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Enhancing Local Economic Sustainability

The Foundation helps catalyze new sustainable businesses for religious minorities in ways that help promote social harmony and economic development. The Foundation does this by helping religious minorities identify sustainable business opportunities and then network with businesses capable of investment.

Criteria: Projects are carefully selected based on the following criteria:

  • High probability of a successful business venture

  • Applicability of the business model to other situations

  • Representation of different faith traditions

  • Promotes productive collaboration between religious minorities and other segments of society

Turning Waste to Wealth – A Strategy to Reverse Discrimination

Recently in Finland, the Foundation held meetings arranged by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) aiming to initiate planning for a sustainable business in Pakistan and/or Nepal among the Dalit communities.

Dalits are members of the so-called untouchable Hindu caste, and are often marginalized in communities where they live. A number of Dalits in India, Pakistan and Nepal have converted to other faiths, including Christianity. They continue to be among the poorest of the poor in many locations where they live, sometimes negatively stereotyped and consigned to collect garbage.

Turning this negative stereotype into an opportunity, potential partners held preliminary meetings to explore grass roots waste collection and recycling enterprises in Dalit areas. The criteria include that the projects must be locally sustainable, part of a broader community development plan, and involve international partners who receive not only a return on their investment, but learn new business innovations from the project itself.

Such projects help struggling minority communities acquire not only economic resources but also social capital that better integrates them within the societies in which they live.

The meetings were multi-disciplinary, including leaders from research, innovation, technology, government and business sectors. For instance, Grim met with Managing Director Hannu Jokinen (pictured above) of the waste management company MOLOK in Nokia, Finland. MOLOK is involved in an innovative and efficient waste management system that reduces disease, smell and costs, with work throughout the world, including in developing countries such as Namibia.

MOLOK is a potential partner for the “waste-to-wealth” project, that will eventually include recycling and construction firms, academic research groups and development agencies partnering with local entrepreneurs among Dalit communities.

Celebrating Culture and Heritage Through Tourist Enterprises

Tibetan Areas Outside Tibet: A case study of this approach is the Rainbow Builders project led by University of Lausanne social scientist Otto Kölbl. The project is developing a high value added tourism project in Tibetan areas of China through education, branding and coordinated marketing.

Tibetan entrepreneurs are participating in the development the tourist industry for the growing number of Chinese tourists to mountain areas outside of Tibet. This helps Tibetans develop socially and economically in ways that draw on and affirm their cultural and religious strengths.

Meat produced on the Tibetan Plateau is in high demand (Photo: Otto Kölbl)

Only minor differences separate a traditional Tibetan home (right) from a traditional chalet in the Swiss Alps (left) (Photo: Otto Kölbl)