EOC Congress in Spain

Each single contribution to the Congress seemed to make up part of the mosaic that reveals what the EOC can bring to work and to today´s economy

EOC Congress in Spain: the maturity of the project and the businesses in relief

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May 29, 1991:  Chiara Lubich launched the “Economia di Comunione (EdC)” project in Brazil.

Eighteen years later, on May 30-31, 2009, the EOC Congress in Madrid, with more than 100 people present, was almost like the project´s coming-of-age celebration.  Among participants were entrepreneurs, workers, university professors and… those “curious”, to say, those people desiring to know and delve into this economic initiative that puts the person at the center of its activity.

 

It was a chance to weigh everything and decide: at what point is this project?  Success, commitEdc_Spagna_2009__Salament, service, hope, better businesses for a more fraternal economy in a world without exclusions…but also difficulties. One phrase kept coming back, adopted as motto, that can express well what the Economy of Communion, and in particular all who have been part of the project for years, live today: it´s necessary to enter a “second innocence”, “it´s the moment of who is wisely able to ´make himself a child´, of who sees all that is possible, but does not yet exist, of who has the courage to do ´crazy´ things because he sees what others do not see”.  All of this was spoken of at length during the two-day congress.

The congress opened with a luminous historical journey through the origins of the Economy of Communion.  What seemed particularly significant was the coincidence of the timing between the launch of the project and the publication of the encyclical “Centesimus annus”.

EdC_Spagna_2009_tavola_rotonda_3The current economical crisis reveals a profound need for change, not only regarding structures but also and particularly the culture on which our societies have been built.  “We need a change in paradigm: to pass from the culture of having to the culture of giving”, said Manuel Ramos, entrepreneur. In the theme that introduced the working sessions of the congress, he traced the guidelines of the EOC businesses.  These guidelines intend on one hand to orient every aspect of the businesses´ life until it is a faithful expression of the inspiration which gave birth to the project.  On the other hand, they aim at giving visibility to the effects which the logic of communion produces in the structures of economical life.

EdC_Spagna_2009_tavola_rotonda_1Among the EOC´s concrete goals one can find that which Chiara Lubich called “formation of new men and women”.  The presentation by Dr. Rocio Caro Gándara, Professor of International Private Law (University of Málaga) dealt with this point, saying that the challenge is one of forming “new people capable of living in communion.  In my university, we try to propose the idea of communion, which some interpret as social communion and others as inclusive solidarity or universal fraternity.  Logically, one of the most valuable characteristics of this proposal is that the EOC presents itself in an interdisciplinary way.”

Another reflection of academic nature was that of Joaquín Mora, economist, who is focusing his post-graduate research on the EOC.  He encouraged entrepreneurs present to “keep the essence of Chiara Lubich´s project alive: put the profits in common in order to bring comfort to the poor, in order to show what a society would be like without any poor”.

The book, “The Price of Gratuitousness”, by Luigino Bruni, edited by Ciudad Nueva, was presented at the congress as a cultural contribution of the EOC which shows in its pages that values like reciprocity, friendship, happiness, brotherhood, communion…are also entering into the sphere of economical theory.

Edc_Spagna_2009__ExpoEntrepreneurs came from Seville, Madrid, Valencia, Bilboa, Barcellona…and from the most varied fields (fashion, centers for the elderly, technical consultation, oil production, wood…), some bound to the EOC project for years.  They recounted the development of their businesses: successes, difficulties, decisions that are often heroic for the change in mentality that they require.

One of these, director of a consulting firm, described his involvement under various aspects of the project in this way: “It is important that the management puts itself at the service of the whole organization. This has always been a firm point.  We try to resolve some aspects that go beyond our defined job, like organizing trips, finding housing for those who were transferred and now return to Madrid, the preparation of materials that can be used by everyone…Our means in life is our knowledge, and every once in awhile, we find some of our competitors in the first row of our courses. Overcoming the temptation, we realize that the fact of sharing our knowledge, other than being a Christian practice, represents a business advantage as it forces us to continually develop.”

One entrepreneur told us about her similar experience, even though in a completely different field, in a day center for the elderly: “Since the beginning we outlined our work strategy keeping in mind the Economy of Communion principles. And so, the center of our economic activity is not profit, but the person…our main scope is that the elderly feel welcomed and valued as people of full dignity, beyond their physical and mental situation.  That´s why it is fundamental to work in a team.”

“Stories” like these and many others, which speak about legality, ethics, quality of work and of relationships, communication, positive attitudes…and even profits in these times of crisis, are the best answers to the unanswered questions posed by Professor Benedetto Gui, lecturer of Political Economy at the University of Padova, during his interesting intervention: Is a culture of communion possible in economic life?

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Another question posted by Professor Gui was whether or not a culture of communion would be useful in economic life. The answer was that “in economics one does not speak of communion, but today much attention is given to similar things: altruism, gift, reciprocity, intrinsic motivations, good relationships… In fact, it is always more evident that if these concepts are not introduced into economical science, many phenomenon cannot be explained, for example, philanthropy or volunteering, which have taken on colossal dimensions.”

The situation of the project was addressed by both Prof. Gui and Leo Andringa (member of the International Commission of the EOC and long time regional Director of the National Danish Bank). They supplied concrete data on the number of businesses that take part in the project and about the distribution of the profits put in common for the three aims of the EOC.

As the perfect ending, all listened to Chiara Lubich´s talk at the International EOC Convention in 2004. “The Economy of Communion,” she said, “is not only a spiritual reality.  On the contrary!  It is a very concrete reality, even if it is animated by spiritual motives (…) Reciprocal love will bring everyone not only to understand one another, to esteem one another, to see as one’s own the efforts and the problems of the other, but also to find together new ways of organizing work, of participating and of administrating. Christ in your midst will make “new” your businesses, which will become, for many, models of communion: ´God’s dwelling among men´, true fore-chambers of Paradise”.

 

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