Mr Cahan began his speech by explaining social entrepreneurship as:
– A career
– Using Ethical Values
– Taking Action
He said that we all have the choice of deciding who we are. The choices include culture, religion, physical characteristics, etc.
He reviewed the historic ways that the economic systems allocate wealth in society: Exchange supported by market rules, redistribution of resources administrated by the Government, and reciprocity or gift exchanges. He said that nowadays 95% of the existing money of the world is not in cash, but consists of loans or other financial instruments created and held by banks and other institutions.
Mr. Cahan then spoke about the credit crisis: He showed that home prices and value of bank stocks were directly related. He gave a partial analysis of the crunch by explaining what he called “The bankers’ version of the prisoner dilemma” that student learn in Economics Class: If one bank sells a package of loans to another one, without telling the second bank of the potential problems with those assets, the first bank has the chance to either receive a profit of $6 or $0, rather than being assured the profit of $4 from fully-disclosed due diligence, the transactional information transparency would require. For the banking system as a whole, having each of two banks (the buyer and seller of the loan portfolio in this example) each earn a $4 profit (totaling $8), is preferable to one bank receiving $6 for selling assets with undisclosed known risks and the buyer of those assets receiving $0 or losing money on holding the assets. This is the cause of financial bubbles. And this emphasizes the need for transparency.
Illustrating the financial losses of the 2008 Credit Crisis, Mr. Cahan cited the figures of the number of US banks that had closed (25 in 2008 and 106 so far in 2009), the US 10% unemployment rate and other statistics. 2008 was both a financial and ethical disaster in the US, including:
– Banks and AIG using US government bailout money for partying, paying bonuses, acquiring competitors, reducing consumer and small business lending, etc,
– Car companies seeking help in DC, while their CEOs jetted into DC on private corporate jets.
– Bernard Madoff’s multi-billion Ponzi scheme that inflicted massive losses and destroyed Jewish families, foundations and organizations.
Referencing the Madoff Affair, Mr. Cahan shared his own struggle as a Jew to make sense of it, and shared his discovery of a wide basis of Jewish business ethical teachings in the Bible. Mr. Cahan urged all religious faiths and indigenous cultures to review their ethical business precepts, and for purposes of specific teachings shared what he had learned as common ethical business roots:
-Man was placed on earth to work and protect it (Genesis): The concept of sustainability is not new.
-Thou shalt not steal.
-Competition must be fair.
He continued with many ethical rules rooted in religious beliefs, and the modern interpretation they must be given. For example, he cited the classical golden calf story, and its common interpretation: Idols, sex and lies. He said that the golden calf was actually a symbol that appeared on ancient coins featuring a cow (the loan principal) and calf (the loan’s interest), suggesting that the Biblical story was more a commandment not to worship “interest” as an idol. He also cited many other ethical commandments rooted in Judaism that express the necessity to respect people in all our actions. Mr. Cahanshared that he finds similar traditions in other faiths, and urges us to review teachings about money, credit, borrower’s rights, treatment of the poor and other social issues.
With all those ethical rules in mind, Mr. Cahan cited numerous TED.com talks for an updated set of ethical norms for meeting the world’s challenges, including “We need to listen to 2 billion voices in the planet living on less than 2 dollars a day.” The Earth, he said, is ours only in trust, we do not own it, and we should respect it.
The role of money: According to Mr. Cahan, money is a social fiction, and it is purposely unmapped. The necessity of mapping money is shown by statistics. Mr. Cahan cited a former World Bank official who contends that 80% of foreign aid given around the world is wasted or untraceable. Too many hands handle aid money, using anarchistic accounting systems, and this makes transparency a difficult goal to achieve.
In USA, after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombings, many emergency response functions were mapped, and the maps evolved greatly as aids to specialist communities dealing with environmental, building safety, infrastructure and other tasks.Mr Cahan contrasted the lack of mapping money flows with the profusion of finely detailed statistics on sports, political issues and others. Mr. Cahan shared his ideas for a Three Layered Map of the world as needs, capacities to fill those needs, and money dedicated to connecting needs and capacities.
He continued showing WorldMapper.org maps tracing trends over the past 2,000 years: The trends showed a gradual loss of wealth from the southern hemisphere to the northern, from Latin America and Africa to Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Far East.“These maps – he said- show us that we spend too much, save too little, borrow, donate, banks don’t help us live but they help us shop, and spending without seeing spending’simpacts is destroying our planet”.
Banks too often they fund wars, pollution, big bonuses, etc. However, Mr. Cahan believes that banks can return to practicing high transparency and ethics. They should help not hurt people, recognize and fix mistakes, and seek ethical goals.
Mr. Cahan is building an ethical/high transparency bank (Wiki: www.Goodbank.info/w).One that helps people, giving them money to seek and reach their ethical goals, using a semantic, global web, and focusing on social capital.
An ethical bank incubates change. In his development of the project, he is surrounded bychange agents, such as Ashoka and IDEO, among others.
Mr. Cahan ended his speech telling the audience: “Many of the problems we have talked about during the last 3 days are not straightforward, and we need to see solutions as a whole. A new form of regional quality of life underwriting for bank credit (sustainable resiliency®) empowers whole-systems thinking and action across a wide community of borrowers, lenders, citizens, businesses, foundations, NGOs and social entrepreneurs. For the Facebook/Twitter generations, bear in mind that your identity can be shown by how much you care about others, and by how often you help, as opposed to what fashion statement or fad you endorse. Always know and be who you really are.”
For more information on his work, Mr. Cahan suggested:
Thanks Bruce for reviewing this post.