Gift and gratuity:keys to build a new economy

Interview with Anouk Grevin, lecturer of the Eoc Summer School Madrid 2013

by Ana Moreno Marín

anouk grevinAnouk Grevin is a professor at the Nantes Polytechnic University. She invites us for a 360° turn looking for treasures. She will enlighten us to management studies on sociological and economical concepts of gift and gratuity. Her special interest focused on understanding new managerial approches and their impacts on workers’ well-being.

Anouk, you study gift dynamics. What is it?

I am convinced that gift is continuously present in our lives, also in the economic world and in the day to day working of a business. Think about the way you work: you are not only executing a task as a machine, but you constantly give from yourself, you give intelligence, efforts, willingness to cooperate with others, all things that can only be freely offered. Without that, you could not do a good job.

Gift is not only the extra-hour you give without asking to be paid; gift is inherent to work. There is no work without giving. But the problem is that a gift has to be received as such, otherwise you feel hurt. Entering into this dynamics of giving and receiving is however very problematic to the business logic, as gift is always uncertain, it is a risk, when companies would like to secure, to measure and to manage everything.

How much space does it actually have in today’s social economic context?

Gift and gratuity have a much greater space in our economic context than we actually acknowledge it. Companies search performance, innovation, collective intelligence, flexibility, they need to cooperate with many different partners in networks, ensuring maximal quality, safety and compliance to countless norms with minimal costs and delays. Do you think we could reach these objectives without people giving from themselves? Managers know that but they are trying to "buy" implication with financial incentives. Whereas gift is a dynamics of reciprocity. If people never get recognized in their work, they cannot feel happy at work and get exhausted in jobs that have no meaning any more.

Why does EoC highlight gift and gratuity?

The Economy of Communion highlights this wonderful intuition that giving is the key to happiness. We have all experienced it, but EoC reminds us that it is true also in company lives. Instead of keeping this logic outside the economic activity, EoC invites us to discover how powerful is the logic of giving and gratuity. A company is a collective project, it is an adventure that has to be undertaken with others and for others. Its success is therefore linked to its capacity of creating relationships. Learning to build a culture of giving and reciprocity is, according to me, what many companies (and our whole societies) today mostly need. And it is at the core of the message that EoC is giving to the world.

How will students get a taste of this concept in the EoC Summer School?

In an EoC Summer School, students - and lecturers - study a new economic theory, but above all, they experiment, they learn how to live communion. It is not only a school of economics but also a school of communion. They do it through lessons, workshops, informal discussions, and through every moment of the day, which can be an opportunity to build relationships of communion. That's the most exciting part of a Summer School, it is something unique, built by the participants themselves, and that one can never forget once experienced. I like the title of this Summer School 2013 in Madrid: "Meet, share, create, change". I really believe that meeting each other, sharing - we means also giving and receiving until becoming one -, we will create the new economy we want and contribute to change the world and ourselves.

One of the main youth problems is to access work or/and the precarious employment conditions. Did concepts we discussed in previous questions address to these matters directly somehow?

Yes, it is a very big problem in many countries, specially for young people. But I believe that young people are also the ones able to change the world and the economy. They have great potentialities and, with great ideals, they will be able to create new opportunities and to invent new ways of working, new companies, new products and new organizing processes. Recent studies on the suicide in big companies in France, for example, showed that these people were managers with excellent employment conditions but their work had no meaning anymore. Whereas working for a better economy is a wonderful strength that can help to overcome many obstacles. And being in communion with those who share such an ideal is also a key when facing any difficult situation.

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