To contribute to a humane society, organisations must no longer focus exclusively on profit, competition and growth in their business operations. There is a need for a different balance between economic objectives, sustainable development and the well-being of people. The concept of agapè can help organisations find this balance.
Agapè is a term from classical antiquity and a core concept for the Goldschmeding Foundation. It means focussing on allowing people to flourish for their own sake.
From analysis and definitions: ‘In the eyes of the other’…
In the first phase of this project, the researchers of the School of Business and Economics (SBE) at Maastricht University took stock of how characteristics of agapè are used in the business community in the Netherlands. To this end, the scientists analysed related concepts, like corporate social responsibility and the economy of meaning.
The research involved examining eight enterprises from four sectors, with a family company and a non-family company being examined in each sector. The study investigated how we can be attentive to the well-being of others and how this can be applied in business. Agapè was ultimately defined as a commitment to the flourishing and well-being of others, as characterised by three aspects: connectivity, activity and alterity. The study was documented in an accessible whitepaper entitled: ‘In de ogen van de ander’ [In the eyes of the other]. It received considerable attention in the media and through the network of MVO Nederland, and it was later followed by articles written by Prof. Hummels in various newspapers, including FD and Trouw.
…to inventory and depth: ‘Agapè in employment’
The current phase of the project involves shifting towards an inventory of businesses with regard to their interest in and need for knowledge and application relating to agapè. It is largely aimed at generating insight into relevant factors in the employment relationship and the manner in which they can influence the well-being of employees. Several case studies are used to distil ‘best practices’ in companies that adopt ‘agapeic’ operational principles, whether consciously or unconsciously. For the further dissemination of the agapeic conceptual framework, and to create a base of support, the term itself has also been considered and published in various ways in the media.
» Download ‘Agapè agenderen in organisaties’
[Placing agapè on the agenda in organisations]
Human beings as the driving force of businesses
A major study was conducted on the well-being of employees in 3,400 companies with more than 100 employees, in collaboration with Utrecht University. The report entitled: ‘Agapè: de mens als motor van de onderneming’ [Agapè: Human beings as the driving force of businesses] was presented on 17 May 2021 to Kitty Jong (vice-president of FNV) and Maria van der Heijden (director of MVO Nederland). The Goldschmeding Foundation would like to use these insights to help make this manner of thinking part of the operations of enterprises.
In follow-up to this project, there is a desire to develop instruments for companies that would like to work towards the welfare of others. There is also a need for in-depth national and international research follow-up studies in order to use agapè as a channel towards humane organisations.
Illustration: Marjorie Specht