This summer I had the privilege of enjoying for a second time (after two years) a week in the Taizé Community (http://www.taize.fr) and, although the first time it was already shocking to immerse myself in its environment , this year’s experience was superb. On the first occasion we were in Olinda as a family since our little daughter had not yet turned 15 and this time, having crossed that barrier and having the two children in the youth team, we were able to attend as adults and to live other experiences of Coexistence and exchange of perspectives with other adults from different branches of Christianity (Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, evangelists, …)

I will not go into that detail to get away from the subject of the post in addition to being quite personal.

Already on the first occasion I was pleasantly surprised to see the exquisite organization of the Taizé Brothers managing an environment such as the community of Taizé where more than 3000 pilgrims (with peaks of 7000 and valleys of 600) are received each week To give accommodation, food, offer activities for team work, knowledge workshops, etc. I tried to contact the Brother responsible for all the management but I was not lucky.

On this second occasion, luck shone … and, for one of those casualties of life, I met Brother Cristian. With him I had a very interesting conversation about the functioning of the Taizé Community. After a while chatting, I understood the incomprehensible … things work by themselves! Accustomed to the chaos that is generated when we have to organize a one-day event (speakers, catering, meals, hotels, …) for an audience of … 60 people with much where everything is processed, protocol, etc …? How can I imagine that a weekly “event” with 3000 people can work without prior coordination simply because everyone knows what they have to do … and with the love of God as currency ???

But what is the Taizé community? The Taizé Community is an ecumenical Christian monastic community, founded in 1940 by the Swiss theologian Roger Schutz, known as Brother Roger, in the town of Taizé, France, which continues to be its headquarters being recognized worldwide as a focus of ecumenism.

The Taizé Community has been developing over the years. At the moment, it is composed of a hundred brothers originating in about thirty countries and who are Christians from various denominations. The Community is a visible and palpable sign of the reconciliation and unity of Christians. The Community does not accept any donation and the brothers make a living with their work, and their personal inheritances are given to the poorest. There are small fraternities of brothers in the slums of Asia, South and North America, and Africa.

The important moments in Taizé are marked by the common prayer, which takes place in the Church of Reconciliation three times a day. At the sound of the bells, work, meetings, and all, young people, elders and children, are paralyzed with the brothers for prayer.

The small monastic community focuses on prayer, Christian meditation and reconciliation (you can find more information at http://www.taize.fr )

As commented before Taizé welcomes weekly to thousands of young people and not so young, obviously in summer the number ranges from 3,000 to 7,000 per week and in the rest of the year between 500 and 700 per week according to the times. That welcome implies a “Swiss clock” operation so that everything works in a synchronized and efficient way. But how do they do it? It was honestly impossible for me to get a document explaining how I worked, so I tried to interview one of the Brothers in order to understand the dynamics. The Brothers are not very prolious explaining how they work, they do and point out we do not design strategic, tactical or operational plans to maintain the community … it works with the help of everyone learning from each experience and there is no more secret (at least that’s what the Brothers say) It’s been so many years running that it’s hard to say how it starts at the moment … it feels like it’s always been the same. Here you can see a video about Life in Taizé

Is there an entire ecosystem? Of interconnected elements: a welcoming team for pilgrims, volunteers (who renew themselves every 2 -3 months) who support in the management of intendancy (breakfasts, lunches, dinners …), in the coordination of teams of pilgrims for tasks (Oyak) where everything that is sold has no margin but a fair price and is designed for a specific purpose (not economic) … and all based on respect, cooperation and teamwork.

At that time, I remembered an old friend, Tapan Munroe, who was a renowned economist and writer in California in 2014 and one of his works: “Silicon Valley: The Ecology of Innovation” where he analyzed the Silicon Valley ecosystem and reflected on The difficulty in replicating an environment like that.

In his book he made a representation of the different pillars that underpinned this ecosystem of innovation and soon I found a parallel with the functioning of Taizé … an innovative ecosystem that revolves around the Christian Faith.

Thus, we could make a parallel between the main axes of an ecosystem of innovation with what happens in Taizé:

Research / Universities: The process of knowledge generation is carried out at two levels. One that is cultivated by the Brothers in the study of the Gospels is transferred to the community of Taizé (the young and not so young) during the different daily prayers as well as in the workshops that they organize. The second level, is the knowledge that is generated in the moments of reflection among the pilgrims themselves on the topics that are discussed. The process of knowledge transfer is dense.

– Entrepreneurs: the Brothers of Taizé have a strong entrepreneurial character, in fact they have a social “company” to govern efficiently and effectively: the only benefit they get is the great social impact that their message “Communion between people” (http://www.taize.fr/en_article19982.html). They also develop innovative and technological projects such as innovative renewable energy generation systems that allow them to be sustainable in addition to reducing the impact on the environment (one of the main standards of their activities: “God has entrusted the world to us to take care of it so we have an important responsibility with that gift, “said one of the Brothers in his workshop about ecology). This entrepreneurial nature includes the incorporation of new challenges, such as the organization of international events (International Youth Meeting, this year, for example, held in Riga, Latvia)

– Capital Investment: Although it obviously does not have the same meaning as in the environment of SIlicon Valley, ie capital to invest in innovative and technological projects, in Taizé capital is the time for reflection that is invested to achieve a reconciliation between peoples And with the person himself and this investment lasts over time and is more forceful, sustainable and has greater impact than the classic economic investment. On the other hand, in order to take care of all the pilgrims appropriately (remember that we are talking about thousands of them each week) it is necessary that they collaborate, another type of investment, and therefore reasonable rates have been established that cover the Basic maintenance and maintenance of facilities.

– Work teams: This value is fundamental in Taizé. Everything works thanks to the perfect synchrony of the work teams that collaborate in a very natural way. They are structures of flat work, with a coordinator who assists the young people to organize the different works necessary for the community to function well and can adequately assist all the pilgrims who come to it.

– Social networks: It is another of the fundamental values ​in the community of Taizé. Many of the people who arrive in Taizé do not know each other but after a week of collaboration, sharing thoughts, thoughts, etc., end up generating very consolidated social networks that last over time and are reinforced with different encounters.

– Quality of Life: The Taizé environment has been built with confidence among its people and has all the necessary components to facilitate that connection, that trust among all “its itinerant inhabitants”. It has also been carefully designed for the young participants to have all the possible comforts without distracting them from the objective of their pilgrimage. Thus, there is an area called Oyak where pilgrims can find items of first necessity (toothpaste, soap, etc.) at cost price, ie without any benefit so do not have to move to the surrounding villages to look for them , As well as a leisure area so they can enjoy after daily work and prayers of a fun time with new friends, some music until a reasonable time not to disturb the community.

– Business environment: In this case, it should be remembered that the Brothers do not accept donations for what they live from their own work: manufacturing decorative elements of ceramics and other objects, music, books, etc.

And finally Integration with the environment: The Taizé Brothers are well aware of the need to integrate the Taizé community with the rest of the ecosystem. Thus, they have as a rule consuming products only from local suppliers on the condition that products such as fruits, vegetables, … come only from local farmers.

Sorry for the “long play” but could not focus otherwise. There is much more but I will need more time to continue to deepen what is certain is that they have formed, perhaps without being aware, a true ecosystem of innovation.

About Juan A. Bertolin

I consider myself a “orchestrator” to tackle challenges  putting together the hybridization of independent solutions to achieve a comprehensive and higher value added final solution (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). Since 2006 I started to enjoy supporting entrepreneurs and companies to grow, innovate co-opeting, opening spaces for open collaboration and sharing, integrating the customer experience and emotions in co-designing new innovative elements.

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