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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.

 

 

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

Perhaps you are a Christian professional interested in starting a Business as Mission (BAM) company, and want some guidance on next steps in pursuing that dream. There is much to learn from those who have gone before you in the BAM space. Here is a list of questions you will want to consider as your pursue starting a BAM business:

Entrepreneurial Drive

In order to start a new company, you need at least one individual that has the vision for a new product or service that meets a true felt need for a specific target market.

  • Are you an entrepreneur, and if so, do you have a team of people to partner with?
  • If you are person who enjoys keeping a business running, do you know a BAM entrepreneur that you can come alongside?
Spiritual Objectives

BAM companies are differentiated from other social enterprises in that they also prioritize spiritual objectives. If you have goals to honor and reflect Christ in the workplace, you will need leadership that is committed to those goals and has the ability to carry them out. To start a truly spiritually strong company, consider the following:  Read more

Helping Entrepreneurs Turn Ideas Into Startups

by Stu Minshew

It is such a privilege that the Lord calls His people walk alongside Him as He advances the gospel to the nations. Today, more than ever, business is powerful tool that He is using around the globe. As a Christian entrepreneur, I am extremely excited to see all that He is doing.

As the BAM movement continues to gain momentum, I see two key growth opportunities that I believe will lead to greater impact. First, let’s make it easier for entrepreneurs to turn ideas into successful startups. Second, creating strong communities of support for startup businesses must become a top priority. Let’s see how we can make progress in accomplishing these two tasks.

Stop Giving Entrepreneurial Assessments

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a totally different set of skills than the lady who runs the bakery down the street. Steve Jobs’ personality is completely different from the local IT consultant I work with. But they are all entrepreneurs. It is impossible in 10 to 20 questions to separate all possible types of entrepreneurs. By doing so, we are limiting the number of individuals who can create ideas that can become successful businesses.

In the CO.STARTERS entrepreneurial training program, we have trained an incredibly diverse group of over 7,000 entrepreneurs. They are men and women from a wide range socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, with varying skill sets and personalities. In the first week of our program, we give them a Working-Styles Assessment. We make it clear that this isn’t to determine if they have what it takes or not. It simply helps them figure out their strengths and then begin to build a team around their weaknesses.  Read more

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

Perhaps you are a Christian professional interested in starting a Business as Mission (BAM) company, and want some guidance on next steps in pursuing that dream. There is much to learn from those who have gone before you in the BAM space. Here is a list of questions you will want to consider as your pursue starting a BAM business:

Entrepreneurial Drive

In order to start a new company, you need at least one individual that has the vision for a new product or service that meets a true felt need for a specific target market.

  • Are you an entrepreneur, and if so, do you have a team of people to partner with?
  • If you are person who enjoys keeping a business running, do you know a BAM entrepreneur that you can come alongside?
Spiritual Objectives

BAM companies are differentiated from other social enterprises in that they also prioritize spiritual objectives. If you have goals to honor and reflect Christ in the workplace, you will need leadership that is committed to those goals and has the ability to carry them out. To start a truly spiritually strong company, consider the following:  Read more

What’s My Role in BAM? Discovering Where You Fit in the BAM Movement

The Business as Mission (BAM) Movement is rapidly gaining momentum. More and more believers are realizing that business is a key avenue God is using to further his Kingdom purposes. Where do you think you fit into the greater picture of BAM? Without a doubt, it takes a whole “ecosystem” of individuals to make a BAM company become reality.

Support Team Members Needed!

Every BAM business will need a support team around them to implement the business strategy and spiritual strategy. Some BAM businesses start only with the entrepreneur but it is advisable to grow your support system from the beginning.

Here are just some of the types of people, skills and support that an BAM startup will need:

A Spiritual Support System

A BAM business uniquely prioritizes spirituality and bringing people closer to knowing Jesus Christ. Therefore, the following are roles needed:  Read more

5 Risk Factors Guaranteed to Doom a BAM Business

by Larry Sharp

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Stories from the Frontline

Last year I was leading a seminar in a conference in Arizona, when a local business owner asked the question, “Are there no failed BAM businesses?” While I readily agreed there were, I began to think about the question in a more profound way. What is the “good, the bad and the ugly” of real life BAM business experiences – those that demonstrate that there are BAM failures along with the successes?

Over the past 10 years, I have observed risk factors for BAM enterprises which should stimulate every stakeholder in the BAM community towards better recruitment, better preparation, better deployment and better accountability. Many a sports leader, military hero, or young entrepreneur has demonstrated the oft-quoted statement of Benjamin Franklin, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” And that is true in the Kingdom business endeavors of today.

So what are these factors and where are the stories which help us understand basic principles for launching and landing well in a cross-cultural business? How do we best start companies designed to work out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? How can we improve so that there will be fewer failures and a greater chance of successful transformational businesses in the areas of the world that need them the most? If these five risk factors don’t actually doom your BAM company, not paying attention to them will seriously endanger it… at the very least!  Read more

7 Markers for a Kingdom Business: A Framework for Entrepreneurs

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up another great year we will be highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past six months. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for July to December 2016.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Courtney Rountree Mills

A quick framework to help entrepreneurs learn how to integrate their faith life with their business life in a practical way.

