CCU’s Faith and Economics Conference Breaks Down Walls

By Gabe Knipp, Colorado Christian University Marketing and Communicaitons

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April 14—Scott Moore, an expert on social enterprise and successful businessman, told the audience of over 300 his story. “God was teaching me that charity won’t end poverty,” he exclaimed. “But opportunity will.”

The event was The Greatest Good: Nil Sine Numine Conference, and it wasn’t your typical conference on economics and work.

The seeds were planted in the summer of 2013, when Colorado Christian University seniors Christian Schlenker and Gillian Foster were approached by Professor Greg Schaller to apply for a grant. The Values and Capitalism initiative of the American Enterprise Institute was giving out mini-grants to students who would explore the moral and material natures of a market economy.

After discussing the matter, and paring down their goals to something practical, Schlenker and Foster combined their passions of theology and economics with the goal of creating dialogue and educating others in the realm of social enterprise.

“We believe that for people to truly thrive they must have both spiritual and economic welfare,” notes Foster. “We wanted to explore that idea and communicate it to others.”

Their blog engaged CCU students and created awareness, but the culmination of their goal was an all-day conference combining students, local leaders, and experts in the realm of faith, work, and economics. With help from CCU’s School of Humanities and Sciences, the Values and Capitalism initiative, and Café 180—a local business practicing social enterprise—catering lunch, they gathered everyone together.

Again and again, panel speakers encouraged attendees to break down walls in their thinking. The morning’s session focused on the problematic break between faith and work. “The evangelical church is filled with dualists,” noted Dr. Don Payne of Denver Seminary. “We need to change how we talk about things like full-time ministry, because we’re all called to full-time ministry. Language shapes everything.”

Jeff Haanen, of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work, added that the question is, “What does it look like to bring Christ into all spaces?”

The panel also featured Brian Gray of Denver Seminary and Hugh Welchel, the executive director for the Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics.

Dr. Wayne Grudem, the plenary speaker, piggybacked on the morning’s panel as he shifted to address systemic issues of poverty. He, too, stressed the need for humanizing and value-giving work, while laying out political, cultural, and economic conditions necessary for such work to occur. “The problem is not inequality,” he asserted. “The problem is poverty. Do poor people have the opportunity to get ahead?”

The conference closed with a panel of social enterprise experts—Chelsie Antos of Trades of Hope, Chris Horst of HOPE International, Sarah Lesyinski of Café 180, and Scott Moore. Moore told stories of how he learned to break down thought-barriers and combine for-profit business with non-profit ideals—social enterprise in a nutshell. He described a business he runs in Colorado Springs that practices reverse-discrimination, only hiring ex-convicts and addicts, because they are discriminated against elsewhere.

Sarah Lesyinski agreed. The local café allows patrons to set their own prices for the food they buy, and offers the opportunity to work if people cannot pay. “It allows people to work with dignity, because everyone has something to give.”

The Greatest Good: Nil Sine Numine Conference combines the social enterprise concept of “the greater good” with Colorado’s state motto, translated as “Nothing without the Deity,” as it explores spiritual and economic welfare. For more, visit nilsinenumine.org.

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Watch Our Conference!

Today’s the day!

Starting at 9:30am MST, we kick off our conference in Denver.  For more details, check out the event page here.

If you’re unable to attend, check out this link for the live stream. Click the image below for an overview of our schedule.

See you there!

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Seeking Success in a Slum: Mathare Valley

By Nick Sands, Colorado Christian University Student

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Mathare Valley (Missions of Hope)

Missions of Hope International (MHI) is a non-profit organization that works in a slum of Nairobi, Kenya called Mathare Valley. In Mathare Valley, everyone lives in shacks constructed of tin sheets and about one-third of the population is HIV positive.

Mary and Wallace Kamau started MHI in 2000. After visiting Mathare Valley, they could not turn their backs on the needs of the community. Many children have no parents, home, or education. Mary and Wallace began renting a tiny two-room house where they could hold a school for children. Community leaders helped identify children in need, and MHI had 50 four-and five-year-old children come to the school the first day they were open.

MHI reports, “In addition to educating the children, Mary was making home visits to each and every family.” This was just the beginning. In 2004, MHI gained official status as a Non-Governmental Organization in Kenya. By 2005, God provided the land and money to allow MHI to create a boarding house for older children. This allows the children to stay in a safe environment at a vulnerable age in their life.

