Report on ebbf Conference: Creating Meaningful and Purposeful Organizations Ready for the 21st Century

by Wendi Momen

Okay, because you may not read this article all the way to the end, I am going to give you a fun bit first. ebbf (Ethical Business Building the Future (www.ebbf.org; introduction to ebbf is at: https://www.facebook.com/ebbf.mindfulpeople.meaningfulwork/videos/vb.20683901800/10151273020601617/?type=2&theater), a Bahá’í-inspired professional organization) celebrated twenty-five years of its existence at its Barcelona conference held October 1–4, 2015. Long-time ebbf member and playwright, business professor, and excellent friend Dorothy Marcic created a great celebratory video of ebbf from the beginning and into the future. Here it is, all 45-minues of it https://vimeo.com/142291557 (you may want to start listening to it for the flavor of ebbf and then finish listening after you read the article; the link appears again at the end of the article).

old and new ebbf faces (2)If you survived watching that, you might think about your work life. Perhaps you did not realize that, when you went to work this morning, you could have made your company a more meaningful and purposeful organization, had you put into practice the concepts of unity and collaboration. This is what was discovered by those who attended ebbf’s most recent learning event, “Unity and Collaboration to Create Meaningful and Purposeful Organizations Ready for the 21st Century” (we love long titles) focused on how these two elements are important stepping stones for prosperity-creating organizations fit to thrive in the twenty-first century.

We learned, for example, that recognizing the unity of the human family and developing our ability to work together are essential not only to business but to a sustainable and prosperous future. Speakers posed questions, which they partially answered, leaving the consultation groups to consider their ideas further and to come up with new ones. For example, Carrie Freeman from Second Muse asked, “What have we learned about co-creating prosperity?” You can read what her company thinks about this here: http://www.slideshare.net/ebbf/ebbf25-secondmuse-what-have-we-learnt-about-co-creating-prosperity.

The facilitated consultation groups then shared their own experiences and arrived at their own understanding of what they had learned about co-creating prosperity. One thing we learned in the group I attended is that, while lots of people talk about collaboration, it is difficult to achieve in a business setting unless there is unity of vision, unity of purpose, and unity of effort—and that this unity comes from inside the individuals who make up the enterprise, not just from the board of directors.

Cristobal Gracia, Spain’s Connector at OuiShare, asked, “Will the collaborative economy create meaningful and purposeful organizations?” He described grassroots initiatives like Airbnb and Uber and examined some of the challenges they pose to more traditional businesses, on the one hand, and how they open up new freedom, on the other. This sparked a lot of discussion in the consultation group I attended, which raised issues around infrastructure, governance, transparency, contributing to the wider community through taxation, justice, choice, and regulation and safety. The discussion led me to go to Crisobal’s learnshop where these points were explored more fully.

Nousha Etemad, a partner at Deloitte Canada, also asked a question: “How can we bring diversity to the heart of leadership?” See her answer at http://www.slideshare.net/ebbf/ebbf25-collaborative-leadership-harnessing-the-value-of-diversity. She also turned this on its head and talked about bringing heart to leadership in diverse settings. I loved it.

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener for me was the on-stage, powerful, heart-to-heart dialogue between Michael Spiegel (Global Head, Trade Finance and Cash Management, Deutsche Bank) and Ralph Blundell (Managing Director at Ralph Blundell Strategy Consulting), who, from positions that were poles apart, collaborated to help turn around a dysfunctional team in a competitive corporate financial multinational. They spoke frankly about the tests and difficulties and pain of their parallel journeys as they tried to apply unity and values and behaviors to create positive change, finding out along the way that unity based on compromise is not, in fact, unity.

faces of ebbfI cannot list all the presentations here, but a full summary of the entire conference will be available at http://ebbf.org/2015/10. Scroll down for photographs and slide shares. You can see some photographs on the ebbf Facebook page and also here: http://yabaha.net/dahl/travel/t2015/Barcelona_ebbf/ebbf_Barcelona.html.

And be sure to look at the amazing talk by Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl on “The Science and Spirituality of Collaboration,” in which he uses the coral reef as an example of collaboration (he illustrates his talk with great photographs, too!). http://www.slideshare.net/ebbf/ebbf25-the-science-and-spirituality-of-collaboration-arthur-dahl.

And the talk of, well, everyone, really.

If you want to know everything, why not come to the next ebbf learning event in Milan, Italy, May 12–15, 2016, where the topic will be “Consultation: Beyond Decision-Making, A Tool for Learning.” http://ebbf.org/event/

Now you can finish watching that video on ebbf : https://vimeo.com/142291557.

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