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The EoC towards 2031

Logo_Brasile_2011_rid2On May 28 Luigino Bruni gives the conclusions to the EoC Assembly. Below are the highlights of the content of his presentation.

The EoC towards 2031

by Luigino Bruni


As we approach the end of this Assembly, we are now ready to experience the next phase of San Paolo -- the 20th anniversary celebration day of the EoC. 
With our hearts filled with gratefulness, it might be opportune to ask ourselves what EoC has emerged from the work, the experiences, the exchanges, the many formal and informal moments which we have lived together, in this special event of grace built together. In this presentation, I would like to highlight some of the finer points of what has transpired. 

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The first rediscovery we have made together was to understand, in a completely different perspective, that Chiara’s questions which arose in this country, eventually giving life to the EoC, were big issues: we saw and were reminded in our hearts again, thanks to Alberto’s talk and to the final panel, that the vocation of the EoC is a general vision of economic activity, of the market, of the relationship between wealth and poverty. it is not only a proposal for a new kind of business person and a new kind of business. We have also understood that much of this general and wide-ranging vision is still a little more than a seed, but we want this seed to bear fruit, to become a tree. We have remembered and understood again that the EoC was born from a critique of a wrong economic system: one that is able to build skyscrapers yet is unable to feed the child that is starving alongside. Changing businesses, business people and workers has sense for us if directed at this dissatisfaction for this model of development which we wish to change and render more one of communion, of unity and of fraternity.

We have also understood that in the EoC there is, even if it is still in nuce (in embryo), a different and new idea of the business person and a new business. A business person, we have seen, is fraternal, capable of difficult innovations, “baker of cakes” (and not just giver of “slices of cake” to the “poor”), who knows how to network within and outside the EoC.;He believes in Providence because every day he is able to see it working in his life, including his economic life. He doesn’t fear the vulnerability and the wounds of relationships because together with the wounds, he also sees the blessings.He who goes in search of the poor, “of the lonely”, knowing that his specific way of contributing to building a more united world becomes more effective by making them part of the production system, creating with them opportunities of work and of growth. He seeks new forms of governance to give life to those “new wine skins” for the “new wine” of the EoC.

We have also seen that in these twenty years we have lived and understood many experiences together. the project has grown in understanding (thanks to the cooperation with AMU/United World Association and to the pioneering and tough experiences like those in Bolivia) of what poverty is, when seen from the perspective of communion. With Genevieve’s talk, the panel and the many experiences, we have seen with new lens our specific way of loving and transforming poverty, how to help a poor person, the importance of seeing the person in the context of the relationships in which he part of (family, community, civil, political…), the urgency of using new instruments which highlight reciprocity more and unilateral aid less (like microcredit, for example, and the enlightening experience of Bangko Kabayan). Thanks to Vera, we have returned to the roots of the idea of the person, who lives and promotes the EoC --- a person capable of communion, of love, of the culture of living: homo agapicus (men of Agape - Love)

I could and should continue, keeping in mind that the abundant and rich life which has emerged from the many experiences, on the stage and during the breaks, in the business corners, in the personal conversations reminds us that the EoC has been, and will always be, above all, the lives of people -- a life which gives foundation, truth, strength and prophecy to the words which are said and written, which would be empty words if not born from this life which is growing all the time.

In the light of the journey made in these twenty years and in this Assembly, and thanks to the many men and women (on earth and in heaven) who, in everyday life, believed in Chiara’s prophecy and have already made it history, what then are the challenges that await us?

I will limit myself, to describing some of these challenges, hoping that in this way, I express not only my own thoughts but that I also give a voice to those who already live, pay for and think about these realities.

The future places of the EoC

  •  The entrepreneurs and the creation of new wealth

A first challenge refers to EoC businesses. In these twenty years we are understanding, through many mistakes, that the main contribution that the EoC offers to alleviate extreme poverty and  to build an economy and a world of communion, to pursue the main objective which Chiara established 20 years ago, is not primarily the redistribution of wealth (taking money and resources from the “rich” to give them to the “poor”) but the creation of a new wealth. This involves including people who are in difficulty and who are disadvantaged from many points of view, in the production process. new “cakes” are needed, not just cutting “slices” from an existing cake and distributing them in a different way., if whoever receives the benefit of the wealth created is not part of the production process  in a concrete way, it is very difficult that the help given is not paternalistic, much like a welfare approach. When Chiara launched the “bomb” here, she said, “we must give life to “new businesses” and not “we must convert our business people so that they are more generous and give more”. this second aspect also exists (for business people and for all of us), but before this, in the EoC, there is a productive proposal not one of redistribution. even thought the two aspects are not mutually exclusive, since the EoC redistributes wealth by creating it in a different way, in  a sustainable way, in which a concrete participation of the workers in the running of the business is also sought. Here I would like to point out that in our statistics, we need to review our way of measuring the profits given by businesses., if it’s true that there are three parts to the  profits and that communion is not philanthropy, then the “third third” which is reinvested in the company to enable it to live and create employment (or which is distributed to the members and shareholders as just and fair remuneration for their investment) is also economy of communion, it is wealth shared for the common good.

The primacy of the creation of wealth over its redistribution is a challenge  yet to be considered seriously and developed. in these twenty years, the giving of the business people, many of whom have given a lot, risking with no guarantee, giving even when prudence might have suggested to accumulate reserve, has been very much underlined and rightly so (because it is equally essential). But at times, this giving was too simplistic and  was reduced to “giving money” as opposed to “giving and creating opportunities, talents, employment…”. What has been forgotten is that the first gift of business people is to call into play their entrepreneurial vocation, which is a talent for creativity, for solving problems, creating new things, innovation, capacity of changing the world in which they work.

This is a first aspect and an important frontier for the next years: to re-launch a new season of enthusiasm, creativity, new ideas, new business and new projects so as to put the business people, old and new, and maybe more together and networked, in their place, which is a place of”going beyond the borders”, of advancing the borders of development and civilization and not one of being generous philanthropists. The first gift is always the gift of life and the entrepreneur of communion gives life above all, by innovation and the creation of new things, and giving opportunities to others.

  • Direct relationship with poverty

Then there is a second step to take.

To allow creativity and enthusiasm of the child-adult to become concrete in this new season, I am convinced that today, the EoC needs a direct and vital relationship with the real faces of poverty and with the poor. We have seen it in these days: the strongest and most prophetic experiences of these years are the ones which come from context where the faces of poverty are very visible and who try with the creativity of agape and communion to seek new solutions, starting with giving a leading role (protagonism) to the poor themselves.

When Chiara launched the EoC, struck as she was by the “crown of thorns” of poverty in Sao Paolo and in Brazil, she called the community in Brazil to do something more to resolve that scandal. So then, what started in Brazil was the “we are poor but many”. shortly after, the Spartaco Business Park[1] was born., with over 100 businesses  the EoC was directly and visibly linked to that poverty which Chiara had placed in front of us. If this direct contact with poverty is missing from the protagonists of EoC businesses,  as the years go by, the deep sense of what they do it is no longer clear. It cannot be enough to collect money in Europe or USA or in the richest parts of our Countries and then use it in poorer parts of the world or of our countries. Of course, the communion of goods is also this. , the EoC has a worldwide, global vocation which also calls for this redistribution of wealth for people who we don’t physically see , feeling that they are brothers and sisters (because they are human beings and no-one is a stranger and because many of them live our same culture and commitment for unity).  showing a community (the community of our Movement) which on a global level solves the problem of need with an economy of communion, is also a fundamental element of EoC, yesterday, today and always.

But now we need to accelerate, to go and seek new and ancient forms of poverty which are present in all the Countries of the world. What should we do? On one hand, we need to highlight the link between the action of all the companies in the world and some projects (above all the most significant and the biggest ones), which the EoC  is bringing ahead  as a whole in the world. After twenty years the micro-projects alone are not enough to keep the vocation for EoC alive in the hearts of the business people: we need to do more and create direct links between the activity of the businesses in the world and the projects which the EoC is taking ahead (…). Over recent years, we have started to take this step (through reports, the website…) but it’s not enough: the experience of Bolivia has shown that when some business people come together to undertake some development projects, everyone grows, both projects and businesses.

