Values Based Leadership

Why the financial system needs an innovation lab?

Here is a recently blog that I wrote for Nesta .....


It was 15 July 2008 – there was tension in the air, as a conversation started in the Royal Festival Hall, London, UK, between four likeminded people: “The challenges we face today are so complex – there has just got to be another way that tackles the roots of these problems.”

The Living Planet Report had just been published – the trend of 30% extinction of all species on planet earth continued. Little did we know that two months later the Lehman Brothers crisis would help to spark the global financial crisis.  

It was then that four of us, who worked for WWF-UK and ICAEW, embarked on setting up The Finance Innovation Lab, which is now on its way to becoming an independent organisation in order to scale its work. Work that aims to empower positive disruptors in the financial system, connect people who are changing the system, develop them as leaders and help them scale their work.

We set up The Finance Innovation Lab for five very important reasons, which are still hugely relevant to the financial system today, and which guide our work:

1. Dealing with the complexity requires a systems approach to change

For too long, the financial system and its actors have been working as isolated components in a big machine. However, the financial system is an interconnected human system that is formed by dynamics, patterns and relationships. Only when we see the system as whole, and all of its complexity, can we then focus on high potential ‘acupuncture’ points that will accelerate change. In The Finance Innovation Lab we have paid attention to leverage points such as P2P Banking and cultivating new business models in finance.

2. Shifting purpose, values and culture takes time  

Not many people would disagree that the current financial system is self-serving, rather than serving the common good. It has been shaped by values such as competition, individualism and hedonism. For the system to serve the whole, we need to strengthen cultures that are underpinned by values of democracy, responsibility and fairness. Inspiring new values and cultures does not happen overnight. It will take decades. We have built a sustainable infrastructure for the Lab in order to cultivate and accelerate change in values and culture. A key part of our sustainable infrastructure is building deep long-term, collaborative partnerships with people and organisations. This is embedded in our culture and comes through in the way that we work. Over the last six years, in co-operation with many of these partners including business coaches, Shirlaws, Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey, Nesta and the New Economy Organisers Network (NEON), we have successfully run a number of incubators such as UnLtd Futures and Campaign Lab — which is now in its third year.

3. Demonstrating ‘the new’ needs safe space for experimentation

New business models in finance and their entrepreneurs have many forces against them when they start up – they often lack resources, leadership skills, community support or the influence to shape the wider market conditions. Innovation labs are needed in order to create safe spaces to try things out, to grow and to build the fitness needed to survive in a system that does not currently support ‘the new’. Check out The Finance Foundry, an incubator for new alternative business models in finance. It will be launched in the summer of 2015.

4. Changing power dynamics requires collaborative communities

The UK finance sector is the biggest UK lobbyist in the EU. This is a powerful force that is holding the existing system in place. It is preventing more radical and deep rooted change to emerge. We need a new enabling power that serves society and environment. And this takes the convening, alignment, strategy and the infrastructure of an innovation lab in order to build trusting and collaborative communities who are able to enable a new form of democratic power. To this end, The Lab is convener of the Transforming Finance Network, a network of civil society organisations dedicated to changing the financial system. In January a coalition of civil society groups, led by The Lab, set out five fundamental recommendations for transforming finance.

5. Inspiring new narratives through collective intelligence and insight

There’s lots of noise in attempts to change the financial system – but no vision of the future. Common narratives are much more powerful than hundreds of competing voices and are more likely to inspire and influence a new landscape. An innovation lab helps to cultivate collective insights and intelligence through action learning processes. Through our incubator programme, Campaign Lab, we work with social, environmental and economic justice campaigners to help them understand the systemic political and economic root causes that they need to tackle so that they can create meaningful change. Taking the narrative of change to the door of policy makers is a core element of The Lab’s work. A recent submission, to the Competition and Markets Authority in conjunction 20 civil society and alternative finance organisations called on the government to pay particular attention to fostering greater diversity of business models within the financial system.   

These five objectives underpin all our work to create a financial system that is democratic, responsible and fair. This is a critical time when more radical and disruptive social change is urgently needed and consequently investment in ‘systems change infrastructure’ is essential. The recent funding award to The Finance Innovation Lab, from Friends Provident Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) of a combined total of over £250,000 was given specifically for the purpose of establishing systems change infrastructure.  

The funding will provide the financial flexibility that The Lab needs as it transitions to independence, to invest in the core costs needed to support our work in building collaboration in civil society, to grow communities, capacity and solutions for transformational change. For people and for planet.

To find out more about the Finance Innovation Lab see: This blog is part of our March edition of Lab Notes - a monthly digest for public sector innovators.

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Photo Credit: tolkien1914 via Compfight cc

Learning From Student Movement in South Africa

Capetown, South Africa
March 9th 2015

With the work of The Finance Lab, I’ve been in South Africa for the past 6 days, with 8 fantastic people, exploring how to best set up a social innovation programme around the future of finance. The timing feels right for something like this. As we are looking forward with clarity to what is possible, it feels important to look back and understand what came before. South Africa, through apartheid, has experienced some rich wisdom around the principles of social change – how can we learn from this and fold it into our own strategies going forward?

So whilst in South Africa, I set out to learn more and picked up a book The New Radicals – A Generational Memoir of the 1970’s by Glenn Moss. It was a recount of the university students' and black trade unions' opposition to apartheid and how a generation of activists helped to transform society. It shares insights on strategy, leadership and tactics. It was fascinating on many fronts – politically, ideologically and organisationally.

The story shared in this book has helped me to see that there are some common emerging principles with how one successfully catalyses deep social change at scale. I have captured points and principles from the book as they jumped out at me and have noted them below. These principles have given me new insights and questions to ponder for my own work.

