The shark tank of social entrepreneurship

The shark tank of social entrepreneurship January 7, 2015

ATS-Admin-Building-website-copyBy Cindy Dean and Jay Moon

Over 140 students, pastors, and business leaders convened this October to discover how they could impact the world through business.  At an event called The Asbury Project, 10 students (selected from more than 30 applicants) presented business proposals to compete for $10,000 worth of prize money to launch mission-minded, for-profit businesses. The award money was distributed among five proposed businesses that address social issues including decreased farming revenue in Kentucky, poverty on Native American reservations, and joblessness in Africa. The winning businesses are intended to serve as examples of how social entrepreneurship can lift people out of poverty and restore dignity to people caught in the cycle of poverty.

One of the winners illustrated the spirit of the competition in this comment: “A purchase affirms the dignity of a woman in a village. That’s the power of the marketplace.” Several expert practitioners addressed the audience before the competition got underway. Tetsunao Yamamori, president emeritus of Food for the Hungry International and author of “On Kingdom Business,” shared the perspective that business can, and should, be ministry for Christians. “The people of God are all ministers,” he said. “We must be willing to fulfill the will of God where we are, regardless of vocation… Committed business people with a heart for mission are the church’s secret weapon.”

Pete Ochs, founder of impact investment enterprise Capital III, challenged the audience to use business as a means to create spiritual and social capital as well as profit. He described how his own business, located inside of a prison, prepares people for jobs once they are released, greatly reducing the recidivism rate. Johnson Asare inspired the crowd by describing how profitable business helps him bless the community and reach Muslims in Ghana. A significant outcome of this project will be the development of a booklet and accompanying DVD that discuss how and why Christians can engage in social entrepreneurship. Video footage from the event and interviews with practitioners will demonstrate the concepts discussed in the booklet.

The event, held by Asbury Seminary’s Office of Faith, Work and Economics (OFWE) in partnership with Asbury University’s Howard Dayton School of Business, was so well received that plans are already underway for next year. In the meantime, visit the Faith and Work Collective blog or contact OFWE Co-Directors Tapiwa Mucherera and Jay Moon or for more information.

Cindy Dean is administrative assistant in the Office of Faith, Work, and Economics and Jay Moon is associate professor of church planting and evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary.  This post originally appeared on the Oikonomia Network page. Read more about The Asbury Project in our reports here and here. Image: ON.


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