Peter J. Leithar, President of Theopolis Institute published an article featuring the Economy of Communion on First Things on July 5th, 2019. The article serves as a nice introduction to the Economy of Communion initiative by documenting its origins and its spiritual underpinnings.
By Peter Leithard
During a visit to Brazil in 1991, the Italian Catholic activist Chiara Lubich called for a new way of doing business. In a speech near São Paolo, she sketched a picture of “productive communion” and “a communion of goods . . . at a superior level.” She envisioned businesses using profits not only to grow but also to benefit the poor, businesses putting “the needs and aspirations of the human person, and the common good, at the center of their attention,” businesses guided not by self-interest but by “reciprocal love.” Businesses can become “a ‘meeting place’ . . . a place of communion.” Word of the proposal spread quickly in Brazil, sparking what has become a global network of hundreds of businesses that see themselves as part of an “Economy of Communion” (EoC).
Lubich was already well-known in Brazil as the founder of Focolare. Focolare began in Lubich’s hometown of Trent, Italy, during World War II, when she and some friends devoted themselves to caring for the poorest residents in that war-torn town. The movement lived by a “culture of giving,” in which each member gave what he could, even if the only “gift” was a need. Adherents sought to mimic the habits of the early Christians. No one was forced to sell property, but everyone saw property as a trust from God to be devoted to the common good. Some of the original focolarini sold their possessions, while others committed to regular donations. They aimed to fulfill the vision of Deuteronomy: There shall be no poor among you.
Focolare wasn’t just charity work. “Focolare” means “hearth,” and evokes the solidarity, intimacy, warmth, and security of family and home. The focolarini opened their homes to give Trent’s poor a literal place at the hearth. Focolare’s work involved transfers of property, but at its heart it was an effort to foster communion.
Within a few years, Focolare had three thousand members, mostly in northern Italy. By 2000, there were four million throughout the world, with large numbers in Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and the Philippines. Today, Focolare runs hundreds of charitable and development projects, publishing houses and media outlets, and retreat centers. It promotes the arts, political action, ecumenical and interreligious dialogues, and has built model towns like Loppiano, Italy, visited by Pope Francis in May 2018.
The Economy of Communion was an outgrowth of Focolare. During her 1991 tour of Focolare communities in Brazil, Lubich saw the limits of her initial concept. Charity alone wasn’t sufficient to meet the needs of the most desperate poor, and, besides, the original movement gave no attention to the good of work or production. Focolare needed to create wealth, but this had to be done without sacrificing the movement’s original culture. EoC extends the Focolare vision of “selfless giving solidarity and attention to the least” from non-profit into profit-making enterprises. As Lubich said in a 1999 speech in Strasbourg, “the actors within the Economy of Communion businesses seek to live out . . . the same lifestyle that they live in other areas of their life.”
In a 2014 study of the EoC, Structures of Grace, John Gallagher and Jeanne Buckeye attempt to isolate the unique habits, rituals, and practices of these businesses. In many ways, they operate like any other business. They produce and sell goods and services, seek profit, hire and train workers, enter into relationships with suppliers, market and promote to expand their customer base. But there are some distinctive features.
EoC businesses distribute their profits in three directions. One portion is reinvested in the business, another supports Focolare’s charity work, and another goes to publishers, newsletters, and formation centers that advance Focolare’s “culture of giving.” Giving also characterizes the internal culture of EoC businesses. Because they’re primarily focused on persons rather than things, they nurture communion in work and labor, making the workplace into a “hearth.” This translates into specific practices, such as consultation with workers in planning, open reporting of profits and losses, celebrations and storytelling, and attention to the personal and spiritual development of employees. Following Lubich’s model, EoC businesses form “relationships based on openness and trust among all those with a stake in the business – consumers, competitors, local and international communion, public administration.” Some businesses in the network tell how sharing critical information opened up avenues of collaboration with competitors.