Challenging the fundamental underpinnings of a system and understanding complexity
• Want deep change? Change the game – not just the rules.
• Understand ideologies of systems.
• Understand the interconnections of the system – it is messy!

‘The challenge to liberal orthodoxy went beyond the questioning of multi-racism as an immutable principle. Liberal ideology embraced free enterprise, unfettered market forces and economic growth and asserted that these features of capitalism would inevitably erode apartheid and racially based inequality. Armed with the conceptual framework of Marxism, the new left questioned this, identifying the broadly functional relationship between existing capitalism and the apartheid state, especially in respect of labour recruitment, control and allocation’. (37)

‘The unfettering of free market capitalist relations might involve superficial changes to the policy and administration of apartheid but would not challenge the core elements of that system. This included migrant labour, low wages, a rural urban divide based on maintenance of a reserve army of labour at lowest possible cost and the use of rural subsistence production to maintain artificially low wages’. (38)

‘This involved more than the rejection of the political system of apartheid. The inherent radicalism of this approach lead to a critique of an economic system based on labour repression, low wages and extreme exploitation as well as the ideological and cultural forms that expressed and reinforced political and economic power’.

‘Many past National Union of South African Students (Nusas) campaigns had serious flaws. While protest action had ‘shown up evils’ it had failed ‘to make explicit the system underlying those evils’. (96)

The importance of utopian and visionary thinking
• Believe it and conceive it.
• Be specific about the vision.
• Lead with positive alternatives, not just a critique of the old.

Rick Turner, who taught political philosophy at the University of Natal from the 1970s said, ‘The first step to changing reality is to conceive how it could be different.’ (101)

‘Rick guided a generation of student activists to become critical and strategic thinkers, helping them to understand that there were systems of participatory democracy which provided real alternatives to formal and representative democracy. Turner emphasised the centrality of utopian thinking, by means of which the ability to imagine a world based on different social relations became a precondition for transformative politics. He insisted that individuals could make ethical choices, even in authoritarian environments. This inspired a generation to seek new identities, values and ways of acting, based on the rejection of both apartheid and capitalistic socio-economic relations’. (35)

‘Politically, Nusas leaders had realised that strategies of opposition had to be based on more than a broad rejection of apartheid. They nature of society being fought for influenced the type of activities students should initiate, and this posed questions about long and short term goals and the relationship between political means and ends. It was not just about what was undertaken that was important. The way in which the activity was undertaken could not be separated from the longer term goals and campaign or project.’ (92)

‘At the same time, Charles argued that students needed to start defining the sort of society they were fighting for, moving away from vague consensus formulations such as ‘equal, democratic and just’. Asking whether socialism or capitalism best captured long term goals of radicals, Charles called for a more specific conception of the type of society we want’. With a definite goal we can assess the relevance of our activity and critically examine its direction.’ (104)

‘In addition to short term campaign demands would need to be blended with a longer term vision including the ideas of the sort of society being fought for rather than just what was being opposed. Student campaigns usually involved a ‘short period of concentrated activity’. The impact of this would be enhanced if it was preceded by a far longer build-up in which the ground work for the campaign was laid, information disseminated and the context created in which campaign messages and impact could be more readily absorbed.’ (94)

Clarity on Context and Framing
• What is the desired higher context of change?
• Framing is critical for the outcomes desired.
• How many of our change effort framing e.g. Social Responsible Investment might be reinforcing existing paradigms?

‘Liberals failed to distinguish between multi-racialism and non-racialism. Multi-racialism, involved a non-negotiable principle about what constituted desirable forms of organisation and racial representation, and identified challenges to racial segregation as the bedrock of opposition politics. Non-racialism challenged the primacy of race as the basis of identity, economic interests and social explanation. It opened the door to other ways of analysing society which used the prisms of class, gender, structural inequality, access to resources and economic location to understand the fault lines in South Africa. A non-racial interpretation generated strategies to challenge relations in all those areas, rather than just in the domains of racial inequality and prejudice. Non racialism also had a view of the future which race would cease to be a central element in self-definition and identity. Multi-racism, on the other hand, aimed for a society where people from different racially defined groups would relate on a more equal basis’. (37)

Part of the Black Consciousness challenge to liberalism was founded on a long term vision of non-racialism and the rejection for multi-racism and racial categorisation. “We see a completely non-racial society” wrote Steven Biko. We don’t believe in …. guarantees for minority rights, because that …. implies the recognition of portions of the community on a race basis.” (37)

Building a Good Strategy Is Essential for Success
• The importance of critical thinking and robust analysis of challenge.
• Definitely learn from others’ strategies but have the clarity to build your own based on your needs.
• The importance of an action learning approach.

‘Opening address by Neville Curtis, the President of Nusas 1969 which was based on Amilcar Cabral’s dictum “We are confronted and unprepared”. Our morale is low our image is bad and or impact and effectiveness is limited. To change this we must reach agreement on basic goals, values and priorities…. We must work and plan effectively. But in doing so we must deal with more than just Nusas. We must deal with things political, and things philosophical. We must test, evaluate, criticise, formulate, accept and reject. This was the only process through which students could establish conditions to realise their full potential and provide a vehicle through which they can assert their responsibility to society’. (14)

‘A more radical politics on the university campus continued to develop within this contested environment. Youthful activists began to find their own paths and strategies independently of what had gone before and their rejection of multi-racial as a principle and liberalise as a goal initially left them politically adrift in unchartered waters.’ (33)

‘This had both its dangers and advantages. On the one hand, there was little guidance from a credible older political generation thus limiting the younger generational capacity to build on any collective institutional knowledge passed down through the prism of experience. The successes and failures of earlier political strategies and programmes, the decision to launch various forms of armed and violent struggles and their consequences, disputes between Africanists and non-racialists, nationalists and communists -none of this history was available to the new generation of 1970s political activists’. (33)

