“Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.” – William Schurz, 2nd president at Thunderbird School of Global Management
This phrase was often repeated at Thunderbird, my alma mater, and to me it embodies the message conveyed at the “Business Case for Sustained Peace” event at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), which I recently attended. Given the news of the last week and the violence that befell so many children and families in Connecticut, this topic actually seems even more pressing. I will not attempt to speak about what solutions could prevent future tragedies like the one on Friday in the northeast, but this is the season that we consider peace, and if our businesses can contribute to that on a global scale, we need to explore that, for the sake of all of our futures.
Building up bonds, not barriers, tends to create peace. In fact, Tim Fort, the Executive Director of the Institute for Corporate Responsibility at The George Washington University noted that cultures that display the most non-violent tendencies have the same attributes as business cultures that have a positive impact on peace. While our work centers on Pakistan, which is no stranger to violence, the importance of social entrepreneurship, economic and personal empowerment, and how our work impacts development—from personal to international—these lessons span across borders.
Instead of recapping the event for you (which is already well done here), I’d like to pose some questions to you that came to mind as I learned from the experts on each panel. Tim Fort stated three contributions that business can make to peace (with or without intent):
- Economic Development alleviates poverty. (i.e. the practice of doing business in itself in an impoverished place will address issues like: job creation, health, education, food security, etc).
- Places where the highest corruption levels are found are also the most likely to solve issues via violence. Therefore, businesses and employees need policies to fall back on (e.g. the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) to combat corruption.
- Corporations create a sense of community—internally and externally.
The implications here are obvious: less poverty, less corruption and a stronger sense of community contribute to more peaceful environments. Simple and hard to argue with. However, here are a few resulting questions for you:
- Then is every enterprise in a developing nation a social enterprise?
- How then do you operate in an environment that is not conducive to entrepreneurship?
- How do you create enterprises or identify investments that embody these community-focused ideals?
Each of these questions could be a post in itself, and we would encourage your comments on them here. But I’d like to also touch on an approach explained at the event. Steven Koltai spoke about the 6+6 Model of Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Building. In this model there are 6 pillars of action + 6 categories of participants:
Pillars of Action
3. Connect and Sustain
5. Enable Public Policy
Categories of Participants: 1. NGOs 2. Foundations 3. Academia 4. Investors 5. Governments 6. Corporations.
By each of the participants taking action as noted within the ecosystem, they can address my questions and create an ecosystem for entrepreneurial success—and thus for sustained peace. At Invest2Innovate, we work to identify social entrepreneurs, train them through our accelerator program, connect and sustain them through networking and strengthening our industry, and fund them through the i2i Angel network. While public policy might be slightly out of our purview, celebration certainly is not. Through our process we engage with each of the participant categories to work to create an ideal environment for social entrepreneurship—which in turn, can push the communities we work with around the world from entrepreneurs to investors toward peace.
If William Schurz and the panelists at USIP are correct the stronger we make our business ties across borders and cultures, the less likely we are to need soldiers to guard them. Here’s to peace through supporting more successful businesses this holiday season.
Susannah Ware is a BizDev Fellow at Invest2Innovate, based in Washington, D.C. She is a photographer, sometimes triathlete, & travel addict. As a recent Thunderbird MBA graduate, she is passionate about social enterprise and it’s impact on poverty. Also: schedules, clean things, & green living.