Posted November 13th 2015 at 1:48 pm by
in Participatory Action Research

PAR and Values-Based Banking

Global Alliance for Banking on Values GroupGlobal Alliance for Banking on Values cohort at a leadership training.

Dr. Katrin Kaufer and Lily Steponaitis presented about their work regarding values-based banking, and were the fourth talk in the Participatory Action Speaker Series. The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) is an independent network of banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development in places around the world. The GABV aims to facilitate learning and knowledge exchange within the network.  Steponaitis explains, “We facilitate various spaces for education and exchange, including an HR expert group and a leadership development program.  In doing so, we are able to ‘research’  the system, build knowledge about such banks, and explore open questions along with the participants (the bankers themselves).”  Dr. Kaufer and Steponaitis are designing a MOOC to do this on an even broader scale, presenting knowledge co-created with the banks for critique, feedback, and learning that can serve a global audience and the banks themselves.  This will help to both define and contribute to a movement around values-based banking.

In this talk, Dr. Kaufer begins by defining action research, and how she uses Theory U to inform her methods. To illustrate action research and  Theory U, she offers the example of a action research project to improve emergency care in Germany with doctors, healthcare workers, and patients.   Dr. Kaufer and her research team interviewed 30 doctors and 100 patients to understand patterns in their relationships with one another, and then brought everyone together for discussion and deliberation.  This research helped the doctors and patients to see themselves and each other better, which then allowed them to figure out how to negotiate with insurance companies in the future.  Next, Dr. Kaufer and Steponaitis introduce and explain their action research regarding values-based banking, and show how much of what was learned from the project with doctors and patients was utilized in this process too.  Both of these examples provide crucial lessons about reflection and tools needed to conduct meaningful action research.

Below are audio clips of Dr. Kaufer and Steponaitis’ talk preceded by an excerpt from each segment.

Defining Action Research and Importance of Reflection in Action Research 

“So I basically got pulled into action research by mistake. Because I realized there is no real other way to conduct research in a social setting. If you conduct research as a physicist you can take water and put heat under it and then you measure when it is boiling. The issue is when you conduct research in a social setting, you are sitting in the water. So what do you do when you are sitting in the water?”

Example 1: Research with Doctors and Patients in Germany 

“The turning point for this [project] was that our research helped them [doctors and patients] to see themselves. We didn’t have a plan when we went into this. The first thing we realized was that it is all about the relationship between the patient and the physician. Then we did the open interviews and out of the interviews came these ideas and then we used this to reflect back and help them to see themselves.”

Example 2: Research with the Global Alliance for Banking on Values 

“We believe that without this type of banking you can’t do any development in communities, that it is absolutely crucial to have access to this type of finance. Our objective is to make this more known.”

Not included in this clip is a short video Dr. Kaufer and Steponaitis showed where a range of people were asked to share their associations traditional banking.

Reflecting on One’s Role as a Researcher

“I personally feel very passionately that we need a different type of banking system. I worked in a bank for a few years before doing my PhD. I wrote my PhD on values based banking. [At the time] nobody was interested in that. [So] that is when I went to Sloan and did leadership and organizational learning. Then when the financial crisis hit I started working with this network (Global Alliance for Banking on Values) in 2006/2007…. When I facilitate the engagements between the different heads of HR [at these banks] whether I am able to reflect my own role and keep my own intention in the service of the group becomes very visible by whether the group dynamic and the learning works or not…When I facilitate a 2-day learning workshop between these [bank’s] HR departments and everyone is bored and nothing happens then I haven’t done a good job and I know it has to do with how I put myself in the room… One tool I use a lot is the quality of my listening.”

Tools for Reflection in Action Research

“When I am an action researcher in the field, I can build on these tools but I never use them mechanically. I always have to sense in the situation what is going on, What is my personal reaction… and what is happening in the group?”

Navigating Cultural Differences across Values-based Banks

“My experience in bringing these different cultures [together, is that] everyone wakes up in regards to new ideas. And it is a reality check.. I know these different banks very well and have worked with all of them so I often understand where they are coming from. And that allows me to create a communication [avenue] between [them] and that is usually effective. So they wake up to new ideas and new passions.” 

Values Based Banking as a Movement 

“What we experience is that creating the network really helps them [the bankers] to stay energized..Bringing them together–each time we bring them together we always create a space where they have an opportunity to physically experience the work, so they meet with clients, they aren’t just sitting in a hotel room, we bring them out—that wakes them up.”

Launching and Sustaining a Values-based Bank

“Here the connection to action research becomes very visible. We are working with them [the banks] and then we are looking at the list and we see that most of them have an unusual ownership structure. So then we start digging more deeply into this and today we both would say that if you don’t have an ownership structure that reflects the core mission and idea you might be able to launch as a values based bank but you don’t survive as a values based bank. This we are now able to article as researchers looking back and comparing these banks. This can also help the banks become more aware how important their ownership structure is.”

Conclusions about the Potential of Values-based Banks

“My personal conclusion is that we need a diversity of banks…If we want to address the challenges we face, ecological and social challenges,  we need banks that are able to see social entrepreneurs and provide them with funding. We need banks that help communities to get access to finance.”

You can download Dr. Kaufer and Lily Steponaitis’ presentation here.

Post by Aditi Mehta.

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