Efficiency, competitiveness and solidarity in the Economy of Communion


Presentation given at a convention organized by the University of Trent, "Chiara Lubich: from Trent to the World"

Efficiency, competitiveness and solidarity in the Economy of Communion


Presentation by Gabriella Berloffa, Economics Department, University of Studies
Trent, 25 February 2010



As described by Luigino Bruni, "The Economy of Communion arose from an original intuition which Chiara Lubich had during her stay in a small town of the Focolare, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, at the end of May 1991. Flying over Sao Paulo, Chiara was struck by the extreme misery and the many favelas that surrounded the city like a "crown of thorns". The strength of her reaction was probably due to the enormous contrast between those huts (where even various people of her community lived) and the many luxurious skyscrapers... An intuition emerged from that experience: extend the dynamic of communion from individuals - that were already practicing it - to businesses, inviting entrepreneurs and shareholders to put their profits in common... In the very first days the idea was already better focused: business profits should be placed in communion according to three precise goals: a) to finance the business itself; b) to spread the so-called "culture of giving"; c) for the poor in contact with the Focolare community" (Bruni, 2004, p.20).

If the economy of communion limited itself to a free decision about the use of business profits, it would not represent in itself that "radical" alternative to the prevailing economic vision, an idea also underlined by a few authors (see Bruni, 2004; Zamagni, 2004).


See full document (in Italian)

But in Chiara´s proposal, there is not just a suggestion about how to use profits. She insists on the formation of new men and women who can live a new type of relationship, both within and outside the business. "Then, profits will also serve to develop the business and structures of the small towns, because they can both form new men and women. Without new men and women, a new society cannot come about" (Chiara, 29 May 1991, from the EoC Newsletter, N.29, p.5). "Love your employees, love your competitors, love your clients, even love your suppliers, love everyone. Business lifestyle must be changed. Everything must be Evangelical, otherwise it is not the economy of communion" (Lubich, 2001). This new "business lifestyle" is expressed in multiple aspects: attention to who works for the business, sharing of risks and difficulties, relationships of trust between workers and management, availability to cooperate/reciprocal help within the business and with its "competitors", etc. What effect can a "business lifestyle" with these characteristics have on the efficiency and competitiveness of businesses and on the development of a local system?


To begin answering this question, after briefly laying out an idea of the businesses that participate in the project, I would like to focus on a few pieces of empirical evidence that surrounds the nexus between economic results (in terms of the productivity of factors used, concluding exchanges, innovation and more generally, development) and some non-economic dimensions that specifically regard the type of relationships that exist within a business and among businesses. My goal is not so much providing an exhaustive review of literature as much as highlighting the numerous environments in which certain relational aspects like trust, recognition  and reciprocal help, availability to cooperate, interest in the common good, etc. - contrary to what is often affirmed in economic literature - improve economic results and reduce the negative consequences of certain shocks.

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