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Refugees: A Crisis or an Opportunity?

by Hakan Sandberg

Few issues have got more attention in Europe than the rapid influx of refugees seeking a safe haven in a new host country. It has toppled governments, changed the whole political landscape in several countries, and made many initially generous and empathic people eventually withdraw and instead lean towards right wing, racial nationalism. But is the refugee crisis really the “mother of all problems”? Have we given those new arrivals a real chance to contribute and be part of adding value to our societies?

If we believe all human beings are created in God’s image, then we also believe all human beings are inherently creative to some degree. This also must include these newcomers to our countries. What if we would focus on bringing that creativity out of them, so that they can flourish and be a blessing to others?

Instead many of our well-intentioned governments make them stand in line, waiting for jobs after first having gone through language and culture training, etc. etc. These are good things but represent a journey that can take years and often leads to a loss of vision and energy. Not all incoming refugees are cut out for this type of process, some have the drive to create a different future for themselves.

From Crisis to Opportunity

If we are realistic about it, migrant flows are not going disappear. Conflicts have always been there in different regions at one time or another, and they are not likely to end. Many experts are also pointing at a new reason for migration coming in the future, namely climate migrants, people who have lost everything due to the global warming and rising water levels around coastlands.

How can we turn what media have labelled as “crisis”, to become a real, tangible opportunity?

As business people who love God, the creator of all people, we have got all the tools in our hands to make a difference. We know what it takes to start a new business and we can help bridge the gap for our new entrepreneurs. We could take initiative to build a new specialised type of business incubator, one that adds the “extra ingredients” of hands-on networking and relationship building with refugee families – helping them navigate through the bureaucracy (I call it “bureaucrazy”) they will face! As experienced business people we could sign up as a mentor or coach to at least one new entrepreneur and stay faithful for a couple of years.

But is that realistic? Well, it is already happening in many places, but there is so much more we can do. Let us add in a recent historical perspective to the challenge we face first.

A Macro Example

When we think of Israel today we think of an innovative high tech country. But how long have they been like that and how did it start? When I was young, Israel was the kibbutz nation. A small country of less than 5 million people and a struggling economy, with unemployment of 12 percent. After the collapse of the Soviet Union almost one million people migrated to Israel within five years. None of our countries in Europe has experienced anything like that. To receive that many migrants in such a short time and under those conditions could have been a total catastrophe for the small nation.

Instead of calling the migration a crisis that could threaten to drag the whole country into financial disaster, the government saw it as an opportunity that could potentially help them out of financial difficulties. Since the government was at the time cutting back on hiring government workers, due to the economy, they understood that all the new jobs they needed would have to come from the private sector. For the first time in the history of Israel they built startup incubators to harness the drive and ideas from the most creative among the new arrivals, a move that proved to work better than anybody could have dreamt of.

Many of those who came in this wave of migrants were well educated and had work experience from engineering, technology, medicine or science. But very few spoke Hebrew or English and they had been educated in a totally different way than the natives, and with a very different culture. Much of this situation resembles the first waves of refugees that came into Europe in 2015, although the reasons for the migration were different.

The result? Today Israel has become the “startup nation” with the largest number of startups per capita in the world, representing 12.1% of the country’s GDP, and they are flourishing. They saw migration as an opportunity and won, so can we!

A Micro Example

Five years ago, Itzinya was created. The idea of Itzinya (read “it’s-in-you”) was and still is, to help young entrepreneurial people start, run and grow business with a holistic impact on their societies in developing countries – to create as many jobs as possible and “answer those who ask us to give a reason for our hope.”

Then in 2015 Sweden received 162,900 refugees seeking asylum within one year. That was double anything the country had ever previously experienced. Our government had to become creative and budgeted for some extraordinary projects to handle the situation. We were asked to do something for the refugees in the city of Norrkoping, a small city that had received many newcomers.

Although we had never anticipated developing Itzinya in Sweden, we saw this as a great opportunity to see if we could add value to the same people that were our target group, but now instead in our own home market. Of course, this proved to be much more difficult than expected, for many reasons such as: a very advanced and competitive market, the lack of language ability, the tax and financial system, complex laws, cultural challenges, and the entrepreneurs having no existing networks, etc. More challenges yes, but not impossible!

Over the following two and a half years we helped at least 10 companies see the light of day. They ranged from exporting medical equipment, perfume production, a car workshop, business broker, and restaurants, etc. The fastest growing company was a dairy production that grew from one person to nine employees within the first year.

We did this through opening a Startup Academy, a 4 month program in Arabic, running part time for those who would rather create a job for themselves than stand waiting in line for a job that the majority of the time didn’t connect to either their competence or their passion.

We ran a Lean Startup program and in between our business model design workshops we invited the tax office, financial experts etc. to come and teach and coach, and we had breakfast once a week at the science park for networking. We also invited local, Jesus-following business people to coach each entrepreneur.

But do they really want to start a business?

Some facts: Young people with migrant background are twice as entrepreneurial as an average Swede. 95,000 companies have been started by a migrant, that is one out of every five companies, and in total and 300 000 jobs have been created by them in Sweden. In Germany the figure is 1.3 million jobs. So yes, I believe we have drive there.

What if we started incubators in every major city in Europe in collaboration with the startup communities that already exist? What could be the impact both for individuals and society?

How you could help…

Here are some common barriers that face migrant entrepreneurs that you could come alongside to help them overcome:

  • Winning trust from investors and customers
  • Finding partners and networks
  • Navigating local rules and regulations, mitigating the “bureaucrazy” they face
  • Building specialist competence through international collaboration
  • Investing in companies
  • Placing first orders

Even in very simple ways, as business people we can make a great difference with our time and talents.

Here’s our purpose and mission for Itzinya, we hope you will join us in making this a reality, all across Europe, and the world:

Building society

Have a focus on integration through coaching relationships, business networking and when possible even partnerships with local citizens, with the goal of building society.

Building Kingdom

Through long-term relationships and value adding coaching, create a safe place to explore larger questions about life, hope and faith, with the goal of building the kingdom.

Spreading hope

Our world needs hope and optimism more than ever. Europe needs it today. The hundreds of thousands of refugees that have lost their homes and perhaps have no reason to hope, for this life or the next, are especially in need of it. Yet, we hear countless stories of refugees being able to begin a new life, while adding value to society, all through business incubation, mentoring and startup – now that is hopeFULL!

 

Facts and figures from Startup Migrants, Frekk Forlag 2019

 

 

This post is  part of a series of blogs in April 2019 focused on solving global issues with innovative BAM solutions

The BAM 2.0 Series

Over the coming months we will go into greater depth on each of these key issues.

In March we will continue with our introduction to the series, looking at how far we’ve come and some of our ‘big hairy audacious goals’ for the future.

In April we’ll take a deep dive into our ‘Why’ – what are some of the pressing global issues that BAM can address, including poverty, unreached peoples, the refugee crisis and human trafficking.

In May we’ll look at some limiting issues such as the sacred-secular divide, our definition of success, our geographical depth and our connectedness; issues that we must overcome for future growth.

In June we’ll look at resource gaps to overcome, including human capital, financial capital, mentoring, prayer and continuity planning.

We hope you enjoy this series! Follow us by subscribing to The BAM Review email or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Hakan Sandberg has worked with BAM business the last 17 years. He has started a handful of companies himself and today he helps others to start and grow theirs. His desire from his teenage years was to serve God so eventually he became a church planting missionary. During that time he began to realize something important was missing in the whole concept of missions as he knew it, the answer to one of the most fundamental needs he saw was to help people get a job. This led him to venture into business to learn for himself so that he could then be of better service. After four years in international IT business and nine years in a cross cultural BAM business, he today leads a growing network of Startup Incubators and Accelerators called Itzinya Networks, based in Sweden and with initiatives in Europe and Africa.