‘On the other hand, the absences of established political leadership opened up the space for the development of new and uniquely ‘internal’ initiatives and approaches larger independent of the organisations that had dominated politics of the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s.’ (33)

‘Emerging radicals in Nusas and at University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in particular were developing a notion of ‘praxis’ loosely based on Lukaes’s use of the term. This involved a dynamic or interactive (dialectical, in the language of the day) process of combining analysis, strategy and action, with each element continually influencing and structuring the others’. (47)

‘Power in South Africa was based on a minority rule and protection of the interests of a small, racially exclusive elite. Campaigning on a moral basis for change in these circumstances was bound to fail’. (93)

‘The search for appropriate political strategies and actions took place through interaction with other histories and traditions including black Consciousness liberalism, nationalism, socialism and communism. However the outcome was a development of our own strategies and initiatives’. (255)

Building Leadership Capacity
• Helping people understand context and system dynamics.
• Practice is essential for leadership to evolve.
• Provocations and support from elders are important.

‘Nusas paid particular attention to leadership training and political education within its own constituency. The bi annual seminars and the annual national conference were important vehicles for these ongoing initiatives. In the early 1970s they often included contributions from political and intellectual activists such as Rick Turner, Keith Gottschalk, Mewa Ramgobin and David Hemson who joined student leaders in presenting position papers on the wide range of issues facing a student movement fundamentally opposed to the society in which had formed it.’ (95)

‘Campaigns provided an important instrument for developing leadership and organisational capacity, educating and politicising students as well as a broader public, and revealing some of the realities underpinning a brutal and repressive society’. (96)

‘Movements flourish most when they are controlled by those who participate in them rather than those who impart ideas to them. But this is not to say that ideas and those to communicate to them are irrelevant. They often have important impact, creating possibilities whist foreclosing others’. (264)

Shine a light on what’s not working
• Show the contradictions.
• Show the nodes of power.
• Show where one is located in the system.

‘We need to turn our critical gaze onto white society and show clearly how its social institutions maintain and perpetuate inequality’. (99)

‘The sooner students realise that in South Africa they are neither operating within a democracy nor a legal system based on justice, the sooner we will be able to change that system’. (134)

‘However we would focus on the wages and working and living conditions of the mines and specifically target Anglo American because of the substantial gap between its quasi-liberal anti-apartheid appearance and the harsh reality of the compounds, migrant labour, poverty level wages and the absence of trade union rights’. (85)

‘The 1973 conflict at the Western Deep Levels mine embodied one of those moments which, in Dan O’Meara’s words ‘crystallise the contradictions and conflicts of an entire stage of development and the reactions to it point the way to the future development of a particular social formation’. (87)

‘A successful Nusas campaign had to be based on subject matter that was relevant to the political climate. It needed to provoke what the seminar termed ‘functional conflict’, which might help to change the attitudes, allegiances, generate critical thought and weaken the ideological ties holding groups and individuals to established positions.’ (94).

Who helps to influence change?
• People who have a stake in the future of the system e.g. students and youth.
• Tempered radicals from within the system.
• Beware of well intending institutions who blindly reinforce the status quo through their hierarchical cultures and structures e.g. Universities, big NGOS.

‘Ian Thompson, the philosophy lecturer who had joined the march, still had his note from his lecture on Socrates delivered earlier that day.’(27)

‘David Thebehali was representative of a relatively credible group of individuals who had chosen to work within the systems structures, using them as a platform to attack aspects of apartheid.’ (54)

‘Surely the very institutions of student government were part of the problem and inhibited the ‘changes in individual consciousness that the then influential Charles Reich believed would result in a revolution. Student government was intrinsically authoritarian, hierarchical and part ‘of the system’ or so it seemed’. (76)

‘Despite a rhetorical commitment to academic freedom and critical inquiry the content of the courses taught did little to challenge society based on racism, oppression and inequality. Universities prepared students to take their places as members of an elite which perpetuated a deeply unequal status quo and unquestioningly accepted its position in this hierarchy. Initiatives to counter this with only a few notable exceptions developed outside the academic education offered through university courses’. (95)

Making new meaning and finding higher level identities
• What are the higher level identities we need to define as humans? e.g. beyond gender, race, ideology and class
• Finding paths for new identities- especially for those who are from controlling power e.g. young philanthropists.
• How do we not to be co-opted into reinforcing the same ideology?

‘Was race the only, or even the most important, identity? Where did other important social identities, such as class, gender and ethnicity fit into the spectrum and how did progressive radicals link their strategies and activities to the interests associated with those identities? What about intellectuals as a social group? How did they link the resources they could mobilise to different interests in society?’ (99)

‘….they warned that essential institutions of colonialism might be ‘retained in the post-colonial era by a corrupt black bourgeoisie’. There is a danger that the stress on blackness obscures and mystifies the problem. Putting it crudely you have not understood the problem until you recognise the fact that exploitation can just as well have a black face as a white face’. (100)

‘Liberalism as a long term goal and as a basis for strategic action presented the danger of modernising the structures of inequality and oppression seeking to eliminate ‘only the harshest edges of oppression and exploitation’ while preserving the ‘hard core of inequality’. (103)

‘Radical humanism involved efforts to craft a new identity and new ways of being based on a rejection of existing political, economic and social practices. These initiatives were sometimes linked to radical and liberation theology as well as the idea of ‘white consciousness’ which was presented as on response to the challenges posed by Black Consciousness’. (46)

