Trust and Integrity emphasised at TIGERoadshow
by Chris Cunningham
After the successes of annual events organized in the idyllic setting of Caux, Switzerland, it was fitting that the Initiatives of Change programme exported itself to new horizons with its TIGERoadshow. The emphasis of the roadshow, a one-day forum held on 19 March, was on Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy. And where more suited to start than Liverpool?
Liverpool is the UK’s fastest growing city, home to a vast amount of new investment, and is positively thriving with new business ventures. It is also the home of Hope University which in turn runs the SEED Centre, the Centre for Social and Ethical Enterprise Development.
So it was in the grounds of Liverpool Hope University that an eclectic mix of people and cultures, in tune with the realities of a diversified city, came to listen and debate about new ways of restoring trust and integrity in business, banking and corporate ventures.
To do this the TIGERoadshow brought some big names to the table and some even bigger ideas.
The day was kicked off by Margaret Heffernan, the Texan business woman and author of the Financial Times shortlisted and best-selling book Wilful Blindness.
She highlighted the serious damage to public trust that has resulted from over a decade of institutional failings: from the Iraq war or scandals in the Catholic Church to the failings of the NHS and care institutions or the horsemeat scandal.
Heffernan’s research has helped her find the underlying causes behind these failings and what prompts organizations and the individuals in them to fail to see the things they are doing wrong.
Through a crafted mix of storytelling and questioning her talk prompted an attentive audience to rethink hierarchy, question ideology and start seeing conflict, challenge and difference of opinions as an engine for constructive change rather than a bothersome restraint.
The second speaker was Peter Neville Lewis, the Founder of Principled Consulting, an organization that specialises in mitigating reputational risks for big businesses. He aimed to clear up confusion surrounding terms so often used by businesses, without real understanding, such as Integrity.
As an ‘ethicability’ practitioner, he also presented the audience with data collected through the MoralDNA project. Using this data from online respondents, Lewis proposed correlations between organisational structure and their failings, and personal behaviours. He argued the case against blind obedience and for workplaces where care and reason have a more substantial place—models where sustainability overrides immediate gains. To help with this he presented the audience with a model of self-questioning to be able to do what is right.
The last keynote speaker and host of the day was Revd Tony Bradley, the director of SEED. Bradley argued that the UK’s no-growth, flat-lining economy, far from being a catastrophic scenario, is a reality and one full of prospects and opportunities in a ‘steady state’ economy.
Amidst these turbulent times he said that the old model of what he calls ‘Dino-capitalism’, where huge inflexible corporations rule, is slowly changing in favour of smaller, more agile and hopefully more moral models of businesses—the ‘fury animals in the undergrowth’—such as the two local social enterprises which he invited on stage to present their work.
These were Liverpool-based ‘The Women’s Organisation’, a social enterprise that has successfully helped thousands of women to set up independent businesses over the past 17 years, and the ‘Social Audit Network’, which helps social enterprises to measure the impact of their work. Both organizations proved that profit can be made in systems not ruled by shareholder interest but by social profitability.
During the day’s breakout sessions speakers and participants mingled in small groups to debate and question, not only the topics brought up by the keynote speakers, but any issues they thought needed discussing.
The diversity of the participants meant that groups could bring their own considerable knowledge and experience to bear, adding depth and making the debates particularly relevant to Liverpool as well as the wider world.
It was clear that the time is ripe to be discussing alternative business models where values, principles and ethics are given back the place they seem to have lost in what is an age of shareholder benefit and profit for profit’s sake.
Peter Davies of Business in the Community commented afterwards: ‘I found the overall atmosphere to be wonderful and really conducive to receiving the information conveyed, with many of the insights being revelatory and stunning.'
Sponsorship for the event included a grant from 'Quakers and Business'.
Photos by Dan Thurgood
Click here to download the full text of Margaret Heffernan's talk to the TIGERoadshow