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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Business Practices of the Economy of Communion

Business Practices of the Economy of Communion
by Tita Datu Puangco

Can you imagine a third economic system beyond Liberal Capitalism and Communism? A system that seeks to create a more inclusive society where progress and development bridge rather than increase the gap between the rich and the poor? This is the Economy of Communion (EOC). It is centered on the belief in God and Providence on top of developing the company's

strategies and people competencies. It drives and produces profits for a higher purpose. Profits are not simply the bottom line in terms of cash but also encompass relational and social profits. This is the Economy of Communion now being studied and developed as a concept and theory by Sophia University in Rome Italy, based on evidence of close to a thousand companies worldwide.                                     

Origins of the Economy of Communion
In   May 1991 Chiara Lubich and her companions were circling São Paulo Brazil in a plane preparing to land. Chiara is the founder of the Focolare Movement, a Catholic based Movement whose charism is unity working to fulfil the wish of Jesus “That All May Be One". It is a movement that is inclusive, open to people of different countries, cultures and faiths. Lubich was struck by the sight of huge skyscrapers surrounded by favelas or squatter areas. Talking before the Focolare communities of Brazil, she launched what she called the Economy of Communion, designed to create communion between the rich and the poor.
                                                 Heart of EOC
It was a proactive response to very real social problems and imbalanced economy and to excesses of liberal capitalism in general. The proposal made to businesses was primarily to help reduce poverty and inequality. EOC reforms capitalism through the manner how enterprise is run by the entrepreneur. This is done through sharing of profits and introducing organization dynamics based on sharing and reciprocity.
                                                Celebrating 25 Years
The Economy of Communion held last February 2 to 5, 2017 the international meeting involving commissions, associations and industrial parks. It involved close to a thousand participants coming from 55 countries.  The program started with the incubation Boot Camp showing the results, activities and practices of innovation and how to accompany new entrepreneurs. Luigino Bruni, the global responsible talked about how EOC has emerged after 25 years. Then the participants were divided into geographic groups inviting them to make proposals for 2018-2020.
                                                Audience with Pope Francis

The highlight of the meeting was the audience with Pope Francis and his message of joy and courage encouraging insights, reflection even conversion among participants. In his talk, Pope Francis called for a change of “the rules of the game of the socio-economic system adding “imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough.   Economy and Communion are two words that contemporary culture keeps separate and often considers opposites. He commended EOC for holding their profits in communion and warned the danger posed by money.

                                                View of Money 
“Money is important specially for our basic needs; food, clothes, shelter and school for children's future will all depend on money. But when it becomes an idol and becomes the aim, the "goddess fortune" has become the divinity of a hazardous financial system which is destroying millions of families around the world. The idolatrous worship is a surrogate for eternal life... when one has money, he can delude himself of conquering death", he explained.                                          

                                                 Gift of Self
The Pope told the members of EOC, “The first gift is the gift of self. Your money, although important is too little. Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion. It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those crumbs. Instead even just 5 loaves 2 fishes can feed the multitude if they are sharing of all of our life. "In conclusion, he noted, " May the 'no' to an economy that kills become a 'yes' to an economy that let live, because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion. He urges the members, " to continue to be the seed, salt and leaven of another economy: the economy of the kingdom, where the rich know how to share their wealth and the poor are called blessed.
                                                  Practices of Communion

The Economy of Communion has business practices called structures of grace that draw entrepreneurs, workers, directors, consumers, citizens, scholars, economists at all levels promoting a practice and an economic culture imprinted on communion, gratuity and reciprocity.  Through these practices, EOC proposes an alternative lifestyle to the dominant one within the capitalistic system that cause strain and stress through clear divides between, owners, management and workers.
                                                   Humanizing Business

In the book “Structures of Grace" Jim Gallagher and Jeanne Buckeye write about business practices of EOC.   Changing the world means “humanizing" the economy by consistently privileging relationships over profit maximizing".
                                                   Key Practices

Observations noted in the study are the business practices and culture of an EOC company.   One, it uses modern business practices and methods to be efficient. It establishes quality standards so that its products and services meet contractual obligations as well us delight customers.  The company practices fair play with competitors, suppliers, customers and business partners. This creates atmospheres of mutual respect and trust with competitors, suppliers, customers and employees.

Two, Business leaders comply with the law and maintain ethical dealings with tax authorities, regulatory agencies and labor unions. Third, it applies management systems and structures that foster teamwork and personal development, employing decentralized control and shared leadership.

                                                    Philippine Stories

Let us take the case of Bangko Kabayan, (originally Ibaan Rural Bank) a rural bank founded in 1957 with the end goal of uplifting the quality of life of people in the countryside through micro-credit. In 1991, it linked itself to the Economy of Communion.

In 2007, it celebrated its 50th anniversary with the achievement of becoming a solid rural bank in the region. That year, it received the “Best Capital Build-up” in the Land Bank Awards and was included in the Global Top Ten of Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX).  In celebration of its 59th anniversary it launched its upgraded level as a Private Development Bank. It has consistently maintained its CAMELS rating of 4 in the past 4 years. It has now 23 branches in the provinces of Batangas, Quezon and Laguna.

Extending our invitation to everyone entrepreneurs, the academe and the youth to share in the spirit of the Economy of Communion.

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