Posts in Highlights of 2015

Communicating Passion or Communicating Expertise: Which goes further with investors?

A series of highlights written by students of the University of Oxford, from Emerge 2015.

By Talisa Jane Du Bois (Oxford MBA 2015-16)

Entrepreneurs list ‘limited access to capital’ as a key constraint to business growth more than any other indicator. While traditional finance mechanisms remain expensive and relatively unsupportive for new business, the rise of alternative funding mechanisms are changing this reality for many start-ups. The rise of the angel investor, venture capital firms, peer to peer lending platforms, and crowdfunding opportunities have reached unprecedented levels. Through alternative and traditional channels, UK tech companies have raised more venture capital in the first nine months of 2015 than the $2.1 billion raised in the whole of 2014.

However, as the options for start-up finance and venture capital broaden, entrepreneurs have to navigate an increasingly diverse capital application process. Long gone are the days of forms, credit checks, and simple cash flow forecasts. The rise of online platforms, pitch competitions, and funds expect more than the traditional institutions, looking for an exciting story, a compelling business idea, and an exceptional entrepreneur. Despite the fact that studies of business success show little or no correlation with business owner charisma, without this passion most entrepreneurs will struggle to attract the right finance. Data form Indiegogo (the largest global fundraising site) shows that enthusiastic entrepreneurs were three times as likely to meet their fundraising goals. Whereas, controversially, adequate displays of preparedness and expertise had little or no effect.

Greg Davies, behavioral finance guru of Barclays Bank, brought together a team of fundraising experts to discuss and deliberate this phenomenon. Advice revealed that while preparedness was a major contingency to securing capital, passion was more likely to get an entrepreneur through the door the first time. Online crowdfunding platform expert, Dawn Bebe revealed that a businesses ability to ‘articulate a moving and exciting story’ was key to attracting supporters. In contrast, VC director from Mustard Seed, Henry Wigan, asserted that preparedness, solid financial forecasts, and deep industry understanding were more crucial when it came to making a final venture decision. Nigel Kershaw, social entrepreneurship expert, echoed these points, but assured that his personal success was largely due to passion and persistence.

Nigal Kershaw Henry Wigan
Nigel Kershaw is Executive Chair of The Big Issue Group. Since 1974 Nigel has started, built and run social enterprises. He joined The Big Issue (TBI) in 1994, becoming its MD and then Executive Chairman. Henry Wigan is co-founder of Mustard Seed Investments, where he is currently Director of Investments. He has extensive experience in portfolio management, as well as investments in early-stage ventures.
Greg Davies Dawn Bebe
Greg Davies is Head of Behavioral-Quant Finance at Barclays, joining in 2006 to build the financial world’s first commercial behavioral finance team. His first book, Behavioral Investment Management, was published in 2012. Dawn Bebe is s co-founder of Crowdfunder, Seachange and energyshare, and has 20 years senior experience at National level in media and communications, creating and developing some of the UK’s most innovative media brands.


Giving away money is harder than making it

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by University of Oxford Students. 

By Catherine You

Fran Perrin started off the Emerge session ‘Giving away money is harder than making it’ by admitting to the group that when she was started her journey as philanthropist at the age of 18, she was so overwhelmed by the responsibility that she asked Google how to become a better philanthropist – “I wish more philanthropists did that” she joked.

Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre facilitated the session, which looked at how giving away money to create positive change in the world is not without skill. It’s not hard to think of examples of problems which have received significant funding but are still not ‘solved’. The thinking surrounding grant funding is starting to become more mature and sophisticated, but it’s still not an easy path.

Fran has clearly come a long way since her search-engine powered philanthropy. Her foundation, The Indigo Trust now has a number of practices to ensure that they are making grants in an effective way. This includes a focus on technology-based projects (leveraging her knowledge and expertise), making the process as simple as possible for applicants (so they can focus on what their work, rather than getting money in), publishing information about all they grants they make, and encouraging other grant providers to be more transparent by championing the 360 Giving platform.