Spirituality is the distinctive mark of EoC businesses. Lubich said that businesses must “leave room for God’s intervention, even in concrete economic operations.” Trusting God, they find that “God never fails to provide that ‘something more’ which Christ promised: revenue which was unexpected, a new opportunity, the offer of collaboration, an idea for a new successful product.” By consulting workers, EoC managers say they’re tapping into the Spirit’s creativity. They don’t believe in an anonymous invisible hand; they believe their businesses are under the care of a loving, generous heavenly Father.
Lubich saw both Focolare and EoC as aspects of a larger mission to unite the human race. Inspired by Jesus’s prayer that his disciples “would be one, as we, Father, are one,” she advocated a “spirituality of unity,” rooted in the belief that “all people are called to live as sons and daughters of God.” Uniting people divided by politics, social class, economic status, race and ethnicity, age and sex gives a “foretaste of a more united world.” EoC businesses harness production, exchange, distribution, sales, and marketing toward fulfillment of Jesus’s prayer.
This spirituality and sense of mission grows out of Trinitarian theology, which implies a Trinitarian anthropology. God gives himself in suffering love, and has created human beings for self-giving love. As Lubich said, “I felt that I was created as a gift for the person next to me, and the person next to me was created by god as a gift for me. As the Father in the Trinity is everything for the Son and the Son is everything for the Father.” At work as much as at church, a human being is homo donator rather than homo economicus. Made in the image of the God who is love, we’re fulfilled as producers, workers, managers, entrepreneurs not primarily in having but “in loving, in giving.”
Pope Francis Invites Young Economists and Entrepreneurs to Assisi to Propose a Pact for a New Economy
From 26 to 28 March 2020 the city of Assisi will host The Economy of Francis, an international event aimed at young economists, entrepreneurs, and change-makers engaged in thinking and practicing a different type of economy. The invitation to participate comes directly from Pope Francis, through a letter in which he invites young economists and entrepreneurs from all over the world of all backgrounds and beliefs to the City of St Francis, which is a symbol of humanism and fraternity. The goal of the meeting is to initiate a process of global change to build a more just, inclusive and sustainable economy that does not leave people behind. The event is organized by a committee composed of the Diocese of Assisi, the Assisi City Council, the Seraphic Institute of Assisi and the Economy of Communion.
The most complex problems in today’s world, from safeguarding the environment to justice for the poor, need a courageous commitment to rethinking the economic paradigms of our time. In the Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, the Holy Father recalled that everything is intimately connected and that the Earth is our “common home”. He launched an appeal to defend it and all of humanity that inhabits the Earth. He warned us against the careless exploitation of resources and short-sighted policies that look to immediate success without prospects for the long-term. Inspired by the example of St Francis, it is therefore necessary to rebuild a new integral ecology, one that is inseparable from the concept of the common good, which must be implemented through choices based on solidarity and the “preferential option for the poor” starting “from solving the structural problems of the world economy.”
«Pope Francis’ invitation to young economists and entrepreneurs is an event that marks a historic step forward because it brings together two of the Pope’s key themes and passions: his priority for the youth and his pursuit of a new type of economy. In his name, we are inviting young economists and entrepreneurs who are more sensitive to the spirit of Francis’ Oikonomia, to share with them the best of today’s economic thought and practices around the world. The word Oikonomia brings together many realities: the Greek root recalls household management but it also refers to the care of our common home, the OIKOS. We also consider it in reference to Oikonomia as understood by the Fathers of the Church: a theological category of universal salvation. Assisi is an essential part of the event because it is a city that points to a different type of economy. Various venues in Assisi will host parts of the program, which will be built around the three pillars of Francis’ Oikonomia: the youth, the environment and the poor», says Prof. Luigino Bruni, Scientific Director of the Committee.
