#DFI2015, Refugees and World Peace

I had a completely different post planned for this week, but I am feeling quite inspired by something so I’m mixing it up.

The Digital Finance Institute (DFI) had a day-long conference in Toronto on Wednesday. DFI is an organization of financial technology (FinTech) companies. That may make it sound reeeeeally dry, but bear with me.

There was an opening keynote about the “Internet of Everything”, and four panel discussions about various topics: Frontiers in FinTech, Success Stories, AI and Robotics, and Financing a Startup. These were all pretty cool subjects, but the closing keynote is what has stayed with me.

Sam Maule, from Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group (CGC) and Chief Inspirational Officer of DFI, gave the presentation remotely. Pretty spectacular when the closing keynote is given through audio only in a GoToMeeting (we couldn’t get the video to work), while I hit “page down” through his slides for him, to a group of about 150 people.


I will paraphrase the important bits here, since you may hear about this in mainstream news soon anyway. If you ever meet or talk to Sam, ask him about his story.

Don’t know about you, but I hear the news and most times I am horribly guilty of trying to close my ears. I hear about masses of refugees from Syria, some countries welcoming, some closing their borders. But hey, it’s not my problem, they’re too far away. I’m stealing a couple of Sam’s slides for this.


What I didn’t know was that there are approximately 59.5 million refugees globally. Think about that for a second, and then let’s put it into perspective. The population of our entire country as of April 1, 2015 was 35,749,600, according to Stats Canada. Pause again. Did your jaw just drop reading that, like mine did?

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel pretty blessed that I have a job, a roof over my head, clothes and shoes in my closet, and food on my table. I’m not rich, but I have a bank account.


From the DFI website: “According to recent studies, around 2 billion people don’t use, or have access to, formal financial services and more than 50% of adults are unbanked. The lack of access to the financial system in a sustained way is often termed ‘financial inclusion’ which means persons, or businesses, that are excluded from the regulated and formal financial system. Financial inclusion is key to reducing poverty and supporting economic growth and prosperity for all countries.” Something we quickly take for granted, but imagine going without.

What if I added something else from Sam’s presentation? Over 50% of refugees are children. That’s over 30 million refugee children. You’ve probably heard this before, but did it really sink in? They may not being living in our country, but isn’t this our problem? What if they were your neighbours? Children are our future. Without financial inclusion, how will they even have a future?


People are going hungry, homeless, some with only the clothes on their back. The co-founder of DFI, Christine Duhaime, had an idea. It’s a pretty big dream. A Digital Refugee Bank. Also from the DFI website: “At the conclusion of the test pilot, the project will move towards implementing a program of global financial inclusion with payments solutions (a Refugee Bank), coupled with biometric identification capture targeted at the refugee population in the Middle East, Africa, the EU and Asia and will the first such program in the world.”

I want to be involved. I want to be part of something bigger than I am. I want to be part of the big picture and make a real difference to someone. I don’t have a lot of time, but I can make the time. It’s important.

Helping even a few of those 59.5 million people would be worth it. The half that are children are part of our global future. We don’t even know what just one or two may be capable of. They need an opportunity.

What if everyone actually gave a damn about someone else? What if we took the time to help someone else, even someone we didn’t know? Do you think a lot of people doing a lot of little things, might help make some positive changes in the world?

The Refugee Bank is a dream slowly becoming a reality. The reality is, it could be the start of something truly beautiful. These people are inspiring. Go to http://digifin.org/financial-inclusion/ for more information.

Guess when it comes right down to it, I really do want world peace.

P.S – you can follow Sam, Christine and DFI on Twitter at @sammaule @cduhaime @DFInstitute