Sense-Making Xmas Gifts
Monday December 20th 2010, 22:37h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Private

TearFund Geschenk

People, and even children, work without fair compensation so that we may celebrate cheap Merry Christmas (see an impressive documentary on child work in chocolate production or read this authentic report on cheap t-shirts by H&M). Therefore this year I don’t want to participate in the ‘consumania’ but be a Christmas Revolutionary! Here are several creative ways to give sense-making Christmas presents:

Giving aid
Besondere Geschenke von TearFund Schweiz
Hilfe schenken von HEKS
Kiva - Loans that change lives (remembered through Marcel Widmer)

Fairtrade presents
Geschenk-Sets von
Claro Fairtrade Geschenke
Max Havelaar zertifizierte Geschenke
Geschenke auf
rrrevolve - der nachhaltige Concept Store (hint from Tania Woodhatch)

Do you know of other sense-making gift websites? Please write a comment!

Let’s Make Money
Thursday November 13th 2008, 22:34h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, ETH Zürich, Fairtrade, Politics

Today I went to the first national screening of the new documentary Let’s Make Money which comes to Swiss movie theaters on January 22nd, 2009. The film made by the director of We Feed the World, Erwin Wagenhofer, seeks to explain the enormously complex financial system of today’s world - timing couldn’t be better! In its 109 minutes the movie portraits e.g. the mercyless emergin markets investor Mark Mobius, pictures the declining cotton production in Burkina Faso, demonstrates the strategy of tax evasion through offshore locations and shows in many more illustrative examples the unfairness of the neoliberal system.

Next to the scandalous stories I was particularly shocked by the apparently negative involvement of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Assuming only a fraction of what the movie showed is true, I really worry about the doubtful role these international institutions have played and maybe still do. By so-called economic hit mans such as John Perkins poor countries are basically blackmailed by WB and IMF to liberalize their economies and privatize public institutions (luckily for the institutions, there are voices calling Perkins a conspiracy theorist).

In general I believe Let’s Make Money is a great movie asking the right questions - even if the answers are maybe not always that perfectly staged. More information about Let’s Make Money and its background is documented in the press folder.

Also interesting in this context: Sukuma, a great new competition intends to find the most creative ideas on how to visualize issues of the Millennium Development Goals and on Fairtrade.

Sukuma - submit your movie clip idea!

My First Sermon - StopArmut Sunday 2008
Thursday October 23rd 2008, 14:18h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Politics

Well, my presentation last Sunday at EGW Steffisburg concerning the StopArmut Sunday 2008 was officially called just an ‘input’ ;) But thanks to all those who provided great feedback on an early version of the text I was able to write it almost like a sermon. Thanks to Stefan Hochstrasser, Joël Lavanchy, Dominic Roser, Anne Barth-Gasser, Barbara Hämmerli, Til Gerber, Gerhard Bärtschi and Markus Meury!

Text | PDF Slides | MP3

StopArmut Sunday at EGW Steffisburg

StopArmut Sunday at EGW Steffisburg

Rivella, a Brave Swiss Company with Social Entrepreneurial Touch
Monday May 19th 2008, 22:50h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Fairtrade

Last week Rivella, THE famous Swiss beverage company, celebrated one year anniversary of its Fairtrade certified juices. The press release explains why the decision to brand the high quality juice bottles with the newly designed Max Havelaar Fairtrade label (although they don’t call it branding but labelling ;) was a great success. My sincerest congratulation to this brave social entrepreneurial move with strategic impact!

How rich are you?
Friday February 15th 2008, 21:45h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Politics, Private

Do you think you earn too little? Such as Klaus Zumwinkel hiding some millions before authorities (and now paying with his job as German Post CEO). But even I as poor doctoral student am placed on the top 4% worldwide. Do the test yourself and see if you really have to worry for the 3% who earn more than you or if we should start thinking about the 96% other of world population (thanks to Dominik Roser showing me this great link!):

How rich are you? Global Rich List

Black Gold - Wake up and Smell the Coffee
Thursday September 27th 2007, 2:54h
Filed under: Fairtrade

Coffee: A multi-billion industry, revived from commodity to highly differentiated products, with thousands of farmers depending on one market price. The only hope for a graceful life: fairtrade, including fair production. But do the consumers want it? We do, in our office, for over a year now, with lots of interesting conversations ;) And now, Transfair, the German association for fairtrade, has made a great 8min video clip which explains how fairtrade really works. Not emotionally struck yet? Then, may I present, the coffee movie, basically unknown in Switzerland, but popular in Britain’s theaters, the movie I’m waiting for since a year, coming out on DVD on October 22nd, 2007:


Update 2007-10-04: I just found a screening of the Black Gold in Switzerland. It’s organized by the students organization project21 of ETH Zürich and takes place on December 10th, 2007 at StuZ2. The screening is part of a series of movies treating economic issues and globalization. The other movie I want to see is China Blue.

