Bike Butcher, the social enterprise run by Ali Turnbull and Finn den Otter in Long Gully, has been getting some attention in the local Bendigo press. It’s one of 2 social enterprises in the Seeds Network – the second is the Urban Bean cafe in Norlane, run by the Urban Seed. In addition, the Seeds Bendigo mob has initiated a business forum for Long Gully. For a network primarily interested in relationship & hospitality, why are we supporting businesses?

For those of you who know me a bit, you will have heard me rave about “The Social Entrepeneur”, a book by Andrew Mawson, an English clergyman who turned his decrepit church into a centre for social enterprises – initiatives that are based on the following principle:

We know that every human being has a unique talent. By applying these talents in local communities it is possible to make them strong and vibrant instead of soulless and “deprived”. What matters is backing people before structures.

Andrew sought out people in his disadvantaged area who were passionate about an idea, and supported them to get it going as a business. I cried when I read his book. It wasn’t sad, rather the joy and hope that sang through his stories got to my heart. He was describing truly Christian community development.

Welfare Mentality vs Social Entrepreneurship
One of the sad things about Christian community work is that it often gets dependent on handouts, just like the people it aims to serve. Once dependent, we stick with programs that will ensure the transfusion of funds that we need. We eventually find we have strayed from our original purpose. We internalise the same Welfare Mentality that afflicts many of those we serve and become unable to break free of its bonds.

Social Entrepreneurship rejects this way of being and working. It starts with what people are passionate about, not what gains funding. It supports that passion, but always with the aim of self-sufficiency. I think this is incredibly important in poorer communities, because independence from outside help breeds confidence, dignity, responsibility and generosity. The constant supply of government benefits, cheaper housing, food handouts etc breeds apathy, boredom and self-loathing.

The Kingdom & Social Entrepreneurship
The links between God’s reign and social entrepreneurship need to be teased out. But some preliminary thoughts are:

  • God created humans with passions and desires to create. Social Entrepreneurship taps into those passions and desires, whereas Welfare Mentality drains passion and desire from a person.
  • Dependence, as in Welfare Mentality, is the flip side of domination. God did not create people to be dependent on others, but interdependent. Social Entrepreneurship enables people, especially the poor, to contribute to others as well as receive.
  • God created humans with the need to give. Welfare Mentality focusses on receiving, which makes us bloated and unhealthy. The gospel motivates us to give, and when we do we find that feel more human than ever.

More to think about here…

But for now, if in Geelong go to Urban Bean, and if you want to support Bike Butcher, buy a cool fixie.