For Pope Francis, the event represents the consolidation of a “pact to change the current economy and give a soul to the economy of tomorrow”. It intends to give hope for the rights of future generations, for welcoming life, for social equity, for the dignity of workers and the preservation of our planet. From 26 to 28 March 2020, The Economy of Francis will consist of workshops, artistic events, seminars and plenary sessions with renowned economists and experts in sustainable development and the humanities, who will reflect and work together with the youth.
You can register and reserve your spot at this historical event at www.francescoeconomy.org.
We are very happy to share that the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT) bestowed upon Elizabeth Garlow, a long-time member and leader of the Economy of Communion (EoC) initiative in North America, the degree of Humane Letters honoris causa. Elizabeth was also named a Fellow of the School.
In his citation on the day of Elizabeth’s induction in the DSPT College of Fellows, Father Michael Sweeney said: “You have characterized yourself as ‘focused on an economy of belonging.’ This, we are convinced, could serve as a superb summary of the Church’s social teaching on the economy and of what Pope Francis has called ‘an integral human ecology.’ We are honored that you have accepted our invitation to enter into conversation with us concerning the interface of faith and culture as a member of the College of Fellows.”
You can read more about her background and his full citation here.
Listen to Elizabeth Garlow directly as she addresses the May 2019 graduates of the DSPT in her 8-min commencement speech about bringing faith into dialog with culture and creating an economy of inclusion for all people.
The North American Association of the Economy of Communion and the Business, Faith, and the Common Good Institute of Creighton University invite you to attend the 2018 gathering of the Economy of Communion, that will be held at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska, on Oct. 5-6, 2018.
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.
You can learn more about the event and register at the following link.
The deadline to register is September 30th, 2018.
By Jim Funk
If you are a leader of influence and want to contribute to shaping a better world, you won’t want to miss the 5-day intensive leadership development experience my Consulus and Sophia University colleagues are offering in Loppiano (Italy) twice a year. The next session date is April 8-12, 2019.
Why is this course being offered, and why is leading for unity so important in the world today? We invite you to read this article that Lawrence Chong, CEO of Consulus (EoC business in Singapore) and Jim Funk (EoC business owner in the USA and Consulus partner. Article by Lawrence Chong and Jim Funk.
This leadership course was designed as a response to what Pope Francis asked of the EoC members who met with him in February 2017: “Therefore, we must work toward changing the rules of the game of the socio-economic system. Imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough.”
For more information on the course or to register please visit the course site:
Global Leaders of Unity Executive Course
Please join us!
We are happy to let you know that this year’s North American Meeting of the Economy of Communion (EoC) will be held at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska, on Oct. 5-6, 2018.
We are continuing to alternate the location of our meetings between the little city of Mariapolis Luminosa and Universities supporting or desiring to learn more about the EoC. Last year’s meeting and summer school was held at Mariapolis Luminosa, so it was the turn of another university this year.
The choice fell on Creighton University, where one of our members, Prof. Andy Gustafson, teaches business ethics. We will have the opportunity to meet many new friends there, incl. some of his fellow professors, students and local entrepreneurs, as well as learn more about Andy’s local EoC business called Communion Properties.
More details regarding the agenda will be shared soon. Stay tuned.
By Jim Funk
The Winter Olympic Games and Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, were totally inspiring to me. Watching the Shib Sibs glide and dance across the ice in expressive and unified harmony, cheering on Lyndsey Vonn as she sped down the mountain at over 80 mph in her final Olympic Games, and noticing my heart racing as the bobsled teams careened down the icy track. All of these events and more were amazing feats of athleticism, and they were undeniably inspiring.
But what was it that made them inspiring? To me, it was first and foremost witnessing the awesome capability that each Olympian had developed through years of practice, coaching and persistence. But more than that, it was the stories behind each of the competitors. In every case these athletes had to overcome setbacks and failings, injuries or illnesses, and in the case of Paralympic athletes, conditions that could have prevented them from even leaving the house or driving a car. Yet look at what they were able to accomplish through their tenacity and sheer will. These athletes show that to be inspiring to others, you must be inspired yourself.
