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Putting the Enterprise in Social Enterprise

by Rudy Carrasco

Landscaping. Coffee shops. Handyman services. Training kitchens. Snow removal. Housing for single mothers.

Across the United States, church and business leaders are responding to needs in their communities through social enterprise. Social enterprise addresses a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach. Many social enterprises mix earned revenue with cash donations to cover their costs—but a growing number of organizations seek to operate profitable business as they pursue shalom.

Shalom—the just conditions in which “nothing is missing, nothing is broken”—is the vision of Grand Rapids, Mich. based Building Bridges Professional Services. Building Bridges started in 2007 to employ young adults facing barriers to employment. They provide landscaping, lawn care, property maintenance, snow removal, and more. Their vision of shalom includes the flourishing of young people who have aged out of the foster care system and have few people or resources to lean on as a safety net.

In 2017, Building Bridges began the process of converting from a nonprofit to an L3C for-profit structure. “To do social enterprise well,” says Nate Beene, CEO of Building Bridges, “you have to closely integrate your social purpose and financial health.”

With support from Partners Worldwide volunteers, Nate and his team began strengthening the business-side of their operations four years ago. “Our budget wasn’t best suited for our industry,” Beene says. “We worked on account codes, breaking down expenses, and allocating costs like vendor repairs and vehicle use.”  Read more

Hyma Brings Shalom

by Ellie Hutchison

Her hand moves rhythmically, hovering in constant motion above the red earth. She draws in rice flour. A trail of white left in her wake, forming geometric swirls, arches, circles, and loops. Her kolam is elaborate, yet simple. Beautiful, but precise.

Each morning, millions of women in India rise and draw kolams on the ground outside their home. Yet their primary purpose is not decoration. Historically, they have been a sign of invitation and welcome. Made of rice flour, they are an offering to ants and other small organisms so they don’t have to walk too far for a meal.

In this way, a kolam embodies our call to care for the vulnerable among us. It is a humble effort to create a welcoming community of harmonious co-existence.

Like most people in Tirunelveli, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, kolams were a familiar presence in Hyma’s childhood. They marked her path from home to school and back again. Her eyes would bounce from one to the next as she walked, careful not to smear the intricate designs with her footsteps. Read more

Business and Shalom

by Roxanne Addink de Graaf

Business and Shalom are seldom seen in the same sentence. Shalom is a word more often heard in church than in the marketplace.

However, just coming from a visit with entrepreneurs in Liberia, I’m more convinced than ever of the vital role of business in bringing about true shalom, the shalom God calls us to build here on Earth. Shalom should be a driving force behind the mission of every business, and shalom provides an excellent framework for a wholistic, multiple bottom line kingdom-building business.

The Biblical vision for “shalom” goes beyond our common understanding of peace. As the Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all his relationships: with God, with self, with fellows, with nature… shalom is not merely the absence of hostility…at its highest it is enjoyment in one’s relationships.” (from Until Justice and Peace Embrace, Wolterstorff, 1983)

Relationships are at the heart of shalom, and the marketplace is a place of relationships. We will not achieve a true vision of shalom if we don’t achieve shalom in business, and as Christians in business, we need to be leading this crusade.

Wolterstorff goes on in his essay to describe shalom as a rich and joyous state of right relationship (justice), delight in service of God, the human community and the creation around us. Shalom is not a peaceful spiritual state where physical needs aren’t met, where people are still hungry, injustices prevail or work is no more. Rather, our right relationship with nature involves work and reward. Wolterstorff reflects that the Biblical shalom includes “shaping the world with our labor and finding fulfilment in doing so,” as well as enjoying the fruit of our labor, celebrating with “a banquet of rich fare for all the people.” (Isaiah 25:6) Read more

How Agriculture Ends Poverty: 
3 Discoveries About What Works

by Roxanne Addink DeGraaf

Growing up in Iowa, the agricultural heartland of the United States, I was surrounded by farms. I remember childhood summers milking cows and “walking beans” (walking between rows of soybeans to pick weeds) on my grandparent’s farm. I saw how the farm put food on the table, as I always enjoyed a cold glass of milk from the dairy after chores.