‘If apartheid and capitalism fed off and strengthened each other, this implied that structural change would need to tackle not only society’s racial hierarchy but its social and economic pecking order. This was attractive to racial white students whose interest in moving beyond liberalism was fueled by the rise of the Black Consciousness movement led by Steve Biko. Which challenged them to see the collective action of the black minority, not the polite entreaties of the white liberals as the only viable threat to apartheid…? And so it helped to provide a context in which white radicals could make sense of their belief that the suburban homes in which they were raised were as much as part of the problem as the Afrikaner nationalism which was blamed for it’. (38)

‘The Black Consciousness movement does not accept uncritically white culture as a model to aspire to, argued Eddie. This was a view shared by white student radicals who were on their own journey of rejecting the values of the society which had spawned them. Radicals were working to distance themselves not only from the political structures of apartheid and institutional racism but also from the economic, social and cultural and normative institutions and structures of South African’s ruling class’. (98)

‘This was not to be an exercise in moralism, involving a ‘confession’ on a road to ‘redemption’. The difficulty here lies in developing a balanced response to the ‘discoveries’ as it is all too easy to develop exaggerated feelings of collective guilt’. (99)

What Energy Am I?


What energy am I attracted to?

I learned the other day that 98% of my energy is not my own but absorbed by me from others’ energy – so this being true, what makes me attracted to other people’s energy?  Am I magnetized by the type of energy that I want to see in myself?  Does it reflect of what is important to me?

I think it does and this makes me curious. So I did a little experiment this weekend at West Lexham’s summer convergence.   I pretended I was a little metal pin in a magnetic field.   Who & what was I attracted to?


I must say that I wasn’t expecting to be moved by a guy who built solar heating contraptions – but man, was this guy amazing!     What I found most attractive was his love of his subject and his desire to share his love and enthusiasm with us.  That’s it – plain and simple.  No sales job and no ego.   He had read Victorian machine books as a young boy and built his first contraption at the age of 14- he is now 60+.    He took initiative to teach himself.  He is curious about how things work.  He has been practicing and experimenting all of his life.  He is an inventor, a vicar, an accountant – and in my mind a teacher.  Creating new things that are practical.  Reframing (literally!) how people perceive things and their use – with simplicity and care.     Curious, Passionate, Practical, Sharing.


Although I have known Niamh for years, I was attracted to her ‘relaxed and responsible’ energy this weekend.   She, with grace, floated in and around the grounds of West Lexham with Basil intuiting what needed to be done & lending a hand and a big smile: gathering wood, guiding guests to their sessions, providing lifts for guests, offering support for some of the speakers and beautifully telling her own story of Tasting the Future.  She did this with respect of others and herself – as this was the work that was needed to be done for the day.    Self- responsible, Doing, Intuitive.


Although I have just recently met Lucy through West Lexham,  I was attracted to her ‘versatile energy’.  Being able to stretch from welcoming guests and framing the weekend with poise and clarity to making pizza bases with her guests.    She had intention for hosting the weekend but stayed open to others and the emergence of what was building over the weekend.   Intentional, Versatile and Open.


At first I noticed myself questioning his intense energy, but then in practice with him I shifted my connection.  Stuart has been practicing Aikido for quite some time and he shared some of his stuff with us on Sunday.   To watch him in action was absolutely beautiful – rolling down the hill in connection with the earth or making swift cuts with his sword.   His mastery was attractive:  somebody so interested and passionate about something they practice, practice and practice until they become a master.  Discipline, Practice, Mastery.


Ok so I love dogs – but I realised why this weekend.  I found myself being attracted to Basil’s energy of unconditional love & deeper knowing.   The way that he looked into my & held my eyes with his big brown eyes – the eye contact was powerful.  The way that, in his presence, people let go of their edge and just became all melty and lovy.


This dude rocked (and rolled)!   A teacher and lover of music and anything sonic Jamie brought us down to the water’s edge to make music with leaves, coins, metal boxes – anything we chose- because we all had talent to play as a maestro.  He believes that anyone can be great at anything – if they just believe they can do it and let go of ‘labels’ people have given them.   And even better, if they stay in a moment of being their own element – even if it sounds bad from a conventional sense-  then practice at that edge like crazy – we could break the sound barrier on human creativity the world over.   I was attracted to his energy.  Challenging convention, believing in people and metaphysical meaning.


This guy- and his friends- were really interesting to me.   They were experimenting with a new form of performing arts. Some people found it rather controversial on the day- including myself- however I was energized by these guys and their interest in experimenting with us and testing things out.    They were eager to learn about what I/We thought and to improve their gig.  They were out to help people to test their assumptions.   Experimental, open, creative, improving.

So some of the questions/reflections this leaves me with:

I am attracted to energy that is:

Experimental, open, creative, improving.

Challenging convention, believing in people and metaphysical meaning.

Unconditional love & deeper knowing.

Discipline, Practice, Mastery.

Intentional, Versatile and Open.

Curious, Passionate, Practical, Sharing.

Self- responsible, Doing, Intuitive.

I want to continue to explore further:

  • What is my mastery?
  • What are my passions?
  • What do I want to share with the world?
    How can I get more practical?  Especially with junk!
  • I love music and how it moves me. Want to make more space for this – how?
  • Connection to nature and my source. Want to make more space for this – how?
  • What do I need to practice?

Leading Through Love

The New Logic of Love

January 2012

Fact. We need to create a new logic for the systems that support humanity.   Our current logic frame is rooted in 100’s of years of believing that we are separate from nature, separate from each other and even separate to our true selves.    Our old worldview is becoming obsolete very, very fast.  It no longer serves our happiness or future prosperity.

Intelligence of the Heart

If our old logic, and how we formulate our logic, is broken how do we create this new logic, the new story for what it means to be human?    Well, our rational brains are limited and constrained by 100s of years of embedded social structures and mindsets.   Despair, suffering and fear has been built into our worldview.  One could even say that we now living in a Dark Age and are still living in the shadows and repercussions of the two world wars of the 20th Century. We now need to turn to the intelligence of the heart.

