Sunday, 1 April 2012

Ethical financial literacy

Ethical financial literacy

There are too few approaches to financial education that link it to responsible consumption. The recent UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education and the Curriculum recognised that young people need to be more “responsible consumers” of financial services, and want schools, colleges and universities to respond to this need. Politicians and educators are rapidly realising that future generations will need the skills, role models and examples that enable them to consume goods and services, including financial services, in a way that is both personally profitable and globally responsible.

There are obvious routes to encourage the take up of financial education like Mathematics and English. However other aspects of the non-statutory, informal and non-formal curriculum should be encouraged to make more financial links – such as Personal Social and Health Education with a focus on enterprise, citizenship, health and sustainable development. Financial education could be more integrated with other curriculum areas, such as religious studies and geography. It could also be supported in terms of the non-formal and informal curriculum, such as in tuckshops and school/college buildings management with students.

Ethical finance education can be introduced through responsible consumption – what we consume in our families, schools and this country, and what others consume in other parts of the world, where food and other goods come from and go to. This approach builds on the direct and real life experience of young children, without necessarily focusing on money in the first instance. Educating about responsible consumption can then lead to responsible consumption of financial products and services.

As Penny Shepherd of UKSIF recently wrote in Beyond Casino Capitalism published in Education and Sustainability, No.10 "Money" (RCE Barcelona 2011) “ Even though it is well accepted that tomorrow’s workforce will need to make their own provision for retirement, today’s students are being taught a “casino capitalism” view of financial markets that focuses on trading and does not communicate the importance of responsible shareholder power to protect and enhance the value of long-term savings.

To restore a culture of equity savings, there is an urgent need for educational material that redresses the balance between ownership and trading in an engaging and informative way. There is an important gap in the material available for personal finance education today ..

Ethica - The Ethical Finance Game

An education for sustainable development resource about personal financial management.

Exploring the social and environmental impact of personal banking, investments and businesses.

Helping players make more responsible and ethical decisions when managing their money.

Ethica -The Ethical Finance Game is an educational board and role-play game. It lets players assume the roles of bank customers, investment bankers or co-operative business entrepreneurs with money to save, invest and loan.

Over the last two years SustEd has worked with several organisations in other European countries that specialise in financial education and approaches to ethical finance education. The educational board and role-play game, called Ethica -The Ethical Finance Game, is an educational board and role-play game. It is freely downloadable.

It is one of the few educational resources about ethical finance and has recently been awarded a Quality Mark by the Personal Finance Education Group. The game's focus on ethical finance education is particularly timely due to both the financial banking crisis of 2008 which is still so much in the public mind, the increasing difficulty that students have in managing their personal finances and debts, and the growing range of financial products and services on offer to young people. Our testing of the game showed that young people had an ignorance of global financial links, and a mismatch between their own values and ethics (about social and environmental issues) and those of the banks in which they invest and save their money.

The game lets players assume the roles of bank customers, investment bankers or co-operative business entrepreneurs with money to save, invest and loan. It explores how well their ethical intentions stand up in the world of international finance. Players visit different banks where they can choose a share investment, cooperative investment or a savings account. Each investment gives the player either a positive or negative financial (Profit), social (People) and environmental (Planet) score. This score is partly dependent on news of the businesses and global economic news and partly on chance. Needless to say that the most ethical family investor and bank investor win.

Ethica is designed for between 6 and 27 15+ year old students in schools, colleges and universities as well as youth groups. It is particularly relevant to business, finance and economics students but also for the more informal curriculum as part of financial literacy programmes and personal and social education. There are simpler versions of the game, as well as increasing complexity over the three rounds, or years. There is a comprehensive Leaders Guide and an opportunity for educators to contribute to the blog to find and contribute feedback, teaching ideas, further case studies, online videos, teaching plans and follow-up.

The game emphasises that everyone can make the choice to invest or save in an ethical manner. In addition players will:

  • Learn how personal savings and investments can affect other people, the planet and the global economy - both for better and for worse.

  • Understand the pros and cons of different investments and savings, and their levels of financial, social and environmental risk.

  • Be able to make more informed, ethical choices about how we can use and invest our money in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

  • Understand how money can be a tool for both sustainable and unsustainable development in a range of businesses.

  • Understand how banks can use and abuse the money that we invest in them.

  • Understand how we can influence banks and businesses by choosing our bank or investing our money.