Monday, 28 November 2011

Teaspoons and Schumacher -Co-op chief opens a Manchester week of sustainability

Future Manchester, a week long programme of sustainability, launched in East Manchester on Friday.

The week-long festival showcases the work of Manchester organisations that are working together to make the city a greener, healthier, fairer and more sustainable place to live, work and play

Ed Mayo Secretary General of the Manchester based Co-operative organisation was the guest speaker at the opening,inspired the audience with tales of the relaunch of a cooperative store and community pub in Ennerdale in the Lake District.

The event also marked the launch of the The Schumacher lecture programme.

The economist E. F. Schumacher is most famous for the book he wrote called Small is beautiful which when first published in 1973,brought Schumacher's critiques of Western economics to a wider audience during the 1973 energy crisis and emergence of globalization

He was born in Germany fleeing Nazism to come to the UK.He was recognised quite widely,was chief economist at the cold board and was greatly admired by John Maynard Keynes who was said to have referred to him on his deathbed.

After the war he became involved in the reconstruction of Burma and asked the question of what Buddhist economics could be.

Conventional economics starts with the premise of scarcity whereas the Buddhist version was of creativity and abundance.It would also be one based on renewable resources.

It was said by Barbara Ward that he influenced the ideas of a generation and his work has been taken up and given new life.

“you need to raise a sail for when the winds changes” was one of his sayings.

If we are going to move into a sustainable world that is what we are going to have to do says Mayo by setting up new models of doing business

So to the teaspoons.Two volunteers were called to the front of audience to play the ultimatum game.Ten teaspoons are given to the first volunteer representing fabulous wealth who must then decided how much to keep and how much to give to the second volunteer.

The second volunteer has the power to refuse the offer and if she refuses then nobody gets anything.

The outcome was that they shared the teaspoon between them.

According to Mayo,the average offer would be two teaspoons in the world of economics,the average offer when this is played out across the world,the mean offer is 4.5,in some cultures it would be more which would be rejected as being too generous

This exercise, says Mayo, shows a complete opposite to where conventional liberal economic theories tell us.

Convention says that only one teaspoon would be given as you would take something that you haven't got.

The question is how do we construct economic life so that it produces fairness and not competition

There are over 5,000 cooperatives across the country with 12.8 million members and over 33b in turnover.The best known are of course the cooperative shops and banks.

In a world that is more unattainable and unequal than it has been for a 100 years,cooperative says Mayo is even more important.

You can find out more about Schumacher and his legacy HERE

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