Levers of Exchange


S03E02 James Mitchell, Principle at the Rocky Mountain Institute

Season 3, Ep. 2

What we discussed: The oceans are our last “commons” of the world, legally defined to be outside the jurisdiction of every country. Thus, maritime management is a great case study of Nobel Laurate Elinor Ostrem’s work on managing the commons.

Why it matters: Unlike the tragedy of the commons, Ostrem demonstrated that communities can come together to manage common resources without the need of a top-down, hierarchical approach. However, a grounds-up system has a set of rules to follow:

  • Clearly defined boundaries;
  • Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs;
  • Collective choice arrangements;
  • Monitoring;
  • Graduated sanctions;
  • Fast and fair conflict resolution;
  • Local autonomy;
  • Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule-making authority (polycentric governance)

What it means for you: As you go about creating systems change, create new systems that are known to work. Ostrem’s model is one such model that can be used to manage shared resources.

Interviewee’s Bio:

James Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Institute, London, UK

MSc, Nature, Society, and Environmental Policy, University of Oxford, SSEE

James works to align capital flows with climate targets through innovative research on climate risks and opportunities as well as highly ambitious cross-sector collaborations. James has played a leading role in the creation of the Poseidon Principles, the first global climate alignment agreement for financial institutions. https://www.linkedin.com/in/james20/


In this interview, we discussed the following questions:

  • How many frequent flyer miles does your cello have?
  • How does a studied cellist make the transition into sustainable finance?
  • What got you interested in environmental policy in the first place? When did you first get exposed to these ideas?
  • Now that you've been in sustainable finance, how do you frame it?
  • Finance is ultimately an enabling sector. When we say the financial sector is aligned to climate outcomes, what does that mean?
  • It makes me think of other enablers like lawyers and accountants, who have small footprints but enable consumption across the broader economy.
  • Should a bank's portfolio be a reflection of the real economy, or does it have agency to create the real economy?
  • Sustainability within a company is "the whole company." You're pointing out that's true for the entire economy.
  • How do you drive to these market-based solutions for sustainable finance? 
  • Do you find more interest in different geographies, such as Europe, US, Asia, or is it a global interest?
  • What are the Poseidon Principles and what was the impetus in developing them?
  • Was the maritime sector involved in the conversation? 
  • You're doing metrics for specific subsectors. Why not do one for the entire maritime sector?
  • How many stakeholders did you have to engage with to find your initial set of signatories?
  • The Poseidon principles is simple – there’s effectively only one metric. How did the stakeholders settle on that metric?
  • You could have chosen 50 metrics, but you chose just one. Do you think that set the Poseidon Principles apart from the other initiatives out there?
  • What was your most important skill in getting Poseidon Principles Launched?
  • When did you first notice this interconnected web of moving parts?
  • How did Elinor Ostrem's work on the Commons influenced your work?
  • Was there something about the Maritime sector that made it a viable application of Ostrem's work?
  • How do you define the boundaries that the industry sub-groups will work on?
  • What other sectors have similar properties as the maritime sector?
  • One difference is that the maritime is a consumer sector whereas oil & gas is a producing sector.
  • It seems that the more specific the metric, the more actionable. But what about the notion of needing holistic solutions? How do you manage that tension?
  • To a student or early career professional, what skill or expertise do you encourage them to learn?


About Levers of Exchange

Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)

Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)

Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/


Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.

More Episodes


S03E06 Joaquin Viquez, Technical Advisor, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit

Season 3, Ep. 6
What we discussed: From water, wastewater, biodigestion and agriculture, Joaquin and I talked about how growing up on a farm in Costa Rica influenced his approach to problem solving as well as some of the critical challenges faced by his country. Through his stories, we looked at how the issues he’s worked on are interrelated, and which skills have been transferrable between sectors. Why it matters: Joaquin thoughtfully pointed out inquiry and curiosity as the critical skills to understanding how systems work and implementing change. He’s not embarrassed to not knowing the answer, and he unabashedly asks “why” as a way of finding out.What it means for you: That confidence to explore what one doesn’t know is a skill that systems change agents can adopt. Shruthi pointed it out too in her interview – there needs to be a humility in acknowledging what we don’t know as much as we need to recommend best practices of what we do know. Interviewee’s Bio:Joaquin Viquez, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, San Jose, Costa RicaMBA, Saïd Business School and Skoll World Forum FellowJoaquin Viquez is an Agricultural Engineer and a passionate social entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in Latin-American working in environmental projects, water and sanitation. He currently works for the German Agency for Cooperation GIZ in its office in Costa Rica in a regional water and sanitation projects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/joaquinviquez/In this interview, we discussed the following questions:You grew up in an agriculture family. How did that shape your childhood?How do you view problems through experience?How old were you when you had that formative moment?What were some of the things you tried to do with the extra fruit?You won Technology Review 35 from MIT. That award was given to you for an extension of this idea.What was the technology you won for?Can you elaborate a bit about the methane problem, from the climate side?What were some of the value-added benefits you were able to get to the farmer?How do you personalize a biodigester?What questions were farmers asking of you and what were the factors you could tweak?So how did you pivot working in biogas to working in water? What's the connection there?Can you give us an overview of what are the key issues of wastewater treatment and sanitation?Do different geographic scales (national, regional) have different sanitation issues?Water can be super hyperlocal. How do you deal with that?Can you ever take a technology and plop it into a community, or do you have to tweak for that community?Tell us about GIZ and how it tries to tackle some of these water issues in Costa Rica.What would you say is your critical skill that you're bringing to the team?How important is it to work with local representatives to take care of one's own backyard?What's the web of moving parts that drive towards sanitation outcomes?Water and wastewater - is it more common for one company to manage both?The agriculture / water nexus isn't just watering plants, it's also dissolved phosphorous. Can you explain that?We talked about several different systems and their stakeholder groups. When you're getting introduced to a new system, how do you tease it apart?How do you create systemic shifts?When did you first notice the web of moving parts and when did you decide to do something about it?It's important to notice what's missing! How would you describe the sense of noticing what's missing vs. noticing what's there?The feeling of inquiry and naivety is a benefit of coming in as an outsider.What's your approach to problem solving?Do you see a type of urban development that's more sustainable than others?Most infrastructure tries to centralize for efficiencies scale. But in wastewater you see the opposite, so that localities can take advantage of natural-based solutions.Why is that? What's unique about water / wastewater such that decentralization is preferrable?To a student, what skill would you encourage to learn?About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.

S03E05 Natalia Pshenichnaya, former Head of Programs, GSMA Foundation

Season 3, Ep. 5
What we discussed: In a developing country, the mobile phone is a person’s first interaction with technology. Thus, the telecom sector is at the tip-of-the-spear to offer banking services, agricultural notifications and health services to hard-to-reach areas.Why it matters: Within 5 years, climate change will change the agricultural crops across much of the world. Yet for small-holder farmers, working on family plots, they are cut off and unaware of the disruption to their livelihoods that is coming their way. What it means for you: It took innovative business models in order to convince the telecom sector to offer new products and innovation in rural areas. Yet the ones who did, reached customer loyalty upwards of 70%, unheard of in the sector. This podcast is a classic case of getting to know your customers on-the-ground to develop life-changing products and services.Interviewee’s Bio:Natalia Pshenichnaya, formerly GSMA Foundation, Berlin, GermanyMBA, Saïd Business SchoolAs Head of Programs, Natalia oversaw GSMA Foundation’s global portfolio of telecommunication innovation projects. She managed multi-million progammes (£10-20M+) across all stages: from design to evolution, pivot and completion, including GSMA AgriTech, CleanTech and mHealth initiatives. https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalia-pshenichnaya-7107781a/In this interview, we discussed the following questions:What are some of your favorite vegan recipes?What was it like growing up vegetarian in Russia?How did you start your career in the Telecom sector?When you got to GSMA Foundation, you fell into just the right mix based on your interests. What was your role?What is GSMA Foundation as an organization?Why do you think the telecom sector got interested in impact broadly, but also agriculture specifically?Is competition beyond your traditional industry sector going to become more common through internet-of-things and technology?When you were talking to the farmers on the ground in Kenya, what were some of the problems they would reveal to you?We're talking about small holders, independent farmers who own their own plots. They are subject to these massive shifts in climate.Where does the telecom technology come in and what were some technology solutions?Why could the telecom sector make a difference when other sector couldn't?What was it like when you started off in AgriTech? What was your north star?What do you think is the role of the enabling technologies to climate change?It hints at how societal acceptance of technology lags behind technology adoption.Did you see similarities in working with farmers and with medical tech?What do you consider to be your primary skill?How complex was this interconnected web that you had to work within?There is lot if inertia to not do things when there are multiple stakeholders. How did you find leverage to make change happen?What is what you're most proud of?When you jump into a project that not only you haven't done before, but no one has done before, what do you do first?To a student or early professional today, what skill or expertise do you recommend them to learn?About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.

