The following notes are borrowed from an article in the Houston Catholic Worker. Follow the link for the full article and for other online resources about social justice. - S.C.
In his new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) , Pope Benedict pointed to the Economy of Communion as a promising economic model.
The Economy of Communion in Freedom, as it is officially called, is a network of businesses linked to the Focolare Movement.
The Economy of Communion was launched in 1991 when Focolare founder Chiara Lubich visited Focolare communities in Brazil. During that visit Chiara was disturbed to find a whole ring of shanty towns in a circle surrounding the city, the favelas where people lived in abject poverty, "a crown of thorns" around the city. Those involved with the Focolare in Brazil included not only professionals and the middle class but many of these poor.
After that visit, in order to help meet the material needs of the local community, Chiara Lubich proposed a new economic model where for-profit businesses could generate additional jobs and voluntarily share profits in three parts: 1) for direct aid to those in need, 2) for educational programs that foster "a culture of giving" and 3) for continued business development.
EoC businesses commit themselves to building sound relationships with employees, customers, regulatory agencies, the general public and the environment. These new relationships include those who receive aid, who are truly active participants in the project. Sharing one's needs with dignity and sincerity is appreciated as a contribution to increase the life of communion, and many renounce the help just as soon as they reach a bare minimum of economic independence.The Focolare movement has millions of members throughout the world. The EoC has brought together 754 companies worldwide that are committed to pursuing higher goals than just profit.
For more on the Economy of Communion, see the offical EoC site, which is also permanently listed on the Second Spring "Economy" site under Alternative Economic Paradigms.