In Conversation with… Prof. Argandoña

Antonio Argandoña is a Professor Emeritus of Economics and Business Ethics at IESE Business School. He joined the Home Renaissance Foundation as a Director in 2015. We spoke to him about the Foundation.

“In today’s society, there is a need for an overall vision that places the home in a central position”

– How would you explain HRF?
HRF is an academic hub dedicated to the study and dissemination of household issues. There are many experts who study partial aspects of the home: the family – parents, children and relatives -, cohabitation between generations, the internal work of its members and external collaborators and work outside the home, housing, family economy, health, childhood and old age, mobility, children’s education, leisure, new technologies and the rest. What HRF tries to do is to offer an overview of these different studies, because the household is a unit, albeit a dynamic one.

– Why did you get involved in a project like this?
I have always been involved in economics and business, and I have seen that their problems cannot be fully understood if they are not related to those of society, politics, history, technology as I explained before. In other words, that an overall view is needed. When I was invited to an Experts Meeting of the HRF in London in November 2015, I realised the importance of this broad and dynamic vision, which places the home in a central position in our societies. I was invited to join the Board – and here I am.

– How do you think HRF has evolved and where are we today?
We have worked hard, calmly and perseveringly, organising expert meetings and international conferences, publishing books and reports and developing an extensive network of collaborators around the world. Internally, we now have a consolidated project, with the collaboration of a large number of experts from very different disciplines, who agree on the unitary vision of the problems related to the home; this gives us security and capacity. Outwardly, we want to intensify our presence in relevant national and international forums, to influence public policies and private initiatives in which the home is an important part.

– What social challenges do you think the home faces today?
The home operates in a very close framework; the problems are often very local. But there are also global challenges. One is the proliferation of policies that involve the household, but which are often drawn up behind its back: health, pensions, housing, education, technology. Another is related to the ideologies that are spreading worldwide, which involve significant changes in relations within families and with their environment. And yet another may be the economic uncertainty caused by inflation and recession, which impacts on the quality of life of many homes.

– Finally: a message for 2023.
The home has undergone many changes over the centuries and will continue to do so. This leads me to an optimistic view: as long as the home is a place to learn to live, a place where people are valued for who they are, not what they bring, and a place to which one always returns, there will be hope.


Technologies require maturity

It is a fact that the big technology companies are trying to keep us hooked. After watching the documentary ‘The Dilemma’, I was struck by the number of things they have in mind to capture our attention and how well they study their audience. That the workers themselves decided to leave their management positions to tell the public about their experiences and become guarantors of digital ethics through foundations that counteract the power of the technological platforms gives us pause for thought.

We know that there are thousands of dollars behind every “like”, every post and every user. Social networks have become sales channels that move a lot of money through influencers, but the more we are aware of these details, the more we know about the intentions and raison d’être of these companies, the more we will be able to develop tools that allow us to make correct use of them and discern between the real and the unreal: to avoid acting blindly.

The Communication Project that we launched last week, ‘The Impact of Technology in the Home‘, gathers valuable testimonies. It is not about being alarming, but about taking the right steps. We already know that technology is neither good nor bad in itself, it all depends on the use we make of it and also on the responsibility assumed by the developers. Marta Sánchez, Global Head of Retail Digitalisation and Distribution at Vodafone UK, explains that her company has tried to face the challenges that this rapid evolution offers, putting the person, the user, at the centre of its objectives. As she says, they are well aware of the importance of going down this road together, sharing the challenge with society.

We are all capable of appreciating the advantages that technology has brought us. We are also capable of seeing the changes that are taking place in the way we relate to each other, the way we work, the way we communicate, and even the way we manage our homes. What we have to achieve, and this is a personal task that the community must support by offering tools to families, is to develop an ability not to accept or fall for everything that is given to us and to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. For that, as psychiatrist Enrique Rojas says in the report, maturity is needed.

Therefore, while enjoying the marvelous advantages of technology, let’s encourage this maturity.  The digital world is parallel to the real world and that means that it will affect our mental, emotional, cerebral, rational, personal and professional stability. The conclusion does not change, it is up to us to be prepared and to prepare future generations so that this impact is positive, and we manage to avoid the risks that will always exist.

This report is also available in Spanish ‘El Impacto de la Tecnología en el Hogar’