Empowering Entrepreneurs and Creating Enduring Livelihoods as Solutions to Poverty

That title is quite a mouthful, isn’t it?

And doesn’t it over-reach by suggesting that empowering entrepreneurs is a solution to poverty?

Consider systemic racism in North America, conflict in Israel-Palestine, famine in South Sudan, violence in Congo, and other ills at home and around the world. The causes of poverty are so many and so far-reaching, that business solutions alone are not enough. We need multiple solutions, including the creativity and energy of entrepreneurs.

Since 1953, MEDA has been working at this by partnering with people in poverty around the world to start or grow small and medium-sized businesses. To this end, MEDA has offered technical training to farmers, affordable loans so people can start businesses, and other financial services. The acronym stands for Mennonite Economic Development Associates, and their mission is to “create business solutions to poverty.”

In November, I’ll have a chance to learn more about MEDA at their annual convention that will be held in my hometown, Vancouver, B.C. What’s more, I’ll have a chance to contribute since I’ve been asked to lead one of the seminars. As a full-time pastor, I mainly preach and teach in the context of my own congregation which I love to do, but I’m also excited for opportunities like this to speak to different groups.

This time I’ll present a seminar on Spiritual Practice for Busy People. The list of other seminars has not yet been released, but will likely include a mix of sessions on business, faith, and other topics of general interest. I’m glad to see that the convention schedule also includes a plenary session with a panel on refugee issues.

The MEDA Convention is still months away, but I’m already looking forward to it, and couldn’t wait to share the news! I only hope that Vancouver will be as beautiful in November as it is in this video below that introduces the Convention:

MEDA Convention 2017 – Vancouver from MEDA on Vimeo.

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Writing/Reflection Prompt: One of MEDA’s taglines is “business as a calling.” In what way(s) have you observed or experienced business as a calling?

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Categories: Spiritual Practice

4 replies

  1. Oooohhh… I so wished I lived in Vancouver! The conference, your seminar, and all the topics sound great and are such important discussions to have!

    • Oh, I wish you were closer too, Sharon, so we could meet in person! In the meantime, I love the online interaction. MEDA has a conference every year in different locations–last year I understand that it was in San Antonio, which is another beautiful city, but I’m glad it’s in Vancouver this time so I can be a part of it.

  2. April: When I was a reporter just out of college, I interviewed a man we would today call a “serial entrepreneur,” Phillippe Villers. He started new tech companies and then sold them at big profits, with the long-term goal of amassing enough capital to build a charitable foundation because, he said, when his parents immigrated to the US he quickly realized you can’t do anything here without money.

    Later, I worked in a Raleigh, NC engineering firm still led by its 4th partner, Ed Vick. When offered the opportunity to buy in, Ed told the founding partners he wanted to earn his share … and to let others do the same. At his own retirement, he chortled that his 1/80th share (or whatever it was at that point) was worth WAY more than his 1/3 every would have been. (And we all, of course, amassed much more working in this Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For firm than we might have from competing firms.) He used the same principles of empowering leaders to help build the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an extraordinarily rapid-growing split from the Southern Baptist Convention. I wrote about Ed after his death: https://wordpress.com/post/christianpurposeblog.wordpress.com/1790

    Then, in Durham, NC, I met a young woman, Wendy Clark, whose Carpe Diem cleaning company had made her one of the region’s “30 Under 30” top business leaders. She employed urban women who would otherwise have difficulty finding work and had generated enough profit to leverage funding to convert an old brick warehouse into a business incubator — where, from her offices, she serves as an informal advisor to newer business owner tenants.

    So business as a calling? Absolutely. I’m honored to have seen people live it.

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