The poor, the true balance sheet of the EoC

Donated profits have increased even during two years of crisis. But the true balance sheet of the Economy of Communion lies in the reduction of the number of those in need

The poor, the true balance sheet of the EoC

By Chiara Andreola
Published on on 18/09/2010

An economic paradigm that lives not out of solidarity, but because it is brought ahead by creative entrepreneurs: this is the main line of development of the Economic of Communion indicated by Luigino Bruni in the opening round table on innovation and creativity at Loppiano Lab. The road taken in the first twenty years since Chiara Lubich's intuition is notable: an average of 25 new businesses each year, 1 million 700 thousand Euro donated during the crisis, used to finance 1059 scholarships and 40 development projects throughout the world. But, above all, Bruni underlined that of the 7000 poor for which the project initially began, only 1500 of them remain in need.


"And this is the true balance sheet of the EoC", continued the economist, "because if the wealth produced does not arrive to the poor, the project is not good for anything." It is a project that does not want to live closed inside itself but rather open to the outside. "An African proverb says that in order to raise a child, you need an entire village. Similarly, in order to raise an EoC business park, you need the whole rest of the world." Businesses which are legitimately in the market, not just objects of charity: "In Recife, where there began a project to teach street children to make fashionable purses, the children themselves said that they did not want people to buy the purses just out of charity but because they were beautiful."

With this premise, Bruni identified four challenges for the EoC's development. The first is that of being faithful to the dimension of the network, being open to the rest of the world. The second is in viewing poverty also in its social and relational dimensions, not only economic. The third is concretized in knowing how to reflect not only on single businesses but also on the model of the world and of capitalism in which the EoC is inserted and to which it contributes. And finally and most important challenge is that of relaunching creativity, "the distinguishing characteristic of charisms throughout history, from Benedict of Norcia to Don Bosco. And a charism lives when it innovates, expanding man's boundaries."

How can we concretize this creativity? Three experts attempted to answer this question: psychologist Assunta Dierna, consultant of business psycho-economy; Prof. Maurizio Mancuso, professor of sociology at the Catholic University of  Milan; and Prof. Niccoló Belanca, professor of development economy at the University of Florence. The first underlined the fall back of the relational factor in business, which, "while being a breath that expands to all sectors, receives attention only in as much as it makes problems, instead of being seen as the key for optimizing the development of society." In Prof. Mancuso's analysis of the concept of creativity, he identified the basic principle in the fact that "if it is intuitive that economy meets the needs of man, it is also true that this is often moved by curiosity, and it knows how to put parenthesis around its own immediate needs in order to follow (curiosity)." Finally, Prof. Bellanca, after having given a "lay" interpretation of the EoC as a paradigm that "goes beyond the inherent 'residual' concept in terms of ‘third sector’ or ‘non-profit’,” proposed a "for benefit" sector characterized by non-privatized use of profits. He proposed a few practical suggestions for developing it, including the creation of a cooperative credit bank for EoC businesses and the consolidation of a weaving factory that pools together thanks to a "control room". The consolidation would aim at synergy, not so much among businesses as in "a common project of building identity."

The round table concluded with a presentation of the figure of François Neveux, one of the entrepreneurs who set the pace of the EoC and who was active in Brazil.

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