21 Mar 2015 by Jason Law CM –
In his first presentation at the HISTEAM Kingdom Economy for Social Change workshop, Dr Benjamin Quinones, Jr, presented a case study of Ancient Israel as an example of Kingdom Economy as a way of life.
Dr Benjamin demonstrated the fact that Ancient Israel had shown us that Kingdom Economy is possible. Biblical principles in Ancient Israel were translated into law and compelled the legal system to intervene in society. Their economics was not a science but a doctrine which could be translated into laws and lead to the creation of institutions.
However, unlike Ancient Israel, the modern-day church does not possess such cohesion. Many Gentile Christians come from different cultures, different tribes or nations, different political and legal systems, under different rulers. Furthermore, just before Jesus went back to be with the Father, He gave a great commission to His Church, and building a Kingdom economy is no longer the priority of the evangelical church but rather winning souls for Christ.
The question thus becomes; Kingdom Economy is possible but is it feasible? What is the role of a Kingdom Economy, and what are the possibilities and challenges of working together in an era of global liberalization? Dr Benjamin explained that we need three things to overcome challenges in today’s environment.
Firstly, we need a clear vision and understanding of Kingdom Economy. That means we must first pursue righteousness, faith, and love, even in our business dealings. In addition to this, there must also be intentional institutional arrangements or social-economic systems for organizing modes of life, as well as production, consumption and exchange. Thirdly, we need to disciple or train pivotal actors around which these systems can be organized.
To develop a clear vision, we need to listen to God and acquire understanding, wisdom, and revelation from Him. Through this lens, we can also learn from best practices, if they have shown evidences of Godly principles and ethical transformations of societies around the world, making it possible to share about God’s redemption and love.
Dr Benjamin gave four specific examples of such case studies; Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) or Teikei; Fair Trade; Agricultural Value Chains integrated by microfinance institutions; and Workers Collective. For the purpose of this article, I will convey three of these case studies provided by Dr Benjamin.
Essentially, a fair trade occurs when a trading partnership is based on seeking a greater equity in international trade through dialogue, transparency, and respect. It takes into account a respect for human dignity and civil rights of disadvantaged producers and workers. It does this by contribution to sustainable development, carried through offering better trading conditions and security of rights.
There are 10 principles of a fair trade. These are
a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
transparent management and commercial relations to deal fairly and respectfully with trading partners;
means to develop producers’ independence by developing their capacity
means of raising awareness on the possibility of greater justice in world trade
mechanisms through which a fair price in the regional or local context can be agreed upon through dialogue and participation
means by which work is properly valued and rewarded
vehicles for promoting a safe and healthy working environment for producers
concrete responses to the UN Convention on respecting the Rights of the Child
means to promote better environmental practices and the application of responsible methods of production
a trading system that prioritizes the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers and does not maximize profit at their expense.
In a study conducted on a community of coffee farmers by Douglas Murray, Laura T Reynolds, and Peter Leigh Taylor of Colorado State University, some impact of fair trade on certified producers were discovered. Fair Trade enabled producers to get a fairer price for their labour and produce. It also gave them greater access to credit from formal financial institutions through a Fair Trade certification. Together, this greatly contributed to the greater economic and social stability of the community of farmers, helping them to better plan for their production as well as for personal, family and community needs.
The farmers also had access to training and technologies in such fields as organic farming and other quality-related concern. A long-term relationship between cooperatives and buyers also contributed to quality improvement by providing feedback to farmers, and the cooperatives were able to develop new networks of contacts in both domestic and international markets, leading to increased self-esteem for individuals involved.
Integration of Supply Chain through Microfinance (FIDAP)
In a case study carried out with Taytay Sa Kauswagan Inc (TSKI), FIDAP has been shown to be able to provide solutions to many problems faced by farmers. Among these are the provision of production loan at an affordable interest rate. Previous production levels which were low, due to the financial limit faced by farmers in making sufficient input supplies, were improved through the aid of the production loan. Crop insurance coverage, warehouses, threshing machines, milling machines, and dryers were all made available to farmers for the first time, and FIDAP introduced animal-raising to the farmers, in addition to improvements in crop production.
FIDAP brought in community organization by opening doors for community entry, and by providing avenues through which farmers could assemble information on available resources in their community that could contribute to local development efforts. There was comprehensive development planning and organization development training, and during the implementation, the FIDAP field officer could monitor the activities and prepare monthly reports of accomplishments and follow-up steps. The program has been shown to be replicable and open to scaling.
The biggest challenge for FIDAP is in the ability of the program to attract appropriately skilled staff, and more importantly, retain them. Agriculturists who are trained in handling microfinance were necessary for the program and they were required to stay in the rural area where the project was located. Without a high sense of calling for community development work, program staff may not measure up to the challenge of pursuing the program over the long haul.
An Example of a Replicable Workers Collective
Dr Benjamin also presented an example of a reproducing worker collective in the Seikatsu Club Consumers Cooperative (SCC). The Seikatsu Club is a Japanese food cooperative and the first pioneer cooperative that opened the door of civic or social enterprises for aged people and children. Its goals are to provide wholesome food to its members, and to establish a direct relationship between producers and consumers, and between people and environment.
Dr Benjamin shared that the case of the Seikatsu Club in Atsugi City is a phenomenal one. It shows that a single organization can respond to several social problems by using social enterprises as a vehicle for social intervention. After its establishment in 1982 by 128 migrant women members from Yokohoma, the Atsugi Seikatsu Club spawned several civic/social enterprises to address a number of problems faced by Japanese housewives in caring for their children and the elderly.
The Seikatsu Club continues to establish civic enterprises because it is a way to discover social needs through the inititatives of citizens, and to develop citizen-oriented social policies which can be difficult for the local government to carry out alone. A primary goal of the Seikatsu Club is to construct a gender-balanced working condition for both men and women.
Through the examples of real-life initiatives, Kingdom Values and Economy has been shown to be not just possible but also feasible in bringing social change and transformations in the lives of whole communities all over the world.
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Note: This article is a written expression of one of Dr Benjamin’s sharing in HISTEAM’s Kingdom Economy for Social Change workshop. It is guided by the notes provided by Dr Benjamin. Pictures of Dr Benjamin Quinones, Jr. kindly provided by HISTEAM.