We have tried to anticipate the main questions you might have about this initiative. If your question has not been addressed here, please contact us at Cary [at] sustainablefinancialmarkets.net and we will do our best to respond.
1. Is the Network for individuals or organisations?
The Network is for individuals. Participants do not speak for any entity with which they might be associated, unless they expressly chose to do so. Indeed, some participants may not wish to list their employer. In exceptional circumstances (e.g., where a valuable would-be participant considers there to be a serious career risk from membership), the coordinators may allow such an individual to take part indirectly in cooperation with a regular participant on an anonymous basis. This is to maximise the opportunities for concerned, informed individuals to take part in this initiative.
2. What do the Network participants have in common?
Network participants are, by definition, in broad agreement with the Principles posted on the NSFM website at http://www.sustainablefinancialmarkets.net/principles/. Participants see the value of a project which fosters collaboration between finance sector professionals, academics and others with an active interest in long-term investing. They also agree generally that fundamental reform is needed, that this requires a broad and non-partisan constituency of support, and that there is value in a new initiative to help finance sector professionals and academics from around the world develop evidence-based reform proposals. Beyond this, there is no detailed policy agenda and neither participants nor the Network coordinators seek to speak on behalf of other participants on specific questions.
3. Why is the Network needed – aren’t there many other organisations working on these issues? How will the Network work with other organisations?
The Network is fully committed to working with established and yet-to-be formed organisations, since they are important vehicles for sustainable reform. The Network has some distinctive features which, taken together, explain why it is a useful addition to this ecosystem devoted to financial markets reform.
First, the Network is for individuals (many of the other initiatives that work on these issues are for organisations).
Second, this is a grouping of like-minded people who share the view that fundamental reform is urgently needed and that change requires a broad and non-partisan constituency of support – hence the focus on evidence-based proposals for reform.
Third, this is a network of (reflective) practitioners and (real-world) academics, plus other experts who know the distinctive roles they can play and understand their responsibility to take leadership roles.
Fourth, many financial systems problems appear to be deeply rooted, which might require greater involvement from more people than has been the case to-date. Accordingly, a wiki network is a good organising option.
Fifth, the Network provides some practical benefits (e.g., good research support through the reference library and interactive feedback from other professionals).
To summarise, the Network seeks to fill the gaps between existing projects, focus attention on unmet needs (either because they are new or because existing projects have not yet been successful) and empower individuals on the scale needed to engage on a fundamental level in improving how financial markets operate. The Network will disband when existing organisations and initiatives have taken up its Principles.
4. What has the Network done so far? How will you assess and report on success?
The Network was launched in April 2008, and the focus to-date has been on drafting the Principles, defining how the initiative will work and setting up the website. In terms of output going forward, the Network will not seek to track the private discussions and projects initiated between Network participants. However, the Network is organizing several NSFM working groups that are described on the web site. As outputs are developed by these working groups, they will be posted on the website and might subsequently be published or circulated elsewhere. The Network will not issue annual reports or the like.
5. Who speaks for the Network?
The best source of information about the Network is the public access part of the website. This will be regularly updated with outputs from the working groups, together with outputs from Network participants acting on their own accord. Co-chairs may speak on behalf of their working groups. The Network has no media spokespeople and does not seek publicity in its own right. If there are detailed questions, feel free to contact the Network coordinators who will be happy to help you if they can. However, please bear in mind the intentionally limited role of the coordinators.
6. Who sets the priorities, who decides on quality control and who oversees the discussions?
As with other wiki-style projects, these important functions are largely devolved to those who take part in the project. Specifically, individual participants choose the issues/working groups which they consider most important. Just as there is no central mind making up detailed policy, there is no top-down detailed policy or strategy. Quality control is exercised through each working group itself and through a website feedback/sign-off process for work product. This reflects the fact that working groups speak for themselves and not the Network as a whole. All participants are able to provide monitoring and feedback – to the individual concerned – regarding any postings or behaviour related to the Network they consider to be rude, libelous or otherwise inappropriate or unconstructive. However, participants are not responsible for the actions or comments of others.