Latest Event Updates

April 6, 2017 – Live Streaming of Panel Discussion on ‘Business Practices of the Economy of Communion’

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Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 8.02.22 AMA panel discussion at St. Bonaventure University on Thursday, April 6, will address business practices of the Economy of Communion, an international business and societal model based on shared profits and a “culture of giving.”

The program, a presentation of the William C. Foster ’62 Center for Responsible Leadership in the School of Business at St. Bonaventure, in partnership with the university’s School of Franciscan Studies, will be held at 11:30 a.m. in Rigas Family Theater of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

The Economy of Communion (EoC) was started by Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, in response to the social problems and imbalanced economy she found on a visit to Brazil in 1991. Today, some 860 EoC businesses in more than 50 countries embrace EoC’s alternative to capitalistic systems: a sharing of profits to help combat poverty and indigence, and a commitment to work toward a common good.

It’s a topic that fits a Foster Center initiative of providing our students with leadership and scholarship opportunities in the Franciscan tradition, said Dr. Michael Gallagher, assistant professor of finance at St. Bonaventure. “The Economy of Communion embraces these very ideals, and seeks to promote a fraternal economy, a new conception of economic behavior, with businesses not only sharing profits and community productivity, but fighting various forms of exclusion, poverty and indigence,” he said.

It’s also a topic ripe for the times, said Fr. David Couturier, O.F.M., Cap., dean of Franciscan Studies at St. Bonaventure, executive director of its Franciscan Institute, and one of four experts on the panel.

“Ever since the November elections, budget talks have swirled around increased defense spending and tax cuts for wealthy Americans with large-scale cuts to programs such as Meals on Wheels and Medicaid. Some economists are forecasting a rise in income inequality and a ‘class warfare’ between the rich and the poor over the next few years,” said Couturier.

“This discussion will introduce several different economic models to understand our financial issues. We will invite participants to get to know several ‘economies of communion’ and ‘relational economies’ that might help navigate these turbulent economic times with our social, cultural and family relationships intact,” he said.

Couturier, who earned his Ph.D. in pastoral psychology and organizational studies, has written and lectured extensively on the organizational and economic dynamics of religious and not-for-profit institutions. Known for his combined expertise in organizational development, strategic planning and Franciscan education, he has worked as an organizational consultant for congregations, religious communities and dioceses through the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Joining him on the panel is a professor who has spent a decade researching the business practices of companies in the Economy of Communion, as well as the heads of two EoC businesses:

  • Dr. John Gallagher, professor of management, who teaches strategic management and international business at Maryville College, Maryville, Tenn., as well as executive MBA courses at the University of Tennessee. He previously spent more than 20 years as a corporate executive and consultant in manufacturing and service industries. He is co-author of the book “Structures of Grace: Business Practices of the Economy of Communion.” (New City Press, 2014.)
  • Nicola “Nick” Sanna, CEO of RiskLens, a provider of cyber risk management software, and the former head of several internet analytics and security companies. Fluent in five languages, Sanna lectures extensively on the subject of social entrepreneurship and is an advisory board member of the School of Business and Economics at Catholic University of America.
  • John Mundell, president and CEO of Mundell & Associates, Inc. of Indianapolis, Ind., an earth science, environmental and water resources consulting firm founded in 1995 as part of the EoC. Mundell serves on the International and North American EoC commissions, aiding development of the EoC at the national and global levels.

Admission to the April 6 event is free and the public is welcome. The panel discussion will be available for real-time viewing and archived for future viewing on the university’s Ustream channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/st-bonaventure-university-live-stream.

The Foster Center for Responsible Leadership is made possible through an endowment gift by Daria L. Foster, Managing Partner of Lord, Abbett & Co. LLC, honoring her late husband of more than 30 years, William C. Foster. A member of St. Bonaventure’s Class of 1962 and Fordham Law School (’65), William Foster practiced law for 35 years, retiring in 2000 as senior associate counsel for Champion International. He served on St. Bonaventure’s Board of Trustees from 2008 to his passing in 2010.

Learn more about the panel discussion and about the Foster Center for Responsible Leadership at www.sbu.edu/fostercenter.

 

This article was first published on St. Bonaventure’s website on March 28, 2017. 

