Latest Event Updates

Registrations are open for the 2017 EOC Summer School & Annual EOC Meeting

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You’re Invited!

Join us at Mariapolis Luminosa in Hyde Park, NY for:

The 2017 EOC SUMMER SCHOOL
From dinner on June 20th through lunch on June 23rd, 2017

The ANNUAL MEETING OF THE NORTH AMERICAN EOC ASS.N
From lunch on June 23rd through lunch on June 25th, 2017

A new vision for the economy and business

In today’s world, globalization presents to us significant challenges such as poverty, inequality, unemployment, and forced migration… All these situations make us question if this is the world we want, if the economy can change for the better.

The Economy of Communion project (EOC) offers a new perspective facing these challenges: a new business culture where free enterprises become the cradle of a culture of giving, that fosters fraternity, social bonds, sustainability, and communion, rather than individualism and profit as an end in itself.

Learn more and register

You can learn more about both events and register at the following link.

The deadline to register is May 26, 2017.

Is Transparency Always a Good Thing?

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by Jim Funk

Businesswoman and question mark on blackboardThe news I received last month was unexpected, disappointing, and maddening. My alma mater, St. Joseph’s College, announced they would be “suspending operations” at their Rensselaer, Indiana campus after the end of the spring semester. This decision was made by the Board of Trustees, based on a dire financial situation at the college that the majority of the members believed could not be turned around. The students, faculty, alumni, and town were all caught off guard. The Alumni Association responded quickly, saying they believe the college can be saved. They are undertaking a major fundraising effort on their own to try and reverse the decision, but only time will tell whether their efforts will work.

There have been criticisms leveled at the Board and Administration for not being transparent about the financial situation, and not acting early enough to properly address the problem. The backlash, and the ultimate result that the school is suspending operations, may be indicators that transparency was needed long before now. The Chairman of the Board recently issued a statement saying that they thought sending out an SOS would have been unproductive. The Board thought that sharing information about the school’s financial hardships would discourage potential donors from giving, rather than encourage them to help. I would also guess there was a lot of discussion about whether students would continue to come to St. Joseph’s if they knew of the financial problems. We don’t know the answer, but we do know that many people are upset, and now the future of the college is in jeopardy.

I know from my years working in Human Resources that there are many situations discussed in the administrative suites and board rooms of companies and organizations—in practically any industry—that beg the question of transparency. When those in charge know certain facts, their communication choices can be critical. For example, in a situation where there are likely going to be layoffs, prudence calls for a well-thought out communication plan that has a clear sequence of steps, timing and messaging. Most leaders easily see why such care and planning is necessary. What about situations that are not so clear-cut, or where there is disagreement among the decision-makers about what information should be shared?

Opening the books: A decision of transparency

I decided to do a little more research on transparency in the business world. I spoke with Anne Godbout, Executive Director of Spiritours, an Economy of Communion business located in Montreal, Quebec. I know Anne to be an honest and forthright leader, so I asked her whether she had ever gone through a time when she found transparency to be a challenge.  It didn’t take her long to think of a situation she recently faced. She told me how her company was not able to meet their financial goals last year, so she had to inform the employees that there would not be a team bonus. Later one of the employees found out that the company had made a significant donation to a charity during the previous year. The employee started telling other employees about it, and suggested it was probably the cause of the financial shortfall that resulted in no bonuses.

When Anne learned of this, she considered sharing the company’s financial records with all the employees—something she had not done before. Of course, a private company has no obligation to open their books to the employees, but she thought that maybe it would help them understand there were other factors involved, and the charitable contribution was not the cause. She worried, though, because she said it’s tricky to show employees financial information that they may not fully understand. Despite the risk of further misunderstanding, she decided to go ahead and review the company’s books with all the employees in order to reassure them and rebuild trust. After doing so, she said she felt right away she had done the right thing. The employees better understood the situation and appreciated Anne’s openness with them. Now she continues to share financial records with them, as she believes they deserve to know more about matters that could impact them, and they deserve to feel trusted. In turn, she finds they trust her more, too.