In 2006, MHI raised enough money to open the Pangani Center. The Center was created to hold the growing number of children that were in need of an education and could not afford one. Through this process, 470 children were sponsored to go to school. MHI partners with many organizations to better the lives of people in Kenya’s slums. One of these partnerships is Christian Ministry Fellowship (CMF). They manage the sponsorship program within MHI by persistently seeking out sponsors for children.

MHI started with education and has expanded into Community Health Evangelism/Education (CME) and microfinance loans. CME is used to educate the local community and teaches them how to properly deal with health issues within their community. MHI trains leaders who go back to their community to implement what they have learned and to educate other people. Some things that these groups have done are built community toilets, created community child care, and started Bible studies.

Lastly, MHI works with the community by giving out microfinance loans. These loans are given in order for individuals to provide for their family and be self-employed. As a person pays back their loan, those funds are used to provide another person with a microfinance loan. Evangelism, education, health, and employment are ways that MHI supports the poorest of the poor. MHI has impacted the lives of many people. According to MHI website, “Missions of Hope International provides quality Christian education, medical care, meals, love and encouragement to nearly 6,500 children in 14 centers. CHE is active and growing in 11 different communities.” MHI is an incredible example of meeting a community’s dire needs and then transitioning into supporting economic independence and opportunity.

To find out more information about MHI, go to www.mohiafrica.org.

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Education Savings Accounts: Empowering Parents and Improving Minds

By Brandon Hershey, Colorado Christian University Student

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The month of March holds a historic moment for the school choice movement in America. Arizona’s Supreme Court chose to uphold the state’s education savings account (ESAs) program as constitutional. In Arizona, education savings accounts have been empowering parents and improving minds in the state for the past three years.

Arizona’s program is rightly called the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts because that is exactly what the program does – empowers parents and improves the education of children across the state. The structure of the ESA idea is simple. Every parent that is qualified to receive an ESA is given up to 90 percent of the funding that the state would have spent on their child in the public school system. The money is transferred to a restricted use debit card that the parent then uses to purchase pre-approved education options through a variety of ways such as home-school curriculum, private school tuition, tutors, and physical therapy. The parent is given the reins to provide the best education possible for their child.

ESAs do not just empower parents, but also change the lives of children who would have fallen through the cracks at public school. Lynn and Tim McMurray, a family in Arizona, have three adopted children. Two of the children, Uriah and Valerie, were not receiving the education they needed at the local public school. With the help of the ESAs, the McMurrays are able to homeschool their children and hire private tutors that are helping them to grow in leaps and bounds. Alecia, the third child, is able to attend therapy and speech lessons more frequently with the help of the ESA. In a conversation with the Heritage, Lynn said, “The freedom ESAs give our family is the biggest blessing ever.”

School choice improves the lives of children using the innovative program, but it also improves the lives of their peers still attending public school. School choice is a free market idea that is “is a rising tide to lift all boats.” The evidence that school choice creates market accountability and improves public school systems is overwhelming. In Florida, the McKay Scholarship Program for special needs students has an enormous impact on the public schools. Only 16% of those eligible for the program use the scholarships to attend private schools because of the drastic improvement in the public schools for special needs education. In a recent joint letter published on National Review, some of the leading scholars on school choice championed the ability of school choice options to “spur quality.” Twenty-two out of twenty-three empirical studies showed that academic performance in public school students improved as a result of increased competition created by school choice. When public and private schools begin competing for parents’ choice, those schools become better.

Arizona’s Supreme Court upheld the rights of parents across the nation this month. The historical decision to uphold the ESA program as constitutional will benefit children for decades. When thinking about education. this nation should be concerned about providing the best outcome for the child–and that is exactly what the education savings accounts provide.

Why does this matter? Because education is historically proven to be a crucial cornerstone in human flourishing. Educational choice means that students can begin their mental and academic development with the best possible option for them—and start their lives on the right track.

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Brandon Hershey is a student at Colorado Christian University studying Political Science with a Global Studies minor. He is currently experiencing the political life – rubbing shoulders with the rich n’ famous – while interning in Washington, DC.

 

 

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The Dalai Lama and…Capitalism?

