Onur's Song for Katapult Future Fest 2024

Onur's Song for Katapult Future Fest 2024

Between May 28-31, together with Özlem, we attended the 7th annual Katapult Future Fest in Oslo, Norway.

Katapult Future Fest is a festival where the international impact and systemic impact community come together. Although the program content resembles a conference, it offers a much more intimate and human connection with unique practices such as initiating conversations through WhatsApp groups established months before the festival, providing spaces and opportunities for participants to make their own presentations and hold their own events, and having local community members host participants in their homes.

Our intention in attending this event was to exchange experiences in the field of impact investing, to follow the latest developments in the field of systemic impact, to gain inspiration on how we can develop our own approaches, and to establish new networks.

 

28th of May

We arrived towards the evening and went to dinner at TheConduit Oslo, the meeting point for participants. TheConduit is a collective workspace/city club where stakeholders of the impact ecosystem gather. Upon entering, we learned that, unlike the London branch, the Oslo branch is open to everyone. We discovered that "participatory" approaches are very important in Norwegian culture, and while other branches are clubs where non-members cannot enter, the Oslo branch is based on a membership model but is also open to non-members.

After a timely dinner where we greeted friends, we retired to rest and prepare for the busy day ahead. I noticed that the impact investor network Toniic had a large turnout for this event.

 

29th of May - Day 0 - Investor Day

 

Silas Henriksen kicked the day off with an impressive dance show in the main hall where the panels followed afterwards.

 

 

Megatrends: Looking Beyond Definitions and Spreadsheets, & into Legacy and What’s Important for the Generation to Come

Nancy Curtin, Ola Brown, and Paarul Dudeja evaluated the trends shaping our current era, moderated by Alison Fort. From this session, I noted the name of the main sponsor, Alti Tiedeman. I also made a note to further research Nancy Curtin’s points about the "transition from CPU to GPU" era and "the increasing importance of energy with the development of artificial intelligence."



Transformative Investment Strategies: Redefining Impact Beyond Investing in Singular Solutions

Jason Jay, Cilia Holmes Indahl, Paul Ziesche, and Wietse van der Warf discussed how investment can be used as a catalyst and accelerator for the comprehensive transformation of a defined system. I was particularly impressed by Wietse van der Warf’s Sea Rangers project. This project provides year-long maritime and marine life training to young people in coastal areas, supported by renowned nature-loving experts in the field. By completing this training and certification program, young people from coastal regions gain an advantage in their careers or find employment. When these young people go to sea, they become advocates for good practices within their communities and organizations. The Sea Rangers project has the potential to expand through a franchise model, and I made a note to research how it could be started in Turkey.

During the Q&A session, a question was raised about the "ergodic" investment perspective. From a portfolio management viewpoint, the focus is on minimizing the risk of each seemingly separate investment to maximize the total return on investment. In contrast, the systemic perspective focuses on investments that interact with each other, aiming to develop the entire system by concentrating on points that create a catalytic, leverage effect.

Progress, Profit, and Principle: Navigating a Conscientious Economic and (Geo) Political Landscape

Johannes Lenhard, Samina Vabo Ansari, Ed Marcum, and Indy Johar evaluated the relationship between the economic model influencing our current times and human values. Indy Johar from Dark Matters made a strong impact by stating that our economic model is dead and that attempts to make adjustments are akin to breathing life into a zombie. His examples, such as "Who in this room thinks soil is valuable? So where is this value recorded on a farm's balance sheet?" were creative and thought-provoking.

Lunch Break Conversations

During the lunch break, I chatted with Markus Bohm from Planet Ocean Fund, which invests in impact funds related to seas and oceans.

  • When I asked how we could bridge our philanthropic work under the Torquise Coast Environment Fund with investment funds, he mentioned that philanthropic resources could be used to fund initiatives that are not yet ready to receive investment from an impact fund and to connect them with such funds. I requested a few example projects from him in this area.
  • I asked if he saw any long-term sustainability problems with the approach of local environmental funds creating conservation areas with resources from hotel chains and organizing special tours to these areas from the hotels. He observed that this approach contributes positively to natural life sustainably by creating protected areas and limiting fishermen's access to these areas.
  • I inquired if he could recommend any local initiatives or foundations in Mexico that could collaborate on the issue of seaweed and debris on beaches. He noted it and said he would share it later.