S03E04 Stuart Hillen, Portfolio Development Lead, EnergyAustralia

Season 3, Ep. 4
What we discussed: Except for roads, we don’t tend to interact with large, physical infrastructures. For sure, we see the wires of the electric grid, but we don’t commonly see the electric power plans, refineries, and substations. Stuart and I discussed the business models and challenges that electric utilities face in Australia as they undertake decarbonization efforts. Why it matters: We often forget that we rely on infrastructure being available 100% of the time. Yet the cost of keeping the electric grid operating at that level is immense. Utilities build physical hedges in terms of overcapacity so as to provide certainty on uptime. What it means for you: As you think of system change, think of the failure modes of the system. How many failures are you willing to tolerate? How many can you avoid, and how many backup plans do you need to draw up to guarantee a certain performance criteria? Interviewee’s Bio:Stuart Hillen, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne, AustraliaMBA, Saïd Business SchoolAs Portfolio Development Lead Stuart is responsible for originating and executing generation development opportunities to transition EnergyAustralia’s 5,000 MW generation portfolio. Technologies covered include utility scale storage, pumped hydro and renewable investments. https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-hillen/In this interview, we discussed the following questions:What's your favorite infrastructure?What were the critical skills you learned as a civil engineer that helps you with your day-to-day jobs?What is the problem solving approach you take as a trained engineer?What's your role at EnergyAustralia?What stage of project development do you get involved in?What is the business model of EnergyAustralia?So you try to have the right physical portfolio mix to provide electricity. When you don't have it, you procure it from the market.Can you describe dispatchable power?Batteries time-shift resources, depending on what's available on the market. Given these movements of fuel shifting globally, what's the role of the utility in decarbonized future?There is quite a bit of indication to "electrify everything". It implies the need to double the size of the electric sector to absorb the transportation sector!You've mentioned a smattering of technologies. Technology cycles are usually 6-18 months, yet utilities need to think in 30 years. As a project developer, how do you match these time cycles?When you're project financing, how much do you have to take into account new business models?What is the not-often discussed field of Ancillary Services?Can you comment on the high costs to effectively maintain 100% uptime of the electric grid?Sometimes the overbuilding is criticized as waste, but to maintain nearly 100% uptime, one just need physical assets as hedges.Another way of creating that resiliency is fuel switching. What's the advantage of the hybrid power plant you worked on?Is Hydrogen a drop in fuel for Natural Gas?Have you seen the trend of hydrogen projects?Hydrogen electrolyzes produce the hydrogen. What sounds unclear is whether the electric utility should own the business model of producing hydrogen, right?When you're evaluating technologies, how do you know if a technology is "good enough"?Are we waiting for technology to improve, or for capital to implement?How many different stakeholders get involved and how many do you have to satisfy?When did you first get exposed to these issues that made you want to work with an electric utility?Were you surprised by the level of complexity of the stakeholders and issues involved?What is it about complexity that made you want to seek it out?So basically, complexity gives you job variety!To a student or early professional, what skill would you recommend them to learn?Curiosity has a humbleness of knowing that there's more to know, and a seeking of what one's lacking.About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the SaïdBusiness School, Oxford University.