What is Civil Economy: interview with Stefano Zamagni

What is Civil Economy: interview with Stefano Zamagni

For some years now, Stefano Zamagni has been a tireless promoter of the Civil Economy. He teaches at the University of Bologna, was President of the Italian Agency for the Third Sector and is President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

At a time when the urgent need for a paradigm shift is being discussed, the Civil Economy is attracting a lot of interest. What are the reasons?

The principles of Civil Economy are spreading (even if many do not use this expression) because the current economic model has proved to be unable to answer the questions of a rapidly changing economy. The difficult economic situation, which has worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has brought to our attention the urgent need to consider a new model of development. Today we hear about inclusive prosperity, commitment to the common good, and people’s happiness: concepts that derive from the paradigm of the Civil Economy. For example, it is well known that a happy worker is both more efficient and more productive. Just think that in the United States, Google was the first to introduce the figure of the “Chief Happiness Officer”.

The Civil Economy does not pit the State against the market or the market against civil society, but involves all three. Moreover, it is theorized that a company should do business considering, among other things, reciprocity, respect for other people and sympathy: according to the Civil Economy, therefore, a company is not just a money machine, but a real agent of transformation of the community where it operates.

Are there any noteworthy studies of Civil Economy in other parts of the world?

The Science of Happiness and Positive Organizations has been successfully made the subject of master’s degrees and courses at prestigious universities around the world. In the United States, but also in Europe, there are many universities that have been studying the matter for some time. We would like to mention Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His work focuses on how to create more inclusive economies in both developed and developing societies. In 2019, Rodrik launched Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfiP), a network of academic economists committed to studying a more inclusive economy and society. On the website of the network there are recommendations with regard to finance, trade, labour markets, social policy, technology policy and political institutions.

The second edition of the National Festival of Civil Economy was recently held in Florence: what were the highlights?

The Festival was an important occasion for reflection and to put the Civil Economy project into motion. But it was also a chance to mobilise people, businesses and associations. During the second edition, which took place from 25 to 27 September 2020, some interesting ventures were presented. One of these was “Made in Prison”, a clothing and accessories brand created in 2008 in Lecce by Officina Creativa that gives women and young offenders in prison the chance to work, receive a regular wage and use their period of imprisonment to start a path of social reintegration. The Festival also produced the Italian Carta di Firenze (“Florence Charter”), a manifesto addressed to businesses, based on a path of evolution whereby the civil economy calls all people together for a transformational strategy of the current economic and financial structure. It is – if you like – a return to the Civil Humanism movement of the 15th Century.

If you wish to find out more about these issues, we can recommend Economia civile e sviluppo sostenibile. Progettare e misurare un nuovo modello di benessere (Civil Economy and Sustainable Development. Designing and measuring a new model of well-being) by Leonardo Becchetti, Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni published in 2019 by Ecra.

A read of more international breadth is Economics for Inclusive Prosperity: An Introduction published in 2019 by Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik and Gabriel Zucman, founders of the Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfiP) Network. It consists of a series of papers produced by the various members of EfiP, lecturers at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Brown, Berkeley, Princeton and Columbia. All papers can be consulted and downloaded from the site https://econfip.org/

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