The Power of Business to Lift Communities Out of Poverty

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this fourth post, we are exploring the power of business in lifting individuals and communities out of poverty.

Business is uniquely positioned as an essential and sustainable solution to ending poverty. Current global economic shifts and technological advances are creating a unique opportunity at this point to bring this goal in reach. Business by its nature is a relational activity, and a potentially transformational activity. Business not only creates jobs, it is where networks and relationships are the norm, creating networks and relationships that are essential for community restoration and transformation.

I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business.  That is because business produces goods, and businesses produce jobs.  And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year.  Therefore if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable business. — Wayne Grudem, Business for the Glory of God


The role of businesses and job creation in ending poverty

Thriving businesses and job creation are vital for ending poverty. Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at World Bank states, “Jobs are the best insurance against poverty and vulnerability” (World Bank, 2013). John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, shares from his own business experience, “Business is the greatest creator of value in the world. It’s helped lift humanity out of poverty and into prosperity” (Fox News, 2013).

From the voices of the poor themselves (in a survey of over 60,000), jobs and businesses were cited as major paths out of poverty:

In a large set of qualitative studies in low-income countries, two of the main reasons that people gave for moving out of poverty were finding jobs and starting businesses. (Narayan, Pritchett, and Kapoor, 2009)

The development world has reached a similar conclusion, that aid alone is not the solution to poverty. Renowned books, from Dead Aid, to When Helping Hurts, and Toxic Charity warn us of the destructive tendency of “us to them” aid that wears away at the dignity and productive capacity of people and communities. Read more

The Power of Business to Bring Freedom to the Enslaved

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this third post, we are exploring the power of business to bring economic solutions to human trafficking and freedom to the enslaved. Download the 2022 IMPACT Report from the Freedom Business Alliance below to learn much more.

by Freedom Business Alliance

Ghanaian diplomat and former Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan introduced the issue of human trafficking to the UN General Assembly in 2000 with this statement:

I believe the trafficking of persons, particularly women and children, for forced and exploitative labor, especially for sexual exploitation, is one of the most egregious violations of human rights which the United Nations now confronts.¹

Over twenty years later, this egregious violation not only still exists, but has increased. The International Labour Organization estimates that at any given time, 50 million people, predominantly women and girls, are trapped in modern slavery, an increase in 10 million compared to 2016 estimates.²

The Business of Human Trafficking

While awareness of this global crisis has grown in recent years, many still do not recognize the economic aspects of the issue, leaving a complete solution just out of grasp, until now. Freedom Businesses have been launched to address this gap, arising as a groundswell response from entrepreneurs operating in the anti-trafficking ecosystem, all of whom are on mission to create life-giving jobs for survivors of human trafficking and labor exploitation.

Make no mistake: human trafficking is a business. It is estimated that the total profits obtained from the use of forced labour in the private economy worldwide amount to US$150 billion per year. 3 While there are still legal and law enforcement issues to be improved, a major root cause of trafficking is economic vulnerability. Places with high unemployment and under-employment are high-risk areas, where traffickers lure vulnerable people, most of them women and girls. People are making money from the sale of those most economically vulnerable among us. This is business in its most evil form.   Read more

Colonising Earth with the Life of Heaven: Creation Care & Mission

by Caroline Pomeroy

Last month I visited a lively Anglican church in my local town. It was ‘Mission Sunday’ and to illustrate this to the children, the leader stuck post-it notes onto a giant inflatable globe, each yellow note signifying one of the church’s mission partners. He then asked people to remind him what Mark 16:15 says. ‘Go and evangelise all the people in the world’ was the first response…

These few minutes highlighted two things for me – first, a popular misconception about what the Good News means; and secondly the challenges of doing global mission in a climate crisis.

Good News to All Creation

At the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus calls the first disciples to ‘… go and preach the good news to all creation.’ Although opinions differ on the exact interpretation of this phrase, a reading of other versions of the Great Commission – and indeed the whole of the bible – implies that there is more to the Good News than just saving human souls. In Matthew 28:19 the disciples are told to ‘… go and make disciples…’. A disciple is someone who loves God and loves their neighbour. So the process of disciple-making must include the practical outworking of loving God and neighbour. But how can we say we love our neighbours if, as a result of the way we live and do business, our global neighbours’ crops are failing due to climate change; our future neighbours’ homes will be under water by the end of the century; and our non-human neighbours’ habitat is disappearing due our demand for palm oil or coffee?

In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, Adam and Eve, made in God’s likeness, are given authority to ‘rule over’ creation on God’s behalf.  But just as Jesus, the Servant King, exercises loving dominion over His kingdom, this first Great Commission in Genesis 1-2 is about dominion, not domination. Humankind is called to serve and preserve the earth and all its creatures, not to dominate and exploit them.  Read more

Why Should We Care About Creation Care?

by Mats Tunehag

We know we are to be good stewards of creation. Those are God’s instructions to humans in Genesis 1 & 2 – especially Gen.1:28, often known as the ‘creation mandate’ (also ‘cultural mandate).