Holistic Leadership calls for transparencyholistic-leader-competencies-transparent

In my Holistic Leadership competency model, being transparent is one of the nine characteristics that is critical to successful leadership and successful organizations. Holistic leaders are open, honest, direct, and forthright in the way they act and communicate. This doesn’t mean they are indiscriminate with the timing or the information that is shared. Rather, they understand when people are being impacted by certain situations and they willingly share the information that matters at the appropriate time. These leaders communicate clearly in a direct and honest fashion, which earns respect from colleagues.

But is transparency always a good thing?

It is a fair question to ask. Surely everyone isn’t always on a need-to-know basis. How does the leader know when and how to be transparent? Such decisions require the leader to:

1) Take time to reflect on the implications of transparency, and of withholding information;

2) Talk with trusted confidants or other colleagues who can share honest feedback and advice;

3) Display courage in meetings with other decision-makers by speaking up when the decision or the communication plan doesn’t seem right.

Of these three, I would actually list the last one as the most important, and in some ways the most difficult. Courage is not only critical to making good decisions about transparency, but also to the initial decision itself. Leaders must ask themselves: Is the decision the right thing to do? And when we communicate this news, can we do so with honesty and integrity, knowing we made our best decision?

To do what is truly right, there is a sequence, place and time for transparency, so that it does not create unnecessary misunderstandings or pre-empt the elements of a good communication plan.

Going back to my opening story, I hope that St. Joseph’s College will somehow recover from their current financial crisis. I look back fondly on my four years at the institution. I found it to be an exceptional and unique educational experience that prepared me well for my career and my life. I love their motto, “Involved for Life,” which is truly what they teach and encourage in their graduates. If there is an opportunity to take the college into the future, people will expect the leaders to be vigilant about communicating with the transparency that was missing in recent years.

We can all learn from these difficult lessons. Things don’t automatically get better if we avoid sharing bad news. In tough situations, the smartest thing we can do is to consider the people involved and the possible outcomes of disclosing information. Leaders who go through this process will be respected by their colleagues, even when they are faced with delivering bad news.

 

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Annual EoC Report – 2016

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The annual report of the Economy of Communion initiative for 2016 is now available in English.

It has been published as an insert in the latest release of the Citta’ Nuova magazine. Its North American counterpart, Living City Magazine,  is publishing a series of articles on the EoC in its upcoming issue.

You review the full insert by clicking on the image below.screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-2-25-21-pm

Joy, Celebration, and Challenge

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Initial reflections on the audience that the Economy of Communion members had with Pope Francis on Feb 4th, 2017

By John Gallagher

The full text of Pope Francis’ address is now widely available. It has been disseminated on numerous websites, including here on ours, and posted to various social media. Here is the Vatican’s official translation into English. This is a good and wonderful thing for all of us; to have his message shared for all peoples and for all time. This is a joy! This makes it possible for everyone to study his words, ponder his meaning, and share insights and questions with each other.

32366979150_d5eed9cbdb_zLet us also recognize then that his address was indeed a joyous occasion, and not only for those who were there but as a joyous occasion of unity with all of the Economy of Communion. Pope Francis clearly knows of our work, and our efforts, and our values, and recognizes them as the gospel in action. And while our time with him was brief, we can carry his message in our hearts and minds everywhere we go and for all time. For those of us who were there, we have a special responsibility. For to us was given the opportunity to not just read his printed words on a page, but to receive this message as the spoken word, which as we know, can be a special means of grace. To be there together and to hear not just the words, but the tone of his voice, his inflections, his pauses, and to see his facial expressions and his gestures of emphasis, all provide a richness that is not apparent in the printed words. Our responsibility is to share the richness of this experience as widely, broadly, and deeply as we can; to enrich his simple, straightforward, yet powerful printed words with the richness of our experience on that day.