However, even with a robust model of grant funding is in place challenges still exist. Indeed, two panellists from very different industries, spoke about the inherent tension and complexity within corporate foundations as they try and align the goals, vision and culture of their organisation to philanthropic causes.

Mirjam Schöning, Global Head of Programmes and Partnerships for The LEGO Foundation, spoke about how LEGO wrestled with this tension and successfully embedded philanthropic goals within the company mission. Indeed, LEGO comes from the Danish leg godt, meaning “play well” and this mantra still drives the vision and culture of the company. A good example of this is that, unlike most companies, The LEGO group calculates success by the number of children they reach and inspire rather than purely based on sales figures (although these naturally align).

By contrast, Isabel Kelly, constantly navigates the intensively competitive, aggressive culture at Salesforce within her role as international director of their foundation. This fast-paced culture at first seems at odds with their partner charities and social enterprises who needed significant support to even implement Salesforce products within their company. However, despite the dizzying number of initial barriers in supporting such organisations, it could be argued that the company culture enabled the Foundation to push forward and award $96million in grants and work with more than 26,000 non-profits to date.

Perhaps most aware of the challenges and opportunities presented by the involvement of corporates in philanthropy is Peter Wheeler, who spoke of founding New Philanthropy Capital after a long career in banking. New Philanthropy Capital is a charity think tank that works with charities and funders to be more impactful. He spoke candidly about making mistakes along the way. However, he also shared lessons from working to learn from the mistakes, pivoting and challenging the status quo.

Each of the panellists spoke at length about making mistakes. One of the biggest lessons was that grant-making is fraught with missteps, the important thing is to face the mistakes square in the face, learn and change how things are done. It takes humility to admit a mistake, but it takes courage to turn those mistakes into changing the world for the better.

Author’s bio:

Catherine You works as a consultant at Firetail, a consulting firm that works around the world to help ambitious organisations achieve positive social change. Catherine is currently providing technical support to a range of agricultural development grantees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help strengthen their monitoring and evaluation. Catherine is a Fellow of On Purpose, the Social Enterprise leadership programme. Prior to that, Catherine worked at Project Ploughshares, a non-governmental organisation that works to advance policies to prevent war and armed violence, where she worked on research and public outreach.





Inter Cultural Communication

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by University of Oxford Students. 

By London School of Economics student, Francisco Abad

EMERGE 2015 was an incredible experience to be part of! A weekend full of learning, connecting, and innovating. I had the privilege to be a social media champion for Emerge this time, and I was able to attend some great sessions that I’d like to share with you. Some of the sessions I enjoyed the most were about intercultural cultural communication, and the keynote speech from Plant for Peace.

Inter Cultural Communication:

The very first session I attended during Emerge was about intercultural communication as a key skill to have in social entrepreneurship. This session was led by Daniela Papi-Thornton from the Skoll Centre and Rouven Steinfield from the DO School.

Intercultural communication is something I had already studied in my undergraduate in a very good class that mixed communication with anthropology to help us learn the different ways people communicate in various cultures. This session was a good practical way to refresh that knowledge and be more aware of culture in my day to day communications as a student leader living in London and attending LSE, one of the most multicultural places I’ve ever been to.

During the session, the facilitators asked us to step into a fictional square they had drawn on the floor with some tape with four quadrants. The first part was to determine if we were people that like to talk directly or beat around the bush (indirect). This goes to the concept of high vs low context culture. For example, the USA is a low context culture and therefore people are more direct in their communication, sharing their feelings, thoughts and even frustration. On the other hand, countries in other parts of the world are more high context – Asia, Africa and Latin America present good examples. For instance, in Ecuador, where I’m from, people don’t tell you when they’re mad or disagree, they send indirect messages to let you know about it. This is always an interesting exercise for me to do because even though I am from Ecuador, living in the US for 5 years changed my communication style (which was not very high context in the first place), but I have to always be aware that people from my country act and communicate indirectly; it’s not wrong, just different, and it has to be addressed properly. You see, the point of this is not to determine which communication style is right or wrong, but to figure out how others communicate and by being aware of it, communicate better with them. In this way we can become good leaders and adapt our behavior to the situation in order to effectively manage people.

The second part involved moving to a corner of the quadrant. So if we chose direct, we stayed in that side of the square and now move left or right based on the way we express our feelings during conflicts. One side was about the emotional expression of the feelings (raising the voice, moving hands around, etc.), while the other one was more about not showing too much emotion while arguing.

In summary, the combinations are:

  • Direct + Emotion = Engagement
  • Direct + Restrain = Discussion
  • Indirect + Emotion = Dynamic
  • Indirect + Restrain = Accommodation.

At the end of sharing why we chose our quadrant, Daniela and Rouven had us write down a wish list of how each group like others to communicate to them. This is a brilliant way to help us understand why some people react differently to what we say.

Lessons: When you lead or work in a team, do this exercise to figure out what the communication culture of each member is. It’s important for you to know how each person works more effectively so that by being aware, you can lead and work better.

Has the definition of a “good leader” changed?

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by student boggers from around the UK.

By Classics Undergraduate at University of Oxford, Sanesh Mistry

The rhetoric proclaiming the importance of being a leader is overwhelming. Leadership programmes are all the rage, whether for individuals or organisations. Business schools in particular have jumped on the bandwagon by offering hundreds of different courses in “leadership”. But what is good leadership in today’s complex, constantly changing and vastly interconnected world?  John Elkington (Co-founder, Volans), David Grayson CBE (Professor of Corporate Responsibility and Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility) and Joanna Hafenmayer (Founder, My Impact) tried to find an answer to this and other questions at Emerge, with the support of Cliff Prior (CEO of Big Society Capital) who catalysed the discussion.

We are in the era of enforced extreme transparency and that creates a new set of challenges. not only does your business need to be more transparent, but you, as an individual and as a leader, have to be more authentic, and that partly means having a great story. Indeed, it’s a classic attribute of great leaders’ – ability to tell a compelling story.

Fundamentally, the description of what make a good leader probably hasn’t changed.  At the same time every theory on leadership is as correct as it is a multifactorial equation we are trying to solve.

Granted the fundamental description of what makes a good leader probably hasn’t changed much. But it’s wrapped up in a complex equation of inputs, outputs and context. If you were hoping for a one-size-fits-all persona to emulate you’ll be dissappointed. Leadership is happening in all ages, in all sectors, in all geographies and with that comes a need for variety of attributes. We don’t do ourselves any favours by measuring leadership by an ability to scale, the leader of a highly impactful community organisation is not diminished by its lacking scale.

The time is ripe to experiment. There is no excuse not to be a leader.

Before you take the plunge, here’s some key advice from Emerge:

Be Authentic

  • Don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you have to be the best at everything, leadership is about understanding your own strengths and weaknesses then finding people that naturally compliment your skills set.
  • Be clear on your purpose – both personal and as an organisation. This purpose will help guide who you are and what you do, but perhaps more importantly it will help you decide what you don’t do. You’ll be exposed to so many opportunities that the ability to say no, with a clear view of your priorities is absolutely crucial.
  • Lead with your own morals and standards rather than anyone else’s. These are the perspectives that make you who you are, and will outlive any temporary decisions.

Develop your Leadership

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.‘ – Gandhi

  • Reflect once in awhile and learn to understand yourself to find where you best fit
  • Become a ‘tri-sector athlete’ – the modern world needs people who are familar with the business sector, public sector (local or international) and third sector (civil society). Grab a  wide range of opportunities (experiential learning) in different sectors and have the confidence to try new things.
  • Find a mentor – it’s a brilliant opportunity to go through personal discovery with someone who is already been on this journey.
  • Throw yourself in the deep end – learn about leadership like you would an instrument, you can’t learn to play guitar without touching the strings.

Embrace the “Do It Yourself” Culture 

600,000 people in the UK have created their own companies. We are seeing people opting out of top leadership roles in favour of going it alone.

