Chade-Meng Tan’s talk gave renewed hope to an idea I had for a model economic development and empowerment for youth that promotes the greater good. Last summer I participated in a course at St. Bonaventure University’s Franciscan Institute. It was called, “Retrieving a Franciscan Philosophy for Social Engagement.” As part of the course I was required to come up with a timely application of the principles which we were studying. The following is taken from a paper I wrote this summer.
“Life reduced to its simplest equation is about relationships. Implicit in these relationships is contract. Most of the time the contracts are implied and at other times in the are complex legal agreements governing business transactions. We live at a time and in a culture that is desperately looking for a response to life that is grounded in principles that respect both the buyer and the seller. Principles that invite not only common property but value for what we can call the common good? Some might argue that such ideas are too idealistic and that nowhere is there any evidence that anyone has successfully applied such an approach.”
Chade-Meng Tan’s talk provides evidence that such principles are used very successfully at Google. Glad to have found this talk and thank you to TED for publishing it.
Life reduced to its simplest equation is about relationships. Implicit in these relationships is contract. Most of the time the contracts are implied and at other times in they are complex legal agreements governing business transactions. Implicit in these transactions is an element of fear. Rarely discussed and even more rarely placated it is there nonetheless. We live at a time and in a culture that is desperately looking for a response to life that is grounded in principles that respect both the buyer and the seller. Principles that invite not only common property but value for what we can call the common good? Some might argue that such ideas are too idealistic and that nowhere is there any evidence that anyone has successfully applied such an approach.
There exists within the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition the principles of ethical business and community building. Eight hundred years ago Francis of Assisi offered the world a paradigmatic alternative to unbridled avarice. And his prescription included removing money and greed which are central to the elimination of discord from relationships. Add to that he and his followers lived this paradigm in a manner that fostered fraternity. Although nearly eight hundred years separate St. Francis from today’s world. The principles embodied in the Franciscan Rule of Life and its intellectual tradition offer a way out of the madness. Like the early Franciscans we live in a time of devalued currency, unprincipled trading practices, emerging markets and global forces that have turned our world upside down.
Pope Benedict XVI provides direction in “Caritas in Veritate” for such a model from Catholic Social Teaching.
In recent decades a broad intermediate area has emerged between the two types of enterprise. It is made up of traditional companies which nonetheless subscribe to social aid agreements in support of underdeveloped countries, charitable foundations associated with individual companies, groups of companies oriented towards social welfare, and the diversified world of the so-called “civil economy” and the “economy of communion”. (Caritas in Veritate, p. 46)
These groups of companies oriented toward social welfare are precisely the kinds of businesses which can provide a vision of a way forward for all. The following quote from B Corporation’s website provides an alternative to more traditional business models.
“People like you have the power to spread awareness, create good, and ignite worldwide change. We want you to join our global neighborhood. A movement is simply a community in action. Go ahead and throw a pebble in the pond, create a ripple, start a conversation — you never know where it may lead.” — BCorporation
Can business exist for the common good and still meet a bottom line? This post was taken in part from a paper I wrote this summer as a student at the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University.
Friday marked the end of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University for everyone this summer. This was my first time as a student at the Institute, but I don’t believe it will be my last. What I encountered was beyond good. I was surrounded by scholarly yet un-pretentious friars, nuns and secular Franciscans and a smattering of others who all came to learn more about what it means to be Franciscan. I took a course called, “Retrieving a Franciscan Philosophy for Social Engagement,” taught by Keith Warner, OFM, Ph.D from Santa Clara University and the St. Barbara Province in California. The course was more than I bargained for. Not only did I learn how much I didn’t know, but I came away with a renewed sense of purpose in my life and a future direction. I enrolled at the institute in March of this year. Little did I know that I would form lasting relationships with people I would scarcely meet elsewhere. My experience at the institute confirmed for me that I am truly a Franciscan. I got to attend daily mass which was the first time in a number of years that I had been to Mass with that frequency. The Institute revolves around the liturgy and the liturgy revolves around the Institute. We had class on July 4th followed by Mass and a barbecue at the St. Bonaventure University Friary. We celebrated the Feast of St. Bonaventure on July 15th and in between all of those celebrations I learned about the richness of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition which up until then was only a phrase.
I learned about Peter Olivi, John Duns Scotus, Bl. Bernard de Feltre, St. Bonaventure, St. Francis, St. Clare, and many more. What it means to have a Franciscan social philosophy and be able to articulate it are not just words anymore. I came away with a renewed commitment to my vocation as a Secular Franciscan and a re-energized sense of purpose. I want to thank everyone who contributed to the experience in any way because it was one of those watershed moments that define a lifetime. Pax et Bonum.
I recently signed up for a course at The Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University. It’s my first course in a program of study that could lead to a Master of Arts in Franciscan Studies. I’m anxious and excited. I’m a layman, a Secular Franciscan, and I’m likely to be surrounded by highly educated Friars & Nuns who’ve had a number of theology courses. Nonetheless, I’m blessed to be included in such a group. In some way I’m pursuing a vocation I once considered as a young man.
Our teacher will be Keith Douglas Warner,OFM of the Saint Barbara Province. I’ve never met him, but he comes highly recommended and this course just kind of leapt out at me as I perused the course catalog a couple of months ago. The title of this blog is the title of the course. Dr. Warner included a reading list to our class that will provide me with more than enough to keep me occupied for awhile. Dr. Warner also provided a link to a fellowship whose focus is Social Entrepreneurship. I think this is going to be an exciting summer.