BAM and Human Trafficking

A Business Takeover: Combating the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission

Between 12 and 27 million people globally are currently caught in human trafficking and exploited for their labor or sexual services. To begin combating the monstrosities represented by these numbers, we must recognize that trafficking is an industry and the sex trade is a business. These are economically driven enterprises. We must intentionally and systematically acknowledge the important role of business as a strategy to fight the trade on both a macro and micro level.

Traditionally, businesses have been relegated to participating in anti-trafficking work as the funding source for the work of nonprofits. However, business as mission (BAM) entrusts businesses with much more than simply funding nonprofit work; the business itself becomes the vehicle of change. As such, both nonprofit and for-profit strategies are integral to success in anti-trafficking work.

Business and nonprofit work can come together in anti-trafficking work to focus on job creation, increasing the employability of individuals who have been victimized by human trafficking, and in their subsequent aftercare. Freedom business is a term used to describe enterprises that are involved in such anti-trafficking efforts and care of survivors.

Cultural differences between nonprofit and for-profit entities must be recognized and addressed to enhance working relationships and maximize success. With clear communications, expectations and goals, cultural barriers can be overcome and flourishing partnerships can develop.

Beyond the general best practices of fair trade and BAM, freedom businesses must take extra care when considering the employment of individuals coming from situations of abuse. Extensive training in both technical and soft skills is often required for employer expectations to be met. While having a job with dignity is a major step in the restoration process, aftercare must be intentionally structured into the business so that individuals and communities can heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Creating a business that provides for individual needs while at the same time systematically attacking the larger trafficking industry is an overwhelming task for even the most enthusiastic entrepreneurs. There are three main categories of businesses currently working in this space: businesses working for prevention, businesses creating employment for restoration and businesses working in support of field-based freedom businesses. These businesses are growing slowly, but steadily. Few have achieved profitability and most benefit greatly from subsidies of some sort. For true success to be found, freedom businesses must seek (with resolute pursuit) to be profitable, sustainable and scalable while participating in traditional marketplaces both globally and locally.

Freedom businesses are uniquely positioned to strike at the economically driven foundations of the sex trade. By combining the necessary components of economic productivity and holistic ministry, the staggering numbers of people caught in the trade can be reduced through the powerful response of freedom business.

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BAM in Mongolia

Business as Mission in Mongolia

Mongolia is seen as the “Final Frontier” for many people. It stirs up images of the horse herds that still run free across her open steppes. From the harsh arid climate of the Gobi Desert in the south, to the pristine lakes in the frozen north that border Russia’s Siberia, the climate has forged a hardy, resilient people who work hard, play hard, and practice a survivalist hospitality.

Into this climate, Mongolia in 1990 opened her borders to doing business and trade with the rest of the world. Freedom of religion was written into her new constitution. A free market economy emerged. People were asking for the tools to cope with a new and growing economy. From 2000 to 2012, Mongolia’s resource-rich countryside has fueled what is now reported to be one of the fastest growing economies of Asia.

Into this setting business as mission (BAM) entrepreneurs are finding opportunities to work with Mongolians to help them build their country on the solid foundations of faith and the hope that does not disappoint. BAM workers seek to close the gap between rich and poor; to disciple Mongolia’s young population with values which will encourage them not to buy into the despotism of capitalism, but that will build a sustainable future.

Probably the biggest hurdle most BAM workers (BAMers) will face is the government’s US$100,000 entry requirement to start a foreign-run business in Mongolia. This requirement is to ensure that businesses which apply to be in Mongolia are legitimate businesses and have enough capital to start up and run in the first 2 years of operation. Though many mission workers may find this hurdle unrealistic and difficult, it has been noted by many business people that this probably is a basic minimum to realistically start a business in most countries.

Mongolia faces many similar concerns that other developing countries also face: corruption, frustrating legal red tape, unskilled workers, workers with a different worldview regarding ethics or finances, etc. However, most successful BAM entrepreneurs after sifting through the difficulties, have found themselves working beside hard-working Mongolians who are sincere about learning how to provide for their families, both physically and spiritually.

In this context, Mongolia presents itself as a BAM mission field that holds many opportunities. Mongolia is a country where BAM workers could have a significant influence to disciple Mongolians who are building their nation. They could help those who have caught the vision to share the Good News beyond Mongolia’s borders.

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BAM and the End of Poverty

Business as Mission at the Base of the Pyramid

In a large set (a survey of over 60,000 of “the poor”) …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 Issue Group on Business as Mission at the Base of the Pyramid focused on the role of business in alleviating poverty, and the unique opportunity Christians in business have to address the needs and injustice of the 2.5 billion people who live on less than US$2.50 per day (the base of the pyramid or “BoP”).