32366980120_d5d07bfa65_zI believe that Pope Francis was happy to be there with us and to be in unity with us. And us with him. Much of his address to us was a celebration of our work and the work of the EOC over these past 25 years. He specifically speaks of us introducing communion into the economy and beginning a profound change in the way of seeing and living business in today’s world. He celebrates with us that our work can make the economy beautiful. He also celebrates our ethical and spiritual choice to pool profits because it is a statement to the world that we first serve God and not money. Francis characterizes the sharing of profits as the “best and most practical way” to avoid the idolatry of money. Here (as he does throughout the address) Francis echoes the long-standing teaching of the church about the universal destination of goods and the social mortgage that accompanies all forms of property, even the profits from our businesses. Thus does Francis celebrate our work to be “merchants that Jesus does not expel” but rather merchants who walk with the poor, the marginalized, or as Francis says, the “discarded”.

170204_udienza_papa_20_ridBut it is at this point that Francis also challenges us – in a significant and very serious way. For the profits that we generate are the result of participation in an economic system that seems by necessity to produce “discarded people” that the system then looks to hide or remove from our communion by caring for them in distant and non-personal ways rather than walking with them. Francis certainly admonishes us not to do this; to go beyond being just Good Samaritans who care for the victims of our society but to work for systemic social change such that tomorrow’s victims will never come into being. And in this work, to not just give our time and our money, but to give all of ourselves. Until we give everything of ourselves we will never give “enough”. This too echoes the teaching of the Church reminding us that Christ asks us for total surrender.

There is much in this challenge for us to ponder and discern; for the way forward – the numerous ways in which we might think about this challenge and how to respond to it, and embrace it are not obvious. But here Francis provides some guidance by encouraging us to perhaps remain small; to remain the “seed, salt, and leaven” that is the real secret to change. He suggests we might become the leaven of a new economy, the “economy of the Kingdom”.


About the author

Dr. John Gallagher, Professor of Management, Maryville College

For the past decade, Gallagher has been involved in researching the business practices of companies that participate in the Economy of Communion, which promotes using private enterprise to address social problems. In 2014, he and Dr. Jeanne Buckeye of the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., published their first book: “Structures of Grace: Business Practices of the Economy of Communion” (New City Press).

Gallagher teaches strategic management and international business courses at Maryville College, as well as executive MBA courses at the University of Tennessee. Prior to his academic career, he spent over 20 years as a corporate executive and consultant in both manufacturing and service industries.

Gallagher completed his undergraduate education at Boston College, and earned his MBA and Ph.D. from The University of Tennessee.


 

Being an EoC Entrepreneur: when Economy and Communion Unite

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By Nick Sanna

Members of the Economy of Communion initiative gathered from all over the world in Rome and met with Pope Francis on February 4th, 2017

170204_udienza_papa_12_rid_mod“Economy and communion. These are two words that dominant culture keeps separate and often considers as opposites. You have united these words, by welcoming the invitation that Chiara Lubich extended to you in Brazil 25 years ago. Faced with the scandal of inequality in the city of Sao Paolo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion.” These are the words that Pope Francis used to greet the 1,100 entrepreneurs, students, and scholars of the Economy of Communion (EoC) on February 4th.

“I have been genuinely interested in your project for some time.” Among those listening to Pope Francis’ words were people that consider the EoC not just as a work project, but as their lifestyle. More than 50 countries from all the continents were represented. 25 of us representing the EoC in the US and Canada participated in this event, that marked the 25th anniversary of the EoC. The meeting started on February 1st with two days of concrete workshops to learn how to coach new entrepreneurs to develop businesses imbued by the spirit of the EoC, followed by 3 days of reflections and workgroups where we assessed the status of the EoC today, reflected on the possible next steps both on a regional and on a global basis, and deepened our understanding of the EoC.

