By Devin Watkins
The Economy of Francesco kicks off on Thursday, 19 November, and runs for three days online, with the heart of the event taking place in the Italian town of Assisi.
Called for by Pope Francis, the event hopes to inspire young people to initiate a process of global change in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and the encyclical Laudato si’.
Another goal is to prod young economists and entrepreneurs to do their part toward imbuing the economic system with justice, inclusivity, and sustainability, along the lines set out in Pope Francis' recent encyclical Fratelli tutti.
The Economy of Francesco will focus on themes such as work, finance, education, and artificial intelligence.
A community working together
According to Anna Maria Geogy, the Economy of Francesco is a “community of people coming from very different walks of life, but who believe that we can do way better than what our economy is right now.”
This young Catholic teacher from Bengaluru, India, says she and her colleagues hope to help create a new reality centered on the human person and human dignity.
‘Be the change you want to see’
But how, one might ask, can young people change the global economy for the better?
Well, Ms Geogy draws inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and his encouragement to “Be the change you want to see.”
“The world economy, as much as it’s a larger place, can also start with each of us,” she says. “That means it has to begin with youth like me, in my house, in my workplace, and in the choices I make.”
Creating a ripple effect, adds Ms Geogy, is how The Economy of Francesco event seeks to effect change, by giving young people across the world a “platform to come together and brainstorm.”
Global problems, local solutions
When the young member of the Focolare Movement first got involved in the event, she felt the economic problems she saw in her part of the world were specific to that area.
Meeting people from other parts of the globe, Ms Geogy realized that “essentially a lot of problems are the same, and the causes behind a lot of these problems are the same.”
She diagnoses those causes to “the love of neighbor”, or perhaps the lack thereof.
‘Let the children come to me’
Ms Geogy trained and worked for a time as an architect. But she soon got involved with the Teach for India Fellowship, which led her to teach a host of subjects to low-income children in urban slums.
Now she believes that the best place to effect change begins with children.
“For the economy to be better, it should treat everyone as a human entity, seeing the human person, and in a special way starting with children,” she says.
One way to verify the correctness of an economic system, asserts Ms Geogy, is to evaluate its impact on women and children. “If their health and livelihood are taken care of, if their dignity is taken care of, then that shows you the measure of the society.”
Though the global economy may seem a soulless, impersonal entity, young participants in the Assisi event don’t think it has to be that way.
“The Economy of Francesco is trying to give the global economy a soul, a flavor, a personality,” says Ms Geogy. “It’s not something that is uniform, but that comes from the diversity of all the people, putting their little parts together: A creation of a soul for the global economy.”
Is this just a pie-in-the-sky exercise in dialogue?
No, affirms Ms Geogy. “This is actually not like a utopia, but is very doable. And there are people everywhere doing it.”