The head no longer has the capacity to engage with the complexity, the depth and the interrelatedness of the solutions that are needed in the shift to a worldview that supports life.  It is the heart that is likely to be the greatest expansive medium for change.  Love is limitless, love is empowering, love is possibility.  And it is through engaging the heart (and of course not forgetting the head) that we will create this new logic.  However the question then becomes, “how do we create this new logic whilst the systems, such as the money system, upon which we depend are the last to adapt?”

 Old and New Worldview – An Integrated Approach to Systems Change

I do believe that Thomas Kuhn has a point when he reflects on the great paradigm shifts of science and says, change happens when “you keep pointing a the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm as you keep speaking louder and with assurance from the new one”.  However, if we believe that all of life is interconnected, as modern quantum physics would suggest, then we should not isolate the old systems at the expense of the new systems.  We can’t idolize the ‘new’ whilst demonizing the ‘old’ as this in itself is a manifestation of ‘separateness’.  Instead, we must call on ourselves to find ways to realise the old system is a breakdown of order, which in itself is a type of ‘suffering’.  So, in comes Love.   In comes compassion.  In comes a realisation of interconnectedness and relationship.

Evidencing a New Logic

So with Love at our core, we must find ways to reveal a new logic and a new story for humanity.  And this includes providing spaces for the knitting together of people, practices and ideas for transformational change to take place.  From here, in order to connect the old and the new worldviews, it will be essential to ‘evidence’ this new logic and to also ‘demonstrate rationally’ that it is possible. In my own world, there are things I think are impossible.  It is not until other people show me it its reasonable that I shift my behaviour. With this, inserting people with the new paradigm in places of visibility and power is important.

Telling the Audacious Story

In calling in the ‘new’, we need to be able to tell this new story so that people, who are ready to be awakened and to take action, have a story to fall into.  This includes working with active change agents and with the vast middle group of people who are open-minded.   And it is the power of story that allows the possibility of the impossible.   We need to look for openings of possibility, rather than dwell on the fear of the unknown.   And what is possible depends wholly on the audacity of our goals and vision.  As we have seen from history, people such as Martin Luther King, whose birthday we celebrate this month, are people who are holders of ‘story’.

But…. Even our Visions are Limiting

However, even as we set visions, these are limiting to our fullest potential.  Our visions are based on what has happened in the past and present and what we think is possible.   Just as the cave man would not have been able to talk about his vision of a fridge freezer, our current visions still limit our fullest potential.  To go beyond our limits, we must be ready to sense into higher potential of what wider universal vision is ready to be born.

What role can I/We play?

So I see incredible opportunity for myself, others and initiatives such as the Finance Innovation Lab to lead the way in creating the new story.   I believe that we can up our game in doing so – here are a few ideas posed in the form of inquiry:

  • How can we magnify the breakdown of the old system?
  • What is our audacious vision and story of the new system?
  • How can we put a spot light on the shining new examples and case studies of people and organisations that are showing the way of the new story that other people can fall into?
  • How can we provide spaces of Love for people to be supported and be able to express their deepest values, concerns, fears and pain derived from the old system?
  • Who are the active change agents and the active middle ground people who are ready – how do we identify them?
  • Who are the people with the new paradigm story?  Where are the places of power and influence we can place them to tell this new story?
  • How can we best evidence that a ‘new way’ is possible?
  • How do we sense into the wider universal vision of what is ready to emerge?
  • How can I as a leader play a role in stitching together people, ideas and initiatives?
  • What can I do to open spaces for others to realise their gifts?
  • How can I hone my skills as a storyteller and what new story am I daring to tell and live?

The Power of Story

Stories are the threads that connect humanity – past, present and future.   They give us a sense of identity, purpose and meaning.   They are the magnets that shape the future.  They are means to appreciate and release past cultural patterns.

Stories play a very important role in social change for three specific reasons:

  • They are a form of deep connection.
  • They are a means to generate creativity.
  • They are a powerful influencer.

As leaders for change, it is our responsibility to improve our storytelling mastery – as connection, creativity and influence are key to catalysing movement.

Here are several ways to cultivate good stories:

1)    Creating the conditions for sacred space.  Sacred space gives people the permission and safety to tell their story.  Form a circle.  Invite a talking piece.  Respect confidentiality.

2)    Cultivate the conditions for good listening.   Listening is half of the story of the story.   Notice, what are your barriers to listening- Physical, judgemental, emotional?

3)    There are multiple stories – there is no one right story.  So appreciate everyone’s special story and the intention and meaning behind it.

4)    What is the intention for your story -Connection, influence, entertainment, inspiration?  A good story has a beginning, middle and end.  Simple! What is your storyboard of 4 nuggets?

5)    Tell your story vividly – as if looking through a video camera.  What happened from a sensory point of view – sounds, smells, dialogue, weather, colours?

6)    Don’t interpret feelings for your listeners- let them do that themselves as we all have different perspectives.  Show, don’t tell.

7)    Timing, pace, movement – good stories have turning points, juxtapositions, twists.

8)    Practice, Practice, Practice!

Links to some great storytelling coaches:  Jane Nash and Dan Milne  Geoff Mead  Mary-Alice Authur

Improvising and Going With The Flow

I joined the beginners improvisation class at City Academy with Jake Lyons because I wanted to learn to be on my edge – the edge of being in the moment.   Just being- right here, right now.  Not thinking of the past or of the future – just being.   Not caring what others think of me (really?)- just being.   Being with my intuition, my expression, my creativity and Doing what feels right, what is wanting to come through and what is real.


I am curious about improvisation (or – just living in the moment) as it seems that it is one of the purest states of Being.   I’m interested in these authentic places – not just for my own personal development, but also as a social change agent.  What would happen if we all lived our lives a bit more in the moment and improvised as we went along?   What if we didn’t care so much about our past patterns or future plans and expectations? All which often mask the truest potential of our deep creativity, connection and consciousness.   And, if we could unlock this potential of basic goodness – what could we achieve as individuals – and even greater-as a society??

I am intrigued.    So here is what I learned in my 8 weeks giving it a go at just being in the moment.  I’m going to continue to practice these – as they seem to give some little hints on how to live a life of creativity, consciousness and connection.   Just be, right here, right now.

1)    Relax!

2)    Don’t rush to speak first – sense into others– often they have a better idea than you do.

3)    Identify context straight away- who, what, where.

4)    People are attracted to stories of possibility- just say ‘yes’ to what is offered to you and take it from there.

5)    Be aware of your rhythm and adjust to the context.

6)    Exaggerate your emotions.

7)    Engage with glee!

8)    Let your body sense into what needs to happen and let it lead your expression.

9)    Face the audience & engage with intention.

10)  Just go with the flow and be open to what is wanting to be created!

Jean Houston's Word of Wisdom on Being A Sage

I love this piece by Jean Houston on "Sagedom"


By Jean Houston Page (Official)

I've just returned from speaking at the Age Nation Conference where I was honored with an award for my work in the field of what I can only call "saging" or Second Maturity (the years beyond 60)
Among my remarks I spoke of the importance of how recent mythic explorations in movies honor the sage..Look at the Dumbledore in the Harry Potter or Gandolf in Lord of the Rings.Their story is one of being Magus, of holding a different and deeper relationship to reality, and working to make a much better world. This requires of you a facility to self orchestrate consciousness along the continuum of states of consciousness to a place wherein one can change the state of one’s own being and from there the events of the world. One of the main ways this is done is through deeper states of consciousness- wherein one is no longer bound to the usual laws of form, and therefore has access to a much more fluid and malleable universe. As one gains access to these then even one’s more ordinary states of consciousness- those that have to do with reason and intuition become more integrated. The Magus learns to activate his physical and emotional energy so as to generate a field in which intention can more readily move towards manifestation. Making magic is a dynamic process by which you co-create reality with Spirit. And ultimately, all real magic is a manifestation of the Divine. This implies the sense of the Divine filling the world everywhere and in everything--thus all things including oneself is filled with this sacred energy. The practice here is to make oneself a conduit through which the sacred energy can flow. One receives and fills oneself with it, lets the energy do its magic on oneself and then directs this energy to a particular intention.
The lSage as Magus lives in a state in which he or she knows that everything is possible--it is not a question of belief--it is absolute knowing. Thus he or she lives in a different universe with much more pliable laws than most people agree to. longer periods of time.I think that it is fair to say that many of us now feel less ambiguity around the fact that we live in a magical universe. What the Sage is able to utilize and stay in touch with is the new metaphors drawn from science and the spiritual technologies of other cultures.Thus you as Sage allow for your relationship to the larger to invite the wonderful as probable--the magus oriented reality.Depth psychology, and sacred psychology as well as cross cultural studies on the nature of the psyche as I note in my studies suggest that we all possess access to an inner realm, one that contains the energies of archetypal stories and myths, the tales of inspirational folk from history, as well as the great creative patterns that guide and instruct us. Within these realms there may well be advanced and enhanced forms for society, healing, invention, creativity in arts and sciences, secrets to the way things work. Seedbeds planted with all manner of possibilities can be contacted their, farmed and grown. nature of its unfolding.

After all, it is all about energy, and it is there to be orchestrated, shaped, loved, felt--more - to evolve it into being. That is magic, and the task of the Sage as Magus is to prepare his or her mind, body, heart, and above all, feeling so as to transcend the obstructions of millennia of conscious noughting, and enter literally a new way of being that lead to a new for of reality. The elder as Magus teaches his or her students that they are walking magnets, always attracting what it is we are sending out on the frequency vibrations. Thought patterns are magnets, but when amplified by emotional power, are powerful magnets. The philosopher and practitioner of magic will tell you that the world of life is to a great extent created and maintained through the expression of emotional energy. And that is why the control and orchestration of emotional energy is the secret of all magic in all times and places. It is spiritual energy joined to emotional energy which together creates an extraordinary quality of sheer feeling that has the power to bring about changes and manifestation in all manner of things. It calls realities into being--be they for healing or abundance or social change or friendship or the success of any endeavor. Thus the Sage as Magus teaches ways to help override the collective negative vibrations that are coming to us all the time from a world in stress and fear and torment.

Another one of the greatest capacities of second maturity is the capacity for spiritual development. Having known the breadth of existence, we now have the capacity for knowing the subtleties of the depths as well in ways that few could have known them before. No longer needing to compete, to be acceptable, likeable, and all those other things considered respectable in society, people are finally being uncaged in their elder years, free to release energies and capacities that the culture restrained in them when they were younger. With this new freedom they gain also both the time and the abilities to join the ecology of their external existential existence to that of their internal essential existence. Thus can we become in later years living exemplars of the fact that Reality is a continuum in which subjective experience is as real and important as objective experience, and that our depths open up to a larger universe and a richer knowing, one in which a more complete "use-full-ness" is to be attained. The spiritual growth that follows is therefore grounded in one's biological and everyday existence. For the elder, daily life can become a spiritual exercise, whereas for the younger, too often the pursuit of spiritual realities is divorced from common experience.

Why Mindfullness Is So Relevant to Social Change

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...
... Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it
(Rudyard Kipling -- "If")

The above lines -- taken from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" -- serve to remind us that we have gained the Earth, our sense of self, if we are able to "keep it together." This loose phrase of "keeping our head" can be interpreted in various ways. To me it suggests that in these times we need to be more mindful of our actions to stay grounded and balanced -- by reliving and connecting with our integrity.

