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Happy birthday, EoC!

The third day of the Congress is the 24th birthday of the EoC, too: there is a party to celebrate at the Mariapolis Piero (Nairobi, Kenya).

by Alberto Sturla and Norma Sànchez

150529 Nairobi Congresso EdC 47 ridToday is a special day: the EoC turns 24! Indeed, it was on 29th May 1991 that Chiara Lubich launched the idea of a new economy to a Brazilian audience - at least in the first instant - who seemed more perplexed than persuaded. Yet the challenge was met: today in Brazil there are about 150 companies and 400 EoC entrepreneurs and students and researchers from around the world are meeting in Africa to look at the future together. Who would have thought back then, when the Mariapoli Piero did not even exist, that one day the EoC congress would be held in the heart of Africa?

"We are few but we are the future of the Economy," the host of the conference, Charles said, taken by a bit of enthusiasm himself. After all the experiences we hear these days, even if they are a microscopic small thing when measured to the global market, show that now the road is marked for us. We're travelling it with a host of stakeholders 150529 Nairobi Congresso EdC 48 ridthat believe in another economy, and that, together with us, are witnessing that the time is ripe for a change.

The morning began with the usual roundup of experiences from all around the world. In a rather original way, Anouk Grevin, professor of management at the University of Nantes connected straight to the experiences shared in her presentation that followed these, stressing the specificity of the EoC businesses: the focus today was on Europe.

Frederick and Laurent, a landscaper and a carpenter, respectively, both of them French, have told about their efforts to consider trust a central value in their lives as entrepreneurs. Basing their professional relationships on that sentiment may sound naive but can bring out the best from their employees.  It is therefore a more efficient strategy than the one based on the usual duo of control-and-reward (stick-and-carrot) as it makes the company a participant community. The experiences shared by a female employee of the pottery workshop "In vivo" of Bratislava further strengthened the idea that creating a collaborative environment is an added value recognized not only inside the company but also externally, by the customers.

150529 Nairobi Congresso EdC 46 crop ridMoving on to Italy, we got to know the Comunità Chiara Luce, operational since April 2014 in Salento. It is an organisation dedicated to mothers with small children and to children with no parents, and it currently employs 17 people and is home to 10 mothers with their 20 children, as well as 14 children without parents. The result is remarkable when you think that everything has been realised through self-financing by the 15 founding members. Here we can see another characteristic of the EoC entrepreneur: being able to recognize a need in one's area and trying to give an answer to it by coming and acting together as a community.

The experience of the nascent Mutua Assicurazione Etica, Sociale e di Comunione (MAESC, Mutual Ethics, Social and Communion Insurance), however, showed that new economic models may arise by the EoC, ones that are completely rooted in the community type of logic of the Economy of Communion. In this case, Ornella and Alberto gave birth to a new insurance scheme, no longer based on the individualistic concept of "I pay the premium so I want a service" but to allow the insured, who are also members of the company, to pool their resources to take care of each other.

Giuseppe Argiolas from the University of Cagliari, was given the difficult task of concluding 150529 Nairobi Congresso EdC 49 rida very dense morning, by discussing the topic of the day: Governance of the EoC businesses. The aim of his talk was to provide some "tips" for the management of companies, based on the concept that every business is unique and that the EoC's approach cannot simply be transferred from one enterprise to another, but it must always be translated into adaptable shared management practices according to the requirements. The organizational culture to which the EoC points has as its object the person, because it believes that change arises from relationships, as is testified by the entrepreneurs that were taking turns on stage. Keeping this fundamental point in mind Giuseppe identified five instruments to foster communion inside the company, elaborating on one of them: the pact on the mission of the enterprise. This is not a simple contract with rights and duties in it, but the basis for building a organizational community where everyone is responsible for the enterprise.

This afternoon the work of the Congress was stopped for a few hours to celebrate the Economy of Communion. We cut a huge birthday cake and those of us who were more uninhibited also danced to the rhythm of the drums. In an all-African style. The celebration continued in the hall and was dedicated to the Mariapolis Piero, its history and its people. 150529 Nairobi Congresso EdC 44 ridA special thought went to Piero Pasolini, a focolarino to whom the Mariapolis is dedicated: he was a man of science and faith, deserving to be counted among the precursors of the Economy of Communion for his ability of taking a different, original look at social phenomena.

In each anniversary there comes a moment when you think about the future. The EoC's birthday party was no exception to this rule and in fact an exchange project for business proposals and the first incubator of African companies were presented, albeit on a very embryonic level. It will be built in Nairobi and in an experimental first phase it will have the structure of a school of a couple of weeks. The project will be 'launched in 2017 and it may soon become permanent.

But now let the photos tell the story of the party. Let us all say happy birthday to the EoC, hoping that soon we may celebrate it on Wall Street, in the heart of a transformed world of finance!

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