Towards a Management of Communion

Paths of culture and organizational structure in EoC businesses

Towards Management of Communion

By Giampietro Parolin e Elisa Golin

From "Economy of Communion - a new culture" N. 30 - December 2009

 

"…We´re convinced that every moment of our social living, including all that is economic, must be “educated” by the values in which we believe.  That way, even the economy becomes a place for human and spiritual growth.

The Economy of Communion, therefore, does not present itself as a new way of doing business that is an alternative to those which already exist. Rather, it intends to transform regular business structures from within, whether being a shareholding-business, cooperative or other, placing all relationships within and outside of the business in the light of a lifestyle of communion. And all in full respect of authentic business and market values.”

Chiara Lubich - Laurea Honoris Causa in Economia - Piacenza 1999

N30_Parolin_GolinThe EoC brings a culture – the “culture of giving” – which is being always more enriched in economic theory and in the lives of the people and businesses that make it their own. From the launch of the project in 1991, this culture has driven scholars to devise a new way of thinking about the economy and business management. At the same time, the business ventures have experienced in business life those typical categories of the project. Words like gratuitousness, reciprocity and fratenity have begun to become real experiences that show seeds of a management of communion.

Still, the EoC does not offer universal recipes. The EoC´s culture encounters the cultures of different countries (and not only the economic culture of those countries) and also of single businesses and entrepreneurs. An Asian entrepreneur, trying to live the EoC will have different results than an European entrepreneur. But even within the same nation, entrepreneurial experiences can have very different paths. Therefore, the choice to adhere to the EoC may remain at the level of the entrepreneur or be shared by his or her collaborators. In any case, there´s the risk that different cultures create groups and contrasts or that new values are declared but difficult to put into practice.

Where the experience of the EoC culture is more solid and mature, the businesses may tackle the subject of transforming organizational structure. At a certain point, the structures thought to manage typical businesses of the traditional economic culture can be obstacles to the culture and management of communion, reducing its positive effects. This shows the need for “new wine” to have “new wine skins” in the challenge to explore new models of management which are coherent to the new culture.

This path was deeply analyzed by an Australian scholar, Judith Ann Chapman, among others. Chapman explains how the change in organizational structure can come about as an effect of a change in culture. Changing values changes behaviors, and this causes the need to review the roles of people and systems of management.

The life of the EoC businesses also tells of how the new culture born from the project influences business structures, in two areas in particular.  The first area is the sharing among the people responsible for decision-making. Many times, they feel the need to make decisions together - especially when there are many associates. This comes from an intimate hope that He who is present in the poor is also at work in the business – the “hidden shareholder” that promised to be present where people are united among one another.

In this way, meetings become more intense, often from the effort to decide things unanimously. Even though this is more tiring in the beginning, it guarantees that all involved go ahead together towards shared goals.

For the same reasons, there are numerous experiences of businesses who have involved collaborators and others in the decision-making process. Many organizations include periodic meetings with their personel in their management plan. These meetings are aimed at listening, in order to perceive difficulties and problems, as well as giving information, updating everyone on decisions, development, and the conditions of the organization.

Another area showing the new culture that comes from the EoC is that of formation, a key idea of the project. Formation is an instrument to experiencing and spreading the experience of reciprocity. It can also lead to the rennovation of an organization, changing it from deep within through the people who are part of it, drawing from their culture and experience.

It is possible to experience communion, although at the same time it can never be fully experienced, as it is the aim and method of the organizing life of those who challenge themselves to the EoC project. It means giving space to different forms and contributions – an organizational “polyphony – which are developed by the project, giving value to roles and professionalism in an authentic encounter between people.

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