 

Photo credit Itzinya.

 

 

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

Central Asia: Disciple-Making in the Marketplace

In the world of “Business 4 Transformation” we often seem to be enamoured with outward appearance, even though we know that we should be striving for lasting fruit (which usually does not go hand in hand with glitz and glory!) In Kazakhstan, we are facing a similar challenge as the last 10 years have been a time where people have been tested, somewhat by persecution but more so by the coming of the glitz of wealth that believers were not well equipped to deal with. As a result, many are not walking with the Lord and the need for ordinary business people who live like Jesus (even just a little like Jesus) in the marketplace remains a huge need, in order to see expansion of the Kingdom of God in the nation.

Kazakhstan is a largely bi-vocational country where paid pastors remain a small minority. But how do you make a living and do ministry where there are few good examples of Godly business people to follow? Business people are beginning to be seen as legitimate believers within the national church, which is a big change in recent years.

After many years of working in Central Asia, I believe the greatest need is such a simple one that it is often overlooked.  We have so many methods, but the Scriptures say simply, “Go and make disciples.” This is simple but the results are so stunning. We are called to go deep into a disciple’s life with the truth of Scripture, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”. This may sound simple, but it takes lots of effort. In obeying this command, I will be inconvenienced and there will be setbacks as we encounter life’s problems. But, it is so rewarding to see disciples taking hold of the Scriptures for themselves – and then repeating it with another person! 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

The Opportunities and Challenges for BAM In and From China

China’s economic growth of eight to ten percent annually for the last twenty years, creates an ideal commercial environment for business as mission within China. There are many opportunities for doing business and large amounts of foreign investment available. At the same time, as one BAM practitioner in China has noted, “China has one of the largest unreached populations in the world, business is a significant channel for Christians to effectively impact countless people and help set them free from sin.”

In the BAM Global Think Tank Report the opportunities and challenges of doing business as mission both in and from China are shared. These observations from surveys, case studies and a SWOT analysis confirm great potential for BAM in and from China. However, the Chinese mission movement is still growing into maturity and experience of business as mission is very new. The Chinese church both inside mainland China and overseas has a long way to go to fully understand and embrace the strategy of business as mission. They must learn from their own difficult experiences and also connect with the wider BAM movement in order to be more effective for the future. Read more

Business as Mission from Australia and New Zealand

It is usually a mistake to lump Australia and New Zealand together! Each is quite different in characteristic from the other and each enjoys a bit of friendly joking about the other, as well as a fierce sporting rivalry. However, one thing they do have in common is that both Australians and New Zealanders have been among BAM pioneers, with a steady interest in business as mission growing in each country. We ask two BAM friends from each nation to share about their involvement:

 

Our journey in BAM started when I was fired from the position I was working in with a mission agency in Nepal. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened. That was 2000. We started a software company, and slowly grew until we now have a staff of 12 in Nepal, 5 in New Zealand and 3 in other countries. We make software for managing pharmaceutical supply chains, which is now used in about 30 countries.

Right from the start we had a strong sense of rightness about starting down this path, and when it’s been tough we’ve hung on to that. It’s a good thing to have. Here are a few things we’ve reflected on along the way:

Things are fragile, especially at the start. A change of mind here, the stroke of a pen there, and we would have a very different story to tell. It’s good to remember this when we start to feel that we’re pretty good at what we do, and good to remember when others fail – it’s not always in our hands. Read more

Transformational Business in Haiti [Video]

Daniel Jean-Louis speaks about the challenges and opportunities of Business as Mission in Haiti in an interview with Roxanne Addink de Graaf.

For more on BAM in Haiti, read the BAM Global Think Tank Report Business as Mission in Haiti.

