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Using Your Money For Good


The Guild's fourth symposium, which revisited the subject of Ruskin and Economics, took place on Saturday, 24th October 2015 at Mary Ward House, Bloomsbury. Click the image to read about the day.

The organisational work was led by the ethical investment firm ShareAction, with assistance from the Guild, and is overseen by Guild Companion and ShareAction head Catherine Howarth and Guild Director Chris Harris.

During Good Money Week in October 2015, the Guild teamed up with ShareAction to host a symposium inspired by Ruskin at Mary Ward House in London.

A range of speakers and workshop participants explored the theme of using and investing money as a force for good in our personal lives, society and the environment. There were many fantastic and animated conversations that allowed participants to learn more about Ruskin’s ideas and to debate together how they might be brought to life today.

A superb opening keynote address was delivered by political economist and environmentalist, Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute. A long-standing fan of Ruskin’s work, Andrew brilliantly and humorously deconstructed contemporary economic theory and practice, much as Ruskin did in the 19th century.

The three themes from Ruskin’s economic thought explored at the symposium were: taking personal responsibility; the dignity of labour; and creating a beautiful world.

Those of us attending John Iles’s workshop on Rural Stewardship were invited to share and sample apples that had been picked off trees on Uncllys Farm orchard earlier that morning. Even Ruskin’s gifts of prose-writing may have been inadequate to capture the taste-bud ecstasy of this experience. Unquestionably the sensory highlight of my day.

Other workshops covered the joys of the Simple Living Movement, more on unlearning orthodoxies in the economics profession, and craftsmanship that respects workers and the world.

Towards the end of the day, the whole group came back together to reflect on our discussions, the workshop sessions and the opening lecture. People committed to a variety of follow-up actions around the three themes of the day.  Those reflections and commitments are recorded below and capture much of the spirit and essence of this wonderful event.

Taking personal responsibility:
– Use renewable energy, as proposed in a workshop hosted by Pure Leapfrog.
– Invest savings ethically and in your community, as explored in a workshop hosted by Ethex.

– Use banks that seek to have a positive social impact, with one recommendation for Unity Trust Bank.
– Promote value beyond the bottom line in business, as explored in a workshop hosted by B Corporation.
– Explore different concepts of personal value and living simply.
The dignity of labour and making:
– Train employees well and commit to ensuring that their work is engaging them.
– Learn from and respect fellow workers, as well as share skills with the next generation whilst promoting fair wages.
– Seek to change the world by buying high-quality goods and respecting the creators of beauty.
Creating a beautiful world:
– Have nothing in our homes that isn’t either useful or beautiful (The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo was highly recommended to get people started).
– Know where the things you buy come from and where the things thrown away will go.
– Respect ‘vital beauty’, walk more in the landscape, adopt an approach of slowness and learn now to see.

Inspired by what we’d heard and experienced during the day, we ended with this splendidly challenging quotation from Modern Painters, memorably recited by Pamela Hull of Brantwood:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion — all in one.  —Modern Painters volume III.

ShareAction was delighted to have hosted such an enjoyable collaborative venture with the Guild of St George. The day provided vivid proof of how resonant and relevant Ruskin is to our lives today.

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