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The Dancing Economist | 03/Autumn 2018

Banking licence refused, re-alignment of the Cooperative for Common Good, founding of the ECG Federation, Fellowship at the IASS and much more - 2018 is dense! 

Luckily, I still get to dance - for example on invitation of the European Economic and Social Committee! 

The insight grows: My political engagement has more impact if I keep dancing often and consequently - in  and through life!


Overview
  1. Highlights: Postgrowth Conference, Hubert von Goisern, taz.lab & Sovereign Money Reform
  2. Project to establish a common good oriented bank: Refusal of licence, re-alignment, successful crowdfunding
  3. Economy for the Common Good: International Federation, Stuttgart supports ECG companies, awards for ECG companies, ECG summer week 2018
  4. Academics: Doughnut meets ECG, IASS Fellowship, Study Course "Applied Economy for the Common Good"
  5. Travels: Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Italy
  6. Dance: 60th anniversary of "EWSA", tree hanging
  7. Recent Media Coverage
  8. Action!

I. Highlights

Postgrowth Conference at the European Parliament

The two-day Post Growth Conference at the European Parliament was a truly special experience. Through various panels, 600 researchers, NGO representatives and (climate etc.) activists got in touch with the establishment. 5 parliamentary parties agreed to host these sessions and thereby formally enable the event. All panels consisted of representatives of the civil society, the research community as well as politicians and members of the EU Commission. In spite of active listening by all participants, my perception was a “clash of cultures”, a collision of value systems. In my old and new opinion, the “official” part of the EU is on the wrong track grosso modo: Growth, business and trade – at any cost! Single programmes and activities, initiated by enlightened minds, are not able to change the big picture.

Symptomatic was the statement of Director General of the “DG EMPL” (Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion) Joost Korte: „For the EU commission, GDP growth is not a fetish. It is not a goal. The goal is inclusive and sustainable growth.“  There was nothing more unmasking the truth. In my response I outlined that the only noun in his sentence, and therewith emphasizing the message, was “growth” – “inclusive” and “sustainable” were merely adjectives. He tried to twist my answer, saying that I claimed that the EU Commission would exclusively target growth. In response, I tried to point out that very often GDP growth actually was the most important objective, see CETA legitimation. If CETA forecast studies had shown a negative GDP growth, CETA would have been politically dead. My proposal to change the official phrase to “inclusive and sustainable wellbeing” (of which there can never be enough,  compared to GDP growth), was simply ignored. This tiny “combat” reflects the institutional mindset very well.  On another panel,

I asked European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager if the increased costs and prices for socially and ecologically responsible companies did not count as striking distortion of competition. Her answer was similarly disillusioning: There are already laws to protect the environment and secure humane working conditions… but well. The EU Commission came into contact with an unfamiliar part of the “real world”. My network within the EU Commission has been widened. Already on the day before, NGOs and researchers networked at the famous “Mundo B”, a collaborative space for NGOs in Brussels, including Friends of the Earth.

Input C. Felber: "Measuring the (ultimate) goal of the Common Market" (4 pages)

Hubert von Goisern in Salzburg

Heinz Nussbaumer, publisher of the weekly newspaper FURCHE, introduced me to Hubert von Goisern. In 2017, we met for the first time in Salzburg to discuss a possible cooperation regarding the Economy for the Common Good as well as the project Bank for the Common Good. Hubert actually came up with the idea for a public discussion. After exploratory talks, the ECG chapter Salzburg and the ARGE Kultur Nonntal (which is ECG certified) initiated a discussion evening: Isabella Klien organized a dialogue between Hubert and me as well as a practical part with representatives of the economy (Jennifer Klink/Hotel Auersperg), politics (major Hans-Jörg Dirner/Kirchanschöring), research (Wolfgang Schäffner/Studienzentrum Saalfelden) and culture (Daniela Gmachl/ARGE Kultur). The evening was perceived positively by the 300 guests on site. The highlight was Hubert’s closing statement, thanking the Economy for the Common Good as well as announcing coram publico to become a member of the Cooperative for the Common Good (bank foundation project).

Summarizing video

taz.lab about Sovereign Money Reform

taz.lab invited me – together with Stephan Schulmeister – to a controversial discussion about the sovereign money reform. Background: The well-known journalist and book author Ulrike Herrmann (“Kein Kapitalismus ist auch keine Lösung”; loosely translated: “No capitalism is no solution either”) is currently dealing with the topic of sovereign money. In Switzerland, the topic was part of a referendum on June 10. As in Germany the topic is still widely unknown and Herrmann did not want to invite someone from Switzerland, she asked the two Austrians, Schulmeister and me, to hold their already opposing opinions in this discussion. Different ECG chapters (Berlin, Hamburg, Steinbach…) represented the ECG throughout the day with an info booth. According to the audience, I was able to present my opinion towards sovereign money in an convincing way

Background text (DE) C. Felber: Vom Vollgeld zum Souveränen Geld

II. Project to establish a common good oriented bank

FMA refuses licence – European buseiness as usual

As reported in the last newsletter, we did not receive an answer on our first application for the “small licence” for payment transfer (= checking account with online banking, cash and credit card). This is why we filed an appeal against the delay at the Federal Administrative Court (FAC). The latter was not amused and agreed with the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) to *not* being obliged to answer within the 3-month limit indicated in the law. Specifically, the time period to answer would not start with the receipt of the application, but with the FMA regarding the application to be complete. Therefore, the FMA would have been allowed to wait for the next thousand years with its answer – although the law indicates a “prompt” answer. The FAC did not respond to this confusion of deadlines in its comprehensive decision.  

On June 15, 9 months after filing our application, we finally received the notice stating that our 500 pages expert text was so incomplete that the content was not even reviewed. Furthermore, we received the message via media, even before our lawyer could forward it to us. After a 9-month wait, it obviously was important to the FMA to let us know via media instead of giving us the chance to react… Consequently, we decided not to appeal (the papers would have gone to the reluctant FAC), and also not to file a new application because, in the meantime, the FAC had also agreed with the FMA on the point that all business processes would have had to be described in a painfully detailed way – which would have meant 2,000 pages as well as an estimated two million Euro worth turnkey stock company (the Common Good payment institution). Even then it would have been totally uncertain, if the licence was granted. That is why we decided against this high risk investment, also considering the “merely” collected 4.2 million Euros so far. The ethical finance start-ups ZEF in Croatia, New B in Belgium (with over 50,000 cooperatives on board) and FIARE in Spain have also been denied licences by the national regulatory authorities – that is why we suspect “system” behind these decisions. It is common knowledge that the European bank supervisors prefer a manageable number of banks, following the misconception that this would make their work easier. In my opinion, this position supports the core of the problem – the existence of too big and powerful institutions. It is a dangerous development that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China received a full banking licence in Austria, although its total assets of four billion US-Dollars are twice the size of the Deutsche Bank – and its annual profit amounts to half of Austria’s yearly budget – by far too big to fail.

Chronology of the licence application (DE)

Realignment of the Cooperative for the Common Good

Against all these detriments, we stayed strong: We are very proud of the 6.030 cooperatives on board, having invested 4.2 million Euros so far. In a careful process, we realigned the Cooperative for the Common Good including a strategy day with 60 cooperatives in July: Towards the development of licence-free financial services and the cooperation with one or more bank partners – according to the motto: There is a life without licence! 

At the General Assembly on September 8, the following decisions were passed with a vast majority:
  • Continuation (not liquidation) of the Cooperative
  • Adapting the name in the company register to „GfG Genossenschaft für Gemeinwohl eG“
  • Realignment towards „Money Economy for the Common Good“ with six business areas: Common Good Account (with partner bank), Common Good Finance (with partner bank), Crowdfunding, Asset Pool, Goods Vouchers and the Academy for the Common Good
  • In future, all services are for members only - Introduction of a contribution amount of 5 € / 2,50 € per month
  • Elimination of reserve liability (possible due to the addition “consumer cooperative”)
  • Reduction of capital to 25% to deduct expenses since 2014 -> one cooperative share is worth 25 Euros instead of 100 Euros, prospectively starting 01/01/2019
  • Possible exit for cooperativists who do not want to continue till end of 2018
  • New entry with 50 Euros expectedly starting 01/01/2019 (two cooperative shares)  
All (systemically consensed) decisions reached a “converted” approval higher than 75%! The atmosphere was clear and strong. In the meantime, we decided on a bank partner (out of four possibilities) which will be announced at a public press conference on November 21.   

My speech at the General Assembly on Sept 8 (DE)
Realignment details (DE) 

Successful Crowdfunding

While being fascinated by the licence proceedings, we systemically developed the crowdfunding service and are now able to finance bigger and more extensive projects. With a volume of 100,000 Euros, the citizen solar power system in the Styrian municipality Hitzendorf is one of the biggest successfully financed projects. Right now there is a project with over 232,000 Euro in the pipe: The book bindery Fuchs in Saalfelden (Salzburg) is a unique handicraft business, combining ancient knowledge, century machines and modern technology with incredibly much love. All in the name of the Common Good. Honoring the 25th anniversary, the company building is being extended, with environmentally exemplary standards like hemp insulation and photovoltaic systems. The financing is also enabled by the Crowdlending platform of GfG. As this incredible company is a certified pioneer company of the Economy for the Common Good, I contributed with 500 Euros. Other exciting projects are the Haus der Menschenrechte (House of Human Rights) in Linz as well as the ecologically friendly insolation company Whisperwool in Tyrol.

Crowdfunding platform (DE) 

III. Economy for the Common Good  

Founding of an international Federation 

Six years after agreeing on the founding of a federation for the young movement in Vienna, the historic milestone has been reached on September 29, 2018 in Munich. Representatives of 9 national associations (Sweden, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Chile) agreed shortly after 2 pm on giving birth to the new federation. The atmosphere was delicate and focused and contributed to the success of this major project. Congratulations ECG and all active participants! I am eager to see how many members the Federation will have in 2030 and where all the international offices will be!

News on ecogood.org (DE)

Stuttgart supports private companies with Common Good Balance Sheets

Stuttgart takes it step by step: First, a pilot project produced the balance sheets for two municipal companies, then Stuttgart additionally employed a “Common Good Officer”. Now, as a third step, private companies with Common Good Balance Sheet get subsidized with 50% cost reimbursement. May all these actions lead to even more activities and be a role model for other municipalities. For example, Mannheim already agreed on certifying four municipal companies in 2019.

Press release Business Development in Stuttgart (DE)

Awards for ECG companies

Christiane Miedl, Sparda Bank München, recently received the highly rated B.A.U.M.-Umweltpreis (DE)(environment award) for her contribution to the first ECG-certified German bank. The ECG movement congratulated and promoted Christiane Miedl from active ECG lecturer to official ECG speaker. (The awarding B.A.U.M.-Beratungs GmbH is ECG certified as well.)

The PR agency Faktenkontor honored the automotive supplier elobau (Allgäu) to be the fourth most valuable company in Germany – concerning social, economic and ecological criteria. Together with the dpa subsidiary news and the support of the WeltWirtschaftsInstitut in Hamburg (HWWI), Faktenkontor examined sustainability reports and similar publications of the biggest German companies (number of employees) and evaluated them on the basis of the Global Reporting Initiative standards. Elobau does not compile a GRI report, but – a Common Good Balance Sheet! Congratulations to chief executive Michael Hetzer and “Common Good Commissioner” Armin Hipper!

ECG week 2018 in Memmingen 

The social highlight of the ECG year is the – by now third – summer week, this year in the monastery Bonlanden near Memmingen in the Allgäu. Over 100 active ECG members, mainly from German speaking areas with an Australian exception, took part in the dense high energy programme and co-created the future of the movement. We even found an opportunity to swim close by, until then unknown by the monks themselves! Since the week ended,
I am looking forward to next year!






IV. Academics

„Doughnut“ meets ECG

In April, Kate Raworth, the “Doughnut Economist”, finally had her speaking premiere in Austria (the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna had tried to invite her twice previously, the German version of her book made it finally possible). Luckily, I heard about this opportunity upfront and was able to organize a public event in German, besides the scientific event of the University. The ORF (Austrian public broadcaster) offered its format “Dialogforum” as a platform and invited Forum Alpbach and Wiener Zeitung to partner up.

Main cooperation partner was the German and Austrian Society for Plural Economics (Gesellschaft für Plurale Ökonomik) which also would be a great cooperation partner for ECG in the future.  I have met Kate twice before, once at the Lausanne Business School on invitation of Katrin Muff and a second time at a joint interview in Belgium. In my opinion, Doughnut Economics is a comprehensive and holistic scientific framework for the ECG and therefor makes a tight cooperation very valuable. This made the two-hour discussion even more special. Another outcome of this event was a comparison between the two models which Kate and I co-created and which was published on the ECG Blog (DE).

Announcement of event (DE)
60 minutes ORF III broadcast

Comparison Doughnut Economy - Economy for the Common Good 

IASS-Fellowship

In August, my first Fellowship week at the IASS in Potsdam has finally started! My residence was an old-villa-style apartment with view towards tree and park, with the chance for swimming in the “holy lake” close by. Potsdam is a dreamy suburb of Berlin – a perfect place for creative muse. However, even here you face the peril of too little time for research and interviews due to countless meetings (fellows, research employees, directors, administrators, Berlin citizens).

The first interview I conducted with the Head of the European Center for Sustainability at the Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Manfred Moldaschl. The second was with the first professor for Plural Economics in Germany, Helge Peukert. The latter I still know from my time at Attac and as a proponent of the sovereign money reform. At the University Siegen, he showed me his library for Plural Economics and sent several books on my way. The third interview will take place in December, with the climate expert Joachim Schellnhuber.

Another highlight is the potential opportunity to use the IASS „incubator”: The IASS may commission a research project to compare and integrate the most relevant sustainability reporting systems (GRI, Global Compact, DNK, B Corps, Common Good Balance…)! Therewith, researchers in the German speaking area could apply for the project and my IASS colleagues and me would be the contracting entity! This would be a perfect contribution to the planned ECG campaign “Equality of Common Good Balance and Financial Balance”. Keep your fingers crossed!

Course „Applied Economy for the Common Good“ just started

The first course of studies „Applied Economy for the Common Good“ is small but precious, hosting participants from an ECG company, a local ECG chapter, an employee of a member of the ECG scientific advisory board, a “hopper” from old to new economy and a ECG pioneer entrepreneur. Fortunately, my lecture was accompanied by wonderful late-summer days in October which gave us the opportunity to have a “dynamic teaching” lecture in nature – a wonderful experience.

Course Applied ECG (DE)

V. Travels

Costa Rica


Principal of the Universidad para la Cooperación Internacional, Eduard Müller, invited me to two lectures (in two universities) as well as to a four-day expert seminar for the development of regenerative sustainable regions. From the US, Hunter Lovins (Natural Capitalism Solutions), John Fullerton (Capital Institute) and Joe Brewer (dancer and universal genius) travelled to Costa Rica to meet local experts from different backgrounds. Together, we intensely worked on a holistic concept for model regions, trying to implement a prototype covering environment protection, sustainable agriculture, citizen participation and Economy for the Common Good. My main goal was the establishment of ECG Costa Rica, with Eduard Müller in a central role.   Additionally, I visited the donor couple behind the Social Science Award Shu Kai and Angela Chan, both almost 100 years old, in San José de las  Flores, to introduce the ECG and myself. The ECG is going to apply for the award in 2019.

Short video from the expert seminar 
Article about the seminar
(ES)

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, ECG’s energy keeps growing. Firstly, Oxfam Novib invited me to a double event: General presentation of the ECG for the staff, deep-dive session for a Dozen of chosen experts. Oxfam is one of the most influential international organizations which got famous through publications on outrageous inequalities – six persons own as much as half of humanity.

The Dutch chapter is well structured and strategically beneficial situated in Den Haag. ECG’s narrative was taken well and we even discussed concrete options, from taking over the narrative, publishing the ECG balance sheet as well as political lobbying in the Dutch parliament. Important contacts are made, a follow up meeting in the Netherlands is already scheduled.  

In similar spirit, the journey went on: After Impact Hubs in Mexico, Munich and Vienna (in which the Austrian ECG Office is located), the Impact Hub Amsterdam with Canadian CEO and Executive Board Member of all international Impact Hubs, Tatiana Glad, invited me. The reception was warm and welcoming. The ECG is perceived as the more concrete concept compared to the Doughnut Economy by Kate Raworth, despite its enormous popularity. Due to the personal engagement of Tatiana, the organization of a ECG consultants course at the Impact Hub Amsterdam seems possible, supported by other community members. All in all, the developments in the Netherlands leave a positive outlook – starting with being one of nine national associations recently having founded the International Federation of the ECG

Italy

Till recently, the idea that someday I would present ECG in the cathedral of Italian capitalism – the Milanese stock exchange – was out of my imagination. The Tuscan company “Aboca” made it possible: 40 years ago, the “Sekem of Italy” started its mission with medicinal plants almost unnoticed. Today, 1,300 employees work for the internationally expanding organic company, producing medicinal, pharmaceutical, therapeutic and dietary products on 1,700 hectares organically cultivated agricultural land. Literate Junior CEO Massimo Mercati stumbled across ECG himself, he is very well connected, Fritjof Capra and Stefano Zamgani are part of his network. In order to develop the company towards ethical and sustainable standard, it recently became a “Societá benefit” which is a mixture of a profit and a non-profit organization and an alternative legal entity in Italy since 2016. So far there are 300 such companies: profits are allowed, but have to be documented exactly and invested in a socially beneficial way. One of Aboca’s statutory company goals is the promotion of culture and public education, including a yearly event at the Milanese stock exchange. In the audience, wealthy investors listened to the paradigm shift. For Aboca, we discussed the publication of the Common Good Balance and the participation at the Best Economy Forum in Bolzano in April 2019. Thereupon, I received a re-invitation to Tuscany in order to get to know Aboca better – bella Italia, I will be back!

PS: I met a part of the Italian ECG network – consisting of 6 local chapters – including Vice President Lidia di Vece from Torino, Secretary Stella Catto from Padova and two members from Monza. We discussed open questions and the parallelly happening foundation of the International Federation, to which I departed the next day.

VI. Dance

Common Good Dance for the 60th anniversary of EWSA

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) which had initiated and approved an optinion on the ECG with 86% of its votes, does not only value the content of the model. For its 60th anniversary cultural event, I was invited to perform a “Common Good Dance” in Brussel’s Albert Hall. Together with acrobat Magoa Hanke, we performed a 12 minutes long spoken and danced partnering piece, accentuated by an improv saxophonist. Airan Berg, long-term director of the Wiener Schauspielhaus, curator of the European Capital of Culture Linz and moderator of the “Gemeinwohl-Fest” at the Wiener Volkstheater in 2016, was in charge of designing the event and integrated our part in the evening programme. After intense rehearsals, the “birthday present” turned out well: Already after the first sentence spontaneous applause filled the room – no one of the 400 invited guests expected a “political dance piece”. After this evening, countless members of the institutional Brussels community approached and congratulated us, ideas to bring the piece back on stage spontaneously came from the Belgium State Opera, the European Parliament as well as the Austrian Federation of Industry! Professor Gerhard Riemer, senior consultant of the Austrian Federation of Industry and EWSA member proposed to show the piece in the large ball room in the House of Industry (Haus der Industrie) – I can’t wait to receive the invitation! 

Written script of ECG dance

Tree-hanging

What follows tree hugging? Tree hanging! Motivated by long-term back pain and specific movement practice in contact improvisation, I started to systematically hang myself onto trees, with the hollow of the knee. Optionally with the sacrum, in case there are further “elements” to clinge or clamp to. Sometimes even with the feet only (!) which is incredible – every tree allows a different move – and en passant my back pain has gone!


VII. Media coverage

  • Opinion piece in the Austrian Standard.at on climate tariffs (DE).
  • Opinion piece in Futur Zwei on Sovereign Money reform (DE).
  • Interview in Südkurier on the dangers of capitalism (DE). 

VIII. Action!

Become ECG member and support the Federation
Are you already a member of the Economy for the Common Good? The continuing development is in need of a broad member base. Click here to subscribe!

Also, the newly founded International Federation is grateful for your financial support:
Internationaler Verein zur Förderung der Gemeinwohl-Ökonomie e.V.
DE50 4306 0967 2062 4339 00 // GENODEM1GLS

Become a member of the cooperative next year! 
After the capital reduction planned for December, you can become member of the Cooperative for the Common Good with 50 Euros (2 cooperative shares) in the beginning of 2019. The entry is not only easier (50 instead of 200 Euros), but also the reserve liability will be abolished – the amount of investment is the maximum risk. 

Cofound ECG South-East Asia!
Two people from the Philippines that I have met at the Alternative Economic and Monetary Systems AEMS, the joint summer academy of OeAD and ECG, are going to found the regional chapter south-east Asia. If you life between Japan, Indonesia and Australia, please reach out and participate: info@christian-felber.at

Demand a Binding Treaty!
At the UN, the third attempt for the binding regulation of transnational companies is currently going on under the title “Binding Treaty”. And again it looks sinister, with governments not willing to balance corporate freedoms with obligations. Therefore, it is even more important to spread the information that at least there are such attempts, this time initiated by the governments of Ecuador in 2014. More info & support! 


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