INFLUENCE: COMMUNICATING EOC AS HOPE – Inspiring Communion in Business

by Lawrence Chong

We are so glad that so many of you from different countries, professions, and faiths could join us today to launch the Economic of Communion Asia Pacific. Indeed in this Covid-19 times, it makes even more sense to do this, to offer hope that there is another way to build a global economy together. Earlier, we heard that Chiara Lubich – who by the way was not an economist but very much a humanist – launched the Economy of Communion, also known as EoC in 1991. But actually, the roots of this idea went back much further, all the way back in 1943. The idea for the EoC was born not from theories and facts but out of living a unique experience. 

At the dawn of the 2nd World War, Chiara, as a Christian, decided to dedicate her life to God by taking on personal vows to be faithful only to God. However, as the war began, with all the horrors imaginable, she realized that the answer to overcoming such darkness was love for her neighbour. That meant practically to give your time to someone who has lost somebody. That meant giving bread and also visiting those vulnerable. A group of young girls soon gathered around her, and they did the same. And the community of Trent in Italy was surprised that in this darkness, it is still possible to find such charity and joy. The people gave them a nickname called fireplace (Focolare) because they always brought such joy and hope.  

Chiara soon understood her mission; that above all, the greatest loss is not just material but fraternity. She communicated this joy and mission to everyone. Soon a large community attracted by this new sense of a human family gathered. The communists at that time heard of her fame and visited her, but Chiara’s inspiration was more than a fair distribution of goods; she wanted no compulsion; she believed in free will, fraternity, and the ability to embrace one’s faith. The Communists said what she did, they will do even more than her, but Chiara was certain her ideal of a united world based on love for neighbour would prevail and is greater than what communism offered. 

I first heard about the concept of the Economy of Communion in 1992 as a youth attending an international meeting of the Focolare. I still remember that while some of my friends were focused on playing football, something stirred deep in my heart, and I understood that I heard something revolutionary, but I was not sure whether it would work. In 2004, when I started Consulus, an innovation by design firm, I began to understand what a gift the economy of communion is for me. In the early years of my firm, I was the youngest, and we were from different professional backgrounds , age – I was 20 years younger than most of my partners . The 4 of us came from different faiths too; one is Muslim, a Buddhist, another is a Protestant and a Catholic. 

Understanding that EoC is about putting love first, this approach helped me as a young leader to bring my senior partners together, to resolve differences and grow together. There is always this class system in the consulting world that some professional practices are more important than others. But because we practiced a culture of mutual love, this helped those in finance respect others’ views, and it helped those in design learn from those in finance. Because of this trust, we built a unique consulting methodology that gave us a unique advantage. 

Usually, as a Consulting firm, the most expensive commodity is time because that is how a consultant earns his/her keep. But because we have developed such a unique culture based on mutual love – this code is written in our constitution – it became more comfortable and easier for me to explain to my senior partners why we are giving our time for a school without resources to help them, to help an association for ex-prisoners and many more. In the Economy of Communion, we believe in the concept of providence, that is, if you give out of love and for a good reason, you will receive a hundred fold. And this is true for us in so many situations. When we gave out of love and with good reason, we always have and continue to receive more in return, bigger projects during years of uncertainty. The fact that we could grow to be present in 16 countries worldwide is proof, that love for neighbour works. 

As we grew the firm, I realised that companies’ greatest poverty is the lack of trust and hope. From the hundreds of workshops that we have now done in 25 countries from the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, the most important issue highlighted by the leaders and employees is the lack of trust and hope. Two years ago, when we celebrated our 15th anniversary through a gala dinner, a business partner commented to me upon seeing our colleagues from different countries happily present a performance or experience for the evening. He said how he wished his company can have such a family atmosphere like Consulus. Listening to him, I was convinced even more that we need to let the world know more about the spirit of hope through living the precepts of the Economy of Communion. Thank you.

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