This paper deals with an economic experience, called the Economy of Communion (EoC, see www-edc-online.org; see also Gold 2010) that develops from a spiritual movement (the Focolare, initiated by Chiara Lubich during the Second World War, see Gallagher, 1997). Its roots are in a charismatic view of social life that stresses mutual love as the most fundamental rule of social life, aimed of promoting unity among people of all social strata, cultures and ethnic origins. Of this view EoC represents the most visible economic realization.
The EoC is having an impact on the economic vision not only of the Catholic Church (it is mentioned in the recent encyclical letter “Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI, 2009), but also of civil society. Under the radar screen in this paper are EoC businesses. They are compared with “social businesses” of the various sorts. Although Economy of Communion (EoC) businesses do not necessarily stand out from conventional small and medium for-profit enterprises, in particular as far as the ownership form and the legal status are concerned, they certainly belong to that subset of organizations that strive to operate beyond the classic principles of “business as usual”. As it happens with the varied universe of organizations that make up the civil and social economy sector, the production of the greatest possible economic benefit for their owners is not the only and perhaps not even the foremost purpose of EoC companies. Similarly, the commitment to create value for other stakeholders (like employees, customers, suppliers, the local community) is not just a simple restriction they have to fulfil in order to maintain social legitimacy over time, but is an essential objective of EoC firms’ activity.
The aim of this paper is to to highlight the similarities and underline the differences between the businesses participating in the EoC movement and some other examples of the so called social and civil economy.