As things around us continue to go awry, plans derailed, and uncertainties magnified; we will be open to increased potentials of frustration. Our comfort zones are also likely to be tested, and we may feel the rise of emotions within us that are waiting to lash out. After all, change is coming at us paradoxically both too fast and too slow. The world around us appears to be shifting fast, yet the real change we wish to see in our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, is for many of us coming too slow. We perhaps have the sensation of being stuck in some dimensional riptide. It can be like the sensation of running in a dream -- our mind is running, or telling us to run, whilst our legs are moving in slow motion. The sensation of change, and of passing time, is rapid, yet the physical activity of change is reduced to cloud-walking. One of the immediate responses to this is frustration -- a sense of being disempowered in a world where everything is seemingly breaking down.

Another feature of our full, information-rich lives is the possibility for "burnout" -- that is, receiving too much information too quickly, trying to process it at an unnatural pace. It is important that we each find a rhythm that is right for us. Recently I heard of a restaurant in the Netherlands that was offering "Dining in the Dark" -- that is, eating your food in pitch black darkness. A person had tried this experience and had written their response -- they said it was a revelatory experience. All the senses were alive -- the food tasted better than they could imagine. There was no distraction from the actual experience of eating. And this is the important point -- no distraction from the self.

We live in a world immersed in sensory and information pollution, and our mainstream media distracts us by design. Entertainment is entrainment, i.e., something that pulls you into its resonance. So amidst busy and rushed lives it is important that we hold everything together. We need to stay focused and ground our energies. Staying grounded is also, for me, about valuing and respecting the self. It is crucial that we do not allow ourselves to become disheartened. Listening or watching the latest mainstream news does not appear to provide us with much hope for the world. More importantly, however, it does not stimulate us into aiming for self-betterment and well-being.

So we need to take a step back and to observe our lives, and to be at ease with who we are and what we are doing right now. A little gentle reflection should not be about beating ourselves up about perceived faults or lapses. It is about acknowledging where we could make some improvements that might add to where we wish to be with ourselves. And it is about taking back our empowerment from external forces that depress and devitalize us. Many external impacts in the world serve to drain us, distract us, depress and disempower us. We have to break away from this and focus on that which uplifts us.

We can, and should, be representative of our ideals. Further, we should aim at normalizing our new ways of thinking and being. This means not being afraid of what "consensus society" may say about our perceptions and perspectives. We are living through an era where we are called upon to be responsible for bringing these new models of thought, behavior, and perception to the world. Let us begin by acknowledging our integrity and stay true to our honor and focused balance. It is important to speak our own understanding -- not only to share where we are each at, but also to validate and give strength to our sense of self. The world we exist in often seems like a topsy-turvy, upside-down reality. When we can observe this more objectively we will see that our established systems of ideas are no longer sustainable or for the betterment of humanity. We thus need to acknowledge this, yet without fear or anger. Then when we have processed these truths we can be in a position to talk about them more freely. We can live our new perceptions and perspectives with inner freedom and integrity. We can hold it all together in ourselves -- after all, we have within us all the tools we need...

For more by Kingsley Dennis, Ph.D., click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

Embodying My Full Expression


Embodying my Full Expression

Yoga and leadership – is there a connection?   Yes! - I believe there is and here’s why.

In my leadership role at the Finance Innovation Lab, I know that today’s pioneering leadership requires us to be present, intentional, courageous and expressive.  Importantly, it also requires us to be the change we want to see in the world and to fully respect and appreciate ourselves.

Having just come back from an immersive yoga retreat, led by the fantastic and profound dynamic duo couple- Ari and Elina of Lumi Power Yoga, I’ve discovered that yoga is a practice that reflects the leadership that is needed in the world- now.    After one week’s transformative experience, I intend for yoga to be a practice for life.

Here is what I discovered ….. 

Being Self-Respect

Yoga requires you to be self-respecting – in your poses and through your body.    Each one of us is different with unique skills, talents, personalities and abilities.  We are perfect the way we are. Our bodies are a miracle.  However we often think that we are not enough – not as good as everyone else, not as intelligent, not as young, not as beautiful.  My shadow-side is rooted in deeper patterns of ‘I’m not worthy’ – a pattern that goes way back to my early childhood and has lingered.  It has different kinds of manifestation including –not fully being visible with my life’s intention, my passions, my needs and my dreams.  It also comes through in not feeling confident in fully engaging in larger group conversations as well as often judging others for their ideas or behaviours as an aversion to not being visible with ‘me’.    All of this is blocking my highest potential and taking up ‘space’.   As Otto Scharmer the leadership guru says,  ‘Each of us can let go of the obstacle that impedes our development and release the possibilities that lie latent within each of us’.  This is such an important part of the wider cultural change process –in order to serve others, we must respect ourselves and take full responsibility for our shadows. 

Being Present

How we react in the world often stems from our memories, assumptions and habits of the past.  We also react to what might play itself out in the future.   Our brain is on overdrive and we are reacting to a past and a future that has yet to happen.  What is real is now – the present.    Being in the present allows us to shed all of the stories that cause us to be distracted, asleep, judgemental, reactive, fearful and limited.  In being present, we create more space to engage with all of the possibilities and opportunities of the moment.   When we get out of our heads, we are more awake and alive and have greater clarity of reality and who we really are.   Working through our intense daily 4 hour Yoga practice – I had no choice but to be in present moment.  The poses were challenging.   My body was being pushed to its boundaries.  Focus was essential.   After a week of practicing being present I now know what it really feels like to be centred, grounded and clear.    This type of clarity is exactly what we need as leaders in working with complex situations, challenges, and relationships.  The more present we are, the more able we will be to intuit the future that is ready to unfold.  And as John Milton, a global coach to management gurus said, “Most of the great inventions and breakthroughs in the world have arisen through deep communion with source”.   Yoga accesses source.