Afternoon Parallel Sessions

Workshop: Twists and Turns: The Systemic Revolution in Finance

Facilitated by Jason Jay, we began by discussing how to define the scope of the system. We talked about studies that can be done to understand the system and then about elements that can be used as leverage or triggers for transformation. We discussed our own examples at round tables.

The “AI in Impact Investing” Roundtable

In this session, Fredrik Winther from Northstar first shared brief information about the AI tools they use in impact investments. Then, at the round table, we evaluated the impact of AI on impact investing. Gustav Von Sydow was at our table. I found some questions and perspectives in this session a bit traditional. It was argued that in portfolio management, AI's ability to access a large amount of data and transactions would surpass humans in early-stage investments in terms of long-term portfolio returns. I expressed that if AI is to be trained in terms of portfolio investment returns, there are markets with far more data points to train on before early-stage impact investments. I also mentioned that impact investments aim to contribute to the transformation of perspectives through established relationships rather than merely minimizing portfolio risk.

VC 2.0: Rethinking Impact, Sustainability, and Success in Africa’s Startup Revolution

Hafsah Jumare, Aysha Tegally, Bernt Brun, and Sissel Aarak evaluated the African impact investment ecosystem. I noted to follow Hafsah Jumare's venture, Coama'na, more closely. During a conversation at dinner, she mentioned that they contribute to the digitalization of local marketplaces, which increases both their access to finance and customers. She said they are currently in their first VC investment rounds, having received $500k on a $6m valuation. I also noted to follow Aysha Tegally's family office, which invests in Africa, and the investments they make. Bernt Brun shared that having partners with international experience among local teams positively impacts their investments.

After a coffee break where Özlem and I evaluated the parallel sessions we attended, we returned to the main hall events.

Future Flux: Back to the Future or Forward to the Future?

Jenny Grettve, Monika Bielskyte, and John Mack presented their perspectives on the future. John Mack from Life Calling gave the most striking and clear presentation on the relationship between technology and humans that I have heard, titled "Investing in the Inner – A Wake-Up Call." I subscribed to his YouTube channel to listen to his other talks.

The Embodiment of Business – When Art is Our Guide

John Michael Schert, together with Silas Henriksen, created a dance performance. While explaining how business life can be different when inspired by the relationship between humans and art, he also involved the audience in the design process of the dance performance created with Silas. We experienced a collective production and observed the effects of the production process on us.

We’re Not Just Investing in One Future: We’re Investing in the Futures of Our Planet

Veterans of impact investing, Heba Aguib (BMW Foundation), Michael Alu (Toniic), Funda Sezgi (Norrsken), and Tharald Nustad (Katapult), evaluated the current state of impact investing. They mentioned that before COVID, entrepreneurs did not want to receive investments from funds working in impact or sustainability because it made it harder to find resources from other funds. Today, however, the situation has changed. They emphasized that impact investments still stand at 2% globally and that there is a long way to go, underscoring the importance of future work.

Dinner Conversations

At dinner, I had a conversation with Graham Boyd, who asked about "ergodic" investments in the morning session. He gave me his book, in which he explains how investments made from a systemic investment perspective also maximize investment returns. I noted to research this topic.

 

May 30, Wednesday - Day 1

We started the day with a swimming activity in the North Sea. This event was organized by Tekla, one of the participants. Following the note saying "Come to the point on the map at 08:30, we will swim first and then have breakfast together," we arrived at the pier near the marina on a rainy Oslo morning. Tekla, Wieteke, David, and Mara were waiting for us. Mara mentioned that she was not there to swim but was looking for farms to implement her initiative. After listening to her, Paul joined us, and we left our clothes on the bags under the umbrellas and plunged into the very cold sea. It was so cold, but after a while, our bodies became numb, and we didn’t feel any pain. When we got out, Huyen and Einar were waiting for us. They were late for swimming but said they would join us for breakfast. We sat at a nearby café and got to know each other.

