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Linard_2001_OR43_Economy of Communion System Factors in Rise of New Entrepreneurship

Linard_2001_OR43_Economy of Communion System Factors in Rise of New Entrepreneurship

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Published by: Keith Linard on Jun 19, 2010
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Economy of CommunionSystemic factors in the rise of a new entrepreneurship
Keith T LinardDirector, Centre for Business Dynamics & Knowledge ManagementUniversity of New South Wales (Australian Defence Force Academy)CANBERRA ACT 2601 AUSTRALIATel: -61-2-6268-8347 Fax: -61-2-6268-8337
E-mail :keithlinard#@#yahoo.co.uk  (remove hashes to email) 
The "Economy of Communion" is an experience of social economy fostered by theFocolare Movement, an ecumenical and inter-religious organisation that originated withinthe Catholic Church in the 1940’s and is present in about 180 countries. The Economy of Communion is a global project involving over 750 businesses in a network of solidarity.Businesses operating according to this paradigm seek to respond concretely to socialinequality, through partnership with the marginalized, whilst remaining commerciallyviable in the market economy. They thereby seek to present a realistic social model tothe commercial world.This paper identifies systemic factors which underlie the rapid development andspread of this third way between capitalism and socialism. The study is part of a widerreview of the systemic underpinnings of such social movements, seeking to understandwhy some succeed and impact the structures of society whilst others flower briefly thenstagnate or die.Keywords: Business ethics; new economy; economy of communion; Focolare;business dynamics.
Towards a Systems Theory of the Development of Ideas
The Economy of Communion is a business paradigm that has been described as a living‘third way’ between Marxism and Capitalism grounded in a profound respect for theindividual dignity of the human person. Sprung from the spirituality and social praxis of the Focolare Movement, the Economy of Communion“… is not a realisation of a theoretical economic model drawn up byeconomists, but it is rather generated by the practice of 
new man's
behaviourand by the necessity to face today's (social) problems … it can be consideredas an attempt to overcome the dilemma between free market and centrallyplanned organisations.” (Ressl, 1995)Table 1 illustrates not only the spread of the implementation of this paradigm, but moresignificantly, the spread of the ideas that underlie it.
 page 2
Table 1: Rapidity of the spread and implementation of the Economy of Communion
 Domains of Influence By 1990 By 2000
Businesses subscribing to this concept 0 750Countries with EoC businesses / centres / studies 0 100+Reported academic theses and dissertations (completed & in progress) 0 80+National & International conferences 0 30+Prestigious awards etc. by Universities, Governments, international organisations(E.g., UNESCO Peace Prize, Honorary Doctorates, addresses to UNO, Council of Europe.)0 15+
Source: Volumes 1 to 13 of Economia di Communione. Diverse references.
When a social ‘experiment’, less than a decade old, is adopted by hundreds of companies, is publicly praised by national Presidents (Italy, Brazil), is given the floor ininternational Assemblies (Council of Europe, UNO) and is the basis for granting of several Honorary Doctorates (La Salle University, Mexico, 1996 - Philosophy;University of Lublin, 1996 - Social Sciences; National University of Buenos Aires, 1998- 13 Faculties!; Catholic University of Milan, 1999 - Economics), the rapidity of thediffusion of the idea cries out for systemic analysis. Three approaches to addressing thisquestion are applied:
Memetics (Dawkins, 1976; Lynch, 1998).
Knowledge selection (Heylighen, 1997, 1999)
Social economic systems theory (Pluta, 1988)Some key systemic ideas from these three approaches are summarised below and,in the light of these, systemic factors associated with the successful spread of the idea andthe practice of the Economy of Communion are identified. A preliminary model of itskey systemic relationships is presented.
Memetics – the power of an idea
Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at OxfordUniversity, coined this concept in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’ (Dawkins, 1976). InDawkins thesis, “memes” are cognitive or behavioral patterns that tend to make copies of themselves by transmittal from one individual to another, and are therefore “replicators”analogous to genes. As examples, he suggests
“tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches”.
Dawkins proposed the followingthree characteristics for any successful replicators (Dawkins, 1982); Lynch (1998) hasproposed a mathematics for modelling these.
copying-fidelity: the more faithful the copy, the more will remain of the initialpattern after several rounds of copying.
fecundity: the faster the rate of copying, the more the replicator will spread.
 page 3
longevity: the longer any instance of the replicating pattern survives, the more copiescan be made of it and hence the more successful it becomes.
Knowledge selection
Heylighen (1997, 1999) proposes criteria for understanding the propagation of ideas. Heis influenced by memetics, but also draws on general systems theory, especiallycybernetics. Heylighen posits four stages in the development and spread of ideas:
, in which the idea is first enunciated, understood and accepted;
, inwhich the idea is ‘strongly encoded’, e.g., due to its importance or repetition;
,in the sense of communication to others; and
, relating to the number anddiversity of modes by which expression takes place. He classifies these criteria accordingto objective, subjective and inter-subjective factors. (Table 2)
Table 2: Criteria for successful knowledge diffusion
SelectorsStagesObjective Subjective Inter-subjective Meme-centered 
distinctiveness noveltysimplicitycoherenceauthoritypublicityformalityself-justification
invariancecontrollabilitycoherenceindividual utilityConformitycollective utilityself-reinforcementintolerance
expressivity proselytism
publicity proselytism
Source: Amalgam of Heylighen (1997, 1999)
Social economics systems theory
Pluta (1988) undertook early work into systemic factors associated with the developmentof ‘grass roots movements’ such as the Mondragon movement in the Basque province of Spain and the Antigonish movement of Atlantic Canada. Whilst this focused on micro-level socio-economic developments (community or district level), high-level similaritieswith the Economy of Communion phenomenon render Pluta’s systems model a usefulbasis of comparison. Table 3 summarises the systemic factors that Pluta saw as crucial tothe success of such movements.

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