, and Lars Gule, from Oslo and Akershus University College wrote how these extreme forces have been overwhelming in many public debates. A friend of mine recently said to me, “you’ve been so politically correct when you spoke about these right-wing groups in public debates and online,” and it’s true. We have not really come to terms with them here in Norway, and they are dangerous. I’m afraid to say that I don’t think we will soon come to terms with them, no signs of that. These people who hold very similar views to Breivik’s, have managed to distance themselves from Breivik, saying that they would never espouse violence, and this is astounding and depressing. I was hoping there would be a greater focus on such groups and individuals. I do know that the Antirasistisk Senter is now monitoring the right-wing movements closely.

MZ: They have to be taken seriously. Breivik is an alarm for this kind of activism that can quickly cross the line.
Yes, maybe we compare ourselves too much to Sweden where a well-organized underground Neo-Nazi movement exists, while in Norway it is unorganized. Maybe we had therefore thought that it does not exist here at all, and now this nut. He is a product of a relatively well-to-do family, in western Oslo, which is far less diverse than eastern Oslo, he went to good schools, and what happened? Why did not anybody see it coming? How on earth was it possible for him to carry out this attack, the devastation to people’s lives, the destruction of young people who witnessed their friends being executed? All because the Labor party is allegedly the architect of Multiculturism, which we don’t even have here. We have integration and diversity. No radical policies here, yet Breivik was convinced that young people belonging to the Labor Party should be punished and executed. We need more focus on the people on the far right who make these astounding claims about the immigrants, about integration and about the Norwegian politics, particularly on those on the left and in the center. The right-wingers need to be taken seriously and taken to account.

MZ: How has it changed Norway, or how will it change Norway?
TS: The government precinct will not be returned to normal for a few years, and it isn’t clear whether it will be renovated or totally rebuilt. Utøya was not the summer camp this year, although last year the party vowed to do so. The reality is that the memories would be overwhelming. A group of young people from all over the country, are so profoundly damaged and traumatized, and that has not been fully apparent yet. The entire debate around whether Breivik is psychologically sane or not, has been interesting: the first psychology report found him insane in part because of the ideology, the commission members did not consider that that could be normal! They are out of step with what has been happening. If you were to peruse some of the widely read dailies, or look at some of the websites, you’d see that the rhetoric resembles that of Breivik. I hope that he is held accountable every single day for his crimes. I have full confidence in the Norwegian justice system. I have been most affected by the horrifying accounts of the Utøya survivors. But in the long run, I have a positive outlook when it comes to Norway’s future. Let’s say in 2040, we will look back and wonder why we were so worked-up about diversity.
We neither have ghettoes in Oslo nor really bad discrimination. Unless something dramatic would happen, for instance a deep economic crisis, and all indicators show that the economic miracle will continue for some time, then things will steadily improve. No matter what you might think of the center-left coalition government, the economy is very well managed, rationally and thoughtfully. The government is now looking more closely at anti-discrimination policies, tightening the measures, but otherwise Oslo is a fantastic city to live in, with high quality of life, with increasing diversity. This vibrant and dynamic city is my home.

MZ: It seems indeed that the Norwegian government is taking a prudent, long-term view of economic growth and is managing its extreme wealth responsibly. You do need prosperity for sound integration measures. It is not lulled into believing that the oil revenues will continue for ever, but it supports research on growth measures, entrepreneurial measures, new technologies, competitive edge, and sustainable development. That bodes well for Norway.

Diversification. Awareness. Dialog. Immigration. Responsibility. Not being naïve. Take a long-term perspective. Progressive values.  Trust in the system. Close monitoring of politicians.

Thank you Tim in Monika. 

Additional links and publications:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


BIN@PORTO 2012, October 23rd - October 26th. It was again one of those events, where my mind initially could not really understand, why I decided to participate. However, as soon as I landed at the Porto Airport, I realized that I made a right decision. BIN@PORTO was the right place to be. The event attracted a group of people who “live” innovation, “live” internationalization, and want to cooperate. I gained a lot, made viable connections with colleagues from Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, England, and Belgium. I hope, how some of the “e-mails as points of connection”, I initiated between the participants and selected companies in Slovenia will manifest in business opportunities. In addition, there are potentials for others, especially for those who are interested in Americas (Brazil). Nevertheless, I established some important long-term relationships for Vibacom, too. But above all, those three days demonstrated widely in what I have always believed. How the future business should be as open spaces, respectful and friendly relationships, in-depth exchange of experiences and visions, cross-structural co-operations between business and research, between practitioners and theoreticians, youth and the experienced ones. Some strong and combined efforts of people that “do” innovation, “live” innovation, “create” innovation ecosystems for an open, connected, and cooperative world. Dr. Pedro Coelho, SICC/DCoop – Divisão de Cooperação/Cooperation Office, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, and his team were the organizers of the event. This is his story, along with the reflections of some of the participants.

V: What is BIN@PORTO?
The aim is that BIN@ (Business & Innovation Network) events are held in different cities all over the world. The first edition was in Porto, the second in Sheffield and the third one also in Porto. Next year, it will be held in Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. This year, BIN@PORTO was a 4-day event promoted by the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP) which comprehended a wide range of activities, such as technologies showroom, business workshop (including B2B meetings, institutional showcases and presentations), action tank sessions, complementary thematic events, open sessions and many other networking activities.

Photo: Dr. Pedro Coelho
Source: Vibacom archive

V: Why have you started the project?
We started this project at FEUP because we wanted to develop a sustainable international network of partners across industry and academia to support the sharing of good practices and knowledge transfer and to promote open innovation. Our goal is to help connect partners from across disciplines and industrial sectors to create opportunities for collaboration and cooperation, and hopefully support partnerships that can deliver value and impact. The BIN Network is a bottom-up initiative essentially based on trusty relationships. There’s a free-of-charge open access to participate.
“I came to bin@porto to let Uruguayan Biomedical Engineering prototypes, to be known, looking for partnerships for some of the prototypes to be adopted by industry and thus try to prove their benefit for medical use, and give rise to economic activity. I was also interested in learning how Europeans did actually transfer technology to industry. Finally, I was happy that Dr. Paulo Coelho found me in 2011 at Hospitalar fair in Sao Paulo sitting in the Uruguay stand showing our work as the University with Uruguayan firms.
Dr. Franco Simini, professor, coordinator of the “Nucleo de Ingenieria Biomedica (NIB) at the Universidad de la Republica (UR), Uruguay.
Photo: Dr. Franco Simini
Source: Vibacom archive

We intend to:
•    promote Innovation and demonstrate evidence of “connected Universities” leading by example in support for clustering, supply chain development and connecting to national and international networks and economies.
•    support and encourage research collaboration across disciplines and with external organisations
•    promote knowledge transfer opportunities
•    promote the creation of tech-based companies originated in universities
•    create tools to support the internationalization of SMEs
•    increase exposure to and engagement with industry
•    increase potential funding opportunities
•    engage with SMEs and develop activities specifically tailored for their needs
•    support the region’s agenda for Innovation and business growth
•    develop closer links to key national and international partners
•    support wider entrepreneurship agenda

V: How have you picked the initial partners?
As mentioned above, this network is a bottom-up initiative supported essentially on trusty relationships and I do believe how this is the most important factor to achieve a sustainable network. These individual relationships will certainly lead to institutional commitment. So first we picked the people, not the institutions! These colleagues are doing an amazing work promoting innovation in their institutions all around the world. I am talking about brokers, industry liaison officers, Tech Transfer Officers, R&D and Innovation managers, and many others.
The mission of our communication and cooperation service at FEUP is "to build trust relationships with stakeholders that foster the virtuous circle of knowledge valuation and brand reputation". We intended the event to be open and free for everyone, in order to allow for genuine collaboration.The main idea was to use the brand and network of the core universities involved to support an ecosystem where entrepreneurs, researchers, students, policy makers, investors, liaison officers, (…) could share and exploit common goals.
Carlos Cardoso Oliveira, Co-organizer of BIN@PORTO, Director of communication and cooperation services. Invited assistant professor in multimedia. Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto.
V: Have you seen any direct or indirect benefits of the events?
It takes time to start getting visible results. This initiative only promotes and enables collaboration but in the end it all depends on the delegates to actually start working together. Nonetheless, we have now clear results from the two previous events. There are new business joint ventures, new R&D consortiums submitting project proposals for EU funding, soft-landing agreements signed between institutional partners (e. g. between Sheffield Innovation Centres and FIPASE) other meetings (workshops, seminars, etc...) resulting from it, and many others...
“This year we had a couple of important meetings with a few companies. We had the opportunity to discuss our issues and concerns with experts of certain fields. For sure we are going to apply some of the advices we got to improve our business development in the future.
Patricia Ranito, Tecla Colorida (a spin-off of the University of Porto (Faculty of Engineering) and INESC Porto. Founded in December 2008, it specializes in softwere development and solutions for educational purposes. Its main product is, an educational and social platform, especially developed for elementary school. 
V: Have you seen any other positive effects of BIN@PORTO at the University of Porto, or at the Innovation Centre?
  I would like to believe how through the BIN activities we are contributing to the expansion of our international partnerships, creating awareness for the need to collaborate and share knowledge and proving the importance of the innovation networks. The results are showing up and our effort is being recognised by the senior members of the university.
Good morning, Mr. Pedro Coelho,
Many thanks for your invitation to participate in BIN@Porto and also for the kind accompany during the event. The participation has been a huge success to me to get in touch with some key people involved in Innovation & Strategy Consultation and also for the business of Green Pai Energy. Now it is up to me to explore the full potential of these contacts but without your suggestion to participate in BIN@Porto this would not have been possible.
I will also be in touch with Fatima @ UPTEC Creative Industry to reduce the illumination energy consumption in some areas of the building to half.
With best regards,
Rajesh Pai, Green Pai Energy Audit Lda., 
V: What will be the next step? How do you plan to develop the concept?
The next step will be the development of a website for the network, which will allow us to structure roles, mission, partnership, activities and so on.
Next year, the Agency for Innovation of the University of São Paulo and FIPASE will organize and host the BIN@BRAZIL (12.-14. November 2013). I have great expectations for this event and believe that the team led by Prof. Vanderlei Bagnato will raise the bar and take it to another level.

Photo: Brigita Jurisic, Violeta Bulc, Carlos Cardoso Oliveira, Pedro Coelho
Source: Vibacom archive

V: What does it mean for you the cooperation with Slovenia?
The involvement of Slovenia delegates at BIN is a consequence of the previous events. Through one of our delegates I have met Brigita Jurisic, Founder and CEO of Bridge Partner, a consulting and international business agency for support of internationalisation of Slovene companies on the market of Iberian Peninsula and vice versa. Brigita loved our approach and immediately started to promote the involvement of Slovenian delegates. Due to her efforts we expanded the network to Slovenian and we are proud to have on board people like Violeta Bulc, Founder and CEO of VIBACOM. I think we (Portugal and Slovenia) share many similarities. For example, both are small European countries and both are suffering a lot with the European economic crisis, both countries have very innovative people with entrepreneurial spirit which easily adapt to changes. Regarding innovation networks, Slovenia has an excellent track record so I think we can learn a lot from our Slovenian colleagues.
“I find BIN@PORTO an important platform where business can be linked with academia and also with other businesses. I was honored to be invited to cooperate with University of Porto at this event and help them promote the event in Slovenia. It is of a high importance for knowledge-based businesses to be able to participate in the events like BIN@PORTO, since it enables us to develop important networking and exchange relationships. Based on that service companies like mine can grow and innovate, and serve clients needs. Portugal is interesting for Slovenia, because it offers access to Portuguese-speaking countries like Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, and Portugal itself. On the other hand Portuguese SMEs often need a partner to have the capacity to give response to big projects surging in African markets, in Brazil, and also to access the Balkan region.
Brigita Jurisic is an international business developer, a member of the VSI Consulting worldwide network, and a Director of VSI Consulting Portugal being responsible for Portuguese and Slovene market since 2010.
Photo: Guests and lectures, BIN@PORTO 2012
Source: Archive of dr. Franco Simini

V: Is there anything else that you would like to point out....
I would like to underline that BIN is a collective belief in the power of the innovation international networks. It involves the work and vision of several people, like Mark Sanderson at the University of Sheffield, Prof. Vanderlei Bagnato at the University of São Paulo, Carlos Oliveira at FEUP, Clara Gonçalves at UPTEC and many others...

Let the event like this lead a way towards a new, thrivable Planet that is constantly searching for SMART innovation (S – smart, M – manageable, A – accessible, R – re-usable, T - thrivable).

That is our way, Violeta 

Additional links and publications:


Monday, October 1, 2012

Design thinking

Our systems are becoming ever increasingly complex. This complexity is everywhere around us: we can feel it (the public urgency for growth, speed, for more, for faster), we can see it (more and more technology everywhere, road systems, energy grids, etc.), we can experience it (diversification of products, services, life styles, values and needs).

Innovation is inspired possibility as a solution provider for all of the challenges that appear along the way. Yet, innovation within the complex systems, that addresses the core challenges that are a result of such complexities, does not lead to a thrivable Planet. I would argue even further, that such innovation is leading us towards delayed destruction. Life is becoming more and more resorceful, yet, more expensive and eventually unaffordable. In order to use innovation in a constructive way when addressing the challenges of complex systems, we need to get engaged in innovating into the foundations of any system.

We need to focus upon the fundamentals that will eliminate problems, and redirect our activities towards different perceptions. For example, care-homes for retired people are growing in number and occupancy; and with the rate that the retired sector of the population is increasing, needs will be accelerating, growing beyond manageable proportion. Let us search for a different approach, for example, new dynamic ways of re-integrating healthier older people into society as an active force based on their experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and willingness to act and also with consideration for their physical capabilities.

In order to generate solutions beyond the known and comfortable zone, we need a new type of thinking. The good news is that there already exist several different approaches. We know how to do it, but, do we use this new, creative ways of thinking also in the work environment? Do we create a (corporate/administrative) culture where unconventional thinking is perceived as something good, and it results in the increased number of new, innovative, bold ideas? This is where Oliver Kempkens's story comes in. A story of design thinking (DT). As one of those possible approaches that can make such a shift in perception. I hope the provocation reaches you, too, that he inspires you and that you will be confident to engage; yourself and colleagues.

V: Who is Oliver Kempkens?
Oliver Kempkens: Oliver Kempkens, 28, studied Law, Business, Psychology, and Mediation, certified Business Mediator, founder of several start-ups and author on innovation and Eastern European business topics. Alumni of the School of Design Thinking (Potsdam and Stanford), Business and Organizational Developer at the world's biggest ERP provider, SAP AG, in the Office of the CTO in Palo Alto. Oliver likes to read (trash literature + Dostojevski) and to consume soccer.

V: How would you describe DT?
Oliver Kempkens:
DT is a process to create anchors into the dark blue ocean to tap into the field systematically, by thinking out of the box. It is a collaborative and rational problem solving process.
Thomas Edison's approach was an early example of what is now called "design thinking" - a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos. By this I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives, and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.
Design thinking is a lineal descendant of that tradition. Put simply, it is a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.
Source: Tim Brown, HBR, June 2008

V: What were your first experiences with DT?
Oliver Kempkens:
It is not enough to experience once what DT probably is; no. If you want to execute the process in its most effective way it is absolutely mandatory to have an emotional connection to what it is. That means truly and deeply understand the values!
Source: Oliver's personal archive

V: Could you share an example of DT that inspires you most?
Oliver Kempkens:
The most convincing DT project that is coming to my mind is a project of the D.School in Stanford. They had the challenge to address the high child mortality rate in South East Asia. They found that the problem is keeping children warm. Obviously there was the incubator, but it was too inflexible, too expensive and so on. Finally they developed a moveable low cost incubator for everybody; amazing: Stanford magazine: Baby, It's Cold Outside!

V: Which are the most important elements of design thinking?
Oliver Kempkens:
Abilities to research! Whether it is observation or interviewing; the most important part of DT is the research phase, when you try to understand the behaviour of people.

Source: 12 manage, description Design Thinking

V: Where/In what kind of organization/environment is DT most successful?
Oliver Kempkens:
Probably, in every; the most important thing is the cognition that you need to change. If a company or an organisation can come to this point, everything is possible.
…the most important thing is the cognition that you need to change… 
V: Does DT require any specific form of organization?
Oliver Kempkens:
An open, willing to change organisation where it is possible to think outside the existing corporate policies or constraints.
Rok Stritar, M.Sc.(Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Economics, UL) about DT:
In my understanding DT is a transfer of solving problems, as used by designers, in the business world. The point is that extensive analyses and studies, as we are accustomed to in the business world, are replaced with deep empathy, customer-orientation and rapid prototyping. DT encourages interdisciplinary integration and development of "out of the box" solutions.We use DT at the Faculty of Economics at different courses related to business and entrepreneurship, because the design way of thinking is in many cases, very suitable for business, as it allows finding solutions to unstructured problems for which conventional analytical approaches often fail. We also encourage students to rapidly develop prototypes and test solutions on the market. Consequently, during the course students come to more iterations of solution.
V: Does design thinking require any specific type of people?
Oliver Kempkens:
Ideally people are open-minded (haha ;-)). If we think in corporate structures, everybody is good to be part in a DT project, mainly divided in multidisciplinary teams and inspired with enough personal freedom.

V: What are the differences (and similarities) between design thinking and systemic thinking? How would you describe systemic thinking?
Oliver Kempkens:
To simplify: Systemic Thinking is for me the ability to overlook "all" interactions in a dedicated system, understanding that there is more than cause and effect, but a specific own dynamic, which is caused by a various number of variables, visible and invisible.
Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation -will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.

DT has occasionally the problem to create user-centered solutions (so finally, what the user's like, but not what they should like: for example...Burgers vs. health food). The systemic thinking approach in DT is called "human-centered" thinking. If you want, I am a Human Thinker, not a user-centered thinker.
Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation -will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.
Source: Tim Brown, HBR, June 2008

V: What about the impact of DT on business and the society in the future? How strong will it be?
Oliver Kempkens:
From my point of view, the values of DT are not exposed enough in the business. Even at SAP: We are talking a lot about DT but in practical terms there is enough space to improve tremendously. I think, that we have to understand that DT is not solely a very convenient way how to understand the user, and how to create a nice scenario (marketing ready), but, how we can gain empathy for specific individuals, understanding that we are all humans, for a very limited time on earth; How can we sustain our life more effectively.

Thank you Oliver,

Kaja and Violeta

Additional links and publications:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Moral capitalism?

One thing is for sure in life - everything is changing all the time, a constant state of flux. It is only humans that are fighting against the flow of nature, and think that current structures, ways of doing things, relationships, or throughts are immutable. Well, let's face it. They are not. It is natural that we are constatly challenging our believes, systems and tools to see if they are still working in our best interests: and if they are still supporting our values, if they are still helping us to create a sustainable life for ourselves, and for future generations.
Capitalism is one of those structures that has been around for a long time and has started to show some serious defects, mostly based on moral and ethical stances that have little to do with our established environment. It has everything to do with the fundations of modern civilisation, human dignity and the true essense of a human being: as an emotional, intelligent, holistic and concious participant on the planet Earth.
From those basic precepts a thesis of a "moral capitalism" has been derived. It is in its infancy, and I can only hope that it will hit a wave of a global discussion and open up a new dimension of social awarness. These are the initial thoughts, shared with us by Stephan B. Young, the global director of the CRT organization that has been the first to challenge the business community by addressing the core challanges of capitalism and searching for future solutions.
Short CV
Stephen B. Young is the Global Executive Director of the
Caux Round Table. Steve has published Moral Capitalism,
a well-received book written as a guide to use of the Caux
Round Table ethical and socially responsible Principles for
Business. In her 2008 book, The Difference Makers, Prof.
Sandra Waddock listed Young among the 23 persons who
created the corporate social responsibility movement.
Steve was educated at Harvard College and Harvard
Law School
. He served as an Assistant Dean at the
Harvard Law School and as the third dean of the Hamline
University School of Law. He has taught at the University
of Minnesota
and at the SASIN Graduate School of
Management in Bangkok
and spoken at many workshops
and conferences on corporate social responsibility and
business ethics.
Young has also taught at the University of Minnesota Law
School, Carlson School of Business, the College of Liberal
Arts, and Minnesota State University – Mankato. He has
written numerous opinion articles for the Pioneer Press,
the Minnesota Journal on Law and Politics, the Saint Paul
Legal Ledger and has been published in the Wall Street
Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

V: From where did the concept of moral capitalism derive?
At first the idea was only to provoke thought; It was considered an "oxymoron" concept, one that had no inherent sense. But it worked wonderfully to open people's minds to the possibility that capitalism does not have to be exclusively selfish and exploitative, yet, that a moral sense can play a role in capitalism, that business decision-makers can be responsible.

V: What is moral capitalism? What is the basic intention behind it?
Moral capitalism is making business decisions for the long run, in order to enhance the value of that business. It is mindfulness of how to manage stakeholder relationships to build their asset value for the company.
The intention is two-fold: to respect the interests of stakeholders and, simultaneously, to build the asset value of a business around its capacity to improve our quality of life.

Photo: Stephan B. Young and Violeta Bulc
Source: Vibacom archive, Switzerland 2012
V: Which are the most challenging issues of capitalism, as we know it today?
There are two negative features of today's market capitalism which are mutually supportive. One is calculating values based on short term cash profits only, and not on long term asset appreciation.  This approach misprices future risk and leads to financial irrationality and prevents companies from internalizing the full social and environmental costs flowing from their business model. Second, today's rationalization of capitalism uses a wrong understanding of human motivation. It assumes people have no sense of moral responsibility and only seek selfish monetary profit in life.  This assumption drives the modern financial and portfolio theory, and pricing of financial assets such as derivatives and it calls for companies to serve only the short term profit interests of owners.

Photo:  View from the conference center - Caux House, Switzerland
Source: Vibacom archive, Switzerland 2012

V: How is the Caux Round Table addressing these issues?
We have created new management metrics and guidelines and have suggested new ways to value companies, including a new understanding of what people value in life.
V: The activities and concerns of the CRT group can be folowed through the e-publication Pegasus.
Our VISION is for a free, fair and prosperous global society built on the twin pillars of moral capitalism and responsible government
Our MISSION is to put moral capitalism to work by ensuring business contributes to greater prosperity, sustainability and fairness
Our unifying PURPOSE is Moral Capitalism for a Better World
The Caux Round Table PRINCIPLES support our vision, mission and purpose:
  • Principles for Responsible Business
  • Principles for Governments
  • Principles for NGOs
  • Principles for Ownership of Wealth

V: What were the most important conclusions/lessons to come from the CRT meeting in Switzerland?
That a variety of business professionals agree with the CRT approach. We are not isolated, marginal thinkers but at the cutting edge of sound strategic planning for the future of capitalism.
The Caux Round Table (CRT) recently concluded its 27th Global Dialogue in Caux, Switzerland, and has resolved upon four major reforms to restart sustainable global growth.  These four recommendations will permit capitalism to overcome its current crisis of mediocre, financial performance, combined with systemic, ongoing, ecological and demographic imbalances.
The CRT Global Dialogue resolved that, first, the U.N. General Assembly should adopt a charter of responsible practices for sovereign nations to maintain sound and sustainable financial intermediation at a reasonable cost to society.
Second, sound and sustainable financial intermediation requires changes in banking practices.  Compensation systems, except in small privately held firms, should be aligned with levels of moderate leverage, moderate risk and professional prudence. Trading and speculation, as a business model, should be separated from commercial banking and lending, as a business model, and should be supported by industry- financed reserve funds. “Too big to fail” financial institutions should be broken up under anti-monopoly laws.
Third, sound and sustainable financial intermediation requires non-negligent ratings of securities and their issuers, both private firms and governments.  Credit ratings are market information that is a public good.  Therefore, more competition in providing ratings is necessary and the issuer paid business model of providing ratings should be supplemented with non-profit or publicly funded alternatives.
Fourth, sound and sustainable financial intermediation requires an academic theory of individual and firm motivation that rejects the erroneous assumption that rational, self-interest, measured by extrinsic monetary rewards, will lead to perpetually accurate market pricing.  Business schools should teach an alternate theory of business behavior which is grounded in the norms of fiduciary stewardship.

V: What is the key message for the financial community?
Revise your theories and methodologies of valuation of a firm to include stakeholder relationships as assets of the business.

V: What is the key message for corporate owners and managers?
The same.

Source: Vibacom archive, Switzerland 2012
V: What is the key message for the citizens of Planet Earth?
Do not look to today's politicians, academics, investors and manager for solving the current crisis of capitalism. Speak up and reward those who will dare to think original thoughts.

V: What is going to be the next CTR step?
Launching a global journal of thought leadership to bring this new ideas to a wide audience of workers in financial, banking, politics, civil society and academics.

V: Thank you.

I hope that these brief  but concise answers are a good encouragement for you to formulate your own thoughts on the political system we live in and on changes that can lead to a more sustainable and moral society. Everyone counts. There is always a first step, a first thought and later, when there are thousands of them it will become clear to everyone. Let us be part of these first steps, thoughts, actions. Let us quietly but firmly change the direction that will lead to a thrivable planet, within us. within our community, organization, our worlds. I am doing it. It is hard but really rewarding. i hope you will be the next.


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