170201_castelgandolfo_congresso_edc_22_ridThe encounter with Pope Francis was certainly the highlight of the meeting. He managed to encourage, challenge and inspire us. He commended the EoC entrepreneurs for being actors of communion and for sharing their profits for the benefit of people in need, indicating that this was the antidote to the possible idolatry of money when the accumulation (versus the circulation) of money and goods by themselves becomes the aim of our actions.

Pope Francis went on to note that although there are many public and private initiatives to fight poverty, “capitalism continues to produce discarded people whom it would then like to care for.” That’s when he challenged the EoC to do more. If the EoC wants to be faithful to its original charism, it must not only take care of the victims of capitalism but also build a system where the victims are fewer and fewer, until there are no longer any and universal fraternity is fulfilled. “Therefore, we must work towards changing the rules of the socio-economic system,” the Pope continued. “Imitating the Good Samaritan is not enough.”

“Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion,” the Pope said. “It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those ‘crumbs.’ Instead, even just five loaves and two fishes can feed the multitude if they are sharing of all our life. In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.” He concluded: “May the ‘no’ to an economy that kills become a ‘yes’ to an economy that lets live, because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion.”

You can read the full text of his address here and view more pictures of the event at this link.

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EoC Workgroup – North America & Oceania

This was a strong experience for all of us who traveled from North America, that compels us to elevate our ‘game’. Here are just a few of the words shared at the end of the meeting:

  • “I am challenged to examine my life in terms of the Gospel and words of Pope Francis.”
  • “I was inspired by the many EoC actors who shared their stories and am prompted to reconsider what I can do better towards living out the EoC principles in my life and in my business.”
  • “This was a holy fine in many ways, and I feel we are being guided by the Spirit particularly now. Pope Francis has challenged us – how will we respond.”

31956814014_9bd95e3108_zProf. Luigino Bruni, who heads up the International commission of the EoC, concluded the meeting by highlighting a strong parallel between the pontificate of Pope Francis and the charism of Chiara Lubich. He observed that both have used strong words against an economy that excludes, that discards, that pollutes, that kills. They both invite entrepreneurs to re-think the meaning of profits, asking them to put them freely in common to create more distributed and inclusive wealth. Both show the direction to an economy that says ‘Yes to life’. “The EoC entrepreneurs demonstrate with their companies that you can sanctify yourself not despite business, but thanks to business and that you can experience a life of fulfillment and excellence by being an entrepreneur.”


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Three Secrets to Becoming a Trusted Leader

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by Jim Funk

Teamwork couple climbing helping handTrust must be earned. But how do leaders earn the trust of colleagues, superiors, and the people they lead? To begin with, leaders must be competent. If they don’t possess strong leadership capabilities it is difficult to trust that they will lead their team to achieve the desired results. Secondly, they must have character. Leaders are not only skill sets, but they are people who bring their whole selves and their character traits to their leadership roles. It is the leader as a person who earns the trust of others. And finally, to be trusted, leaders must be vulnerable. They must be willing to be transparent, humble and honest in admitting their mistakes, and acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers.

This may sound good in theory, but to find out how this plays out in the real world I interviewed leaders of three successful organizations who are highly trusted by the people they work with.

  1. Competency

Leaders earn trust by demonstrating their competence. Grant Marsh is the General Manager of The Guild House, one of the restaurants owned by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants based in Columbus, Ohio. Grant earned the respect of several of his team members one evening by demonstrating the competencies of prudent decision-making, effective conflict management, and holding others accountable for their behavior.

As he described it, this situation was a case of “the customer is not always right.” A few guests ended up having too much to drink, and they became demanding, rude and abusive to some of the staff. Grant confronted the guests, and upon assessing the situation he made the decision to ask them to leave. They were not too happy about him taking that action, to say the least.