After college, I began to understand agriculture from the perspective of small-scale farmers in Kenya. I worked for two years alongside women who spent long days in their fields to not only put food on the table, but also to earn an income for their families. Everything from buying school uniforms to medical services relied on their farm’s output.

And this is not unique to Kenya. Traveling the globe with Partners Worldwide, I’ve continued to witness the centrality of agriculture in many countries and communities where we work, from subsistence farmers to thriving cooperatives.

Agriculture: A Primary Occupation of the Poor

While employment in agriculture is declining overall, agriculture is still the primary occupation for one in three people in the world (FAO). For people living in poverty, 70% live in rural areas and the majority are involved in agriculture (World Bank/Gates Foundation).

At Partners Worldwide, these facts are shaping how we work towards our vision to end poverty through business so that all may have abundant life.

We recently launched a pilot initiative focused on supporting and leveraging the resources of our partners in Africa who were already serving the agricultural sector. This pilot has been our learning lab. We’ve had some failed experiments, while other interventions have led to powerfully positive outcomes. Overall, the results affirm the vital role that agriculture plays in ending poverty.  Read more

How Enterprise Can Fight Slavery: The Freedom Business Alliance

We talked to Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag about the Freedom Business Alliance initiative and the upcoming Freedom Business Forum.

We are hearing the term Freedom Business being used more and more, what is a ‘Freedom Business’? 

It’s a business that exists to fight human trafficking. There are several types of business that fit into this category:  businesses that create jobs for survivors of exploitation would be the most familiar, but we would also include businesses that hire vulnerable people in order to prevent exploitation, as well as the aggregators who take products from these first two to new markets. A fourth category would be businesses that provide services specifically to and for other freedom businesses (ie., communications, logistics support, etc). Finally, there are businesses who have devoted the profit from their companies to fight trafficking. These are also part of the freedom business ecosystem.

We sometimes call freedom business the ‘backwards business’. In a normal business paradigm, an entrepreneur sees an opportunity to create a product or service that meets a need in the market. By gathering a qualified staff, he sets himself up to make a profit. 

In contrast, a freedom business starts with the group of people it intends to employ. In businesses working to prevent human trafficking and exploitation, those people have been made vulnerable by poverty, lack of education, or other challenging variables. For those in business for restoration, the difficulties are greater.  Their employees have already been victimised, and the resulting trauma creates levels of complexity in life and employment. Read more

Three Reasons Why Employment Beats Charity

by Peter Greer and Phil Smith

Do you remember how you felt when you received your first paycheck? In middle school, I mowed elderly Mrs. Johnson’s lawn. She would inspect my work and acknowledge that I had cut close enough to her barn and not missed any sections under her apple trees. Then she would invite me into her house, offer me a cold Tang mixed with her special spices, and pay me for my work. I enjoyed a strong sense of satisfaction as she thanked me for a job well done.

Relying on charity might provide enough for a bare existence, but it will never be enough to help someone off their knees.

Charity will never allow an individual to flourish in the way God created humankind to be—productive in caring for the earth and using the strength and skills He gave. And besides, charity isn’t what those living in poverty want.

We’ve all heard the saying, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.” These well-worn words contain an important truth: Who would settle for an occasional fish dropped off on their doorstep if they had the opportunity to start their own fishing business? Read more

6 Ways BAM Can and Should Make a Difference to Refugees and Migrants

by Jo Plummer

One of the goals of our global BAM network is to be part of the solution to the world’s most pressing issues. Undoubtedly the issue of migration, and in particular the rapid increase in refugees, presents one of the most pressing challenges of our day.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR estimates that there are an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world who have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

We live a world where nearly 34,000 people a day are forcibly displaced as a result of conflict or persecution. Many more choose to migrate because of poverty, unemployment and the ‘pull’ of better economic prospects elsewhere. The UN estimates that in total there are 244 million migrants globally.

How do BAMers engage? Why should they engage? Read more

Business Fights Poverty: Moving Beyond Charity to Job Creation

by Peter Greer

Excerpts from eBook ‘Stop Helping Us!’ reproduced with kind permission from the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics and Peter Greer. Buy eBook.

