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#EoC30 - Forming entrepreneurs of communion

From our story: the friendship between EoC entrepreneurs and young people

by Antonella Ferrucci

It's 31 May 1991 and the EoC has only been launched for two days. Chiara Lubich is speaking to the young Brazilians about her idea and entrusts them with a great responsibility: in order to solve the problem of poverty, "the communion of goods" is necessary, and they - young and generous by nature - are destined to be the protagonists of the project that has just been born: it is up to them to spread the style of communion (right from the start with their degree theses and then by setting up businesses), being actual and real "revolutionaries of communion in freedom".

EoC entrepreneurs and young people have always been attracted to each other, like magnets. I have a personal recollection: in 1997, Pietro Comper 01 rid 350 one of the first International EoC Congresses was held in Castelgandolfo, with the first entrepreneurs present. At that time, I was following young people who were beginning to write their degree theses on the EoC: many asked to get in touch with entrepreneurs to interview them or to do internships in their companies. At a time when we still communicated by letters, I invented a kind of form with the minimum information needed to collect the possibilities available and I began to look for entrepreneurs: that is how I managed to get to know the “pioneers”, many of whom I still call friends today.

Mundell 2011 internship 01 rid 400In 2003 the offering of internships began to take a more organised form, starting in the United States and Brazil, on the initiative of entrepreneur John Mundell. This is a still ongoing experience: about 70 young people from 15 countries have been at Mundell & Associates (for a period of 1 to 6 months - on average 2 or 3). This has been another opportunity, in addition to and in synergy with the EoC Schools, to train young people for communion. "We have had up to 4 interns at one time," says John. “They work in the company according to their skills: in communication, IT, marketing, business, engineering, economics. Right from the start they know they have to envision the company that they could start in the future with an EoC-style culture: they have to give it a name, present a mini business plan, set its mission and vision and start the business."

But that's not enough: during the internship, young people will have to take care of relationships and reflect on community: "While they are here, Mundell 2015 internship 01 rid 350 interns participate in a community event that helps the city in some way and they develop local relationships outside the company; they propose a project that helps make the EoC company better. They participate and get to know employees and other interns and organise dinners and cultural exchange meetings; they learn to cook and take care of the interns' houses where they stay. Finally, they are asked to work on some projects to help the global EoC. For many,” John says, "this is their first experience of ‘work’, so it is usually difficult at first to get up every morning and work a whole day.”

It's a training that leaves its mark: many continue to stay in touch even after their internship is over. Raiana Lira from Brazil, intern at Mundell in 2015, writes: "it was a life-defining experience for me. It opened my eyes and heart to the capability of entrepreneurship to positively change the world. After that chapter in my life I oriented my professional career towards what is called the impact sector, an ecosystem of non-governmental, governmental and for-profit organisations that aim to leave a positive impact in the world. And the opportunity to delve into EoC at Mundell and later at Anpecom opened up the possibility of living my professional life with more purpose and meaning."

150523 Nairobi EoC School 12 rid 400Let's take a leap in time and land at Mariapolis Piero, in Nairobi: it's the 31st of May 2015 and exactly 24 years have passed since Chiara declared the leading role of young people in the EoC. We are on the last morning of the International Congress Let's Say Yes to the EoC: more than 300 entrepreneurs from all over the world are present, as well as the 180 young people from 27 nations who in the previous days have experienced a  intense "International and Pan-African" EoC School for young people. The school produced as many as 45 entrepreneurial projects, in the most diverse fields and all inspired by a specific need in their communities, which were hung on the walls of the hall. Living those days together, young people and entrepreneurs - dreams on the one hand and concreteness on the other - created an explosive mix. In Africa, when a child is born, it is the whole community that cares for it to grow up. The same thing happened with the projects born in that school. That morning, as the projects were being reviewed, an entrepreneur stood up and offered to accompany two, then he was followed by another, and yet another. On the sheets of paper hanging on the wall, business cards blossomed, comments such as "I want to be your brother” and "I would like to support your wonderful project as a friend".

And so, unexpectedly and spontaneously, a new type of collaboration was born, linking entrepreneurs from various parts of the world, helping each other like brothers do. 150528 Nairobi Congresso EdC 16 ridTwenty-four years after the project was launched, those who had been the 'young entrepreneurs' at the beginning were taking other young people by the hand. There and then, the realisation was born that it was necessary to create special "incubators" for new EoC companies, not only in Africa, but on all continents. Less than a year later, the Edc EoC-iin incubator was born, which today has several incubation hubs in Africa, Europe and across the Americas from North to South, and whose developments we will learn about at our 30th anniversary event on 29 May.

The Nairobi Congress closed with a special pact signed by all those present, entitled “One company is not enough” which still calls on us deeply today: "I promise to dedicate my life as an apostle of the Economy of Communion and so make my contribution in the most just and fraternal way possible so that the greatest dream of Chiara (Lubich) may come true: "That all may be one". It is understandable why "One company is not enough" is also the title of the session of the programme of our 30th anniversary event that is dedicated to entrepreneurs.

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