Empowerment Plus: Rationale
Helping those experiencing a wide range of socio-economic risks including displacement, unemployment, isolation, crime, addiction and extremism through integration, empowerment & self-reliance.
It is incumbent upon us to see an improvement in the lives and future of those living on the edge or fringes of society, where they feel powerless and isolated – the very conditions that can make them most susceptible to proposals to find power through violence, crime and other anti-social behaviors.
Reflecting the views of many, Pope Francis said that “it is urgent that governments throughout the world commit themselves to developing an international framework capable of promoting a market of high impact investments, and thus to combating an economy which excludes and discards.” Similarly, British prime minister David Cameron argues, “Social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet. It can help us to build bigger and stronger societies. That power is in our hands. And together we will use it to build a better future for ourselves, for our children and for generations to come.”
These are grand statements by world leaders. But how does the rubber meet the road when it comes to countering radicalisation? The instrumental link between social impact investing and improving the lives of people is person-to-person contact. Social investing that has impact requires personal and business relationships characterised by love and respect, not hate and intolerance. Accordingly, the need is for business people in partnership with faith volunteers to build personal relationships with those at risk of a wide range of socio-economic risks including displacement, unemployment, isolation, crime, addiction and radical extremist violence. The involvement of interfaith teams (including humanists) is a critical component because countering despair can most effectively be done with “love of neighbour” as exemplified in the Good Samaritan, a foreigner with a foreign faith, by the way.
Here, neighbourly love is not an emotion but a practical commitment to serve others — to help mentor those in need with individualised resources that help them provide for their own needs as well as those of their families and extended families. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is currently working with a team from faiths as diverse as Mormons and Muslims, Catholics and Humanists, Anglicans and Agnostics, to develop a toolkit for volunteers to use in a personalised way with the at-risk people they mentor. The toolkit will have resources that can be customised as needed to address the building blocks of a balanced, self-reliant life, including education, health, employment, productivity and stewardship, household finances, and spiritual strength.
The mentors will also be tasked with helping to identify sustainable investments that help promote integration and economic development in communities where the initiative operates. The projects should adhere to several important criteria: (1) a high probability of a successful business venture; (2) applicability of the business model to other situations; (3) representation of different faith traditions; and (4) promoting productive collaboration between religious minorities and other segments of society.
When love of (and service to) neighbor is accompanied by empowering social investment, integration and interfaith appreciation result. In the end, all this is good for business because, as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby appositely notes, good business is about good relationships. This applies to neighborhoods in cities and communities throughout Europe, as well as suffering populations in northern Iraq.