Thekla from Netherlands shared that during her travels in Africa and South Asia by bike, she realized that agriculture in Africa was done in a very consumptive way and developed a plan to bring regenerative agriculture practices there. She first found funding from a local foundation and expanded her work after the successful outcome of her pilot project. Today, she has a meaningful-scale regenerative agriculture venture called Grounded. Wieteke from Netherlands, mentioned that after selling her father's business in recent years, they started a family office and began making impact investments. David, living in Berlin, is a film producer documenting impact works. Paul from Netherlands is the CEO of Enviu, a company that builds impact companies in Africa. Einar and Huyen are Board Members and Program Managers of the SK2 fund, which does philanthropic work in Asia. Listening to their projects was inspiring. At this table, I had the chance to ask the question, "Is it the right approach to apply Western business models to Africa and integrate Africa into the global value chain, considering that Western business models and the global economic system are being questioned these days?" They thought that, just like Africa's leap with the internet and mobile revolutions, there is potential for Africa to develop with its unique model, and that it is possible to advance more carefully in Africa by benefiting from the experience gained in Western practices. I found the effect of starting with a common swimming experience and then continuing with introductions on the sincerity of the conversation striking.

We changed our clothes and moved to an open-air festival area near the marina called 3KT, which resembles a public market. The program was scheduled to start at 11:00 with various welcoming rituals. We entered a tipi called Lavvo and did a session about who we are and what our intentions are, weaving ourselves and each other into the space.

When we came out of the tipi, we saw a musician singing and playing the guitar, gathering everyone around the common areas.

I met with Daniel, the co-founder of NatureRe. We had agreed to discuss recent developments before arriving. He shared that they received a significant project invitation to restore a 2 million-hectare desertified area (Belgium is 3 million hectares for reference) by setting up desalination systems and purifying seawater. He believes that ecosystem restoration projects using technology in controlled areas add meaningful diversity alongside projects repairing deforested areas. I understand that this potential project has a similar structure to the ongoing projects in Colombia. I was excited about the evaluation of such a large-scale project.

As we finished our conversation, the musician and the dancers who followed entered the Town Hall building. We followed them and attended the opening session.

Panel: Welcome – What is Gathering?

Christian Busch, Laura Francois, Dumi Right, and Britta Gruenig held a session that broadened the perspective on communication and relationship-building, inviting us to be part of a collective effort in the event we individually stepped into.

Workshop: Delve into the Essence of Systems Thinking and its Application in Strategic Design

Danny Almagor and Kaj Löfgren organized a workshop on systemic thinking. They invited us to step back from any single perspective and recognize multiple perspectives when addressing an issue (e.g., marine life is depleting + fishermen need to earn a living). They introduced the "three horizons" approach. The first horizon (triage) includes immediate solutions, like organizing meals for homeless people in a city. The second horizon (transition) involves the work needed to move from the current horizon to the next, like integrating the homeless into society and addressing the root causes of homelessness. The third horizon (transformation) envisions the desired future, such as imagining a city where everyone lives in harmony and all needs are met. This three-horizon approach provides a framework for different perspectives to coexist and be honored, allowing stakeholders to focus on meaningful parts and contribute to the transformation journey. At our round tables, we evaluated our work using this model and discussed leverage points and how triggering activities (e.g., investment) contribute to systemic transformation.

After this session, I went to lunch. The person next to me was Milly, a consultant in systemic investment whom I had requested to meet on WhatsApp. As she shared her work, I realized she was also on a journey of discovery. We exchanged our experiences and learnings. Later, Ross, a fund manager from Katapult Ocean, joined us. I asked him the same questions I had asked Markus the previous day and learned about good examples he had encountered. I also asked Ross what he thought about Sea Shepherd, an organization that conducts militant activities to prevent illegal fishing on the high seas. He immediately understood and shared that such activities are necessary until the condition of the oceans is secured, which reassured me. After a brief discussion about Sea Rangers, I left to catch the next session.

Panel: Urban Philosophies: What are Cities, What They Can Be, and What are They Not?