  • Think creatively about what you want to achieve – a new form of employment is emerging – you don’t have to work for just a big organisation or corporation. It’s a fast evolving world and it’s going to be explored and designed by people who are open for a journey.

Create Societal Change 

30 years ago if you wanted to create an impact on society the only route was by going to politics. Things are different today, there are now multiple very viable routes to bring about societal change.

  • The old economic and political order are going to be profoundly disrupted in the next 10 to 15 years, just as the current 20-somethings reach their leadership peak. Generation Y should be ready and prepared to do what is needed. Every generation is tested and it is going to be under intense, massive and structural reforms of systems and those periods are immensely disoriented, people feel lost, they tend to look out for leadership. Extraordinary times create extraordinary leaders.
  • Look ahead and see the bigger picture – there is a lovely concept on that: strategic leaders, visionary leaders who see second bounce of ball not a thing that`s about to happen but the one after always will be in advantage.

The disrupting power of Intellectual Property (IP) tools: adjusting power imbalance to create sustainable and fair business in developing countries

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by University of Oxford Students. 

By DPhil Student, Valerio Pereno

“Hey, wait a minute.” is what went through my mind while listening to Ron Layton, CEO of Light Years IP (@LightYearsIP) talking about protecting cultural brands using conventional intellectual property tools. Up until that moment, I associated intellectual property with copyright, patents and technological innovations – and inevitably with the financial incentives it aims to secure.

According to Light Years IP, a non-profit organisation that specialises in helping producers gaining ownership of their intellectual property, protecting a community’s products, culture and heritage has the potential to disrupt the whole supply chain. In Tanzania, Light Years IP estimates that only 3% of the final price of exported goods trickles down to the underrepresented producers, compared to 40% and 55% for importers and retailers, respectively. Protection of selected product brands could shift the balance towards the producers, leading to stronger incentives for quality, more stable prices, and higher returns.

Tanzania is a shining example. Its products, brands and culture are known all over the world. These include Zanzibar spices, peaberry coffee, Tanzanian tea, blackwood musical instruments and Maasai culture. Protecting these unique brands could yield over $350m combined, according to Light Years IP. In this respect, significant progress has been achieved: the Maasai elders united to form Maasai IP Initiative Trust Ltd to successfully recover trademarks from global corporations and use the licensing fees to support the community.

Another prime example is Ethiopian fine coffee. Although recognized as a superior product by coffee drinkers worldwide, the price paid to producers was set by large coffee importers, leaving only 5% for the coffee farmers. Ethiopia was able to file trademark registrations and establish licensing agreements, resulting in over $100 million increase in export income net of commodity price changes.

Shea butter is a premium cosmetic product that is sold for over $1000/Kg. The shea butter produced by rare Shea trees in South Sudan and Northern Uganda is often referred to as the ‘champagne of Shea butter’, however, local producers only received less than 1% of the generated revenue. After a locally owned retail brand was established, revenues increased from $6/Kg to 25-100$/Kg, allowing local communities to take control of the supply and distribution of the product.

While the long-term effects of this approach are still to be evaluated, there I was, scratching my head thinking about the social, economic and political implications of applying conventional legal and business tools to these new contexts. I was hit by more curiosity than excitement; after all, the phrase uttered by scientists preceding a major discovery is most probably not “Eureka!” as Archimede’s famous cry but, as Isaac Asimov noted, more along the lines of “Now, that’s interesting”.


Plant for Peace: James Brett, Keynote Speech

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by student bloggers from around the UK. 

