Various different languages could be heard in our halls at the beginning of May. For the very first time, GLS Bank was the host to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the “International Association of Investors in the Social Economy (INAISE) and its adjoined public conference. Memberinstitutions and guests from all five continents came to exchange experiences, know-how and questions concerning four topics: agriculture, renewable energies, cooperatives and solidarity activities.
This year’s meeting was topped off by two special occasions: Founded in 1989, INAISE is celebrating its 25th anniversary! Just in the same year as GLS Bank will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in June.
Benedikt Roth, a student at Alanus University, accompanied the AGM and shares his experience with us:“This was the first time I visited the GLS Bank and participated at an INAISE conference. I was amazed by the wide variety of participants from all over the world.
In his welcoming words, Dominique Lesaffre, president of INAISE, underlined the main purpose of the conference „to learn from each other, especially of the diversified initiatives from around the world present at the conference“. Andreas Neukirch, member of the board of GLS Bank and of INAISE, mentioned in his speech the significance of the exchange during the two days in order to get a better perspective, to cooperate and to better understand the different ideas of change.
It was during the introductions that I began to realize by whom I was surrounded. Upon hearing the opening words of every participant I was surprised by the numerous amount of institutions that already existed for more than 20 years, e.g. CEC BE OKO from Congo, but also by the number of clients of each institution. Since I had the pleasure of living in Central and South American countries for two years, I was pleased to see a lot of Latin American institutions present in the assembly, such as ANACAPH from Haiti, Red Katalysis from Central America and Fortalecer from Peru. I was sitting next to Annika Lauren, Managing Director of Ekobanken in Sweden, which seemed to be a coincidence because just one week ago I had been to a youth initiative conference in Järna, Ekobanken in Sweden. We quickly found out that we have friends and acquaintances in common. Even though I am not a part of a social finance institution or INAISE, on this day I felt part of the “global movement” that Dominique Lesaffre mentioned INAISE is a part of.
One discussion focused on the existing network of INAISE and the will to have more representation from around the world. Lesaffre again emphasized that the network „can be a component for mobilizing institutions which share the same vision, commitment and drive for being involved in financing the social economy.“
„What is social economy? We all hold a part of the answer for this question“, he finished. Percy Morales from Peru added „we affirm the idea that a new world is possible. We are against poverty, against pollution in nature and we are part of a major movement. We are all partners in a big task: In a pro-active attitude we have to find new answers by thinking, doing and emphasizing our responsibility”. In Raul Sanchez‘ (Red Katalysis) words the work of all initiatives of INAISE is to improve our quality of life – even if it is just a small area of it.
To the question where INAISE is headed to in the future, Lesaffre answered: „It’s up to the members, what you want to do. We firmly believe that a network that doesn’t build on their members will fail.“ The members certainly embraced his words. The African members, e.g., started by getting together during the breaks to work on stronger cooperations in the future. This made me realize: An international conference becomes valuable just in the moment when its participants begin to interact and embrace each other using the potential that is present in that particular moment.”
On Thursday, the participants gathered to discuss the four main topics of the conference during a “World Café” – a free format to allow as much development as possible. Lead by its motto „Mobilising Social Finance Globally – Learning form Each Other“ the participants focused on issues and questions regarding agriculture, renewable energies, cooperatives and solidarity. During these lively discussions it became very clear: All four topics concern us all – no matter where we live, what branch we work in. Thanks to the wide range of backgrounds – banks, education, associations, microfinancers, trusteeships and more – the results are rich in possibilities to learn from each other. Here are some of the issues raised:
- Agriculture is essential.
- Should land be free? Should land have a price tag?
- Should INAISE have a position to food security?
- How can we help to make land accessible?
- How can we help people to get access to land?
- Market access, especially in Central America, is complicated.
- Traditional ways in agriculture are gridlocked; we need to find new ways.
- How can we measure the social impact of investments in renewable energy?
- Investments: Teach people how to use renewable energy and how to use it efficiently.
- Transfer of technology & knowledge
- Publicity: We need to promote the local sector, rearrangement, flexible political possibilities.
- Investments need to benefit the local community – that is where possible production/ construction/ maintenance/ installation take place.
- A basic strength of cooperatives is that they are rooted in the basic interests of human beings and not primarily chasing capital, as a result they are less volatile.
- How are we going to achieve our goal of strengthening the capacity in our sector?
- Importance of training, education and information (to members, politicians, employees, boards, …)
- What is solidarity?
- What is happening in the world?
- Importance of transparency and rights of minorities.
- Solidarity knows no borders.
- We need to improve education (long term), knowledge.
- Link people with same interests and values
You can find a few impression here on Flickr
Please find the Pressinformation here:
Thank you all for a wonderful conference,many new ideas and many beginnings of interessting new relations!