January 11, 2021

Tierney Monahan (G'22)

Feature Series: The Economy of Francesco

As part of the "Economy of Francesco" international conference, I belong to the Agriculture and Justice village (the conference's name for working groups). Our members are from all over the world, with our leading team mostly composed of individuals from Italy and Brazil. 

Tierney Monahan
Tierney Monahan

In November 2020 Pope Francis convened “Economy of Francesco," a global online gathering of young people determined to make the economy fair, sustainable, and inclusive. Georgetown University asked participating students and alumni to reflect on their experiences in two essays: the first considers their pre-conference working groups and the second offers personal takeaways after the gathering.

Care for Our Common Home and the Triple Bottom Line

The most fascinating aspects of participating in this experience have been twofold: 1) the content and 2) the collaboration. The possibility of connecting with and working with young people from different backgrounds was what drew me to apply for the conference in the first place. Our village focused our work over the first few months of 2020 on 11 webinars which were broadcast on YouTube. We tried to create topics and conversations that would be both interesting and accessible, even for people who were not specifically working on agriculture-related projects. One of the first webinars was “For a new relationship economy: the role of food with Carlo Petrini (Founder of the International Slow Food Movement).” I have tried to incorporate the principles of slow food and slow living into my own life, so this webinar was a wonderful opportunity to further develop my knowledge and hear from participants in other countries.

As we transitioned to thinking about the November online event weekend, our village worked on creating proposals that were meaningful in both a scientific and informational way, but also in terms of values. The team was focused on creating avenues for meaningful, effective dialogue that would be fruitful for both the leaders (speakers and seniors) and young people involved. The two final proposals (out of 11 that we created) that were sent to the central committee for review were diverse:

  1. Advancing the Mission to Restore Our Common Home: Proposal to highlight the importance of training as a remedy for social inequalities in the poorest countries across the world. DemoFarm, an agricultural enterprise, was created in Nigeria with hopes of replicating it in other countries. It is an attempt at co-creating solutions towards sustainable food systems and regenerative soils.
  2. The Woman Mother Earth Alliance: Proposal to discuss the issue of access to land and the market for women. Women, and their children, are among the social groups most affected by hunger. Barriers related to access to land and factors of production and commercialization are among the main reasons for the subordinate position of women in our societies. The Woman Mother Earth Alliance is a way to guarantee food sovereignty by promoting land access to women and building just systems around food production, trade, and consumption.

Through my MBA studies at Georgetown, I am enrolled in the Sustainable Business Certificate and I was recently accepted to be a Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI) Scholar for 2021 as part of Business for Impact. We recently had a conversation with Bill Ginn about his experience in conservation and his new book, Valuing Nature. It is clear that in working to find solutions to the world’s challenges in the agricultural space (including climate change, pollution, just wages, fair labor, etc.), there needs to be an understanding of who we are as humans on the planet and how we interact with the natural world. I have been involved with the McDonough School of Business’ chapter of Net Impact as a board member for the past year, and our club has focused on creating opportunities for students to explore impact-driven work. Even in a place like business school, there is still room to think about mission, values, and how our career can promote the common good. It is possible to create a profit and also have a positive impact on both the planet and people. During this fifth anniversary year of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, I recognize that his insistence on the “care for our common home'' is more important than ever. In addition, with Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, it seems to me that the focus of working for the good of the planet also means taking care of our brothers and sisters.

Our actions are not performed in isolation; there is a ripple effect on each other and on our earth.

Economics of Abundance through Care for Our Common Home: Lessons from the International Conference

While I was initially disappointed that the Economy of Francesco international conference had to move to a virtual format, I was ultimately impressed with the online format and the interaction amongst the conference participants. One of the most rewarding aspects of the conference was watching the speaker events alongside my peers in other countries who I had worked with over the last year. I also tuned in to a few of the larger community events, and I particularly enjoyed the music interludes performed by NYADO between each session.

Unfortunately, our village’s proposal for a talk was not selected to be a part of the final event lineup. However, our ideas from the Agriculture and Justice village were submitted to the convening committee and His Holiness Pope Francis. Participating in the working sessions over the last year was a unique learning experience as we had to collaborate across time zones and languages to create our final proposal. Language based on the experience of our village was placed into the Final Statement and Common Commitment, including a plea to slow down to let the Earth breathe and the responsible stewardship of our common goods. This one particularly struck me because it emphasized the importance of the stewardship of the atmosphere, forests, oceans, land, natural resources, all ecosystems, and biodiversity and seeds for universities and business schools in particular. As an MBA student, I strive to include the natural world when I am thinking through problems and approaching projects in the classroom.

Two of the most informative sessions for me were: “The new global paradigm and a new development model: the role of forest” and “An economy of abundance: how to foster bottom-up development.” In the first session, I appreciated the emphasis on the fact that we depend on nature for our very existence and that it composes the founding elements of our society (soil, raw materials, water). We have a role in preserving our world and the “exhaustible and irreplaceable heritage” that we have been given. We as human beings must act with a long-term perspective in mind, to reduce the economic and social gap and to recognize that human and social issues are linked to environmental issues. In this session, they mentioned that the private sector must play a crucial role as a driver of development, balancing business objectives and local socioeconomic growth. It edifies my own studies at business school to see that sustainability is being integrated into a company’s strategy and that companies are striving to be in alignment with the United Nations and its Sustainable Development Goals.

The second session on the economy of abundance highlighted St. Francis’ principle of “it is only in giving that we receive” and related it to how our world often works in an opposite way: extraction. We need to reassess how we view nature and humans; unfortunately, people have become raw material that is used and exploited. The speakers mentioned that the words economy and ecology are derived from the same Greek word oikos meaning “house.” We must strive to work together to “care for our common home,” as St. Francis did and Pope Francis has echoed. When we work with the earth, we can create economies of abundance.

I am grateful to have participated in the Economy of Francesco international conference, and I look forward to seeing how the participants and organizers continue to bring “salt and leaven to everyone’s economy” as written in the last line of the Final Statement and Common Commitment.

Tierney Monahan (G'22) is a second-year flex MBA student at the McDonough School of Business and a full-time stewardship writer for Georgetown University. Prior to life as a Hoya, she spent eight years as an educator, community outreach specialist, and development professional at non-profits in Canada, Ecuador, Italy, and Washington, DC.