Written by Sherry
Friday, 14 March 2008 06:17
I had done some research recently on the economic movement that has arised from Focolare called the "Economy of Communion" and found it intriguing. It was started by Chiara Lubich in response to the poverty she witnessed in Brazilian shantytowns.
Here's the idea:
Business owners (on 5 continents) who participate in the project, freely choose to share their business profits according to three purposes of equal importance.
Help people in need - creating new jobs and intervening to meet their immediate needs beginning with those who share in the spirit that animates the Economy of Communion;
Spread the "Culture of Giving" and of loving - indispensable and necessary values for an Economy of Communion;
Grow the business - which has to remain efficient while remaining open to giving.
To link efficiency and solidarity;
Rely on the strength of the culture of giving to change economic behavior.
Generate income which is pooled with other EOC businesses and given to the poor - presumably through other Foccolare entities around the country.
So far: 735 businesses have taken part - many were started as part of the movement - the majority in Europe although 245 are in North and South America.
The idea seems to be a variant on the US non-profit system (in that the goal is not generating income for stock holders) but these businesses exist to generate jobs, economic opportunity, and resources for the employees, the needy, and the community.
One American example:
In 1991 JoAnn and Tom Rowley from Arizona and Joan Duggan from Chicago arrived at Mariapolis Luminosa in Hyde Park, New York. They quickly realized that they shared both a love for the field of education and the desire to commit everything to become part of the fascinating EoC project.
At the time, the local economy was depressed as the largest businesses in the area were cutting their staff and closing facilities. But these 3 educators decided to pool their talents and interests to start a very special educational support center, "Finish Line".
Joan had strong executive experience in a highly successful computer leasing business as well as teaching experience at the university level. Tom had been a teacher for 20 years and wanted to continue teaching while JoAnn had administrative experience in schools. Their objective was to meet the educational needs of students that the public schools cannot meet adequately due to budget cuts, reduction of personnel, and increasingly large classes.
"Finish Line" opened May 1, 1992. Despite the economic downturn in the area, in a few years "Finish Line" was already in the black. It schedules more than 4000 educational hours a year and provides steady employment for 13 other teachers.
Finish Line has also given $20,000 to Economy of Communion projects.
It is all quite inspiring - a practical attempt to seek out and work for the human person and the common good through business. Anyone have direct experience with this Focolare approach to business?