On Thursday, people of the USA gave thanks to God. On Friday and Saturday, America shopped. These days and their emphasis can be in tension with each other.
My wife owns a small business, Healing Hands Massage Therapy and Skin Care, making this an important weekend for our family. This year, along with Black Friday, we joined the movement to “shop local” on “Small Business Saturday.” I enjoyed the opportunity to help.
Encouragement to shop local stems from the idea that if money can be spent on locally-owned businesses, a greater percentage of those funds will help people throughout the community.
These days full of bargains remind me of the many times I’ve been in one of the world’s poorest places, then come home to the USA as holiday shopping is in full gear. It can be culture shock. How can capitalism and the philosophy behind the billions spent in my country connect with the front lines on the war on extreme poverty?
1. If “shopping local” helps my community, couldn’t it help theirs?
At Convoy of Hope, we continue to explore ways to leverage this idea throughout our work in the world. For instance, we’ve launched a Women’s Empowerment Initiative in Ethiopia. This initiative helps women unleash their entrepreneurial passions to start small businesses. Instead of giving them things to help their families, we engage with the community from within to discover ways they can help their families in the future with their own resources. These women now have something to sell locally, and income to help them purchase locally. It can be a win-win for all involved. Learn more here.
2. Strategic purchasing from target communities.
It’s not always possible or practical for Convoy of Hope to purchase life-saving food or other helps in the communities where we serve. However, we endeavor to engage local economies in the most strategic ways possible.
In Haiti, our summer Convoy of Hope Interns worked with local farmers as part of a much larger agricultural initiative. We helped these farmers, under the guidance of our lead agronomist, to grow their crops in a more sustainable way. The farmers reported much higher yields, and some said their income grew over 50%!
Additionally, we are beginning to purchase food from some of them for our feeding program in Haiti, helping not only the children being fed, the farmers who grow some of the food…and the shop owners where they purchase things with that money, and…the list goes on. You can see more here.
3. Social entrepreneurialism.
Enter April’s spa. I’ll note that even without this element of her business, what she does is very important. She helps people live healthy lives, cares for her clients which have become friends, and employs some wonderful team members. Along with these things, she’s concerned for the local and global community.
She’s part of a growing movement to help the world with engagement far beyond a simple tax write-off. The products she sells are impacting the world, and she’s committed to ensuring Healing Hands resources are used to help people. We believe in the hope-sharing mission of Eurasia Cafe, the multi-layered local and global community assistance from Askinosie Chocolate , and in giving victims of human trafficking a place to sell their crafts.
She’s not alone in the desire to help through her business (Tom’s Shoes comes to mind), but she’s my best friend and I love the ways she helps people through her work.
1. Engage the community from within
2. Strategic purchasing
3. Social entrepreneurialism
What are some examples that you’ve seen where people have used capitalism to help others?