After two incredibly inspiring days, I came home full of ideas, motivation and urgency. At the end of the Impact Days, I had tears in my eyes, so moved to make even more impact. Here are my six main takeaways.
1. We know, feel and see it: the urgency is huge.
"There is no time to lose", says Senior Lecturer at M.I.T and author of Theory U, Otto Scharmer. For example, the Netherlands expects water shortages by 2023, and water "will be the next scary thing". More than 60% of high school girls in America struggle with depression or mental health problems. Our media, and therefore democracy, are under severe pressure. The problems are endless, and time is limited. For anyone who doesn't know what to do with their career, business or assets: this is the wake-up call. There is so much work to do and "this work cannot wait".
2. Towards a "doughnut economy": regenerative as well as distributive
Ecological economist Kate Raworth explained her world-famous "Doughnut Economics" during the vegan dinner. It works towards a distributive economy, where everyone is provided with basic needs (such as food, education and housing), and no one is left in the "black hole" of the doughnut. We also need to respect the nine planetary boundaries and not get bigger than the doughnut (our planet), and work towards a regenerative future.
Two ideas for this New Economy came up in the break-out sessions.
First, the opportunity for "steward-owned" companies, where the longer-term vision of the company is guaranteed (even when sold), and ownership falls broadly into the hands of employees, founders, local communities or even nature.
Also, the role of taxation, where we need to move from taxation on labour to taxation on pollution and use.
3. Co-creation for systemic change
Otto Scharmer told us that where we used to be product-centred, now the user is central, and in the future the ecosystem should be central. Organisations must become aware of their place and role in ecosystems, and seek systemic solutions in co-creation with stakeholders.
Alexandra Korijn, impact investor and system-changer, also explained that we need to collaborate with various stakeholders and supply chain partners in our ecosystem, with our customers, investors and suppliers.
In the breakout on regenerative food systems, the story was shared that the five largest Dutch supermarkets are now working together to promote meat substitutes instead of only meat. One supermarket alone will not move, but together they are daring to make the change.
4. De-growth, green-growth and post-growth
Growth is always context specific. Sometimes growth is good (more forestation) and sometimes bad (more aviation). Some industries need "de-growth", the shrinking of certain industries (such as animal husbandry), others need "green growth" (such as making the train network more sustainable). After that, there will be a period of post-growth where we work towards a plateau/balance. Degrowth is mainly needed in developed countries, in the global South this is not yet the case as they have yet to experience growth in areas such as housing, infrastructure, etc.
5. A long-term, broad definition of "profit"
At the country level, we already know that DGP (Gross Domestic Product) is an outdated measurement of wealth. In Bhutan, well-being rather than prosperity is already being defined more broadly. Therefore, the question for investors and organisations is: "What is profit anyway?". Can we move to a broader definition that also looks at the well-being of planet and people?
In addition, in 2022, we saw that with high inflation and uncertainty, investors withdrew their money from crucial sectors such as construction, regenerative agriculture or vegan products; while that is where venture capital is needed. Hence the call for investors to stick to longer-term "profits" for the earth and its inhabitants.
6. Inner transformation for outer transformation
Besides the rational, this year’s Impact Days were mostly about the emotional.
Otto Scharmer said in his speech: “Imagine you are at the end of your life, what do you see then? What impact have you made? What was your footprint? Now look at your current investments and portfolio, does it reflect your values and ambitions?” He ended his speech by asking, "What future opportunities are in front of you now? You are the only one who can make these opportunities a reality".
Whether you are Gen-Z like myself, or older, I hope after reading this newsletter you will consider for yourself "Which opportunity am I going to make a reality?"
DARE and DO. The world desperately needs everyone, and especially you.
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