Faith-based social entrepreneurship: Business as mission

Linda Christiansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis is about the role of the (Lutheran) Christian faith in social purpose business ventures. These business ventures have been known as “business as mission” (BAM) businesses within the Christian community but, so far, only limited research on the impact of these businesses has taken place and that mostly within the Christian Community. This thesis aims to explore the business as mission (BAM) concept, hence specifically identify the resources and capabilities seen to be generated by faith. This thesis will also examine how these resources and capabilities may give the BAM businesses either a competitive advantage or disadvantage. The data has been collected through semi-structured interviews of potential as well as actual BAM entrepreneurs worldwide at a BAM training course in Thailand in 2008. In addition, two BAM course teachers have been interviewed in order to build a theoretical framework of the BAM business. Barney’s VRIN-framework was used to assess the resources and capabilities found. Given the novelty of the BAM concept, the grounded theory approach has been applied as a method. The findings are thus tentative and should be followed up by more research in this area as the business as mission businesses seemingly grow towards maturity. First, the BAM concept was examined, and then a tentative BAM definition was suggested based on the BAM businesses analysed. A BAM business was found to be ”a social purpose business venture motivated and driven by faith-based values and principles that has an intention to change the lives of people spiritually, socially and economically through profit-seeking business initiatives in the community in which it operates” (Christiansen 2008). BAM businesses were analysed to be about social development and about bringing people to faith in general. The economic impact was found to be questionable seeing that the BAM businesses analysed are unprofitable currently, apart from a global investment fund. However, the lack of profitability may be due to the infant stage of these businesses. Secondly, the resources and capabilities generated by faith were found to be the Christian values and principles (resources) and relationship-building (capability). Thereafter, the VRIN-framework was applied on the faith-based values and principles, and on the relationshipbuilding capability, respectively. The resources relating to the values and principles were seen to be a source of temporary competitive advantage whereas the relationship-building capability was assessed to be a source of sustained competitive advantage ceteris paribus. However, more research is needed to capture the impact of faith on social purpose business ventures and on social entrepreneurship in general.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2008
Number of pages66