Wednesday, 24 June 2015

For Fresh Ideas - Breathe Fresh Air! On Moving to Lakeland

by Leander Bindewald, Doctoral Researcher, IFLAS

Finally summer returns to the Lake District, and so do I, this time to stay – well, at least me.

At the end of last year the exciting news came through that I won a University postgrad scholarship which now allows me to take my PhD research supervised by IFLAS founder Jem Bendell from a part-time aspiration to full-time execution – and finally base myself at the Institute right in the heart of the Lake District.

My topic is close to the heart of IFLAS core inquiry and teaching, examining the discourse around money and sustainability in the light of the bottom-up processes of community currencies. This is the field I have been working in for over 5 years now and finding a powerful partner in Prof Bendell and IFLAS has already yielded a number of unique outputs.

In 2012 I had assumed a research position at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in London, an independent “think and do” tank that had promoted and researched complementary currencies since it was founded nearly 30 years ago. There, I was project managing the EU co-financed “Community Currencies in Action” (CCIA) programme, the biggest ever collaboration effort on the topic with partners and pilot currencies in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. It was as an external partner to CCIA that collaboration with IFLAS began, and when I came to deliver a workshop session on sustainable exchange practices in late 2012 the idea of pursuing a PhD with Professor Bendell was born. Admittedly, the beauty of the Lake District and the positive atmosphere at the Institute had no small influence on my decision to go back to school and forge ever closer links with IFLAS in the years since.

In the process I discovered that the Lake District has a tradition of creative and critical thinking, being the past abode of intellectual and cultural icons from John Ruskin to William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter to Harriet Martineau. The landscape is inspiring, and as Professor Bendell says “fresh thinking feeds off fresh air, and free thinking from a freer spirit.” Getting into the mountains has something to do with that, as I discovered when one of our supervisions involved discussions while hiking up a Fell (the local name for mountain).

My work with the Institute hit the news last year when I paid for the first instalment of my PhD fees with Bitcoin while speaking with Prof Bendell on a panel in Paris. This was the most high profile moment of a period of outreach activities on the subject of my PhD. Wearing the double hat of NEF and IFLAS if have already spoken about money and sustainability at the UN conferences on Social and Solidarity Economy in 2013 and again in May 2015. This time also reporting to their Interagency Taskforce on the findings of a UN roundtable on Social and Solidarity Finance and delivering an amendment on complementary currencies to the forthcoming accord on Financing for Development that Professor Bendell co-drafted. I also represented IFLAS at the annual SIBOS conference of the payment systems industry in Boston in 2014, challenging the financial technology professionals to seek positive social impacts.

By joining IFLAS full-time I will not retreat into a library but remain active with teaching and outreach activities connected to my PhD. For instance, I will continue to curate research networks including the website and ccResearch forum. And just after my move to Lakeland I will co-teach the second iteration of the “Sustainable Leadership” module and co-host the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival. Then in August I will co-deliver our free online course (MOOC) on“Money and Society.”

In November I will give an IFLAS keynote at the national Transition conference in Denmark. In April 2016 I will co-teach the Certificate of Achievement inSustainable Exchange, the first university certified course on community currencies (that we are aware of).

Professor Bendell explains that I will be joining 3 other PhD students who are co-supervised by the IFLAS team. He says “We welcome more applications from engaged scholars, either in Leander's field of complementary currencies, or in the area of leadership development.”
So, if you are interested in joining our growing research community, either based in the Lake District or working remotely, do get in touch, via

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