By London School of Economics student, Francisco Abad

It was Sunday, the last day of Emerge; we just finished watching a great pitch competition and were ready to see the keynote which promised to be great. Thirty minutes later, there I was, standing up, tearing a little, clapping like I’ve never clapped. The story I just heard was truly unique, powerful and inspiring.
Let’s start from the beginning. I arrived that morning a little sleepy and hungry. I realized there were some fruit bars for breakfast. As I approached the breakfast counter, I bumped into this tall big man. That’s when I met James Brett. I grabbed one of the bars being served and put it in my pocket for later. During the networking before the pitch competition, I talked a little to James, but he was a little awkward and didn’t want to share much from what he was going to talk about as he had this badge that said “Speaker.” Little did I know that the bar I grabbed was from his company and that I had just met the man with the most incredible story I’ve ever heard.
During the keynote, James shared a very well done video about how he is helping Afghanistan by bringing the communities together to plant more pomegranate (Afghanistan happens to have the best pomegranate in the world). This video seemed to encapsulate what Plant for Peace does, and James as its head, so after the video was over, I wondered, what is he going to talk about now?
Once the video finished James said, “I’m going to tell you the story of my life…” I didn’t know what to expect. This is his shocking story:
James’ mother was a foster mom, so he grew up with lots of children coming in and out of his home as his mother would take care of them. James’ grandfather sexually abused him several times, which traumatized his childhood, and when he told his father, after denying it once, his grandfather admitted it. He was angry and sad, and one day when the government came home to give his mom another child to care, she denied it saying she has not been able to take care of her own kid. His mom later killed herself.
James had to go to the police to sign a form that absolved his grandfather from guilt because they told him he was a good citizen. James just did it and became a troubled teen determined to “make the world pay.” James then shared how he got involved in crime and how all his friends died in that life.
James went to jail where he started doing jobs, like cleaning up the excrement from the cells to avoid working out. Eventually, his sentence was reduced and he was freed. He was so troubled that he asked them to put him back in jail. As they didn’t let him do that, he “borrowed” a book about nature from the library and went to live in the woods alone. Then he shared how he had his first date and lived in the woods for a while. He learned so much about nature and created a drink from pomegranate which he commercialized and started to have a more “normal” life despite all he went through.
Moreover, he led his story into how he ended up in Afghanistan, still a troubled man, to start putting signs about pomegranate being the solution. The community came to him to ask him who he was and what he was doing. He shared how he was just him trying to get farmers to plant and harvest more pomegranate as an alternative to opium poppy seeds (used in heroine). After meeting with them various times, they all stood behind his recommendations and decided to take action. James shared why: “… they told me that I was the first white person without a uniform or helmet that has tried to help them.”
James later was approached by aid agencies, governments, etc., to help and scale his vision. They helped him create Plant for Peace and now he is bringing innovation to Afghanistan based on sincerity, honesty, and purpose.
My thoughts: He tells his own story 1 million times better than me, but I left that auditorium blown away because after all he went through in his life from a very early age, he was able to come up on top! I am a social entrepreneur, and I have failed a couple of times, but thankfully, I’ve never been through anything like what James had to live… There are no excuses!
James reiterated that his life story was about finding meaning and purpose to his life! Today, there are millions of people just like James, going through hell in their lives… abused, beaten, feeling defeated, lonely, depressed, anxious, sick. Many of these people might be around us: friends, family, acquaintances, and maybe we don’t even know. After this, I just reflected how important is to, as leaders and social entrepreneurs, treat other so kindly that they never feel their lives are worthless and with no purpose. James Story is amazing, but most of the people that go through traumas like him don’t have a happy story to share at the end of their lives because people around them reject them, mistreat them, or don’t help. My call to action is for us to be conscious about this and to empower one another to find purpose in life. Finally, if you relate to James’ story, remember that your life matters, it has a purpose and you are the only one that can make it happen!

Human Centred Design: Ensuring Your Venture responds to real needs beyond your own

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by student bloggers around the UK.

by Classics Undergraduate at University of Oxford, Sanesh Mistry

What – schools and communities across the world are filled with creative minds and innovative ideas, but often they fail to meet the real needs of a community. During this workshop, experts from global design and strategy firm frog taught us how to deliver the most positive impact by putting the end user first.

