Interconnected Business: How Organizations Can Improve People and How People Can Improve Organizations: A Report

By Wendi Momen

This is an unconventional article about an unconventional conference and one that you will want to “read” in an unconventional way, giving equal time to text, photographs, and web links. The photographs are colorful and tell a story about the recent ebbf (Ethical Business Building a Future) conference held in Lisbon, Portugal, May 28–31. But read the text along with the photographs to find out how extraordinarily different the recent ebbf conference was, in planning, in execution, and in participation. Then go back through the article and take the time to open every web link to find out more about how the conference came together, what the keynote speakers had to say, how participants (speakers and others) felt about the conference. Like the participant at the end of the article, you may inspired to go to the next learn event in Barcelona, Spain, October 1–4, 2015. Dr. Wendi Momen is faculty for a number of Wilmette Institute courses on relationships and marriage, a founding member of ebbf and chairperson of its Governing Board, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom, the author of twelve books, and a freelance editor.—THE EDITORS  

So, you’ve arrived at work this morning. Was your first thought, “Today, my work place is going to make me a better person!”?” Or perhaps you asserted, “Today, I am going to improve my work place!”

Image1If so, you might well have attended the recent learning event of ebbf—Ethical Business Building the Future (—for an introduction to ebbf, click here: ebbf is a Bahá’í-inspired professional organization celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday this year. Its “Interconnected Business” conference held near Lisbon, Portugal, from May 29–31, 2015, looked both at the influence of organizational culture and structure on the people who work inside a system and give it life and at the influence of people on an organization. Part of ebbf’s “make it meaningful” series, the event brought together people from twenty-two countries on four continents.

Image2ebbf conferences are co-created with everyone who attends. There is no division between speakers and audience. Everything is focused on learning, contributing, and using our values. Take a look at how we did this at an earlier conference:

The Lisbon learn event was preceded by three months of intensive private and online study of the document entitled “Social Action” provided by the Office of Social and Economic Development (on November 26, 2012) and related materials. Participants consulted via google hangouts to share insights, shape thinking, and develop a collective consciousness on refining, improving, and extending our understanding of ebbf’s vision, foundational principles, and values.

Image3The forty-plus people who joined this international consultation process met up in Lisbon before the main conference for a two-day face-to-face consultation on the same theme. I do not know of any other organization that does this!Image4

As well as consult, we created a timeline of ebbf, tracking our participation from the earliest informal consultation in 1987, to the pre-formation “wouldn’t it be nice if . . .” conference in 1990, to the formation of ebbf in 1991, to today: top line = what happened; bottom line = how I felt about it!

The number of post-it notes demonstrates the number of people who have joined ebbf over the quarter century.


We consultedImage6

on the nature of social action, on how we can reach out to a million people in the next ten years, and on our values, the heart of ebbf, which are described here:

Then I opened the conference itself to about a hundred people.Image8

Social media plays a big part of each ebbf learn event. Italian Diana Severati, a Catholic member of ebbf, provided a live blog for every keynote. Tweets filled the screen on one side of the plenary hall, as participants noted thought-provoking ideas:

Paddy Honan ‏@PaddyHonan1 May 29
@ebbf True learning, which includes unlearning, is the vehicle through which true seeking is engaged and expressed in the world. #trueseeker

Kat Eghdamian @KatEghdamian
Rethinking the personal qualities needed in business and, indeed, life—navigating the “self” at #ebbflisbon
6:36 PM – 29 May 2015

I was impressed by the short keynotes, such as the one that kicked off the conference: Vafa Akhavan talking about “Seeking” as an operating principle in business as well as life:

Each keynote was followed by the main feature of all ebbf learn events: meaningful conversations on topics participants chose arising from presentation.

We noted how each conversation made us feel and how it triggered action.Image10

After these table conversations were the learnshops, like this one on evolutionary leadership, by Alain Gauthier:‑leaning‑event

We were able to keep track of our learning and insights right in the conference program.Image11
One practice I took away from the learn event was articulated by Alain Gauthier: “I am trying to lower my centrer of gravity so I am not just my brain but also my heart.”Image12
You can read about the whole program here:

and summaries of all the keynotes are here in the short news section of the ebbf website:

The learn event has not ended just because we have gone home—our post-event events carry on.

I am definitely going to the next learn event in Barcelona, October 1–4, 2015!

ebbf is an open learning community accompanying mindful individuals passionate about contributing to a prosperous, sustainable and just civilization through their daily work.

Registration is now open for ebbf’s twenty-fifth anniversary learn event to be held in Barcelona, Spain, October 1–4, 2015.

Leave a Reply