Being Intentional

Intention – Latin for ‘to stretch into’.  Everything that exists has an intention - a highest purpose for being.  Take a pinecone.  A pinecone has an intention to be an pine tree- it stretches into its potential without hesitation.   We all have an intention in life – we just need to take responsibility to discover it, uncover it, and fiercely be it.   This is especially important in humanity’s crossroads – as we have a choice- to move in a direction that enables life to thrive OR to passively let the destructive trajectory extinguish life on earth.  Intentional evolution.   This requires us to align to the higher universal order of creativity, kindness, beauty, love, expansiveness, abundance and receptivity.  The clearer we are in our intention, the more actively people will respond in supporting us. I have declared my intention as to ‘initiate and enable spaces for people to collaborate on systemic issue’ – like The Finance Innovation Lab.    In my clarity-   people and potentials are opening their doors.  Synchronicity is happening everywhere and I am operating from a place of abundance and possibility.   In yoga, I am intentional with my poses – moving into my fullest potential.   My yoga practice has helped me translate what it means to live life with intention.

Being the Change

Many of the yogis and yoginis on the retreat were advanced practitioners – and their poses blew my mind!  There were points in the sessions where I had to stop in awe – “how on earth is that pose possible?? “  A true human entanglement.   Although I have a long way to go, Elina and Ari challenged me to imagine being the pose.  Even if it meant pointing my toes in the direction of travel – that would be enough to start embodying the change that I wanted to be.  My cells would remember this and the pathways for change would be smoother the next time. Elina’s challenge was ‘fake it, until you make it’.   Or as Wayne Dyer, the world re-known leadership writer says ‘Change the way you look at things, and things will change’.  Taking ‘the future is here now’ leadership approach is an attractor, an enabler and an inspiration for possibilities that are waiting to emerge.   What would it mean to imagine and act as if the future of finance that we desire is right here, right now?   In all likelihood, I believe we would gravitate towards that future.

Being Practice

It is one thing to read my yoga book, and it is another to practice yoga.    Through practice you learn by doing, you evolve and you build your strength.  You experiment, you try things out, you fall down and pick yourself up again.  The week’s immersion showed me the results of what practice can do – my body has changed in as short period of time, I’ve mastered some of my poses, and I am ready for this to be a regular part of my life.  Similarly, in my work practice we are finding that the best way to develop our leadership skills as well as to help people change their behaviour is to practice being the change.   As Terry Patten, the global futurist believes,  ‘evolution shows itself through practice’.

Being Expression

Many of the poses were reflections of emotional expression. For example, there are poses which focus on opening the heart, being grounded, holding strength, letting go,  flowing gracefully, expanding outward and staying humble.  I was especially moved by my open-heart pose – during which I felt a wave of love and kindness wash over me.   It was easier to express through my body rather than through words – as words often get in the way and are limiting.   Yoga helps my body to teach the rest of me how to fully express who I truly am.   I know that as a leader, I am attracted to people who reveal their authentic feelings – there is a certain energy about these people that is guiding, inspiring and powerful.   They tend to set the tone for others in giving them permission to be themselves – and in full open expression people are able to trust, connect and do more together.  And as Dr David Hawkins has shown in his research, one person operating at a higher energy level of consciousness (developed through practices such as yoga) has the potential to influence 90,000 people operating at lower levels of energy.

Being Courage

There were points in the session that I thought I was going to collapse.  But with intention and imaging the possibilities I was able to muster the courage to go farther and further than I ever thought I could.   I let go of my old stories of fear of falling on my head in the crow position and my head-stands were even closer to reality than I expected.   In courageously pushing my boundaries and taking risks - something changed.   I have a new sense of confidence, energy and drive – which will influence everything else that I do.   As leaders in social change, it is essential that we are fiercely courageous – and that we let go of our old stories of what is possible for ourselves and others.   We are stepping into unknown territory.   As the famous philosopher Martin Buber says, ‘What will come will come only when we decide what we are able to will’. We must courageously pioneer new patterns of behaviour which rise above the current need for material identity and pursuit personal reputation and status.   Evolution is requiring us to courageously embrace our new story of interconnectivity.

So there you have it – six reasons why I think that practices like yoga are essential for our individual and collective futures.   And, speaking from experience, it is a practice that is accelerating new paradigm leadership development – check it out!

My Role In Evidencing The New Story

My role as a storyteller in evidencing the new paradigm culture

I believe that humanity is on the cusp of a new dawn – one that is based on compassion, consciousness, collaboration and creativity.  Humanity is being called to wake from our sleep and to be intentional in uncovering our dreams of the future and to be the future now.

My purpose in life is to embody, and to enable and evidence this new future which is based on new ways of relating which embrace authenticity, appreciation, creativity and natural systems.

My goal is to continuously seek to cultivate the nexus of my passions, my gifts/skills and the needs of the world – this is the place of my mastery and my beauty and my truth.

I do this through my life’s work which is enabling spaces where people can come together to collaborate, learn and co-evolve together for new consciousness – I am doing this now through my work at the Finance Innovation Lab.

As part of the cultivation of my mastery, I want to improve my practice around ‘evidencing the new story’ that is awaiting to be told and actualized.

What are the practices of storytelling that will help me cultivate the story of the new paradigm that is emerging?

How can I develop stories that embrace the nature of what I am working with:  complexity, personal to systemic transformation, emergence, creativity, learning – especially in a way that transcends boundaries of old and new paradigm? Or moving from Fear to Love?

What stories, metaphors and analogies can I use which may help people better understand the Finance Lab story e.g. we are Cathedral Builders of the 21st Century.