(This article was originally published in The Times newspaper in the UK)
It feels like the weekly shopping gets more expensive every time you check-out. The recent announcement that in the past 12 months the cost of living has increased 10.1 per cent explains why.
Most people who can absorb these increases feel the strain for children, relatives and neighbours. For those who cannot, this creates unimaginable stress, an assault on wellbeing and potentially much worse.
No matter how much tax a government takes or how successful charities might be at fundraising, they will never be able to run enough welfare programmes to meet every community’s needs and, some would say, nor should they.
The only lasting and dignified solution to financial hardship is the creation of new jobs and new enterprises. As the saying goes, ‘If you give a person a fish you feed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish you feed them for life”. Food banks and food parcels are wonderful acts of human generosity, but they do not solve the continuing challenge of people experiencing financial difficulty.
In the midst of a global cost of living crisis the need has never been greater to help people to start new businesses as a lasting solution to financial hardship.
This is not just an opportunity for people without work to start a money-making business that provides for them and their family; it is also a chance for people with a job and yet are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Starting a money making “side hustle” can supplement their income.
As I wrote in this column in January last year: “We need an outbreak of something more powerful than a virus: the spirit of enterprise. It is if time for new business enterprises that create value and jobs to replace the hundreds of thousands being lost.”
In the same way, today we need something more powerful than the cost of living crisis: the spirit of enterprise to start thousands of business enterprises that create income for people who are struggling.
The feedback I received from last year’s column inspired me to write a seven-session course’ “The Spirit of Enterprise”, that enables churches to help people in financial hardship start a business. The course was published as a book in six languages and is now being used by 34 churches in seven countries to help people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Churches are understanding the vision of enterprise as a force for good; they are not only running the course but developing other enterprise initiatives to meet the needs of their communities. One example is the Bridge Church in Birmingham, which has bought a community building in which it has started running the course. It will also launch a hub under the auspices of NAYBA, the global social enterprise that I run, to support emerging entrepreneurs with mentors, office space and other resources.
The Pope met last week with a group of entrepreneurs from Spain, encouraging them to “continue to creatively transform the face of the economy, so that it may be more attentive to ethical principle”, as well as to “not forget that its activity is at the service of the human being, not just of the few, but of all, especially the poor’.
A powerful example of what the Pope was speaking about is the Benefact Group of financial services in the UK. It is wholly owned by the Benefact Trust, which donates 100 per cent of profits to achieving good in communities. It recently celebrated the landmark of having given away £100million, and has awarded NAYBA a major grant to address the cost of living crisis by scaling up the Spirit of Enterprise course through churches in the UK and Ireland.
This week I will speak at the Great Entrepreneur conference in France to inspire leaders to use enterprise practically to bring about the transformation of families and neighbourhoods.
I proposed this subject because if an entrepreneur is defined as someone who takes a risk to create something out of nothing, then that makes God “the great entrepreneur”. The Bible teaches that when nothing existed, God created a world that was good and took the risk to create human beings to look after it. As people created in the likeness of an entrepreneurial God, we will have the spirit of enterprise within us.
There is a clear and present opportunity across the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe and the rest of the world to inspire practical hope through the God-given gift of enterprise.
So, what are we waiting for? Government and charity will never solve poverty; only enterprise and business can bring about the lasting transformation of communities. Let’s encourage an outbreak of the spirit of enterprise to give people the inspiration and resources to start new businesses.
Matt Bird is the chief executive of NAYBA and the author of The Spirit of Enterprise
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