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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.

 

 

Let Freedom Ring! Fighting Slavery with Business Solutions

by Mats Tunehag

Young children sold to sexual slavery. Yes, it was a grim fact of life year after year in a remote village in the Himalayas. Poverty was rampant and there was a lack of jobs. This made families desperate and vulnerable, and traffickers exploited the situation.

Some seasoned BAMers explored how they could change the situation. In communication and collaboration with the villagers they started an adventure tourism company with village home-stays. To make a long story short: this new economic opportunity transformed the village, and its families, for the good. Jobs with dignity were created and no more young children from this village have since been sold into slavery.

This is more than a sweet, and true, story from Nepal. This is an example of a growing number of companies that fight human trafficking through business. They are dealing with root causes to modern day slavery and they are tackling the systemic issues underpinning today’s evil – and highly profitable – slavery business.

Learning from History

In the 1700’s the slave trade was widely accepted and legal. It was, in fact, a backbone of the economy of the British Empire. It was a big, organised and transnational business.

William Wilberforce and the Clapham group decided to fight this evil trade. They chose to attack the systemic issue – the legality of the slave trade and slavery. To that end they organised a decades long campaign focusing on justice, aiming at a root cause. They worked politically to change unjust and ungodly laws that permitted that dehumanising trade.  Read more

Business and Shalom

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. This summer, we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for January to June 2018.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

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

Walking through the Wardrobe: Six Keys to the King’s Economy

Excerpt from Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give.

Rahab was the prostitute living in the walls of Jericho when the Israelite spies showed up… who one day looked out the window and saw another kingdom invading, a kingdom with another king.

A Kingdom within a Kingdom

Today, each one of us is a bit like Rahab. We live in one kingdom, a kingdom of this world. When we look out the window and see King Jesus and his kingdom headed our way, we’re confronted with the same question Rahab faced: Whose side am I on? Nobody can swear ultimate allegiance to more than one king. “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).

Actually, our situation is a bit more complicated than Rahab’s. Jesus has already invaded the city. Furthermore, Jesus hasn’t come simply to obliterate the human kingdoms we’ve grown up in; he’s come to conquer and reclaim them. After all, every throne, dominion, ruler, or authority – on earth and in heaven – was created by and for him (see Col. 1:16–18). And at the end of the biblical story, we find the “kings of the earth” bringing their “splendor” into the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:24). And most importantly for our purposes in this book, our role isn’t simply to accept the invading King and then abandon the communities in which we live. Our role is to swear allegiance to Jesus and become, as the church, an outpost, a colony of the Jesus kingdom, amidst the kingdoms of the world. We are to declare in our words, our actions, and our lives together that “there is another king” (Acts 17:7), and he’s on his way to reclaim what’s his. Through lives lived under the rule of Jesus, we invite every other kingdom to join us in pledging allegiance to our world’s rightful Lord.  Read more

Practicing Jubilee Through Entrepreneurship

by Stu Minshew

Last week, I shared how Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt’s new book, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, challenges readers to consider ways to provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Throughout the world, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society, including racial or ethnic minorities, low-income communities, single moms, the elderly, and those who have served time in jail.

As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people.

My last post discussed shifting from a soup kitchen mentality to a potluck mentality, equipping us to more effectively walk alongside those on the margins.

Today, I want to explore another concept from Practicing the King’s Economy, unpacking what the Bible says about equity and the concept of Jubilee. As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people. I’ll also discuss specific ways that entrepreneurship can create pathways to equity for those on the margins.

Jubilee and Restoration

To show God’s plan for everyone to have an equity stake in His economy, Rhodes and Holt go to the Book of Exodus. When the Israelites disobey and are sent to wander the desert for forty years, God uses this time, not only to discipline them, but also to show them what His economy should look like. As He provides manna, God shows them that He is a God of abundance and provides enough for everyone. At the same time, those who try to store up more than they need find it rotten and full of maggots the following day.  Read more

A Potluck Approach: Engaging the Marginalized with Meaningful Work

by Stu Minshew

Work is good, and we are called to glorify God through the work that we do, but what does that look like in our day-to-day lives as entrepreneurs and Kingdom businesspeople? A new book by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, has challenged me to intentionally consider how I can provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Today, I want to share two key takeaways for as we seek to engage those on the margins through our work.

Where Do We Start: Potluck vs. Soup Kitchen

No matter where we live and work, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society. There are those who have committed crimes and served time in jail, those treated as inferior because of their race or ethnicity, members of low-income communities, single moms, and the elderly. Almost everywhere in the world, these individuals are afforded less encouragement and fewer opportunities for work, and are often prevented from even pursuing meaningful work.

How should Christians respond? We must start by realizing the value inherent in each individual, a value that comes from the fact that they are created and loved by God. As His followers, we are also called to love them and we demonstrate that love in the way we engage them.  Read more

Making a Pivot

by Michelle McDonald Pride

Before a strategic rebrand, our business was called Trading Hope. We were growing, but well aware of looming trends in the marketplace and patterns in our business that indicated a future decline in revenue. A mentor to me half joked and half warned that if we did not change something, we would soon be called Fading Hope. Our rebrand was an outward representation of a major strategic pivot.

Some of the most well known brands have successfully pivoted. Wrigley Gum used to give away pieces of gum on the soap they sold. Facebook and YouTube began as dating sites. Even Avon began as a book business that gave away free perfume with a purchase. While these examples are drastic, they are all incredible pivots that recognized the advantage of changing strategy.

Being able to pivot as a social enterprise is one of the most important, yet difficult concepts to approach. How do you pivot your social enterprise without sacrificing your impact? Most social entrepreneurs do not begin their business based on a market need and opportunity; they begin based on targeting a social problem or a particular community group in need. The entire business model is often upside down. For this reason alone, pivots are of critical importance for social enterprises.

What is a pivot

Read more

Dream Big and Move Forward! 6 Tips for Impact from a Modern Abolitionist

by Joyce Ahn

David Batstone is a human rights activist and co-founder of Not For Sale, an organization that provides human trafficking survivors and at-risk individuals with tools for long-term self-sufficiency through work-readiness skills and job placements. David is also the cofounder of REBBL, a health-drink company, and senior managing partner of ‘Just Business,’ an international investment group that incubates social enterprises.  

In his final keynote speech at the BAM Conference 2017, David shared 6 tips for business people who want to make a major impact on society:

  1. Fearlessly Pursue Your Passion

Don’t get stuck asking,“What’s the next step?” or “What does God want me to do?” Instead, start taking steps based off of what you know and the opportunities right in front of you. Reflect on the gifts and calling that God has given you. What’s the burning passion in your heart? Rather than getting stuck pursuing someone else’s dream for your life, take ownership of your vision and do something about it!

  1. Look Back Before You Look Forward

You might find this surprising, but we often can see God’s path for us most clearly not when we look forward, but as we look behind us. As you look at your past, you will start to see how all the seemingly unconnected parts fit together and how even your mistakes played a role in shaping the bigger picture. Read more

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