Why – if there’s one thing a social entrepreneur can learn from 20th century architecture, it’s that “form follows function.” In order to develop new answers to difficult problems, we need to start with a deep understanding of the context we are designing for, and more often than not this entails observing people and understanding how they behave.
How – what better way to put this into practice than to design a solution to improve Emerge for next year? First off, we built empathy with a certain profile – Karim, a recent graduate, NGO worker and Emerge first-timer, who wants to pursue a career in social enterprise. Then we covered his journey from beginning to end. Reams of post it notes later, we realised that above all, Karim needed to find the delegates and speakers who shared his interests and could help him on his journey, both during and after the conference, so in the end our solution was an app. Simple, but (hopefully) effective.


Emerge 2015 & Mustard Seed Pitch Competition

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by student bloggers from around the UK.

By Doctoral Researcher Theodor Cojoianu from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford.

“Entrepreneurs are people who do mDoctoral Researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford.ore than anyone thinks it is possible, with less than anyone thinks possible” are the words of John Doerr, which perfectly describe the 8 social entrepreneurs which the Emerge 2015 conference welcomed to pitch for consideration for investment from Mustard Seed. The judging panel was comprised of Henry Wigan and Alex Pitt, co-founders of Mustard Seed, Fran Perrin – founder of The Indigo Trust and Marc Zornes, co-founder of Winnow Solutions who is looking to cut food waste in restaurants in half.

So who are the entrepreneurs? While the below descriptions clearly do not make them justice, check out their websites to find out their latest news!

Accomable is the Airbnb for people with mobility difficulties. Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley set on the Accomable journey inspired by both their work with tourist boards in the UK and abroad, as well as the online magazine which the two founded in 2011 – Disability Horizons Group, which gathers over 40,000 regular readers.

ConnectMed looks to enrich and disrupt healthcare service in South Africa (where they are just starting) through connecting patients with expert doctors via online video & text based consultations.

HeadStart plans on revolutionizing student recruitment through an app which is matches company job description and skill requirements, with the candidate’s interest levels and qualification for the job. The edge of headstart is in its algorithm analyzing users’ behaviors and profiles to provide the match between opportunity and job seeker.

Libromat is addressing the educational challenges in the African continent through an innovative angle. Libromat recognized that hand-washing clothes is a tedious chore that consumes parents an immense amount of time, which could be spent otherwise assisting their children to learn and develop. Libromat offers an evidence-based training programme in early childhood education for parents and other carers in ‘dialogic picture book sharing’ with young children while they wait for their washing to be done.

Opan Material is a data platform for 3D printing materials. An potential enabler of the circular economy, they provide digital fabrication communities with tools to generate materials data locally and share it globally.

SimPrints is a nonprofit tech company committed to improving the lives of the poor. Accurately linking people to their digital records is a critical bottleneck in the delivery of mobile services in healthcare, microfinance, and aid distribution. They are currently building a mobile biometric scanner and open-source software to empower the mobile tools used by researchers, NGOs and governments around the world.

Workmatch addresses the inefficiencies in finding short-term, temporary and part-time jobs. end-to-end solution that is specifically designed to handle every stage of the employer-employee relationship. From profile creation and job and candidate matching through hiring, secure payment and ratings, their seamless marketplace app makes the short term, part time and shift work market more efficient and gets it working for the people in it.

Work4Good seeks to provide employment opportunities for refugees. More details about their plans to follow! Meanwhile – sign up to their facebook page.

After a full day of pitches, with much anticipation, the winners were announced. Many congratulations to Libromat and Accomable who won the heart of both judges and the audience. For all of us there, it was simply inspiring to watch and speak to these amazing entrepreneurs who are addressing today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. We wish all every success in your journey to building successful companies!


The best kind of debate

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by student bloggers from around the UK.

By Karen Ng, MBA Student at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
The best kind of debate is one that starts with a controversial motion, convinces the floor participants to swing from one side to another then back, and provides everyone in the room with a new perspective that is applicable to their lives. The best kind of debate informs as well as inspires.

