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Profit, Scale and Transformation: The Freedom Business Alliance

We interviewed Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag, who is part of the core team for the new Freedom Business Alliance initiative and asked her how the FBA came about and what it is doing.

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

Creating Jobs for the Exploited: a Vital Need and a Unique Challenge

Employment and Employability

Human trafficking feeds on economically depressed and unstable communities. In these communities, the general population is desperately searching for employment (often in another city or country) and economic opportunity is seen as dependent upon an outside force. In such a climate, families can be tricked into selling one or more of their children. Desperation for work and transience create a potent mix that leaves people vulnerable to exploitation, particularly young women. The creation of jobs in such vulnerable communities prevents many from entering the trade – whether out of desperation or trickery. BAM enterprises, economic development and other job creation approaches can effectively work in these communities to raise families out of poverty and reduce vulnerability. This is vitally important, however, does not necessarily require an in depth understanding of the complexities of anti-trafficking work.

On the other hand, those who seek to create jobs and provide employment for individuals who have previously been victimized by human trafficking and sexual exploitation must consider unique challenges arising from this situation. Although there are many facets to the development and restoration of these individuals, finding secure employment is a basic need that must be met in that process. There are many challenges associated with creating employment opportunities for these individuals, along with helping employees gain the skills needed to sustain employment. These can be minimized by a keen awareness of needs, resources and the overall restoration journey. Read more

In Business for Freedom: Fighting the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission

It is estimated that between 12 and 27 million people globally are currently caught in human trafficking and exploited for their labor or sexual services. In a report by Dall Oglio to the UN General Assembly in 2004, he stated that 10 billion dollars are exchanged every year in the sex industry. Putting this number in perspective, of the 186 member countries in the International Monetary Fund in 2004; 81 of those members had national GDPs that were less than the amount of money generated by the sex industry that year.

To begin combating the monstrosities represented by these numbers, we must recognize that trafficking is an industry and the sex trade is a business. These are economically driven enterprises.

Trafficking was first defined by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Put in the simplest of terms: it is the recruitment, transfer or keeping of humans for the purpose of exploitation. According to the US Department of State report Trafficking in Persons (2007), human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise after drugs and weapons. While the exact numbers for these three enterprises are understandably hard to obtain, it is speculated that human trafficking has more recently taken the number two spot over weapons. There is more money to be made in human trafficking, and less chance of being caught or punished. The entire chain of distributors will earn a profit, the product is less capital intensive and the ‘merchandise’ can be sold over and over again. Understanding the sex trade as an economic enterprise means we must intentionally and systematically consider the use of business as a strategy to fight the trade on both a macro and micro level. Read more

Business on the Frontiers: Creating Jobs in Nepal

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. We are currently highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Staff Pick” for the spring of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

A landlocked nation hedged in by the Himalayas, Nepal is an isolated frontier. With high shipping costs, an unstable government and corruption cascading from the top down, Nepal presents a challenging climate for incoming foreigners to start a business – to put it mildly. Yet there are huge needs and opportunities. There are deep labour issues, with low minimum wages, a societal caste system that gives little hope for advancement, and 40% of the workforce currently unemployed. Many are vulnerable to the deceptive promises offered by human traffickers, whose main target is children from ages 5 to 14 years. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrants are already working as migrant laborers in the Middle East, often in dangerous or abusive situations. There is a great need for employment and job creation in Nepal.

Jimmy and Donna

Donna saw Nepal through the eyes of an 8 to 16 year old as she lived out these formative years in Kathmandu with her missionary parents. Returning to the United states she got her Bachelors degree at the University of Colorado and later took classes at Harvard, with a view to eventually work in the nonprofit world. Jimmy grew up in an Air Force family, attended the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and went on to graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jimmy and Donna met on a spring break mission trip while Jimmy was at USAFA in Colorado. Altogether Jimmy had 7 years of active duty service, including an assignment teaching at the Air Force Academy. During that time, they also volunteered at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center.

Peter and Marit

Peter’s business story begins with chickens. It was the chickens he raised and sold on a farm growing up, to make his own money, that helped develop his mind for business. From those small beginnings, the seed for business grew and after high school Peter ran a small construction company. Read more

Business on the Frontiers: Creating Jobs in Nepal

A landlocked nation hedged in by the Himalayas, Nepal is an isolated frontier. With high shipping costs, an unstable government and corruption cascading from the top down, Nepal presents a challenging climate for incoming foreigners to start a business – to put it mildly. Yet there are huge needs and opportunities. There are deep labour issues, with low minimum wages, a societal caste system that gives little hope for advancement, and 40% of the workforce currently unemployed. Many are vulnerable to the deceptive promises offered by human traffickers, whose main target is children from ages 5 to 14 years. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrants are already working as migrant laborers in the Middle East, often in dangerous or abusive situations. There is a great need for employment and job creation in Nepal.