Book: Stop Helping Us CoverStop Helping Us! introduces a new paradigm for an evangelical response to poverty alleviation. Being effective means recognizing that there is a difference between short-term aid, which is important and necessary, and the long-term elimination of poverty, which is the best defense against receding back into material poverty and the most effective method of elevating the dignity of all God’s children. We will see the stories of those who were transformed by effective, long-term aid that focused on the individuals rather than just numbers. Included are surveys of the poor and what they desire, showing that their goals have little to do with money and everything to do with using their skills, caring for their families, and embracing their God-given dignity.

The Story of Fadzai

Every time an employer discovered Fadzai Nhamo, a woman from Zimbabwe, was HIV positive, the door shut. “Life was difficult for me when I came to Harare,” Fadzai later remarked. When Fadzai speaks, she covers her mouth to hide her missing front teeth, a daily reminder of the brutal way she contracted HIV. “I left my hometown after someone had beaten and raped me,” she said. Following the assault, a friend took her to a clinic at the capital, Harare. There she discovered she was HIV positive. “When my husband found out I was sick [with HIV], he disappeared,” Fadzai commented later. “I did not have a place to live.” After her husband’s abandonment, Fadzai was left a single mom, a stranger in a new city. With no place to call home, she moved from place to place with her children.

It is possible to debate many points of theology, but our faith clearly calls us to care for Fadzai, an individual who has been exploited and abused. She is the widow and foreigner so frequently mentioned throughout Scripture. When we hear the story of Fadzai’s mistreatment and understand the message of grace in Scripture, we are compelled to respond. Read more

Slavery in Global Supply Chains: The Role of BAM in Finding Solutions

by James McHaffie

Modern slavery has been a major and growing issue for some time. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 21m people globally are victims of forced labour, generating $150 billion in illegal profits annually. Of this, there are 10.7 million victims of labour exploitation in private enterprise, reaching US$43.4 billion in illegal profits per year.

Modern slavery is a broad term that encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. These are all issues which need no introduction to most BAM companies – many of which are businesses employing workers who have been victims of, or who are at risk of modern slavery.

Growing public awareness of the issues and new legislation in a number of countries has pushed this on the agenda for companies. For example, in 2015 the UK Modern Slavery Act became a legal requirement for at least 17,000 companies in the UK and, consequently, around the world. Companies with an annual turnover of £36m or more, with operations in the UK, have to produce an annual statement outlining steps they have taken to address the risk of modern slavery in their supply chains and within their own business. 

Recent research from Hult International Business School and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) exploring emerging corporate approaches to addressing modern slavery in supply chains, found that 71 percent of companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some point within their supply chains – particularly in high-risk countries or sectors and at the lower stages of the chain.

The complexity and demands of supply chains, together with the often hidden nature of modern slavery, makes it difficult to identify and address. Understanding how to respond to modern slavery has become a pressing issue for senior business leaders and supply chain managers across the globe. So what is the role of BAM companies in supporting a response? Read more

13 BAMers Share: Why Engaging in Missional Business is Important for Southeast Asia

We ask BAM practitioners – both nationals and expats – all over Southeast Asia to share why they think missional business is vital for their nation, and why they are doing what they are doing. Here is what they told us:

 

Missional Business in Myanmar is very important because business opens so many doors where traditional missions doesn’t. I’ve shared my faith with non-believers more since doing business than when I was teaching youth ministry to local pastors. I think when you work in a country like Myanmar where there is no middle class there are huge opportunities for poverty alleviation through business and also engaging the rich in business as well. I’ve had amazing open opportunities to talk with the wealthy, government, and poor communities. Missional Business is so important for the gospel in a country like Myanmar.

Ryan – from the USA, doing business in Myanmar

 

Engaging in “Missional Businesses” in Myanmar is very needed for both aspects: mission and business. We have had social mission strategies before. But the fusion of business and mission is a new effective way to reach people in the workplace.

Sang Sang – from Myanmar, doing business in Myanmar Read more

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