GOOD

Why Social Entrepreneurs Could Use a Little More Faith

Long before Toms, Kiva, and Warby Parker, churches, synagogues, and mosques have pushed social change, so why so little secular collaboration?


As your average Fast Company subscribing, TED Talks-watching, New York Times reading, SXSW obsessed pop culture junkie, I know a few things about social innovation. Having followed the game-changing efforts of TOMs Shoes, Kiva, Kickstarter and Warby Parker, it's easy to think of social innovation and entrepreneurship as a secular thing. A recent Southern California Faith-Based Social Innovation Forum showed though that when it comes to collaboration with faith-based social entrepreneurs, there's plenty of room for growth.

The forum, held in Los Angeles and co-hosted by Jewish Jumpstart, and Community Partners, was organized on the heels of this summer's White House Faith-Based Social Innovators Conference. Jumpstart co-founder and CEO Shawn Landres attended the White House summit and saw an opportunity to inspire local change. He and fellow White House guest Paul Vandeventer, head of Community Partners, began working on the idea of a regional follow-up.


The L.A. forum sought to answer several big questions. Why the distinction between regular, or secular social innovation and its faith-based cousin if both are focused on doing good works? Are faith-based social innovators at a disadvantage? Who are the major players in the world of faith-based social innovation? Can social innovators work across faith and learn to share best practices?

"Faith-based innovators are creating new products and services, forging strategic and creative partnerships, and leveraging media and technology to extend their reach," says Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the White House office of social innovation and civic participation. "Their models vary, but these individuals all use innovation to improve their communities."

Social entrepreneurs—both secular and religious—have more in common than they may realize, says Vandeventer. "The values that inform secular civic innovators—loving justice, caring for the disadvantaged, bridging differences—come from same concerns about the condition of the world as those that inform faith-based innovators," he says.

We hear so much about religious discord, but, this forum provided a space for meaningful dialogue among a group of attendees from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith backgrounds. Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas encouraged them to practice "intentional civility" in interreligious engagement and to band together as an interfaith community to ensure that their collective voices are heard.

Najeeba Syeed-Miller, an attorney, former nonprofit executive, and professor of interreligious education at Claremont Lincoln University, led a frank discussion of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges facing faith-based social innovators. The rich cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of Los Angeles, and a history of successful partnerships between faith communities and local governments have long helped bridge economic and social gaps. The list of challenges is long though.

There’s the usual nonprofit litany—lack of resources, leadership gaps, and inattention to race, ethnicity, and gender. Faith-related obstacles like ignorance about and civic invisibility among minority faith communities, difficulty building cultural mobility for newcomers, and, perhaps most pervasive, the uneven playing field that awaits social innovators who say their ventures are motivated by faith commitments, are also concerns.

"If you have a philosophy of doing good and feel a commitment to give back and leave the world a better place than you found it, if you say all those things in generic terms—that’s fine," said Landres. "But if you say, 'I am part of a covenant or I have a faith or I have a relationship with God, Jesus, Muhammad, or Guru Nanak,' then the exact same words—because they are being attributed to a religious tradition –for some reason that’s not okay." As it turns out, many attendees felt disrespected by the world of secular social enterprise.

Given Syeed-Miller’s definition of social entrepreneurship as large-scale social transformations targeting those who are economically and politically disadvantaged, it's easily rgued that the church—or synagogue or mosque or congregation—is the original catalyst for social entrepreneurship. After all, congregations and other organizations with religious roots have been tasked with finding creative solutions to society’s social needs for millennia.

Therein lies the paradox: If it's universally understood that social innovation and entrepreneurship are driven by intent to do good works—and it’s universally understood that faith drives intent to do good works—then why is the playing field for faith-based social innovators versus secular social innovators so uneven?

Forum attendees said they welcome the opportunity to learn about successful collaborations and explore new relationships. "Language, ideology and high thresholds…can divide us as long as we want them to," said Vandeventer. "But this gathering represented a whole lot of people lowering barriers rather than raising them."

Photo of Najeeba Syeed-Miller courtesy of Sherry Etheredge

Articles
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture