To reimagine what systems in the world could look like in a more sustainable and equal future, Tamar Guttmann and Alexandra Korijn launched their podcast: “A World from Scratch”. In this podcast, guests are invited to discuss the specific system of their field. Themes range from business, to food waste, peace and happiness. Tamar and Alexandra challenge their guests to go beyond discussing problems within current systems by giving them an imaginary blank sheet of paper and a pencil, with the task to redraw and reimagine the system from scratch. Each episode ends with concrete actions that each one of us can take today to contribute to the vision sketched out by the speaker. Tamar and Alexandra hope to inspire people to make changes in their personal and professional lives.
How did the idea for the podcast come about?
The idea was borne because of COVID. Ever since the first wave hit, everyone in the world, consciously or unconsciously, started to be more aware that we all take part in the systems that govern the world. Take for example the health care system. By staying at home, we as individuals could ensure that others remained healthy and intensive care departments would not exceed capacity limits. Whereas before, talking about the changing of systems could feel overwhelming and out of reach to many people, COVID showed us that many systems are made up of people who are interdependent, and their individual actions matter. If we really want the world to look differently, we can achieve it. It is just a matter of putting our heads together and doing it.
COVID also created a unique momentum for people to have time to contemplate and reflect on their own lives. People started asking themselves questions such as: What does my life look like? How can I change it? How can I contribute to my community and help others? What we really hope is to give people some inspiration of what a more sustainable and equal world could be like and what concrete actions we could each take to make this a reality.
In the process of redrawing the systems, what has been particularly surprising?
What has been surprising to me is that even though we are talking about completely different systems in each episode, you start seeing threads that run through these conversations. One consistent theme has been the recommendation to develop more awareness and skills – whether it’s a deeper understanding of racial equality, a better understanding of what makes us humans happy, or skills to transform conflict through non-violent communication. Another recurring recommendation has been to develop a personal mindfulness practice, so that you can come from a stronger, more grounded place when you are looking to create positive change.
Another thing I love is the reaction every time I give our speaker the imaginary blank sheet and pencil and ask them to draw the system from scratch. Every time it brings this spark to people's eyes, because they are able to somehow really let go of the current world for a second. Instead of talking about the heaviness of global problems we are facing like structural inequality and climate change, we present an opportunity to create something beautiful. This makes everybody want to join the party and contribute to the possibilities.
What is the role of investments in systemic change?
It is important to understand that system change is complex, and investment capital is not a ‘silver bullet’ that is going to solve all problems within a system. With this in mind, what is exciting about this emerging group of systemic impact investors is that they are using the full spectrum of capital available to them, so not just their investment capital, but also their voice, political capital (such as voting and potential activism), consumption capital, and more. They consider the larger system before investing, with an understanding of how different elements interact with each other. Collaboration becomes key for them – with non-profits, governments, local organizations – who can help the investor better understand the system, reach the right stakeholders and mitigate unintended consequences.
The current financial system has resulted in a world in which eight people own as much as the bottom 50% of our entire world’s population. Eight people! A number of private companies such as Amazon and Apple have more money than entire country’s GDP. The private sector therefore has an undeniable responsibility in creating a new system because of this huge power. I always think about impact investing this way: if you in your personal life care about the planet, animals and social issues and your personal actions are aligned with that, it does not make sense to allow your capital to support things you do not believe in.
It is about not separating your investment capital from your personal life and values. Too many people shut their eyes and see it as two separate things when in fact: your money can be a gorgeous expression of who you are and what you believe in.
This starts with you asking your banker questions about what companies your savings are really going to and taking a critical look at your investment portfolio. If there is enough demand from investors and civil society to invest sustainably, companies and banks are going to have to listen and take action accordingly, to eventually adjust their business models and existing structures. Then it is no longer a singular action, but it starts a movement towards systemic change.
What would you like people to take away from the podcast?
In terms of change, start with yourself and the rest will follow. Come listen to our conversations, share your own visions of current and new systems, and make small changes in your everyday life towards your vision. All these ideas and actions together can create powerful change.
Many systems are made up of people, so if people can change, then the systems can change. I hope our podcast can create a little bit more awareness that we all take part in maintaining systems, but at the same time we also have the power to change them.
In future episodes, Tamar and Alexandra will explore Leadership from Scratch, Technology from Scratch and Dating from Scratch. Curious? Listen to the podcast and join the conversation: