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18 July, 2016

How an integral, green approach is helping to transform the Slovenian economy

Dr Darja PicigaOn 7 July at the 10th Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy (TIGE) conference in Caux, Switzerland, Dr Darja Piciga, policy-maker and analyst in the Slovenian government, spoke about the impact of Integral Green Slovenia, the economic initiative she has been leading in her native country. She was joined by Professor Ronnie Lessem and Professor Alexander Schieffer, co-founders of the Trans4m Centre for Integral Development.

The story of Integral Green Slovenia is very much a ‘TIGE’ story, emerging out the annual conferences in Caux. In the beginning of 2011, Piciga working on low-carbon policies for the Slovenian government visited Geneva and picked up a book on integral economies by Lessem and Schiffer. Piciga, Schieffer and Lessem then met at the TIGE conference that year before Piciga invited them to Slovenia to continue their work together.

Professor Ronnie LessemPiciga had spent the last few years working within the economic paradigm of capitalism and felt that ‘the cognitive map we were using wasn’t working anymore.’ The need to find solutions, from climate change and migration to food security, made her realise how much such issues were interconnected—and that they needed a more holistic approach. For this reason, the alternative model that Schieffer and Lessem had developed—their ‘Integral Worlds’ approach— resonated with her.

Trans4m’s Integral Worlds approach aims to address imbalances in human systems—within an individual, organisation, community or society. The model is circular in shape. The starting point is its centre, representing an individual’s or society’s ‘moral core’, with four ‘realms’—north, south, east and west—that must each be considered. The ‘south’ is the realm of relationships, of nature and community; the ‘east’ is the realm of inspiration, of culture and spirituality; the ‘north’ is the realm of knowledge, of science and skills; while the ‘west’ is the realm of action, of finance and enterprise.

Professor Alexander Schieffer,The model can be applied to an individual (their personal values and ‘rootednesses articulated first, before considering their strengths and weaknesses in each of the four realms, for example). But can also be scaled up for a company or community. By mapping these dimensions in a circular way, communities can see how they are interconnected and, in particular, how they are held together by their inner ‘moral core’, the place-specific values base that an organisation/ society considers essential to its being. Schieffer’s and Lessem’s research has discovered how vital it is that a society’s outer economic system is aligned with its inner moral core.

In Slovenia, Lessem and Schieffer worked with Darja to engage with companies as well as supporting the start-up of cooperatives and social enterprises. ‘In Slovenia, before the Second World War, cooperatives were once very strong,’ says Piciga. ‘With this in our history, we could see the benefits of reviving cooperatives and promoting social entrepreneurship.’ Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and, through the ‘smart integration’ of proposals that addressed issues such as sustainable development, Piciga was able to show how the EU cohesion policy funding was used to implement many parts of the Integral Green Slovenia plan.

An integrated model approach, says Schieffer, helps ‘create a shared language. It gives people a way at looking at a burning issue through the same lens.’ Integral Green Slovenia continues to unfold and develop and Trans4m have taken their approach to other countries including Zimbabwe, Nigeria and India.

By Esme McAvoy

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