In the Business as Mission (BAM) movement we typically talk about the quadruple bottom line of social, spiritual, environmental and economic impact:

In and through business we want to:

  • serve people,
  • align with God’s purposes,
  • be good stewards of the planet,
  • and make a profit.

But how are we doing in the BAM community with stewardship of the planet? How are BAM companies leading the way in positive environmental change?

We know from our work in the BAM Global Network that creation care and environmental stewardship is a relatively weak area for BAM companies, and and that BAM practitioners feel under-resourced and overwhelmed by this challenge. Creation care is a topic in much need of further exploration in the BAM movement, which is why we are focusing on BAM and Creation Care again on The BAM Review this month. Read more

BAM as an Effective Strategy in Urban Asia: Reaching a Tipping Point

by Francis Tsui

>> Read Part 1, How Business has Transformed Nations and Lifted People Out of Poverty in China and East Asia

Continuing from Part 1, this article explores BAM as an effective mission strategy for missional impact in urban Asia, especially as we aim to reach a tipping point for macro impact through BAM companies.

Increasingly Asia has been transformed right before our eyes, and people’s lot has greatly improved over the last century. From a missiological perspective, urban East Asia has transformed into a totally different mission field compared to just decades ago. The fast transforming Asia powering into the twenty-first century certainly needs a new missiology and a new missional paradigm to raise up leaders to keep mission relevant and effective.

It is against this backdrop that the global church – with its mission leaders and workers, including those from Asia – has to contemplate and reassess their understanding, approaches, and strategies for the new Asian harvest fields. The gospel message remains the same, yet the church needs to search the heart of God to ask how the missio Dei is relevant in such a changing time and to a transforming continent.

Affluent and Open

The mission fields in Asia are no longer just remote, isolated, exotic destinations. In the last two centuries, in many Asian countries, the church has survived and the mission work has thrived through poverty and persecution. Yet, many are now asking how the harvest fields in Asia will survive affluence and openness.

Throughout Asia, people are nearer to each other, not only physically but virtually. Whether it is in the urban or the rural areas, technology has brought people closer. It was only in August 1991, almost exactly thirty years ago, when the World Wide Web became publicly available. In just about two decades, the advent and then proliferation of the internet have brought people together in ways no one could have imagined before. One could easily surmise the easy access of online experience in the cities. Yet, even before the introduction of smartphones, when it was still at the 2G technology level, China and India had already started to equip their mobile communication network and empower their rural population to get connected to the internet.

Read more

How Business Transformed Nations and Lifted People Out of Poverty in China & East Asia

by Francis Tsui


How have businesses, especially SMEs, transformed nations and lifted people out of poverty in China and East Asia? What were critical and contributing factors?

More than 1.5 billion people, about 38% of the population of Asia or 22% of the world population, live in geographic East Asia. The region is one of the world’s most densely inhabited places, with 133 inhabitants per square kilometer (340 per square miles), being about three times the world average of 45 per square kilometer (120 per square mile).

In recent decades, at least up till the Covid pandemic, East Asian economies are increasingly one of the key global growth engines with a sustained high single to double digit economic growth and development, and are fast emerging as a manufacturing and information technology hub of the world. One of key characteristics of the East Asia region is the presence and contribution of a large small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector comprising the majority of enterprises in all the region’s economies, and especially in the region’s urban scenes.

A New Consumer Culture

The rise of the East Asian urbanization phenomenon has one distinct characteristic. While urbanization in North America for the most part goes horizontal as cities sprawl, urbanization in East Asia goes vertical, with buildings scaling tall. It is now very common to see residential apartment buildings in excess of fifty stories tall or higher in places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, or even Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. The result of such a mode of urbanization is that a huge number of people are packed into a rather small catchment area. People’s proximity to each other has become closer. Never before have we seen higher density of people within shouting or maybe even whispering distance with each other, which is very conducive to accelerated entrepreneurial economic activities.

The urbanization and modernization of some of the largest cities in East Asia ushers in new lifestyles. The birth of an urban middle class among the baby boomer and Gen X generations breeds for the first time a leisure class or a leisure lifestyle. Roaming about on the streets or in shopping malls, exercising in gyms, attending concerts or cultural events, or hanging out at coffee shops are activities unheard of possibly just two generations ago for anyone in Asia. Nowadays, these have become common pastimes. A new consumer culture has emerged out of over half a century of a mostly peaceful political environment, without major wars, and significant economic progress for many developing economies. The gradual rise of disposable income level among East Asians means that most people and families have more to spend. Indeed, East Asia is at a historic moment of major wealth creation and generational transfer. All of these exciting developments have created fertile soil and opportunities in multiple dimensions, including the emergence and maturation of SMEs. It has also brought about new possibilities for mission.

A Lift Out of Poverty

The emerging role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is also an indicator of the economic prosperity that helps to lift people out of poverty. And, the SMEs in East Asia and China have indeed scored spectacular success. In the last 30 years, according to the World Bank, East Asia accounts for two-fifths of global growth, and, during the same period, the number of extremely poor people living in East Asia fell by almost a billion. This is also the same period we saw SME businesses grow in leaps and bounds in East Asia and China.