Let’s face it. Life is hard enough as an entrepreneur. The whole world always seems to be resting on your shoulders. The pressure to succeed is immense. After all, if you don’t, you let down not only yourself and your family, but also your staff and their families! What gets you through the pressure? Mainly prayer and the passion you have for your business. You love the challenge of being an entrepreneur. It energizes you more than almost anything else. Sometimes thinking about your business becomes more like an addiction – you could work on or think through challenges you face all day, every day and never feel like you are completely caught up.

The only thing you care about more than your business is your relationship with Jesus and your family. Still, it seems your business ends up taking over your prayer life and family life, too. You keep hearing about how you should live an integrated life, but you have no practical idea how to achieve this. You hear people around you using the phrases “Kingdom Business” or “Missional Business.” These sound great to you, but you don’t even know what the definition of a Kingdom Business is. Measuring your business’ Key Performance Indicators is easy, but how do you measure your KPIs when it comes to integrating your life as a believer and business owner? This article provides a quick framework to help entrepreneurs live out their faith in their business. This is a topic that resonated most with the 450 entrepreneurs we have accelerated who were asking the same question. Most of this is not material I wrote. Rather, it is a compilation of some of the best material I have found on living out business as mission. Read more

Financial Planning: How Do I Prepare to Present to Investors?

by Mike Baer

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking:

  • What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me.
  • What is the market demand for this? Is it a cool idea, a “me too,” or is there a real demand? In other words, do people really need/want your product or service?
  • Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? This second set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? Read more

7 Markers for a Kingdom Business: A Framework for Entrepreneurs

by Courtney Rountree Mills

A quick framework to help entrepreneurs learn how to integrate their faith life with their business life in a practical way.

Let’s face it. Life is hard enough as an entrepreneur. The whole world always seems to be resting on your shoulders. The pressure to succeed is immense. After all, if you don’t, you let down not only yourself and your family, but also your staff and their families! What gets you through the pressure? Mainly prayer and the passion you have for your business. You love the challenge of being an entrepreneur. It energizes you more than almost anything else. Sometimes thinking about your business becomes more like an addiction – you could work on or think through challenges you face all day, every day and never feel like you are completely caught up.

The only thing you care about more than your business is your relationship with Jesus and your family. Still, it seems your business ends up taking over your prayer life and family life, too. You keep hearing about how you should live an integrated life, but you have no practical idea how to achieve this. You hear people around you using the phrases “Kingdom Business” or “Missional Business.” These sound great to you, but you don’t even know what the definition of a Kingdom Business is. Measuring your business’ Key Performance Indicators is easy, but how do you measure your KPIs when it comes to integrating your life as a believer and business owner? This article provides a quick framework to help entrepreneurs live out their faith in their business. This is a topic that resonated most with the 450 entrepreneurs we have accelerated who were asking the same question. Most of this is not material I wrote. Rather, it is a compilation of some of the best material I have found on living out business as mission.

Kingdom Business: The Definition

First, what is a Kingdom business? The best definition I found is one I slightly adapted from Acton School of Business in partnership with Gateway Church:

A kingdom business is an enterprise directed by the Holy Spirit and managed by a godly leader that uses its time, talent, and money to meet the spiritual and/or physical needs of the community around them to advance God’s purpose.

Ok good. We’ve defined it. Sounds pretty simple right? Now, let’s break apart this definition piece by piece to define the characteristics of a Kingdom Business. From this definition, Acton matched 6 characteristics they believe a Kingdom Business should exhibit. Each one has an associated question you can use to evaluate yourself and your business. I have slightly modified this framework to add a seventh dimension (“Reflection of God’s Character”) that I think is quite helpful. Read more

7 Things We Have Learned in 10 Years of BAM Consulting

by Larry Sharp and Gary Willett

IBEC Ventures was incorporated in 2006 as a consulting group to provide consulting services primarily to Business as Mission startups in areas where there is high unemployment, great injustice and where there a few followers of Jesus.

IBEC’s Purpose: IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

IBEC’s Vision: We envision an increasing number of small-medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

So what have we learned in these last ten years? We have made significant mistakes to be sure; and we have seen some successes, but recently three of us senior leaders considered the question of what we have learned. Here are some of those lessons:

1. Business as mission should be fully integrated

We have learned that this is not business as usual, and this is not missions as usual. BAM is a based in a theology of a ‘worker God’ who created man to be a worker and a creator (Gen 1-2). He also created mankind with various ‘wirings’ and gifts and many are business people with abilities to create wealth (Deut 8:18), as an act of worship and as their unique ministry. Business is a high and holy calling and those gifted to serve the kingdom of God in this way are ministers, fulfilling their spiritual calling. Read more

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