Blog by Stewart Wallis, WEAll Chair
Seven years after first speaking at a Global Alliance on Banking and Values (GABV) summit in Vancouver, it was wonderful to be back doing the same again.
GABV is a member of WEAll and in turn WEAll is a partner of GABV, working together to pursue economic system change and transform the financial system within that.
Hosted by GABV member bank Vancity, this year’s summit was a huge and dynamic gathering with between 400-500 participants. The theme spoke to the multiple challenges of our era: “Migrants, #MeToo, and Melting Icecaps…Redefining Banking for a Radically Different Future.”
It was a privilege to share the stage with wonderful keynote speakers:
Sheila Watt-Cloutier: Author and Activist, Canada from Inuit Nation who spoke so movingly about climate change. “If you protect the Arctic, you save the plan
et,” she said. “What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Everything is connected through our common atmosphere, not to mention our common spirit and our common humanity.”
Tima Kurdi: Author of “The Boy on the Beach” and aunt of Alan Kurdi, whose tragic image shocked and moved the world in 2015. Tima evoked the most powerful expression of our common humanity and our common responsibility I have ever heard. The whole room was in tears following her speech.
Musimbi Kanyoro: CEO of the Global Fund for Women. She issued a clarion call for more power for women and girls worldwide combined with practical next steps.
John Fullerton: President of Capital Institute (a WEAll member organisation and we’re working together closely on hubs.) John gave the public address on the first evening and brilliantly laid the ground for my panel the next day. He stressed clearly the need for system change rather than incremental reform
In my panel I focused on the need for the economic system to be based in human and ecological wellbeing. I started by saying that yesterday humanity exploded 250,000 Hiroshima size level atomic bombs in our oceans…not literally, of course. However, the latest research shows the heat being released in the oceans is equivalent to 3-6 atomic bombs per second.
I then talked about income inequality, highlighting that last year the richest 28 people on the planet had the same wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion and the wealth of the billionaires went up last year, while the wealth of the poorest went down.
When we consider how these crises are interacting, we shouldn’t be surprised that our politics is going the way that it is. Fundamentally, the economic system we’ve got is broken, it’s dangerous and it’s violent. We’ve got to call it as it is and urge those with imagination to create a different economic system: one that’s got well-being of both the planet and humans and that puts regeneration at its heart.
The economic system had been changed twice in the 20th century and with collaboration, determination and imagination we could do so again. A new movement may never have an elite power base and billions of dollars in funds behind it, but it can have millions of hearts and hands. What WEAll is trying to achieve is bold, vital and entirely possible.
After the panel, I led a breakout group on changing the system through partnership. The interest in system change can be judged by the fact that about a quarter of the participants joined this group when they had 12 groups to choose from! A key proposal from this group to the GABV CEOs was that GABV banks could lead in their communities/cities/regions in bringing together other actors to form system change hubs. This is an exciting idea for WEAll and we will be exploring this further with GABV.
As always, some of the joys of such an event are the contacts and discussions outside the conference hall. I had discussions with some of the GABV member banks about specific collaboration, initiated conversations with four potential WEAll member organisations, identified potential participants for the Finance Cluster and agreed a set of detailed collaborative actions with Sandrine Dixson-Decleve , Co President of The Club of Rome (another WEAll member). Perhaps most energising of all were discussions with the Young Leaders Delegation at the Summit. They want to form a Youth hub in Vancouver so I can’t wait to put them in touch with WEAll Youth.
Finally, it was so refreshing to be with a group of bankers who want to change the world!