Some restaurant managers might be reluctant to take that step, lest the guests become angry and later badmouth the restaurant that threw them out. But a trusted leader makes the right decision and does not allow guests to disrespect the staff. Even at a restaurant that proudly proclaims they serve “a lot of love on every plate,” staff should be able to trust that their leader will have their backs. In addition, Grant pointed out that such a decision will also be respected by other guests who witness it, and will build trust with them as well.

  1. Character

When leaders have to make difficult decisions and lead employees through tough times, things go much smoother when they are trusted because of their character. Blake Dye is President of St.Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis. At St.Vincent, as well as in another facility he previously led, he is consistently described by his fellow executives as a person of character who is highly trusted. I met with Blake to discuss his leadership more in depth, and as we talked, I listened for aspects of his character that enabled him to build trust so effectively.

He gave a specific example of a time when the trust he had built helped employees accept reductions in future retirement benefits, which had to be made because the plan was more costly than the organization could afford. In some workplaces, such a change would bring much discontent and erode trust in the administration, but that was not the case in Blake’s facility. In redesigning the plan, Blake first gathered input about the change and how to best communicate it. He respected peoples’ opinions, and worked with them in a collaborative way. When the decision was communicated, the leadership team was all on the same page, speaking as one voice about the reasons for the change and how employees could best manage it. And it wasn’t just lip service—it was authentic.

The character traits Blake demonstrated in this situation were his value for relationships, people, inclusivity, fairness, compassion, reliability and honesty. As Blake said when we wrapped up our conversation, these are among the character traits critical to earning and maintaining trust. Without them, not only will it be difficult to make the right decision, but there will not be trust.

  1. Vulnerability

John Mundell, President of Mundell & Associates environmental consulting firm, an Economy of Communion business, shared with me an example that illustrates the importance of being vulnerable as a leader. When a recent issue arose with a client, he called a meeting to discuss it. People were intent on offering their solutions, but they weren’t really listening to each other. As the boss, John was tempted to make a final decision and bring the discussion to an end, but he realized his solution wasn’t necessarily the ideal choice. He decided to make sure everyone in the room had a chance to share their thoughts.

After being silent for most of the discussion, one of the youngest and least experienced members of the team finally spoke up. She offered a combination of the ideas that had been presented, along with her own special twist. There was a brief silence when she finished, then one of the senior managers said, in a bit of amazement, “I think she just nailed it!”

As they left the meeting that morning, John knew it was a teaching moment for everyone. No one, not even the boss, always has the right answer. Given the opportunity, anyone can make significant contributions. But that only happens when leaders can be vulnerable and give their colleagues a chance to shine.

Holistic Leadershipholistic-leader-competencies-trusted

In my Holistic Leadership competency model, being trusted is one of nine characteristics critical to successful leadership and successful organizations. If you are a leader, how would your employees rate you on your competence, character, and vulnerability? Consider asking these questions in your next employee engagement survey, or in a 360° appraisal of your performance. The answer just might be a good indicator of how highly you are trusted!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Are You an Ethical Leader? How Do You (Really) Know?

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Man Reading the Definition of EthicsMost leaders consider themselves to be ethical, but some of the behaviors that underlie the core competency of Integrity may not be as easy as they sound. There are pressures in business to make financial, personnel, contracting and other decisions every day that carry ethical implications—everything from honesty in reporting travel expenses, hiring contractors in accordance with IRS regulations, following general accounting standards, accurately projecting and reporting earnings, paying all taxes that are owed, and so on. Unfortunately, we have all heard about the careers of individual leaders, as well as the viability of entire organizations, that have gone down the tubes due to ethical lapses.

There are many forces out there which make ethical leadership a challenge at times. There are pressures to make decisions quickly, produce reports that are favorable for stockholders and potential investors, make things look good to the boss, to the board, and to company employees. There is a very real temptation to spin things positively, in ways we may think others will like, or in some cases in order to be self-serving.