So what is it that makes leaders inspired? Do they have to be as competent and persistent as Olympic champions, overcoming incredible challenges and going beyond what seems humanly possible? Leaders who have done that to varying degrees can certainly be inspired through their experiences. But it’s more than that. I believe leaders are inspired through the process of becoming who they are as a person—their characteristics, values and behaviors. When a person is willing to be honest about his or her shortcomings and vulnerabilities, for example, humility is developed. Having the courage to admit faults and overcome them helps build character and become authentic—true to who they are.
Inspired leaders also know they don’t have all the answers, which causes them to seek what they need to make good and wise decisions. Sometimes this comes in the form of patience while they gather information, or they may ask for the opinions of others who have more expertise. With trust in the people around them to use their own talents, as well as to provide honest feedback to the leader, they go forward and take actions they believe to be prudent, and they take reasonable risks. They know that if they fail it won’t be the end of the world. In fact, when things don’t go as they hoped, they learn from their mistakes and become even better.
Inspired leaders are also hopeful. They see the glass half full, and know that even in the darkest of times there is light to be found. In spite of difficulties, they remain positive and believe they will somehow be able to figure out a workable solution. They believe that all will be well, or at least as good as possible under the circumstances.
What makes an inspired leader inspiring to others? In my experience working with leaders who I considered inspired, there were four main areas of inspiration for me:
- Functional Leadership Competence. Capable leaders build the trust of others because they are able to deliver. They know what they are doing, and they know to engage other talented people in what they don’t know how to do.
- Mental and Thinking Competence. These leaders are able to learn and assimilate new information quickly, think critically, and apply their knowledge to solve complex problems. They are good decision-makers, and they are skilled at persuading others.
- Heart and Spirit Competence. This area represents who the leader is as a person—the values, virtues, and character strengths that inform decisions, actions, intent and authenticity. Integrity, initiative, and the ability to build and maintain strong and positive relationships fall into this category.
- Physical Competence. I am referring here to the physical presence of the leader. This includes how they communicate and listen, what kind of impression they make on others, and their self-awareness. Along with heart and spirit competence, physical competence can either foster a sense of authenticity and trust on the part of others, or it can create distrust if it’s missing.
To me, these competency areas hold the critical leadership behaviors and awareness that enable leaders to inspire others. It is not only what they do, but who they are, that inspires followership and engagement.
Inspired leadership is one of the nine characteristics I have defined in my Holistic Leadership Model. Holistic Leaders embody the competency areas I listed above, and they do so with inspiration. Holistic leaders know how to integrate their character and values into their leadership, and they understand that they bring their whole selves to their leadership role—body, mind and spirit.
How does one become an inspired leader? I would suggest starting with three questions to reflect on, followed by actions that help build inspired leadership.
- How willing am I to look critically at myself, and open myself up to honest feedback and self-awareness that will help me discover areas where I need to grow—the characteristics, habits and behaviors I need to change if I want to inspire others?
- How open am I to learning from other inspired leaders to understand how they got that way—perhaps through coaching, mentoring, studying and reading?
- Am I willing to create a concrete plan of action, identifying what I can do to build the competencies and behaviors of an inspired leader—acknowledging that it requires a lifetime of learning and continued formation and development?
Let me conclude by saying that I don’t think being an inspired leader is optional. Inspired and Holistic Leadership is truly needed to navigate the complex relationships and responsibilities of leaders in the world today, whether in a small company, a large global enterprise, an educational institution, or a governmental entity. The question is, are you willing to make the effort to move outside of your comfort zone, to be a life-long learner and become what the world truly needs: an inspired, holistic leader? Take a lesson from the Olympians. It requires commitment, focus, practice, persistence, willingness to fail, and continuous improvement. Are you up for it?
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 email@example.com