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Meeting with Pope Francis

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by Jim Funk

31938707243_712b0fa5d6_oI never imagined I would get a chance to meet with the Pope.  When I got the invitation, I thought maybe I was dreaming. As the owner of a business in the Economy of Communion (EoC) network, I’ve run my business striving to follow principles that keep the person in the center of what we do, serve the common good, and attend to the needs of others. Pope Francis has been interested in the success of the EoC model, which is why he invited EoC entrepreneurs to meet with him at the Vatican in February 2017.

Although you may be thinking that the EoC is only relevant for Catholic or non-profit businesses, that’s definitely not the case.  Rather than focusing on religion, the EoC upholds principles that can (and should) apply to all businesses. In the meeting, we discussed how we can drive this message home and make a real impact in the world.

In short, Pope Francis was calling for a new economy. He put the challenge this way: “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.” (Click here to read the full text of the Pope’s speech.)

Pope Francis started out by acknowledging that contemporary culture does not typically put the words economy and communion together. But he told us that by introducing into the economy the “good seed” of communion, we have begun a profound change in the way of seeing and living business. He said business can edify and promote communion among people, and that the economy becomes “more beautiful” when it’s comprised of the communion of goods, talents, and profits.  Pope Francis went on to say, “Money is important, especially when there is none, and food, school, and the children’s future depend on it. But it becomes an idol when it becomes the aim.” My takeaway from these words is that money must not be an end in itself, but rather a means for individuals and communities to flourish—for people to be able to use their talents to work toward creating good products and services.

In describing the responsibilities of business leaders, the Pope said we need to ensure not only that our profits are used for the good of others, but also that we as leaders give of ourselves. He made it clear that money is only part of the equation. What he said is needed most is our spirit, respect, humility, and a desire to change the structures of the economy.

How can we do this? The Economy of Communion provides five principles for businesses that are a part of their network to follow:

  • Build sound relationships based on mutual respect, care, and open communication
  • Foster participative environments by promoting teamwork and encouraging innovation, creativity and responsibility
  • Build cohesive and healthy organizations
  • Adapt the highest ethical standards
  • Voluntarily share business profits to provide direct aid for people in need, and to develop educational projects to foster a culture of giving

Actually, there are many businesses beyond the 850 or so members of the EoC that follow principles like these, and that have similar statements listed in their mission and core values. And as I have reflected on the message of Pope Francis since returning to the U.S., I feel he was speaking not only to Economy of Communion businesses, but to any business that strives to produce goods, services, and work that are “good” for people and for the world.

How is this accomplished? In every organization, it is the leaders who establish the mission, vision, values, strategic goals, and objectives to produce the desired results. While these leaders must obviously be competent and capable of driving results, I would maintain that they also must be “holistic leaders.”

Holistic leaders bring their whole selves to their leadership role, and they integrate their characteristics into the way they lead. They lead with moral character, humility, justice, compassion, transparency, trust and authenticity, as well as with the absolutely critical functional competencies that lead others to achieve results. These leaders also have the heart of a servant—that is, they have a natural desire to serve others, and to focus on people and their needs.

IMG_1251bThese are the leaders, in my view, who can walk the talk when it comes to implementing these principles, and who can produce the communion of goods, talents, and profits that Pope Francis referred to. But it requires not only a willingness to give; it involves the gift of the entrepreneur’s own person—the gift of self, as Pope Francis said.

How can you implement these ideas in your leadership, or your business?

  • Consider what resonates with you about these ideas, and what would enhance your leadership or your business. Which of the principles discussed by Pope Francis and the EoC would you like to incorporate?
  • You may wish to revisit your mission and values statements, and then identify new strategies or action steps that would align with your mission and values.
  • Learn more about the Economy of Communion, and consider joining. Click here for information.
  • Plan to attend EoC North American events for entrepreneurs and others interested in learning more about the EoC. (Click here for information)
  • Click here to view a short (3 ½ minute) video about the February 4, 2017 meeting of the Economy of Communion with Pope Francis.

Please feel free to respond to this post, or write to me at jim@jlfunk.com. And if you want to spread these business and leadership principles, please “like” and “share” this post!

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.

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 following link: edc_44-eng-online.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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