The group built its call to action on several foundational understandings:

1. We are all created in God’s image: equal, creative, and imaging God in our work;
2. All Christians are called to care for the poor; empowering those at the BoP is part of our mission, responding to God’s love by loving our neighbor and building God’s kingdom;
3. Business is essential, and uniquely positioned as a sustainable solution to poverty; and
4. We are at a tipping point with the emerging global technologies, attitudes, movements and opportunities to end poverty.

Our conclusion is that there is a unique and timely opportunity for the global Church and the business as mission (BAM) movement to make poverty alleviation a central, achievable focus, now. It is time to engage, affirm and support a global movement of entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes in achieving the end of poverty – bringing God’s Kingdom on earth, as it is in Heaven.

The great news is that entrepreneurs of all nations, as well as local and global institutions are rising to this challenge and making an impact on poverty with sustainable businesses, and dignity, even in some of the most challenging places on this globe. This report highlights profiles of a few of these champions, as well as their major challenges, emerging global opportunities and trends, and promising practices of those focused on business ending poverty.

The solution here is not the old missionary and development models of “North to South” or “West to the Rest.” Recent books, like Dead Aid and When Helping Hurts warn us of the destructive tendency of “us to them” aid that erodes the dignity and productive capacity of people and communities. Rather, sustained impact on poverty builds on local business talents and leadership, and provides “access to the pond”.

I began to protest the oft-used “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” No, I thought, these folks already know how to fish.  They just need access to the pond!  They know how to farm, but they own only half an acre to feed seven hungry people! (Seebeck, 2009)

With entrenched structural barriers that limit “access to the pond”, it is not an easy task to end poverty, but progress is being made; extreme poverty (those that live on US$1.25 per day) has been cut in half in the last 20 years.

The question is, how many more could be freed from the injustice of poverty? What could happen if every Christian who sees their business as mission embraced their role and ability to end poverty?

Come join the dialogue, and join the movement of business as mission ending poverty.

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Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done… In Business

The Biblical Models of Transformation Through Business Practices Issue Group (BMIG) focused on developing a Biblically sound and practical understanding of business.

The group defined its purpose as identifying principles, models and practices of business that give expression to its role in advancing God’s purpose or mission in the world. The group operated on the basis that, broadly speaking, God’s purpose is to establish His Kingdom—a Kingdom to be fully consummated with the second coming of Jesus Christ, but inaugurated in ‘this present age’ (Tit 2:11–14).

The group acknowledged that profit matters in any business, but that profit is not the raison d’etre for business as mission (BAM). Profit is necessary to sustain an enterprise and it can also finance good works of various kinds. But a different p-word motivates BAM practitioners—purpose, specifically God’s purpose.

The group set about its work in four areas, namely the overarching or integrating theme of God’s purpose in the world, the role of business in serving people, the role of business in creation care and the role of profit.

Regarding God’s purpose, the BMIG proposed that the creation mandate is foundational and that redemption of all of creation is God’s desire. An important barrier to the role of business was identified as the sacred‒secular (Sunday‒Monday) divide. Although this divide is now widely recognized the remedy is quite possibly to let the world see evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in business.

Jesus was a servant. He served his Father and he served humanity. Serving people ought therefore to be characteristic of BAM. All business does this in a sense—by being the primary means of delivering material blessing to people. Beyond that, business can serve people by delivering social justice.

God loves all of His creation. It is true that humankind is special and we, of all of creation on earth, have the special privilege of fellowship with Him. Nevertheless, God cares for all He created and there are a number of metaphorical scriptures that confer personhood on non-human creation. Business must engage in creation care if it is to fully embrace God’s purpose in the world.

Regarding profit, most of the leading thinkers on business as mission agree that BAM businesses ought to make a profit. Profit is an emotive word that elicits negative comment. However, what is actually objectionable about profit is not profit per se, but greed (and, perhaps surprisingly, consumerism and the idolization of freedom). There were antidotes to economic excess established in the Old Testament that have counterparts in the New Testament and they are discussed in this report.

Dotted throughout the report are the experiences and thoughts of a number of BAM practitioners (BAMers) who were members of the BMIG. They did a sterling job of balancing the contributions of the academic members who research and write about BAM, but are not experienced practitioners themselves.

Finally, some recommendations are made that might be considered by the business as mission community. These mainly concern the way in which BAM is defined and focus on whether  the spiritual ‘bottom line’ should be added to the three bottom lines of Corporate Social Responsibility. This report suggests that, properly understood, the bottom lines of economic, social and environmental outcomes are all spiritual bottom lines. A new way of conceptualizing business as mission is presented for consideration by the BAM community.

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