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RESPONDER workshop

The Finance Innovation Lab

Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM - Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM (BST)

RESPONDER workshop

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RESPONDER workshop Ended Free  

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The role of household debt and savings in a sustainable economy

 Purpose of workshop

The purpose of this workshop is to develop shared learning and discussion about the role that household finances, and the balance between debt, savings and consumption, plays in the wider economy and how policy shapes this. This thinking will help develop a deeper understanding of the impact of different uses of consumer credit and saving behaviours on the development of a sustainable economy capable of operating within ecological limits.

The model of economic growth used in Europe up until 2007, and particularly the role of finance within in it, created many barriers to the development of an environmentally sustainable economy. The financial crisis of 2008, and consequent European recession and debt crisis demonstrated that the model failed on narrow economic grounds, as well as sustainablility ones. This workshop is designed to engage academic researchers and policymakers in a process of deeper understanding of the system as it is now, in order to analyse potential policy solutions in the future. It is part of a wider project, RESPONDER, involving a consortium of European academic institutions, looking at sustainable consumption and economic growth.


The RESPONDER project

The overall aim of RESPONDER is to promote sustainable consumption by exploring novel ways of knowledge brokerage that help to improve the management of potential political, social and economic contradictions with economic growth. The challenge is not just to bridge the gap between science and policy, but also to improve the mutual understanding between the “pro-growth community” (i.e. economists and policy makers oriented towards growth as an overarching policy goal) and the “beyond-growth community” (i.e. scientists oriented towards the limits to growth debate and policy makers involved in sustainable development). The innovative core of RESPONDER is the methodology “participatory systems mapping” for knowledge brokerage and its application in five different policy areas: “Food Consumption”, “Household Savings and Debts”, “Housing”, “Household Electronics” and “Mobility”.



Day 1

8.30        Coffee & registration

9.00        Welcome

Chris Hewett, Fellow of Finance Lab

Andre Martinuzzi, Associate Professor and Head of Research Institute for Managing Sustainability (RIMAS)  at Vienna University of Economics and Business

 Co-ordinator of the RESPONDER project

9.20        Participant introductions

9.45        Panel 1 – Intellectual and political context

The importance of debt, consumption, savings to the sustainable economy

Professor Tim Jackson, University of Surrey will give an overview of the aims of the workshop and how it feeds into the wider RESPONDER project and other cutting edge research on sustainable economics. In particular the real need for better understanding of the interaction of personal debt, savings and investment with sustainable consumption and growth.

 Political context of ecological, financial and economic crises

Greg Ford from Finance Watch , a Brussels based NGO working with European parliamentarians on policy to ensure the financial services industry serves the public good, will set out the political context for the event, in particular the need for joined up solutions to the current economic crisis and looming crises in energy, climate and long term savings and investment.


11.00     Coffee

11.30     Poster walk/ world cafe

Opportunity for participants of the event to present recent work that is relevant to the topic in small groups, accompanied by a poster display.

12.45     Lunch

1.45        Panel 2   Patterns of household debt and savings across Europe & impact of financial crisis

                Chair: Jane Fuller, Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation

Overview of the different attitudes to saving and credit across European countries

Elina Pyykko, Centre for European Policy Studies, will set out the very different ways in which the peoples of Europe save for the future, whether through savings bank, bonds, pension and life insurance intermediaries or equities. Also reflect on the different ways in which populations have changed behaviour in response to the debt crisis.

Research into how UK consumers are adjusting financial behaviour in age of austerity

Andrea Finney, Senior Research Fellow at the Personal Finance Research Centre (University of Bristol) will present recent empirical findings of how low and middle income groups in the UK have changed their spending and saving patterns as a result of the recession and continued squeeze on incomes.


3.00        Introduction to systems mapping techniques

Andre Martinuzzi,  Vienna University of Economics and Business

3.30        System mapping break out groups (see below)

4.45        Break

5.15        Showcase for disruptive policy solutions – two or three snap shot presentations

5.45        Drinks

6.30        Buffet dinner

How the financial services sector can engage the European saving publics in sustainable investment?

James Vaccaro from the Global Alliance for Banking on Values will set out some ideas about how policymakers and the finance sector could find more effective ways to connect individual savers with how their money is being deployed in the economy, and the role which investments in a infrastructure, clean technology industries and other elements of our sustainable future could help this process.

9.00     Close


Day 2

8.30        Coffee

9.00        Feedback from Day 1

9.15        Panel 3 -  Finance in a sustainable economy  

  Lessons for the EU from the US Community Reinvestment Act

   Kent Hudson (KHNET Consulting)

How the Community Reinvestment Act in the US has helped to channel capital into social enterprise, local communities and sustainability projects. What are the lessons for EU financial regulation to foster a similar sector in Europe?  

The implications of the way credit is allocated in different financial sectors across Europe for delivering a sustainable economy

Prof. Richard Werner, University of Southampton

The way credit from the banking sector is allocated in different economies across Europe, has a significant impact on the balance of investment in productive sectors of the economy, as opposed to unproductive, such as property or financial speculation. In the years before the financial crash, a lot of credit was used in asset purchasing, creating a price bubble. How can policy steer more investment into the productive and infrastructure sectors that a low carbon economy will need?

Q&A discussion

10.15     Coffee

10.30     System mapping breakout groups (see below)

12.00     Round up and close

System Mapping Breakout sessions

These will be 3 breakout groups with expert facilitators from the RESPONDER project. On day 1, each group will be asked to discuss one key question and develop a system map around it. On day 2, the groups move around and look at the maps developed by the others, before adding to, amending and refining them. The suggested questions are:

1 – Paradox of thrift in a downturn – if people save too much in periods of low income, overall consumption declines reducing growth and job creation. But can the savings be deployed in other ways than capital business investment, such as infrastructure and the built environment?

2 – Over leverage in an upturn – as incomes rise in an upturn, the anticipation of future income increases and asset value uplift leads to rapid extension in credit, ultimately meaning more income is devoted to servicing the higher debt. Are there different ways to control this credit boom, depending on whether the credit is used to fund consumption or investment? If savings rates were higher during this period of the economic cycle what impact would this have?

3 – Debt spirals for low income groups – to what extent do middle and lower income households become overdependent on credit, in economic upturns, in order to fund levels of consumption to maintain social standing. As borrowing increases, the proportion of income that has to go towards servicing the debt also increases, exacerbating the problem and creating a downward spiral.

For each of these questions the way in which these relationships between society and the use of money develops can be explored with the intention of informing how they impact on a sustainable economy.


Organised by The Finance Innovation Lab and University of Surrey   


Have questions about RESPONDER workshop? Contact The Finance Innovation Lab
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When & Where

The Hub Westminster
First Floor, New Zealand House
80 Haymarket
SW1Y 4TE London
United Kingdom

Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM - Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM (BST)

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The Finance Innovation Lab

The Finance Innovation Lab is an open environment in which people can come together to explore, innovate and evolve the financial system so that it sustains people and planet.

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