How can leaders be consistently ethical, and even agree on what it means to lead ethically? In describing the characteristics of my Holistic Leadership compholistic-leader-competencies-ethicaletency model, I propose that “ethical” leaders effectively use critical thinking skills, as well as their acute sense of right and wrong, to make ethical choices and “test” them before moving forward. When it comes to making decisions that affect people, it is a matter of treating others the way we would like to be treated—known as the golden rule. By “testing” decisions, I mean validating decisions with other leaders who are looking through an ethical lens, and in some cases talking with key stakeholders who will be affected by the decision to learn what they would consider to be fair or unfair.

Doing the Right Thing

Let’s look at a couple of examples. I spoke with business owner John Mundell, President of Mundell & Associates environmental consulting firm, an Economy of Communion business. He tells a story about a time when his company was pressured to make a political contribution in order to keep a municipal contract. He decided to make a small contribution, but along with the check he sent a letter saying that the purpose of the contribution was to encourage participation of citizens in the electoral process, and not to gain preferential treatment in contracting with the agency. He asked that the only basis they should use to consider him for future work was his company’s ability to deliver high quality environmental services to those who need his services. Period.

What happened was not totally surprising to him, but it was disappointing. Five new contracts were awarded, and his company did not receive one. It turned out that officials of all five companies personally knew the high-ranking political decision makers, and they had given much larger contributions than Mundell’s company. His first thought was, “Should I have given more?” but his second thought was, “…and sell my soul?” He felt at peace that he had done the right thing, and he believed that in the end good things would eventually happen if he continued to act ethically.

As it turned out, the next day Mundell was awarded a contract by another private party based on the quality of their work, and it was double the value of the municipal contract. As he reflected on this experience, Mundell said he was reminded that we are often put face-to-face with some darker realities in the world, and we would do well to step back and view our options in the light of ethical practices and an understanding of what is right.

The Golden Rule at Work

My second example comes from the Vice President of Human Resources for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Chuck Davis. The restaurant chain is known for their core philosophy of putting associates first. I asked Davis how they put this philosophy into practice day to day, and whether that ever leads to ethical dilemmas. His answer was that they try and give associates the benefit of the doubt; they seek to understand before making assumptions, and yes indeed, that can lead to ethical dilemmas.

In one situation, an associate had been caught stealing $60 from the cash register. Davis’ first thought, a very normal HR posture, was to simply fire the associate based on his dishonest act. The owner, Cameron Mitchell, encouraged Davis to ask a few more questions. Why did he steal the money? What was his situation at the time? Investigating further, Davis discovered the associate had stolen the money to support a drug habit, which in Davis’ view was another reason to let the associate go. But as he discussed the matter further with Mitchell, when considering the associate as a person—and not simply as the bad behavior he exhibited—the question that arose was, “How can we help?”

They decided not to give up on the associate. If he would agree to get the help he needed they would give him a second chance and let him keep his job. It turned out the associate was able to make the necessary personal changes and correct his problem. According to Davis, the ethical dilemma was weighing the value of honesty with compassion for the associate’s situation. Looking at the associate as a person first, they gave him a second chance if he would do his part. And he did. They treated him the way they would like to be treated—the golden rule.

This story made me pause. In my past role as an HR executive, had I ever asked these questions when I was about to let someone go: “Why did he/she do this?” and “How can we help?”

Putting Ethical Leadership into Practice

In closing, let’s go back to the question in the title of this article. How do you (really) know you are an ethical leader? This question invites you to be brutally honest with yourself: What are your real motivations and drivers? What are your assumptions? What are your blind spots? How are you rationalizing a certain decision? Are you testing decisions with others?

In addition to this type of self-reflection, another test is to ask the question that one of my previous CEOs taught me: “If my family knew the decision I am about to make, and why, would they be proud of me?” Give this question a try—it’s a powerful way to ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing. Ethical leaders are not afraid to ask, and they are not afraid to act based on the answer.

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.