I Love Awards as Incentives for Innovation
Friday September 14th 2007, 14:33h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, ETH Zürich, Fairtrade, Linux, Research

Awards for innovations are a great thing. First of all, you may win. Competition is fun and provides energy to accomplish more than you’d do if there are no rivals. Second, even if you don’t win, you still have done something cool. Because next to the extrinsic motivation of a prize you need also intrinsic motivation to participate in a competition so you feel happy when you’ve reached your personal goal even if you don’t scoop in. And third, if it’s a reward for something good (however this is defined…) then public benefits as well. It benefits from the innovation achieved by the winner as well as the progress accomplished by the entire industry or community.

Two examples: Today the Swiss Development Agency DEZA awards five prizes for the best development projects of young people. About 100 groups participated, among them a students team from University of Bern shipping Linux computers to Africa and another initiative supporting Mexican Fairtrade farmers won CHF 5000. Another example is the just announced Google Lunar X Prize giving USD 30 million to private enterprises reaching and crusing the moon with robots.

What would be other great things that should be awarded? I dream of an Open Source Award for different kinds of groups: developers starting a new, wanted OSS project, firms releasing previously proprietary code as OSS, pioneering government agencies choosing OSS solutions, schools that teach on Linux computers etc. Secondly, I’d love to see more adoption for Fairtrade products: restaurants or cafeterias which switch to Fairtrade coffee, retailers and manufacturers which certify their products on Fairtrade labels such as Max Havelaar, housewifes or -husbands who buy Fairtrade products rather than M-Budget (Swiss low cost product line) etc.

Certainly it’s necessary to find out more about what type of incentives work and which don’t, how such reward systems have to be designed etc. I’ve done some desk research about crowding-out effects, much more will be presented at the upcoming reward management conference.

Checking CSR Fairtrade Activities
Thursday April 12th 2007, 15:02h
Filed under: Fairtrade

Last week some members of our local StopArmut 2015 group met for a CSR (corporate social responsibility) fairtrade check of Bernese stores. We went visiting a couple of businesses in the city, asked about their fairtrade products and handed out Fairteilen cards. Have a read of our experiences during the morning (in German). (more…)

How much would Jesus share?
Monday March 19th 2007, 20:10h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Politics

This and related questions are treated in the upcoming event of ChristNet and StopArmut 2015 on April 21st, 2007 in Bern. Samuel Ninck and I invited Peter Weidman of to talk about Fairtrade, Karl Johannes Rechsteiner as director of the microfinance initiative Oikocredit explaining the concept of microcredits and Markus Meury, coordinator of StopArmut 2015, reporting on international trade rules. Special guest in the follow-up discussion round is EDU National Councillor Christian Waber representing the critical position on the panel. Well, an attractive Saturday afternoon is guaranted and if printing of my Draw flyer at works out fine we’ll soon start inviting 5000 people ;)

Fair Sharing: Also we Christians?

Update April 23rd, 2007: All the presentations including MP3 recordings, many photos and summary of the event are now available on the StopArmut website.

Why are bananas in Switzerland cheaper than apples?
Sunday February 18th 2007, 0:44h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade

This simple question was the start of the so called ‘banana women‘ in the 1970s, the start of the fairtrade movement in Switzerland. Yesterday, the last of these brave women, Ursula Brunner, co-organized a conference on fairtrade labels in Bern (documentation) and I was one of the about 300 attendees (newspaper article in “Der Bund”). Stimulus of the event were the emerging labelling efforts of multinationals - also called ‘greenwashing‘ in NGO terminology. Indeed, the numerous speakers during the day confirmed this allegation to a certain point. Especially the obvious dispute of labor union representatives from Costa Rica and a Chiquita spokesperson demonstrated that the company’s labelling effort with the Rainforest Alliance was not yet sufficient to satisfy the needs of the workers. For me, particularly this label seems highly doubtful due to the statements of the speakers and also because of its representative at the conference showing a quite unsensitive way on how to communicate with the labor force. Besides some insights I gained on the ‘label industry’ - whose two competing goals are credibility and efficiency as Prof. Guido Palazzo explained well - I realized the need of fairtrade going even more mass market as Martin Rohner of Max Havelaar envisioned.

Hernan Hermosilla and Gilber Bermudez from Costa Rica

Workshop summary in the plenum

Ursula Brunner during her impressive closing statement