Business as Mission Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

David Bronkema, Ph.D.


There is an extraordinary group of people, motivated by their Christian faith, starting businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa because they believe that business plays a key role in alleviating poverty. These faith-based social business (FSB) leaders face situations similar to those faced by leaders in other academic and practitioner fields including business as mission, social entrepreneurship, international business, and international development, given their pursuit of multiple-bottom lines, cross-cultural engagement in undeveloped nations, and a focus on integration of faith. The complexities of their contexts create opportunities and challenges in which their strategies and operations require further investigation and analysis.

This case study of six FSBs explores what this author labels the “domains of influence” of business structure, outcomes, and partnership that shape the thoughts and actions of these business leaders. It found that in the domain of structure, FSBs only allow limited forms of subsidizations based on their desire to steer clear of unhealthy dependency and avoid harm to the local economy. Furthermore, there is an expressed iv need for creative funding during the pioneering/incubation periods to allow for the pursuit of traditional investment after proof of concept. In the domain of outcomes, FSBs identify various understandings of, and pursue multiple strategies toward, economic, spiritual and social goals. Findings suggest that the primary economic goal of FSBs is sustainability, defined in multiple ways. In the spiritual arena, given the predominantly Christian location in which these FSBs were operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, a contextual understanding of local views of spirituality promotes a reactive form of evangelism. Moreover, FSB leaders view spiritual and social outcomes as inseparable and strategically target not only the product itself towards social impact, but also use the power they have as a business to promote justice. This practice of “justice” is accompanied by a social practice of “tough love” in regards to the employees, since it is believed to be better developmentally in terms of building dignity and hope than non-profit handout efforts. Finally, in the domain of partnership, the findings show that the FSBs tend to employ a short-term expatriate rotation if U.S. partner exit strategies are not viable, and pay special attention to addressing pre-existing racial hierarchical stereotypes within the partnership.