Jimmy and Donna

Donna saw Nepal through the eyes of an 8 to 16 year old as she lived out these formative years in Kathmandu with her missionary parents. Returning to the United states she got her Bachelors degree at the University of Colorado and later took classes at Harvard, with a view to eventually work in the nonprofit world. Jimmy grew up in an Air Force family, attended the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and went on to graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jimmy and Donna met on a spring break mission trip while Jimmy was at USAFA in Colorado. Altogether Jimmy had 7 years of active duty service, including an assignment teaching at the Air Force Academy. During that time, they also volunteered at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center.

Peter and Marit

Peter’s business story begins with chickens. It was the chickens he raised and sold on a farm growing up, to make his own money, that helped develop his mind for business. From those small beginnings, the seed for business grew and after high school Peter ran a small construction company. Read more

Friday Links: Posts and Resources on Social Enterprise

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the social enterprise movement

C is for Customers: Don’t neglect the frontline – Pioneer Post

When you’re steering a business from the top it is sometimes easy to assume things about your vital customers – what they want and how they will spend their money. Assume nothing and make sure you spend as much time on the frontline as possible. Liam Black explains hard hitting lessons he learnt when opening up a new social venture in the third extract from his new book The Social Entrepreneur’s A to Z.

Read more

When Helping Hurts: Book Review

when helping hurtsWhen Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert is a comprehensive guide on effective approaches to missions and poverty alleviation. It is a must read for present and future missionaries and BAM practitioners hoping to fight poverty. Corbett and Fikkert are both part of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College, USA. Corbett is an Assistant Professor of Community Development at Covenant College, and has worked for Food for the Hungry International as Regional Director for Central and South America. Fikkert is the founder and president of Chalmers Center for Economic Development, and is a professor of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. 

When Helping Hurts provides practical strategies and systems that will change the way Christians approach working with the poor. Many have agreed that traditional approaches to poverty alleviation have had a negative long-term impact on the poor. Corbett and Fikkert test this theory, address the issues, dissect them and provide solutions.

Read more

Stop Helping Us! 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.

Stop 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

Lessons from the Edge: Fighting Poverty Through Business

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

Brian Albright has been involved in international development and business (in agriculture and health care) in East Africa since 2004. He currently teaches Business as Mission and Social Entrepreneurship at Hope International University in Fullerton, California, USA.

Invest in your key relationships and stay teachable
I’ve been blessed to partner with two amazingly gifted Kenyans to run our companies. They have strengths and weaknesses—as I do—that must be understood and managed. The cultural differences are real, and I could share many stories where my presence, perspective, and opinion were detrimental, and I learned to stay teachable. I know the most valuable investment we have made in our long-term business success is the time we have taken to build trust, communication, and a more open relationship. If I were to start over new in another location, the first thing I would do would be to find the right partner and develop that kind of relationship.

Monitor the numbers regularly
In the context we work in, there is a strong donor mentality due to a long history of handouts. With some of our employees and clients, it is hard to make the switch in mindset to running a business that is sustainable, where “finding a donor” isn’t the proper response to financial problems. The way we avoid this mentality is to set specific quantitative goals and monitor costs, revenues, client totals, labor hours, profitability, etc. on a regular basis. This focus on the numbers reminds us that we are a business.

You can’t do it all, work with others
While working alongside the poor, many issues emerge such as AIDS, alcoholism, nominal Christianity, sexual promiscuity, children’s school fees, costs of health care, etc.. Our business exists to meet these social and spiritual needs, but our primary role as a business is to provide goods and services and to create jobs. There are churches, health clinics, and NGO’s that we partner with in our community so that our company isn’t all things to all people. While our goals are beyond that of a traditional business, we are not experts in all of these areas, nor should we try to be. I think we are better at accomplishing all of our goals because we partner in this way.

Business as Mission and the End of Poverty

Adapted and excerpted from the BAM Global Think Tank report on BAM at the Base of the Pyramid.

The Call to Poverty Alleviation Through Business

Business has a role in alleviating poverty. Christians in business have a unique opportunity, and responsibility, to address the suffering and injustice of the 2.5 billion people who live on less than US$2.50 per day. 

The call to bring poverty-alleviation back as a central focus and purpose of business as mission (BAM) is built on several foundational understandings:

1. We are all created in God’s image: equal, creative, and imaging God in our work

Every person on this Earth is created in God’s image, from those our world defines as the most humble to the greatest, we are equals. This foundational Christian understanding of who we are has profound implications for our understanding of work, of business, and unemployment. Timothy Keller in his new book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting your Work to God’s Work, provides a fresh perspective on work, starting with Genesis and God’s work in Creation, to Christ’s humble role as a carpenter, and each of our own unique vocational callings in this world. On the definition of calling in his book, Keller states, “Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.” (Keller, 2012 p66) Read more

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