Planting, Watering, Growing: God’s Creative Design… Incubation
A business incubator consists of a collection of activities designed to help the launch, growth, and ultimate success of business enterprises. Business as mission (BAM) incubation has emerged in recent years as a distinct activity aimed at maximizing the success of BAM companies. A variety of incubation models support businesses around the world by providing an array of resources and services such as: facilities, infrastructure, financial capital, mentoring, country analysis, training, business plan development, recruiting, and facilitation of connections with potential partners, including suppliers, distributors and consumers. Business incubation is good, it is glorifying to God and a much needed activity in the BAM movement worldwide.
In this report, we look briefly at incubation from a biblical and church history point of view, showing that God has designed us to creatively collaborate with Him and others in order to be fruitful.
An overview of mainstream business incubation is then given as a foundation for understanding incubation in a BAM context. The types, advantages, principles and best practices of mainstream business incubation are included, to equip and inform both:
- BAM company owners looking into using a business incubator, and
- Those in the BAM community aiming to establish business incubator models.
Business as mission incubation is relatively young, with few well-established incubator models. This report shares some of these BAM incubation models; how they have emerged, their focus, and the kinds of services they offer. Many of the current BAM incubation organizations and activities have emerged out of existing organizations, especially mission agencies. This growing band of BAM incubators includes a wide array of services and specializations. Specializations include various geographically focused incubators (e.g. region, country or city), and those that target a particular client or type of business (e.g. ‘freedom business’, national Christians, cross-cultural teams). A directory of incubation organizations and six incubator profiles are provided in the Appendices.
Incubating business as mission companies requires activities that go beyond the range of standard business services offered by mainstream and social enterprise business incubators. BAM companies have a focus on spiritual impact, as well as social, environmental and economic impact. This will mean BAM incubation activities that address spiritual, missiological, theological, and cultural concerns. In BAM incubation we should emphasis creativity, collaboration, prayer and the leadership of the Holy Spirit; alongside delivering an array of high-standard incubation services and resources according to our goals and context.
A SWOT analysis of current BAM incubation and lessons learned so far show that although there has been a good start to BAM incubation, we have much still to do and learn. Lack of business rigor and successful business models is a threat to the business as mission movement. There is a great need for more BAM incubators of all kinds to address this and for them to be more effectively networked for knowledge and resource-sharing. Specific recommendations are made for the future of BAM incubation.