Luis Gallardo, Garance Choko, Indy Johar, and Johannes Lenhard discussed city planning and urban structures. Indy pointed out that planning often focuses on maximizing real estate value, ignoring the intangible values of the residents. He gave an example that before COVID, companies' cost structures consisted of about 7% for office space and 70% for human resources, yet cost planning often only considered the office space costs. I found Indy's questions about the nature of "value" very enlightening.

Indigenous Wisdom Traditions in the Context of Systemic Perspectives

Dana Ulrike Glatz, along with a Brazilian tribe member and a Sami guest, facilitated a session on the needs of indigenous peoples and how we can learn from their wisdom to overcome our current situation. While I do not think using a divisive language like "indigenous peoples and us" is beneficial, I found it valuable to include indigenous representation to make the festival more inclusive.

As this session ended, music began, and people gathered around the musician in the square for the day's closing dance. From there, we moved on to the community dinners.

Community Dinner

The community dinner was a unique concept for me. Local participants who are part of the Katapult community open their homes to other participants. These dinners are held in various locations across the city, and participants are randomly assigned. I was at Dinner 4, while Özlem was at Dinner 36. Each dinner has its own WhatsApp group, where participants, who don’t know each other, communicate with each other and the host to organize the dinner. Everyone brings their own drinks. It was an interesting experience to visit a home in Oslo. Ending the day by evaluating it with people I met for the first time, setting the table together, and chatting in the kitchen was a truly unique experience. Everyone I met had impressive initiatives or investments in the impact field, which made the conversation deepen quickly. After dinner, we went for a walk together and visited the nearby Olympic ski jumping facility. Climbing this dizzying height, I realized that ski jumping is a much more vertical experience than I had thought; I used to think they just went fast and jumped forward, but it turns out they fall straight down. I noted to research this further when I got back.

 

I had a conversation with Bert from Netherlands about the conference he plans to organize in Denmark to invite traditional investors to engage in impact investments.

In our pleasurable conversation with Jim from USA, I learned about the funding model he developed, which is based on revenue sharing through trackable success metrics in Africa.

Joseph from Romania shared information about his Singapore-based healthcare impact investment fund.

Ben from Germany, who had recently sold his last venture, gave insights into a new leadership development program he has begun testing.

It was also a great opportunity to deepen my conversation with Ali, the co-founder of the 4Impact fund, whom we met two weeks ago in Amsterdam on their Investor Day.

Our host, Jorgen, is 33 years old and had many questions about starting a new venture. I felt that our discussions provided Jorgen with motivation and solutions to some of the issues on his mind.  It turned out to be a very memorable evening, allowing us the spaciousness needed to process the information and internalize the wisdom we have been subject to.

 

May 31, Thursday - Day 2

On our departure day, we went for a short run in the morning, packed our bags, and had just enough time to attend one session before heading out.

The Investment Opportunity in AI: Dystopian Future, or a Carbon-Neutral Augmentation of Each of Us?

Amit Pradhan, Charly Kleissner, Georgiana Wright, and Lili Jassemi shared their evaluations on the age of artificial intelligence.

Charly Kleissner defined impact investing for himself as follows:

  1. "I am an impact investor. I aim to maximize social and environmental benefits with my investments. While I do seek financial returns, I do not compromise on maximizing social and environmental impact to achieve these returns.
  2. I am a systemic investor. I focus on investments that contribute to a whole, aiming to trigger transformation in complex systems rather than making isolated investments."

He emphasized that AI develops based on the data sets it is built upon and mentioned that within Toniic, the organization he founded, they have started a project called T100 to compile a data set of success indicators for impact investments. This project aims to equip AI with accurate information related to the impact ecosystem.

Amit Pradhan shared his perspective on AI, suggesting that using the word "artificial" implies a technology that will replace humans. Instead, he prefers the term "Augmented" to indicate that AI should enhance human capacity. He believes that as the applications of AI continue to expand, the driving dynamic behind this trend is humanity's confrontation with itself and the development of a new vision and approach for the future. Hearing this approach resonated well with my talk titled "What Will I Do While AI Does All This?"

We found what we were looking for at Katapult Future Fest. We gained new relationships, perspectives, knowledge, and experiences. With our broadened perspective, we will accelerate our efforts to transition Light Eagle from impact investing to systemic investing.

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