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The Global Impact of the Wealth Creation Manifesto

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. During August and September 2020, we’ve published a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of wealth creation. It is both a command and a gift from God. Moreover, it is a historically proven path to lift people and nations out of poverty. Different kinds of wealth can and should be created in and through business, to contribute to human flourishing.

The global consultation on this issue produced seven papers on various aspects of wealth creation. Our deliberations and these papers were summarized in the Wealth Creation Manifesto. We produced an educational video series with 13 short episodes, following the format and content of the Manifesto.

Today the Manifesto exists in 17 different languages. It shows that there is a need to clarify and convey the role of wealth creation for holistic transformation, of people and societies around the world. Furthermore, the message of the Manifesto resonates with people in many countries and cultures, and it is being read and applied.

So, it is a joy to present these encouraging and helpful endorsements from significant leaders around the world.  Read more

A Cup of Cold Water: Business and the Stewardship of Creation

by Mark Polet

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. During August and September 2020, we’ve published a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

The purpose of this blog is to reflect and comment on the eleventh affirmation of the Wealth Creation Manifesto:

11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business.

The Wealth Creation Manifesto is an integrated whole, and so I would like to continue from Dr. Rod St. Hill’s blog on affirmations 7 and 8. Rod argues that the BAM movement is committed to the quadruple bottom line – economic, social, environmental and spiritual. He then quotes Amartya Sen, saying threats to environmental sustainability is an ‘unfreedom’ that must be overcome to foster development.

Creation is a gift from God. Eons ago, God created everything we need right now for our businesses. What are we going to do with the gift?’ Specifically, how do we “set the captives free” [1] answering the challenge given by Rod St. Hill?’

Read more

Business as Good News to the Poor

by Rachel Rose Nelson

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. During August and September 2020, we’re publishing a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

Affirmations 9 and 10 of the Wealth Creation Manifesto addresses the power of business to lift people out of poverty and fight injustice:

9. Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.

Taken as a whole, the Wealth Creation Manifesto builds a sort of theology of business. It starts where every good theology must – in the identity of God, rooting the reader in the wealth creator’s role model – no less than the Creator of Heaven and Earth. It continues through affirmations of wealth creation as a holy calling, a provocative claim to many church and business leaders alike. But those willing to suspend disbelief at claims of holiness soon reach Affirmations 9 and 10 which tread on nothing less than the holy ground of Jesus’ own announcement of his ministry, words he drew directly from the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4:18-19

Jesus defined his ministry by its benefit to the poor. The people of Nazareth were moved at first but quickly turned against him. Many explain the drastic shift occurred as the crowd realized the man they knew since childhood was essentially claiming to be Messiah. But it’s worth noting that it was directly after Jesus denied big blessings for his own people that they moved to throw him off a cliff.

Wealth Creators on the Sidelines?

Are we so very different? How do we in the church receive these two Affirmations? Too often we love wealth creators when we think the blessings from their benevolence are headed our way, funding church programs, global missions, and charity to the poor, etc.. However, many harbor suspicions about what good can possibly be accomplished for God’s Kingdom by the businesses themselves.

And how do we in business receive the prophetic summons to bless the poor and vulnerable when stewarding our gifts? Most faith-driven entrepreneurs are certainly willing to give out of the overflow of their business, but never ask God how to use their business model to model Christ, making Him manifest in the places and for the people who need Him most.

Read more

Business as an Agent of Human Flourishing and the Greater Glory of God

by Rod St Hill

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. During August and September 2020 we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

Even the simplest one-person or family businesses as most are, especially in poorer countries, unleash the creative capacity in the human person, bringing together various inputs and transforming them into products that contribute positively to human flourishing. Not only do the products contribute to human flourishing, but the processes associated with business create opportunities for the realisation of human dignity.

The purpose of this blog is to reflect and comment upon the seventh and eighth affirmations of the Wealth Creation Manifesto:

7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
8. Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.

I studied economic development at university over 40 years ago. I still recall reading Dudley Seers on ‘The Meaning of Development’. [1] He conceptualised development in terms of ‘realisation of the potential of human personality’. For this, he argued there were a number of necessary conditions, namely:

  • Basic needs – food, clothing, footwear, shelter – must be met
  • A job – defined broadly to include paid and unpaid work like studying, working on the family farm and housekeeping – to satisfy the need for self-respect
  • Other conditions such as good education, freedom of speech, and citizenship of a nation that is truly independent

In the first decade of my academic career I taught development economics. My students were certainly made aware of Seers’ concept. I also introduced my students to Amartya Sen’s work. He rejected the idea of ‘development’ and focused on freedom as the ultimate goal of economic life as well as the most efficient means of realising general welfare. According to Sen, overcoming deprivations (‘unfreedoms’) is central to development. These include hunger, ignorance, an unsustainable economic life, unemployment, barriers to economic fulfilment by women or minorities, premature death, violation of political freedom and basic liberty, threats to environmental sustainability, and poor access to health, sanitation, or safe water. [2]   Read more