This video was recorded at the BAM Global Congress in April 2013. Read more

BAM 2779: Following the Brazilian Business as Mission Journey

by João Mordomo

License plates in Brazil are a combination of three letters and four numbers. For decades, the license plates in my state, Paraná, have begun with “A”. Recently, however, the increasing number of vehicles on the road has pushed us into unchartered territory. All new plates begin with, you guessed it, “B”. The current system allows the plates in our state to range from AAA 0001 to BEZ 9999. In the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t help but notice an increasing number of new cars on the road whose plates begin with “BAM”. At first it was just one or two, but now it’s increasingly common to see BAM plates everyday. As of the last week of May, there were at least 2779 of them!

There seems to be a parallel with “business as mission” BAM as well. Blame it on innovation theory if you want, but the fact is that BAM is finally, and noticeably, gaining a foothold here in the world’s fifth largest country. We’ve moved from the innovation phase to the early adopter phase, and this is evidenced in numerous ways. Just a few of the BAM developments we are now seeing on the road to spiritual, social and economic transformation include:

BAM Conferences

The concept of BAM first showed up on the Brazilian church’s radar at the 3rd Brazilian Congress on Missions (CBM), in 2001, in the form of a 15 minute overview given by a global BAM statesman. The first BAM event in Brazil was held a year later, in Curitiba, with a few dozen people (and the same statesman). Then every year or two another event would take place, in addition to the seminars offered at the 5th, 6th and 7th CBMs in 2008, 2011 and 2014. In just the past two years, however, we’ve seen events take place not only in Curitiba, but also in other major cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Porto Alegre, Vitoria, and others — and these have been larger and tackling a more diverse range of BAM issues. Several international networks such as Lausanne, BAM Global and Open B4T (as well as several marketplace ministry and tentmaking networks), have been instrumental in helping develop “BAM Brazil” in many of these locations. Read more

Six BAM Views from the Continent of Africa

We asked people working on the front-lines of BAM in different parts of Africa to share some of their experiences and perspectives. They see business as a powerful means to share the message of the Gospel in the marketplace, deepen the impact of Jesus’ teachings on society, tackle evils such as poverty and corruption and mobilise the next generation of African Christians to transform their own nations. Here are six BAM views from Africa:

 

BAM is crucial in South Africa as a key to two major challenges: discipleship and economic empowerment. South Africa is said to have a high percentage of Christians, however, like many other parts of the world, sin is a key challenge. Corruption, sexual immorality, crime and other evils are on the rise, indicating that Christianity has not been making the kind of impact on society as it should. Business as mission could therefore provide an avenue for regular discipleship in the marketplace, as believers model Godly character and leadership.

South Africa also has a high percentage of poor people, although it is Africa’s most advanced economy. BAM – especially ‘BAM at the base of the pyramid’ – may be the key to large scale sustainable economic empowerment, particularly through the establishment of SME sized companies in rural areas.

Henry Gwani is originally from Nigeria, now working in BAM in South Africa Read more

Kingdom Impact in Kenya: How Sinapis Equips African Entrepreneurs

Sinapis was founded in Kenya in 2010 with a mission to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing them with a rigorous, Christ-centered business education, world-class consulting and mentoring services and access to seed capital. Through these means, they strive to create Christ-seeking business leaders, sustainable employment and an improved quality of life for many that they may glorify God in service of His people.

Sinapis runs an Entrepreneurship Training Program that includes 16 weeks of curriculum that covers customers, financials, human resources, operations and Kingdom Business. Upon completing the program, members of each graduating class are invited to submit their business plans to Sinapis. After a thorough selection process, entrepreneurs with the highest potential proceed to Sinapis’ annual Business Plan Competition, a live pitch event that brings together business owners, investors and other individuals in the entrepreneurship ecosystem and culminates with one entrepreneur winning a $10,000 grant. Outstanding finalists in the Business Plan Competition advance into an intensive 6-month accelerator program known as the Fast Track Fellows Program. Entrepreneurs in this program benefit from key resources such as customized mentorship from successful business owners, professional advising from experts in law, branding, accounting, etc., and one-on-one support from world-class management consultants. For those ready to raise investment capital, Sinapis matches them with early and growth stage investors. Read more

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