Ethical Business Building the Future, Beyond Diversity

by Wendi Momen

On May 4–7, 2017, ebbf (Ethical Business Building the Future) held its 27th International Learning Event called “Understanding and Harnessing Diversity” in Geneva Switzerland. Dr. Wendi Momen, ebbf’s chair and the Wilmette Institute’s correspondent at ebbf’s events (and faculty for a number of Wilmette Institute courses), found time during the wee morning hours after a meeting of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom to write a report about the conference. Here is her report.

For the first time, at its May 4–7, 2017, ebbf (Ethical Business Building the Future) managed to live stream all the keynote talks at its half-yearly international conference held this time in Geneva, Switzerland. Hence I am tempted to make this report a very short one and just give you the link to the ebbf website where these are all located and leave it at that.

But, of course, I won’t. Listening to keynote speakers is only part of the experience of an ebbf conference. ebbf is about people sharing their experiences, ideas, opinions, jokes (I don’t always get these), thoughts, and insights freely and generously. No one at an ebbf conference is a guru. Everyone is a learner.

What you do not get from the recorded talks are the conversations that flow around them. One conversation I was having was about why the conference was called “Beyond Diversity.” Several of the keynoters highlighted different aspects of diversity—gender, ethnicity, religion, age—and how that can give strength to an organization or enterprise. The conversation was about what is “beyond” diversity. More diversity? Valuing the diversity more greatly? Is diversity about the physical characteristics of people? Is it about entertaining differing opinions and possibilities? Is it possible for workers in a company to hold views different from the CEO and board about what service that company should provide or what product it should manufacture? If they hold those views, can they communicate them effectively? Will they be listened to? When we say we are listening to others, can we accept their views as valuable when they do not agree with our own? Hence, what is “beyond” diversity?

Then we realized. What is “beyond” diversity is unity, one of ebbf’s core values. We talked about what unity is. The ebbf website says it is accepting the concept of the oneness of humanity. Our conversation went a bit beyond this, too. We talked about diversity of opinion resolving itself into a common vision —a unity of vision—about where we are going and what sort of business, community, civilization we want to build, work, and live in. We went on to talk about how we can achieve that common vision, then about how, having achieved it, we can make real change or create a new business or improve our community/the world? And is unity enough by itself to effect change? About 3 a.m. those of us at the conference felt that we had only just begun the conversation and went to sleep.

Now, for me, at another meeting, it is only one hour short of 3 a.m. I will draw this personal account of a much richer conference to a close and go to sleep. If you are awake (and I assume you are, as you are reading this), I commend the videos of the keynotes to you. Here they are on Facebook. You can also find descriptions of the twelve keynotes on the ebbf website.

The next ebbf conference will be held in Bucharest, October 12–15, 2017. The topic is “Ethical Business Building the Future, Transitioning towards the Spiritual Enterprise.” Registration is now open.

And do watch out for ebbf podcasts coming your way soon!

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