Preparing for Bologna.


Things have been coming together nicely for my upcoming trip to Bologna. Just to recap, Vancity sends a small delegate to Bologna, and this year I have the great good fortune to be one of them.

We go to Bologna to learn from Stefano Zamagni, Professor of Economics at the University of Bologna, and visit several co-operatives in this area. The area around Bologna, Emilia Romagna, has 35% of the economy driven directly from co-operatives (it is estimated that they indirectly account for more than 50% of the local economic development).

I got my passport in the mail today, I have my plane tickets and hotel booked. Tomorrow I meet with a bunch of the other attendees to start prepping. I have read some of my pre-reading, including a paper we wrote for the BC Business Council about co-operatives and the part they could play in driving critical growth for our province.

In my last post, I wrote a little bit about Vancity’s new vision of Redefining Wealth. I am heartened by the response I got from that. My friend Jeremy Osborn, a local social entrepreneur focused on climate change said: “What a great, broad way to think about sustainability.” Not everyone gets this directly. I mean why is a credit union taking on something like redefining wealth?

We are a credit union focused on our triple bottom line objectives: economic, social and environmental. We measure our success based on a blended value in these areas. But we are a financial institution, and as such our objectives have to be grounded in the tools of our trade. Redefining Wealth, in my opinion, is an inclusive, holistic view of sustainability rooted in finances. It isn’t anything amazingly new for Vancity, but clarifies our role as a financial institution dedicated to social change.

This vision will drive our objectives over the next ten years, and I’m excited to be at the ground floor in defining what it means for our members, our staff and the communities where we live and work. It also has implications on our products and services, our service delivery experience, our technology choices, our suppliers and vendors… The list goes on.

In my view it takes a triple bottom line approach and blends it into a married value. In other words, a triple bottom line approach can be one where we maximize profits in order to do good work in the environmental and social pillars with our profits. We have always done this in the form of granting. But Redefining Wealth causes us to work even harder to ensure that all the ways we do business have a positive impact on our financial bottom line, as well as enhancing our members’ and employees’ communities. What if our basic service offering, our sponsorships, our deals made the environment better, our communities stronger and made us money. It’s complicated, but it’s something to aspire to.

Photo credit – torsonor

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