Friday, 17 October 2014

Webinar: Liberating circular economies through new currencies

Professor Jem Bendell

What has our monetary system got to do with greater sustainability? 

Could entirely new, independent, currencies enable businesses and communities to trade more efficiently? Could they help increase utility with less resource consumption? Could they encourage more local trade? Could currencies be the most important blindspot of the movement for sustainability and the circular economy? 

This session will explore these questions, and point to very initial research that suggests much could be achieved through currency innovation for sustainable development. First, watch a section of Professor Jem Bendell’s lecture, and then a video on the case of the Banglapesa in Kenya (both below). Then join Professor Bendell and other tutors from the ‘Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange’ in this webinar to explore this emerging agenda of sustainable innovation.

Professor Bendell will be joined by: 

  • Matthew Slater, who implements community currencies, from creating the open source software to advising on design to joining them together.
  • Tom Shakhli, who is a social entrepreneur working on disruptive currency innovations. He manages the Brixton Pound, a local currency in South London, and is a Senior Policy Officer at Lambeth Council.
  • Will Ruddick, who is founder of Banglapesa, a famous community currency in Kenya.  
  • Morgan Richards, who is a researcher on community currencies. 

Sign up for this event and find more information about the Disruptive Innovation Festival at

Video 1: University of Cumbria - Inaugural lecture by Professor Jem Bendell 

In this video, Jem speaks about the problem of money from 14 minutes.

Video 2: Bangla-Pesa - Empowering a Grassroots Economy

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The future of black British leadership

  • talk and reception with Funmi Iyanda
  • University of Cumbria, 58 East India Dock Rd, Poplar, London, E14 6JE
  • Friday 30 January 2015, 6pm to 8pm

Funmi Iyanda with Prof Jem Bendell,
director of the University of Cumbria's
Institute for Leadership and Sustainability 

London is diversity. By census, over 40 per cent of its inhabitants identify themselves as other than white. 

The University of Cumbria’s London Campus is in Tower Hamlets, on the edge of Docklands, in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of London. Originally it was founded to provide higher education to promote the advancement of local ethnic minorities. 

Today, almost 14 per cent of London’s population identify themselves as black. This diversity presents a major opportunity and responsibility for London to act as a crossroads for global understanding and cooperation. How is London accepting its role? What more could be done to encourage London’s ethnically diverse community to lead for the benefit of London, Britain and the world?

Funmi Iyanda will describe how Black British leadership can create a more sustainable, diverse and inclusive Great Britain and enable better relations with Africa and beyond. 

As a leading Nigerian journalist and entrepreneur, Funmi moves regularly between London and Lagos in her efforts to bring innovation to her media and humanitarian work. Funmi produced and hosted Nigeria’s most popular and authoritative talk show ‘New Dawn with Funmi’. She has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and was recently named one of Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa.

The new Black British Business Awards reflects the growing awareness and action on the importance of inspirational black role models – ambassadors who represent the very best talent in organisations across various sectors in the British economy. 

The Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) is pleased to engage this issue by working with Funmi. Funmi will be hosted by Professor Jem Bendell and a leading figure from the Tower Hamlets community. 

Participants will include emerging leaders in the Black British community and Tower Hamlets community leaders, as well as finance professionals from Docklands – a great mix for conversation in the drinks reception that follows the talk.

Her last talk with IFLAS was on media ethics, to the predominantly African class on the MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, and she explains her experience in the Premium Times

Having enjoyed the hiking in the Lake District, Funmi will also be keynoting at the University’s Leading Wellbeing conference in July 2015 on the shores of Windermere.

The London event on January 30 is free but requires registration and numbers are limited. Email:

Other talks organised by the Institute can be viewed at:

“I am championing a new initiative [Black British Business Awards] that will put future black leaders at the top table of our biggest companies. Working with Trevor Phillips, this campaign will get the balance in the boardroom right and encourage businesses to put ethnic diversity at the top of their agenda.”
UK Government’s Business Secretary, Vince Cable

Thursday, 9 October 2014

IFLAS public lecture: From political to social enterprise leadership

Laura Willoughby spoke passionately about the power of social enterprise
Politician, campaigner and now social enterprise leader Laura Willoughby has a huge list of "half-baked" ideas she has yet to put into action.

But she's confident that the knowledge and experience she has amassed in her years in the voluntary sector have equipped her well to make these ideas a reality as she enters the world of socially-conscious business.

Speaking at our Ambleside campus to an audience of aspiring local social entrepreneurs, students on the University of Cumbria's BSc Social Enterprise Leadership programme, and Leadership and Sustainability MBA students from the University of Cumbria and Robert Kennedy College, Laura described how her previous experience as a politician and campaigner has put her in a strong position to launch her new venture.

In these times of austerity we're always hearing about what politics can learn from business, but Laura offers an alternative view - what business can learn from campaigning movements and the voluntary sector.

A former Liberal Democrat cabinet member on London's Islington Council, Laura is now using the insight she gained to launch a new social enterprise which aims to help people change their drinking habits.

Club Soda has been created to give people the support they need whether they want to cut back on their drinking or to stop all together. The company organises events for people who want to socialise without the expectation to drink, and is working on creating an online service to support its members.

Describing herself as 'a natural campaigner' Laura told guests at October's IFLAS public lecture to have confidence in their ability to succeed in business using the skills that made them successful as volunteers and activists.

As she works on the Club Soda project, Laura draws on a wide range of experience gained in her political career and in grassroots campaigns like Move Your Money, an initiative that encouraged people to leave the big five banks and invest with smaller, more local and more ethical companies.

Any experienced campaigner will be able to tell you stories about their financial struggles. Conventional wisdom from the business world is that if you want your new start-up to succeed you're going to need cash from somewhere - venture capital funding, or perhaps a bank loan.

But experienced campaigners know that ideas can be turned into reality without having huge financial backing.

Laura said: "If you're from the voluntary sector, bootstrapping is at the core of what we do. Don't underestimate the knowledge that you already have.

"You're also good campaigners and communicators. You are natural community builders, whereas people who come into business afresh are having to learn to do that from scratch."

A background in volunteering and campaigning also builds great leadership skills - both in terms of working with fellow volunteers and in galvanising the support of the community. But this doesn't happen by accident, and it's worth taking the time to work on your leadership as you'd work on any other skill.

Laura said: "I do believe you have to put work into your leadership. You have to take responsibility for making sure that the people around you are the people you want and making sure they're on the same page as you.

"Work out what the idea is. Work out how you can pay for it. Work out how you can package it for your customers. And take time to reflect - don't look at it as wasted time."

Laura with (left) Helen Carter of the Brathay Trust, BSc (Hons) Social Enterprise
Leadership students Joanna Coleman and Andrew Lawson and (right)
University of Cumbria Business School Principal Lecturer Caroline Wiscombe
Although she is still finding her way as a social enterprise leader, Laura is already imagining new possibilities for the future.

She said: "The whole process of setting up a business and doing it in a socially-conscious way is difficult and challenging - and I haven't got everything right.

"But my list of half-baked ideas is getting longer and longer, because I can see there are many ways to create different solutions to problems we see. To me, they're all mini campaigns."

She told the students: "I hope through your networks and the course you're on, you'll be able to find those solutions too."

IFLAS director Prof Jem Bendell said: "It’s important our students hear from social entrepreneurs, so they can consider different ways of approaching their future careers."