By Robyn Fambrough, Colorado Christian University Student

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Poverty. It’s beyond the comprehension of most people living in first-world countries, including myself. It’s easy to be disconnected when my only worry for breakfast is whether or not I want my pop tart toasted. My concept of extreme poverty comes from heart-wrenching pictures on TV and in magazines: the distended bellies of African children, the bones poking through sagging skin, and the compacted homes that look like collages of trash.

Many have advocated for more equal distribution of wealth in order to solve this problem. But are they missing a crucial point? Aid is sent by the billions to developing countries, but they only seem to be sinking deeper into severe conditions.

Just recently, AEI’s President, Arthur Brooks, invited one of the world’s most influential religious figures to talk about why economic systems are morally important. On the morning of February 20th, the Dalai Lama joined Arthur Brooks and a panel of speakers in a discussion called “Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing.” The Dalai Lama, a Marxist, was willing to engage in dialogue, consideration, and criticism of capitalism. He did this because he believes in educating himself and others to seek truth in matters of humanity–I think that each of us should take on that humility and realize that we still have much to learn.

The speakers found common ground by first recognizing that our humanity serves as a basis for spreading blessings to one another. Both Brooks and the Dalai Lama concluded that the free enterprise system is a blessing, but this blessing comes with a responsibility that requires moral living from each of us. Morality, from their view, is a practice that we live out through compassion for our fellow mankind. They agree that faith, family, community, and work (as earned success) are ingredients for a healthy state of living.

The Dalai Lama acknowledged that the free-enterprise system can be coherent with morality if the individual takes their morality and their self-care and turns them into a blessing for others. He addressed the moral issues of greed and selfishness:

Best thing for your future is taking care about other. Basically, we are social animal. One individual’s future depends on the community. Community now [exists in a] modern time. The community’s future depends on the nation. This individual nation’s future depends on humanity… We are selfish. It’s very important for our own survival. Without self-care, we cannot survive. So therefore – but that selfish should be wise selfish, rather than foolish selfish.[1]

The Dalai Lama might be looking at this from Marxist lenses, but you can look at this from a free-enterprise point of view too. The basic principle that exists in a free-market system is when you take care of yourself, whether that is being innovative and starting a business or supporting a business as a consumer, you take care of others in the nation as a whole.

The cure to poverty is wealth, and wealth is attained for most individuals in a nation that supports their right to being innovative in a free-market system. The chains of government oppression, foreign aid, and inescapable poverty hold human beings down. Hungry faces need the gift of entrepreneurship, not degrading dependence. People enslaved to poverty are only existing, and opportunity in the free-enterprise system can bring them to a state of living. Giving these people a chance to build their lives, I think, is the higher moral ground.

The Dalai Lama sees the drawbacks of capitalism and shies away from it because of deep-seated moral convictions. However, he does see the catastrophic failure of centralized government as the wrong way to go: “So therefore, I think we – and whole world witness centralized economy, no matter how much the effort, fail – former Soviet Union and then also the Republic of China.” With this in mind, freedom from poverty would be impossible.

If this is the common ground between the Marxist Dalai Lama and the Capitalist Arthur Brooks, then there may be hope for humanity after all.

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[1] The American Enterprise Institute, Event Transcript http://www.aei.org/files/2014/02/21/-moral-free-enterprise-hhdl_152712729106.pdf

 

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Sevenly: Socially Conscious Shirts

By Andrew Wolsfield, Colorado Christian University Student

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A Sevenly shirt supporting adoption

Sevenly is an organization whose overall purpose is driven by a concept from Matthew 22:

“Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Sevenly is a for-profit, online, cause-oriented marketplace located in Costa Mesa, California that donates a major percentage of its revenue to charitable causes. Sevenly is a unique and inspiring organization because it works with many different kinds of charities around the world. Its innovative business strategy was thought up by CEO Dale Patridge and cofounder Aaron Chavez. In June 2011, Patridge’s dream of creating awareness and funding for charities which by themselves do not get very much attention became reality. It has since expanded across the globe.

Sevenly focuses its business model around the number seven. The cofounders broke down which types of non-profits they work with into seven different categories:

  • human trafficking and slavery prevention,
  • poverty relief,
  • disaster assistance,
  • medical causes,
  • hunger solutions,
  • access to potable water
  • a general aid category including suicide assistance and homelessness.

Each week Sevenly choses a new non-profit organization that fits into one of these categories. The non-profit must go through a vetting process which includes legal agreements on how the organization will use the money raised. Sevenly custom designs t-shirts, hoodies, and other products for each week’s chosen non-profit. These items are sold for seven days through Sevenly’s website to raise awareness for the non-profit, and seven dollars of each item purchased goes directly to support the organization. The clothing sold is both sustainable and WRAP certified.

Sevenly is often asked why it “only” donates $7 of each sale. According to Sevenly’s website, the official answer is,

$7.00 per sale is more than 25% of our total revenue (all products combined) which is extremely high for a for-profit company. It’s actually so high, that the IRS didn’t even have a category for for-profit companies that give at this rate. Lastly…we give $7.00 for every product sold. Not 6.99. Not $7.00 minus expenses. We give $7.00 cash, every time.

The rest of sales income go towards operating expenses and expanding the company. Sevenly has expenses like any other company, and handling those appropriately is crucial to Sevenly’s mission. As co-founder Dale Patridge puts it,  “Giving is critical to our success and we love doing it, but if we don’t remain profitable while doing so, we will be unable to give in the future, and people will suffer.”

In Sevenly’s two and a half year history, it has raised over 3 million dollars for charities and has helped over 1 million people in the process. They have truly made a difference and are continuing to do so. By buying Sevenly’s great products, individual people can be a part of this great campaign.


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The Blind Shall See

by Kabrina Budwell, Colorado Christian University Studentworldaccess

Daniel walks into a room where there are several groups of people talking. With every step he takes, murmurs extend over the crowd. Whispers of people asking each other, “Why does he have a cane? Is he blind?” can be heard everywhere.

Most would say they’re familiar with the super hero Daredevil. As he saved a man from being run over by a truck, he was blinded by a radioactive substance that fell from the back of the truck. As curious people, we wonder at the fact that Marvel could take someone that society labels as disabled and create a super hero who is saving people from evil in the world.

Daniel Kish is this everyday hero. Through the study of human echolocation, he has discovered a way for the blind to learn how to see. Daniel Kish is the founder of the non-profit organization World Access for the Blind that teaches students who are blind how to “see” by clicking their tongues and waiting for the sound to come back, which they learn to interpret as it creates an image in their brains. Studies from the University of Alcala in Madrid show that the same part of the brain that creates images for individuals with normal sight can also create image, through echolocation, for blind individuals.

As a non-profit, World Access for the Blind has various challenges. There’s not a large pool of finances available for innovations, which many people are skeptical about, like human echolocation. This hurdle has not stopped Daniel and his team, however; to date they have been able to train over 7,000 students in 30 countries how to use echolocation. World Access’s financials show no liabilities and a fair amount of assets. Many non-profits and small businesses have to borrow in order to stay afloat, but World Access has found support.

The organization’s goals are clear in their vision statement:

World Access for the Blind strives to improve the quality of interaction between blind and sighted people by facilitating equal access to the world’s resources and opportunities. We are interested in more than meeting the minimum requirements for functioning and life satisfaction. We believe in mutual respect, consideration, and accommodation of blind and sighted people by society.

Equal opportunity is the main goal. It’s accomplished by giving new education for the blind that was not previously available through the research of Daniel Kish and his colleagues. These are people who can ride bikes, hike mountains, and are just short of scaling buildings due to the innovation of World Access.

Why does this matter?

Those with sight disabilities are becoming better educated and are able to rise above the statistics that predict low academic and professional achievement for the blind. According to the NFB, in 2011 approximately 4,232,100 blind individuals did not achieve a high school diploma. Another huge problem is that the median annual salary of blind individuals is less than $33,000 with over a million blind individuals below the poverty line. Daniel Kish has been able to revolutionize the world’s idea of blind people, and has given these people a better chance at a career that was not possible before. Those who advocate for equality of opportunity must recognize and support initiatives like this that allow equality of opportunity to be closer to reality for individuals with disadvantages.

Kish has discovered a way for a blind person to “see” things like never before. With his discoveries in human echolocation, his work to fund his dream, the goals of World Access for the Blind, and the dehumanization that his innovations overcome, we can cheer for the not-so-superhero Daniel Kish and the his vision to connect the blind to the world around them.

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Kabrina Budwell is a senior at Colorado Christian University majoring in Business Administration with a double minor in Communication and Leadership Studies. She has extensive background in disabilities including autism, the blind, and physical disabilities. When she worked for the Walt Disney Company’s Services for Guests with Disabilities she created a pamphlet for children with autism visiting the park.

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