But it is even more important to re-launch in the EoC business people of the world a new season of creativity in identifying the poor of their own city, different kinds of poverty which exist (and which are not just material) and do something directly for the abandoned members of our societies., We should do more and find creative ways to address this. We have heard experiences which are moving towards this direction, important experiences, prophetic, already bearing much fruit. But we must do more, in the Business Parks too, which are one of the most beautiful aspects of the EoC. , The essential elements of the project, which will have new impetus when the vocation of the EoC (to create wealth to share so as to include those excluded from our economic system) will be even more evident within the Business Parks themselves, in their ordinary activity, which will also include the poor people of their areas. The Business Parks are important for our way of contributing to reducing misery., when from high up in the sky, Chiara saw the skyscrapers and the favelas (slums) she did not launch an action inside the cities, to reduce and love that urban poverty as some might have expected: in order to love that crown of thorns in the city, she proposed the birth of new businesses in the Mariapolis, in the Business Park, far from the favelas. Therefore in the novelty of the Business Parks is written, maybe still in a mysterious way, our style and our way to love and reduce poverty and need in our cities as a result of capitalism, which is to pass through new businesses, of communion, networked.

The EoC was born and grows because a world with people in need and people in opulence cannot be a “united world”, an ut omnes, which since it is the mission of the charism of unity is also the mission of the EoC, as Emmaus reminded us in her important message at the beginning. Therefore the EoC will always have a special concern for poverty (and for wealth which is not shared and which is another form of “misery”) and in all the countries of the world since from this point of view, it is ever more true that we will always have the poor with us. if our charism of unity, of fraternity and of communion, our concern should concentrate more on those kinds of poverty (almost all) which are born from broken, sick, unjust, erroneous relationships, on the solitude of those in need but also of those who do not share wealth.

  • A way for all: some paths

We came here, to this place to allow ourselves to be interrogated by history, by geography, by the genius loci, by that daimon, which is not just individual but also communitarian, by the places, by the peoples. At the end of this Assembly, two further elements of this return to our origin, stand out for me and I consider them to be really crucial for our future.

Chiara (for me it is evident from the video of the “Bomb” and the references to the walls of communism, to the “Centesimus Annus” encyclical, to the “neither capitalism, nor collectivism”...), when she sees and then launches the EoC, senses it as a new way for everyone, as a possibility to live economy and business differently. the members of the Movement (whether business people or poor) were for her only the first, decisive and fundamental step in a journey which set out from the heart of the Movement to go towards the Church, towards humanity, towards the “May they All Be One”. In these days of the Assembly, but always more also in the meetings in many parts of the world (a fundamental stage in this understanding was the recent journey to Africa), many people and entrepreneurs have told us that they would like to adhere to the EoC, because they see in the EoC a new way for them personally, for their business and for economy. From here we must begin to look for something new (and we did this in these days): we must present and render the EoC as an adequate answer to that “crown of thorns of the world”, as Chiara recalls in that diary of June 1991, rediscovered recently.

Madonnina_di_Edc_ridIn fact, in that diary Chiara, just back from Brazil, wrote: “In recent weeks I thought a lot about getting the picture of Mary Desolate beside Jesus Forsaken, which I have in front of me in my room. But I wanted a beautiful one, possibly a new one, Returning from Brazil, this desire became more acute and, remembering an image of Mary Desolate which Foco left me, I looked for it and I found it. ... But a new circumstance was touching for me in this enthronement of Mary in my room and in my heart: I noticed that this Mary Desolate pulls Jesus’ crown of thorns to her heart, covered by the edge of her mantle: that crown which was so present to us in Brazil, as a symbol of the poverty and misery surrounding the big cities and more than that ... And I saw in the attitude of this Mary Desolate everything that happened down there: a new, passionate love for the poor, thorns in Jesus’ head to remove and clutch to your heart. I will send a photo of this image of Our Lady to Ginetta and Volo in memory of “paradise ‘91” (so they call the 3 weeks I spent in Brazil)” (6th June 1991)

