BAM in Hostile Environments

A Dangerous Calling? The Challenge of Business as Mission in Hostile Environments

Challenge, risk and opportunity! Managing a business as mission (BAM) venture in a hostile environment presents the entrepreneur with a unique task. Not only is there the day-to-day task of ensuring the company is safeguarded against all the known risks, but there is also the constant need to look beyond the horizon to see those emerging threats that could bring down the business. These multiple risks create complexity and a wide range of issues that must be managed with care. Given this reality, entrepreneurs in hostile environments need be able to identify and manage such risks and appreciate how they may overlap or intertwine with normal business risks.  The discussion in this report addresses the interdependent relationships between BAM ventures and their hostile environments.

In the parable of the talents and the description of the Proverbs 31 female entrepreneur, we clearly see that God asks us to be fruitful and productive and to multiply. Good stewardship should motivate us to safeguard the assets and talents with which God has entrusted us. However, as stewards called to mission, we choose to expose ourselves and our BAM venture to a variety of hostile conditions and volatility that may threaten our success. The challenge for BAM practitioners (BAMers) is to understand and cope with multiple risks within a hostile environment that vary both in their nature and intensity level.

The goal of this report is to engage BAM entrepreneurs in a discussion on how to improve skills for anticipating and managing these risks.

We have in mind at least three key audiences:

  • New BAM start-ups or ventures less than one year old.
  • Existing BAM ventures already operational for at least a year.
  • Wounded warriors who have experienced pain, loss or harmful mistakes.

Although we believe that BAMers have a better awareness of risk compared with most people who lack cross-cultural business experience, there is much to be gained from a thorough exploration of this topic. We want BAM practitioners to make better decisions and experience greater rewards from having a clearer and deeper understanding of risk.

The framework of our report incorporates:

  • A discussion of the problem and how we have approached it.
  • Important definitions, such as business ecosystems.
  • Emerging themes from case studies.
  • An overview of best practices for managing risk in hostile environments.
  • A summary of the main emerging themes in the Conclusion.
  • Appendices of case studies, tools, useful articles and collected wisdom.

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BAM in Iran

Laboring in the Dark: Business in Iran

Iran is an extremely hostile environment for any endeavor that is not instigated and controlled by the Islamic Government and its sympathizers.  This creates significant challenges for the Christian Community to create and operate businesses that promote Biblical values. In addition, due to the xenophobia of the Islamic Government and the imposition of International Sanctions, it is very difficult for the larger world wide Christian Community to provide any assistance or support.

Internally, the Christian Community is viewed as a threat to the Islamic Government and to openly identify oneself as part of that community is to invite persecution and potential death. Thus any identification of individuals or businesses as being an expression of the Christian Community is extremely dangerous and invites opposition.

In the area of economic activity, any enterprise of significant value is controlled and managed by the Islamic Government and is subject to its Islamic rules and regulations. Thus, to create and operate a significant business enterprise that is not owned and operated by a supporter of the Islamic Government and its values is nearly impossible.

However, despite the challenges of doing business in such a hostile environment, there are business examples to learn from. This report shares a summary of findings from a survey of 25 businesses in Iran. Many of these business are smaller in scale and tend to stay under the radar. The report shares survival principles and lessons learned from these businesses, as well as a summary of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for business as mission in Iran.

The isolation of the Islamic Government, whether due to International Sanctions or self-imposed, creates an environment of suspicion of any foreign support or involvement. Thus the National Christian Community suffers from the same isolation and we on the outside are very limited in what we can do. However, this report does contain some recommendations for networking and facilitation activities that could strengthen business efforts in Iran.

In spite of the dark conditions, God is at work in Iran. It is a testament to the Grace of God and the perseverance of His people in Iran that in fact there is a powerful underground movement in the country that is having a great impact on the people and society, and yet is hidden from sight.

There are many parallels between the old Soviet Union—and what was known as the Iron Curtain—and the Iran of today. We could say that Iran has a ‘Black Curtain’ of religious and political darkness that shrouds the nation. The oppression and control is similar and we believe that the eventual collapse of the Black Curtain is also inevitable. In the meantime, it is our honor to continue to stand with and support our brothers and sisters in Iran, as we also look forward to and prepare for the day that the curtain comes down!

This report provides some insight into these courageous efforts to bring the transformational power of the Gospel though businesses to the dear people of Iran.

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BAM In and From the Nordic Region

Business as Mission: A Viking Challenge

As far back as 200 years ago there was an example of BAM from the Nordic Region. This one person impacted his country socially, politically, financially and spiritually in just a few years. Hans Nielsen Hauge was a serial entrepreneur with a calling from God. He started around 30 companies, or rather industries, in Norway within 4 years and preached the gospel and discipled people.

In spite of having Hauge as a clear forerunner for BAM within the region, until recently business has existed in a limited way in overseas missions. Overall, except for a few brilliant examples, such as Hauge, these have been on a smaller scale. The discussion around business as mission (BAM) first started in recent years and has been related to a new focus on societal development and poverty eradication. So far there are only a few examples from the Nordic region.

The main purpose of this Regional Group has been to step back, listen and learn. We have used this listening and evaluation process to help set our direction for the future. We have built a much stronger network through the experiences and work we have done together both in our region but also internationally. This will result in synergies and multiplication of power to the benefit of our world and of Gods kingdom.

The learnings we share come from our BAM work in our own region as well as work done going out from our region. We also report findings and recommendations from the work on different themes that we have done in various BAM Think Tank Issue Groups.

Together we conducted a SWOT analysis of business as mission in and from the Nordic Region. We were able to identify strengths and opportunities, including current trends in society, the felt-need of business people in the church and the ability to build on past experiences. Threats and weaknesses include a lack of affirmation and valuing of entrepreneurship and business, both in the church and in society as a whole.

We researched four profiles of businesses that have been doing business as mission within or from the Nordic Region, plus a couple of shorter organisation summaries. We present some lessons learned and observations from these experiences.

In conclusion, doing BAM in and from the Nordic Countries is a Viking Challenge for our day. Maybe there is something left of the “Viking spirit” or ”Sisu Mentality” of our Nordic cultures? Even though the overall legacy from the Viking history does not give us reason to be proud, originally the noun víking simply referred to an expedition overseas for trade and commerce, when Viking men and women travelled all over the world, beyond their traditional boundaries.

We can do that again! We believe that Jesus followers from the Nordic countries will contribute to Kingdom development, through business, making an impact around the globe again.

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