To conclude the first day of Emerge Conference, the crowd of 500+ participants and organisers moved over to the Oxford Union for a debate on “This House believes you should work for a mainstream financial institution to achieve greatest social impact”. The Oxford Union was formed in 1823 and has invited numerous head of states, politicians, scientists, celebrities and other high-profile guest speakers to share and debate on important issues. In the historical chamber this evening, we had speakers from non-profits (OXFAM and Nature Conservancy), a bank (Barclays), think tanks (Meteos and 80,000 hours) and a crowdfunding platform (Seedrs), occupying the two sides of the benches.

Before the debate, a couple of classmates asked about my thoughts on the motion. After all, I left my job in investment banking to join a non-profit that supports social ventures. It seems pretty safe to assume that I am against the proposition. But the truth is, I don’t know for sure – especially with the growing interests on impact investing and responsible investment from banks and investment firms. Personally, I also felt incredibly fortunate to receive the training from working in a mainstream financial institution, which enabled me to manage an investment portfolio of social ventures. I was really on the fence.

The opposition did a great job in highlighting the unethical practices of mainstream financial institutions and the challenges to make changes “from within”. On the other hand (or bench?), the proposition illustrated examples of mainstream financial institutions nurturing talent for the social sector, as well as recent examples of commitments to drive large-scale social change through corporate philanthropy and responsible investments. My mind was swinging back and forth until the powerful closing argument made by Sophia Tickell on the proposition side. In the capitalistic world we are living in, capital owners no doubt have great power in generating social impact. Financial institutions have huge influences on how capital owners behave and we often focus on the negative incentives they represent. However, the more socially and ethically conscious individuals join these institutions, the higher the chance that we have in changing the status quo and creating a more inclusive economy. Hence I chose to walk out through the “aye” side of the doors.

The motion of this debate is controversial for an audience comprising of mainly business school students, who are often perceived as money-driven. It is also relevant as we are participants in a conference that asked the question “Is it completely ridiculous to think you can change the world?” – if so then, how? I walked out more informed about the social and environmental initiatives by mainstream financial institutions, as well as more inspired to include people (regardless of their background and jobs) in conversations to redefine the world we live in.

Image source: Oxford Union Website.

The three critical ingredients of the “Collaborative Economy”

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by University of Oxford Students. 

By Sara Cocomazzi

AirBnB, BlaBlaCar, Taskrabbit. Do any of those names sound familiar? I’m talking about new ways of sharing, consuming and owning our possessions. As resources become increasingly limited, we are required to optimise consumption if we want to be sustainable in the long run. The main question is how to create value from existing assets? The Collaborative Economy is the answer.

AirBnB is a peer-to-peer accommodation marketplace, BlaBlaCar is a ride-sharing network and Taskrabbit is a network of trusted people in your community to outsource household errands and skilled tasks. Those are some of the most successful examples of the Collaborative Economy.

Rachel Botsman – Global Expert on the Collaborative Economy spoke at Emerge 2015. During her Masterclass session on “The Collaborative Economy”, Rachel explained the three critical ingredients of the Collaborative Economy:

  1. Build critical mass: in order to do so, your service should be searchable and sizeable, be supplied in a creative way which provides a value-added experience to customers who access the network, be peer-led, and offer a limited number of options to ease the selection process.
  2. Build communities: to build a successful community it is important to deeply understand the needs of the different groups in your community; clearly define your core value so that your members will develop a strong sense of identification; and finally to empower your community so that members feel ownership and reward. AirBnB is an excellent example of belonging to a wider community of like-minded people.
  3. Build trust: there has been a paradigm shift in trust, moving from institutional to peers. Trust can be defined as the relationship with the unknown, it is to give your community credibility and sustainability in the long run. Trust can imply different meaning depending on the culture. Online ratings and reviews are very important in building trust within a community.

This is what Rachel explained during her Masterclass at Emerge 2015. As she said, “the Collaborative Economy is not a technological trend. It is a transformational lens on the future of value and trust.” She thinks there is a great potential of development for the Collaborative Economy in social sectors like health, food and learning. So, watch this space!