From this diary you immediately and strongly sense that the crown of thorns and the poor are a “symbol of the poverty and misery which surrounds the big cities and more than that” and that therefore, the vocation of EoC which has its humus and its beating heart within the Focolare Movement, is called to go well beyond it, without losing – and this is the challenge – the DNA, the culture of giving, the new men which characterize the protagonists of our project. It is here, I think, one of the meanings of the third of the profits invested for the formation of new men: today we are called to begin new programmes of formation, just as in a small way we already do by supporting the Sophia University, the Philadelphia Centre in Nairobi, the schools which are beginning in Africa, the EoC courses in dioceses in Italy: but we need to do more, because if the vocation of EoC is to “embrace the crown of thorns” then we have to enable a large scale action without losing the strength of the typical culture of the charism of unity, from which the EoC was born and by which it is nourished, at the risk of its failure[1]; not to get lost or lose our way but to really live in the eternal logic of the Gospel. In this way EoC won’t miss “its appointment with history” about which Chiara spoke referring to the EoC in 1992.

But what does this evolution of the seed to the tree (or at least to a little plant) mean concretely? I don’t know. But I would like to offer some suggestions:

1.       Have the courage to “throw the fishing nets out into the deep”, and maybe in new parts of the sea, above all among those who, within and outside churches and religions, are seeking a new way in economics, with the faith and trust that we have seen and appreciated in Chiara, Ginetta, François and the first pioneers of the EoC.

 2.      The charism of unity also has the task of enabling the various expressions of economics moved by the Ideal, the various economic and civil charisms present here today in the world to “make unity”[1]. With humility, but with charismatic courage, we must be instruments of dialogue and unity with all sincere seekers of a new and united economy (this was also the meaning of having included the round table in the programme of the Assembly), be the “yeast” in this season of crisis in which with the acceleration of history, something new is being sought. It’s clear that only together with many others can we contribute to a new market economy and to an economic system based on communion.

 3.       Do not  lower the level of radicality of the EoC requests (which we have rewritten together also in the Identity Card), but be free, generous and flexible about the “how” and the “who” to include and to give away the profits, so as to be able to involve in the project other business people who like us, love the poor but who wish to follow other concrete ways to help and involve them. Present the EoC, therefore, in an open way and be clear and radical in the things where we need to be radical (attitudes towards the poor, communion within and outside the business...) but don’t ask for radicality in the cultural elements, which are variables and not essential to the project, which often put off many who came with good intentions, but were maybe frightened by a very compact and narrow a vision   of what the EoC is: we are discovering  EoC together, in the dynamics of history and we discover it also thanks to the new people who come along, sent by Providence.

 4.      Find new ways of involving people and training (schools) more adequate for the world of business.: for example, formation should be carried out not only through “meetings” where we sit for hours and someone talks, a system which perhaps works for a spiritual meeting but less for business people. Here too we need charismatic creativity and to know how to invent instruments and forms of training, new in method (not just in content), which respond to the needs of business people and are not a burden  or a cost to pay to belong to the project.

 5.      Be more courageous, especially in the Business Parks, in seeking new forms of governance of communion, in which we can develop those instruments and aspects (the so called “colours” which are a new and essential element of organisations which are inspired by the charism of unity), like personal chats, fraternal correction, sharing experiences and above all the pact of mercy and of reciprocal love: we need to work hard to find the right kind of mediation and avoid ingenuity and fundamentalism, but this a must for the future, where the first steps are already being taken and a fertile ground exists for translating the novelty of the EoC into a gift for many.

 6.      Go out to public life, establishing, wherever possible, civil organizations (associations, foundations...) where the lay and universal aspects of the project can be operative realities distinct from the internal structures of the project. There are already important signs, like ANPEC, the French association, Argentina, the AIEC, the B2B, but more needs to be done. One of the tasks of these entities which are and should always be closely linked to the Business Parks, is also to study ways and means to mentor the generational change of the EoC business people, a theme which is becoming important and delicate.

 7.       Be certain that in the world, there are many people who already have the vocation to the great EoC of Chiara, who are waiting to meet it, if it is presented with its radicality, openness and universality. And maybe they are exactly where we haven’t looked yet.

 8.      Leave space to regional and cultural creativity, because the EoC is one but many, in basis of the “genii” of peoples and cultures: just think how beautiful it will be to see in 2031 one EoC worldwide and global but which is also all African, Korean, Filipino, North American, where diversity (as Vera reminded us) becomes wealth.

The great attraction of modern times

In conclusion.

There is a writing, a meditation of Chiara which was prophetically written to accompany our development, because with language of wisdom it outlines a kind of map of what we have lived and above all of what we are about to live. Here it is:

“The great attraction of modern time
 to penetrate to the highest contemplation
while mingling with everyone,
one person alongside others.

I would say more; to lose oneself in the crowd
in order to fill it with the divine,
like a piece of bread dipped in wine.

I would say even more:
Made sharers in God’s plans
For humanity,
To embroider patterns of light in the crowd,
And at the same time, to  share with our neighbour
Shame, hunger, troubles, brief joys.

Because the attraction of our times, as of all times,
is the highest conceivable expression of the human and the divine,
Jesus and Mary:
the Word of God, a carpenter’s son;
the Seat of Wisdom, a mother at home”.

In these first years, we have lived above all the first sentence (“to penetrate into the highest contemplation while mingling with everyone, one person alongside another”). As the PowerPoint presentation “on earth as in heaven” clearly showed us, in these years the EoC has really been a way of great contemplation though immersed in its balance sheets, contracts, machinery and shelves: those who felt the vocation to EoC, responded to it and set out on its way, have lived and live a true “contemplation”, a contemplative life in the world, one of the great novelties introduced by the charism of unity (as Alberto reminded us with his experience on the first day). It has been and still is, a great contemplation in everyday life and we would not be here if each one of us (above all the “oldest”) hadn’t lived at least one of these moments of contemplation, where you feel you touch heaven, that paradise becomes reality and everything takes on true sense and meaning. But we are spread throughout the world, in Milan, Fortaleza, Paris, Nairobi and Manila, lost in the crowd, mingling with everyone.

At the same time, we also managed to see some sign of the second stage which Chiara, in this splendid mediation, indicates to us: “I would like to say more; to lose oneself in the crowd in order to fill it with the divine, like a piece of bread dipped in wine”. Here Chiara indicates “something more”, not just “one person alongside others”, but losing ourselves in the crowd, disappearing, almost dying, to “contaminate” society and economy from within, becoming completely one with them (bread and wine). I think that this losing ourselves in the crowd is the work that awaits us, when the seed in order to become a tree, must in a certain sense “lose itself” in the crowd, not so as to lose itself  but to take root and give flavour to the life which is around it.

Finally, Chiara indicates a third step, another “something more”, which even if still more prophetic, like every prophecy and every charism (which is not a utopia), is always already in existence yet indicates something yet to come:“I would say even more: Made sharers in God’s plans for humanity, to embroider patterns of light in the crowd, and at the same time to share with our neighbour, shame, hunger, troubles, brief joys”.  Here, you have a glimpse of a work of light, of a vision, which is able to indicate the sense of history, the signs of the times, being beacons of light for many, understanding the sense of the economic life we live. the EoC is already and especially this because it is a light, a prospective which is a gift for everyone. But “at the same time”, sharing suffering, hunger, troubles and joys with people of our times. The hunger and joys of everyone, of our people, who in reality yearns and awaits for  an economy of communion.

And she concludes: “Because the attraction of our times, as of all times, is the highest conceivable expression of the human and the divine, Jesus and Mary: the Word of God, a carpenter’s son; the Seat of Wisdom, a mother at home”. A God who is also the son of a carpenter (therefore a worker and an entrepreneur) and Mary, who is the seat of wisdom (and of all the culture and science of the world) but is also a Mother at home the EoC will be, faithful to its vocation ever more than how it already is: a joint contemplation and practice,  a culture and a concrete way of living.

See you next time in 2031! And thank you for these first, splendid twenty years.




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