Round Table in Barcelona (Spain)

In Barcelona, a round table about the EOC and the Mondragón Cooperative

New economic models put the person at the center

EdC_20090609_barcelona_1Last June 9, in Barcelona´s Fort Pienc Civic Center, 80 people participated in a conference entitled "An Economy for the People", which presented the Mondragón Cooperative and the Economy of Communion as two alternatives to today´s more usual economic models.

Migual Ángel García Cestona, Professor of Business Economics at the Autonomous University of Barcellona, presented the experience of the Mondragón group, while Javier Espinosa Martínez, president of the Association for an Economy of Communion, familiarized participants with the EOC´s economic proposal, developments and characteristics.

 

Their talks were preceded by a presentation of the Business Administration Group of Barcellona, which organized the event, and by New Humanity, to which that group belongs.

.EdC_20090609_barcelona_3Miguel Ángel García explained the principal characteristics and the various stages of development of Mondragón, which is always cited by economists as the most successful cooperative in the world. If the cooperative model in general, especially in industrial settings, has not been able to forge strong roots (because existing cooperatives are few, small in size, having lower capital, where it is difficult to make decisions...), Mondragón (with important member businesses like Eroski and Fagor) is the exception to the rule.

The beginnings of the group go back to 1941 when Fr. Maria Arizmendiarrieta first started out on this business experience. One of the most important factors for the Mondragón Group is formation. In fact, that is why the group began its own "business school", not only to offer more technical or economical formation, but because of the high regard which the cooperatives within the group hold for people´s personal formation. The professor concluded his presentation with the different stages and challenges of Mondragón Group.

The talk given by Javier Espinosa was focused on the need to humanize the economy, a current challenge which already began to take shape a century ago when Leone XIII, in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum, spoke about the "inhuman" aspects of both the socialist and capitalist systems. Even if working conditions have seen great advances, he said, it has not yet been possible to "humanize" the economy. Maximizing profits continues to be today´s main objective, and the work in itself is considered another resource just like others.  In summary, he argued that in order to humanize businesses, it is necessary to humanize the work. EdC_20090609_barcelona_2

To this end, the president of the Association for an Economy of Communion illustrated the beginnings of the EOC´s economic proposal - 18 years ago, in Brazil - as a response to the growing divide between rich and poor. According to Espinosa, it´s not a new organizational model, considering that it can be applied to different types of businesses (privately owned, cooperatives, foundations...).  Rather, it´s more of a cultural change that takes place in people - a transition from a "culture of having" to a "culture of giving" - with values like gratuitousness and reciprocity. The example given was the center for the elderly directed by Espinosa and his associates.

Afterwards, the round table was opened up to questions and answers, giving everyone present the chance to focus on a few points, like the possibility of a relationship between the two cases exhibited at the conference.

In their conclusions, the event´s organizers expressed their satisfaction for the conference´s success and the contributions given.  Everything pointed towards a more person-centered economy, offering new, more sustainable structural paradigms for the good of the person and for the business, and based on the values of fraternity, cooperation, reciprocity, commitment and responsibility.

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