If you walked into a room full of leaders passionate about fighting global poverty and injustice, would you expect to meet a metal manufacturer, a commercial banker, a homebuilder, or a tax accountant?
Peter Greer and Chris Horst think you should. But despite attending and speaking on behalf of HOPE International at dozens of faith, poverty, and social justice-related conferences, they haven’t run into any of these professions. Rarely do businesspeople appear on the speaker lists. Greer and Horst say,
That doesn’t make sense. If we are truly committed to justice and poverty eradication, then we simply must learn to celebrate the powerful impact of ‘normal’ everyday businessmen and businesswomen.
In their recently co-authored monograph entitled Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing, Greer and Horst discuss why we should move from just tolerating entrepreneurs and businesspeople to celebrating them. Entrepreneurs and businesspeople are not the cheerleaders for poverty alleviation, they’re the most valuable players.
Entrepreneurship Leads to Flourishing People and Places
Greer and Horst argue that when entrepreneurship increases, people are more likely to flourish. Freer markets and higher levels of fulfilling employment correlate to higher levels of overall life satisfaction.
The authors further define flourishing as a holistic concern for all areas of life that allow human beings to live according to their design and potential. Flourishing encompasses the spiritual, physical, moral, political, economic, and social dimensions of life. It involves our relationships with God, other, ourselves, and the rest of creation. According to Greer and Horst,
Human flourishing happens when people and communities thrive – when they experience wholeness and restoration in their relationships, in their view of themselves, and in their relationship with their Creator.
Entrepreneurship is a key factor to human flourishing. When a community’s business sector fails, there aren’t enough jobs. And when unemployment rates are high, Greer and Horst say, “crimes, drug abuse, prostitution, and hardship swell.”
But when there is an abundance of entrepreneurship, employment rises and the benefits extend far beyond material goods. They argue,
Jobs are the central weapon in the war on poverty. They are the centerpiece of communities that flourish.
Not only are jobs transformative pieces of flourishing, but the goods and services entrepreneurs produce solve problems and meet needs:
Tables allow families to share meals together. Telephones enable friends to communicate in real time. Airplanes permit people to travel the globe.
The Benefits of Businesses Big and Small
Big business has a bad rap these days among Americans. Gallup reported that trust in big business declined from 45 percent in 1975 to 21 percent in 2013, yet trust in small business remained high.
Greer and Horst explain why this sentiment against big business is unjustified. According to them, there are good big businesses and there are bad big businesses. The bad ones eventually fail:
Not all entrepreneurship is good, of course. […] But immoral businesses lack staying power. Eventually, like the failed energy titan Enron […] companies will collapse or be shut down for infractions. A company operating outside legal bounds or victimizing its employees or customers will have a very short life.
Companies like Enron only have momentary success. But good companies can make a positive impact for the poor. Businesses that focus on creating value for their customers provide thousands of jobs and solve real problems. When the scope of a good product or service is large, it can touch so many more human lives that a small businesses can’t.
The authors say as long as companies – big or small – have not lost sight of their corporate heart and soul, they will be the primary driving force behind human flourishing.
Entrepreneurship is giving people hope around the globe. But the authors leave us with a reminder that flourishing isn’t just about jobs, material goods, and success. They say,
Meaning is not found through job creation or success alone, but through a lifelong commitment to faith, community, family, and meaningful work.
What do you think is the role of entrepreneurship and business in bringing about flourishing? Leave your comments here.