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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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