Search our Site

Marketplace Logo

Where Christian faith gets down to business

Read Online Download Issues Back Issues About / Subscribe Twitter Contact

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Vanessa HoferVanessa HoferBrnjas head shotChris BrnjasMEDA recently hired two people for its fundraising team, one an existing staffer who will be familiar to some supporters, the other new to the organization.

Vanessa Hofer, who has worked in MEDA’s Lancaster office since August 2017, assumes the new position of associate development officer, working with mid-level US donors. Hofer, a Goshen College grad, is an actor who has also worked as a theater instructor, writer and editor.

In Canada, Chris Brnjas joins the Waterloo, ON office in a similar associate development role. Brnjas, a Conrad Grebel University College alumnus, previously co-founded the Pastors in Exile non-profit, which works mostly with Mennonite young adults.

He has also worked at the Centre for Community Based Research as a research assistant and at Grebel as the interim student services program Assistant. -MS

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sarah Kessy, founder of Tanzanian food products manufacturer Halisi Products (see pg. 14) is an amazing woman, one of many people you will benefit from hearing at MEDA’s annual convention in Indianapolis in November. A MEDA tour group that visited her facility in January was both impressed and surprised by what they saw. With all of the product lines being processed at the facility, where does she find the time to raise chickens that run around the property, or deal with the fish pond, a member of our group asked.

Both of those initiatives, unrelated to Halisi, are there to show her workers that it can be done and encourage them to start their own home businesses, she replied.

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sam PasupalakMany successful entrepreneurs can tell stories about failures or setbacks that preceded their eventual success. Sometimes the scale of the difference between the two can be breathtaking.

david johnstonDiscussions about the effects of innovation and technology on society can draw sharply contrasting reactions, depending on the context.

For every example of promise of helping people’s lives there is a tale of peril, often resulting from unintended consequences.

I recently heard a cybersecurity expert warn that unless proper controls are put in place for appliances connected by the internet of things, hackers may one day use your toaster for an electronic attack.

In the information technology world, the dominance of a handful of companies means that “never before have we been confronted with megalithic corporations owning so much of our daily experience,” says Loren Padelford of e-commerce firm Shopify.

IMG 3178As printed in The Marketplace - May/June 2018

For people scratching out a living subsistence farming, climate change isn’t some abstract future theory. It’s already having significant, often detrimental impacts on their livelihoods.

Farmers in Kenya and Tanzania (like Martha Kisanga, profiled on pg. 13) find it increasingly difficult to grow crops without irrigation. Many can’t afford the means of doing so.

As Printed in The Marketplace – March/April 2018

Here are some observations about a recent trip to East Africa to visit MEDA projects in Kenya and Tanzania. Stories about these projects will appear in this issue and the next.

East Africans must, of necessity, be among the most entrepreneurial people in the world. A pleasant shoeshine man encountered in the airport in Addis Ababa has taught ancient history at the post-secondary level for 16 years, but finds it easier to support his spouse and four children by cleaning loafers for travellers at $2.99 US a pop than hoping that his teacher’s salary will arrive.



The most humorous, also somewhat sad, story told at MEDA’s recent convention in Vancouver came from presenter Tareq Hadhad, who is featured on the cover of this issue. Hadhad, who was pursuing medical studies in Damascus before his family was forced to leave Syria due to the civil war, recalls being told that in Toronto, it is safer to have a heart attack in a taxi than in a hospital. Why is that, you may ask? It’s because 90 per cent of the cabbies in that city were physicians in their homeland, but are unable to get their credentials recognized in Canada, Hadhad was told. Here’s hoping this very intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken young man gets back to studying medicine sooner rather than later.

As printed in The Marketplace - Jan/Feb 2018

Ray Dirks, a Winnipeg artist and gallery curator who has designed these pages for more than 32 years, was recently honored, along with a long-time colleague, by Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor for advancing interreligious understanding.

Several speakers at MEDA’s November convention in Vancouver drew attention to one of Jesus’s most famous admonitions.

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - November/December 2017

Businesses have been practicing corporate social responsibility for over 500 years, The Atlantic magazine argues. “The Ben & Jerry’s of Medieval Times” story says that while benefits corporations (B Corps.) — companies whose mission includes the welfare of their workers, society and the environment — only caught on in 2007, there is considerable evidence of “compassionate capitalism” dating back to the Middle Ages.

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - September/October 2017

While putting together the cover package about Audrey Voth Petkau and TourMagination, I came across an article on Christian Week’s website that touts the spiritual benefits of travel. In the piece, Benjamin L. Corey argues that travelling exposes us to the fullness of God’s creation and can expand our heart’s capacity to love others.

By Carolyn Burns

Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose and Capitalism by Joel Solomon, with Tyee Bridge (New Society Publishers, 2018. 288pp., $19.99 US)CleanMoney Cat4inch dark

Put your money where your heart is. Give yourself permission to invest in what you care about.”
That creed is what makes investor Joel Solomon’s The Clean Money Revolution such a transformative read.

By Mark A. Kellner, Religion
News Service
Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store by Nicole C. Kirk (NYU Press, 2018,288 pp., $35US)
(RNS) — During his lifetime, John Wanamaker built two megachurches.
One tried to save souls.
Another sold clothes, jewelry and perfume.

As Published in The Marketplace magazine

By Eileen R. Kinch

Imagine It Forward by Beth Comstock (Random House Canada: Bee- Com Media LLC, 2018 416 pp., $30 US)Imagine it Forward

A mixture of memoir, how-to, and inspiration, Imagine It Forward describes Beth Comstock’s journey of becoming vice president of corporate communications and advertising and then head of marketing and innovation at General Electric (GE). Comstock shares personal stories, offers suggestions for cultivating imagination and innovation in a corporate setting, and encourages readers to imagine and to work for change in their lives and careers.

“I’ve been courting change my entire career,” Comstock writes. This began with a personal crisis. Then, as a single parent, Comstock moved to New York City to continue her work in public relations. Later she accepted a position at the GE headquarters. Her first major task was to make sure the financial world was watching as Jack Welch named his successor, Jeff Immelt. Her second major task (and accomplishment) was to produce hopeful advertising for GE in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Change involves risk. Comstock challenged her GE colleagues to look toward the future by developing and investing in clean energy and digital technology before these were accepted realities. Daring to imagine new ideas went against the grain of GE’s corporate culture, which prefers predictable, deliverable results. Many of her colleagues were fearful to try something unproven. To create a culture of innovation, Comstock co-initiated Imagination Breakthroughs, a program that allowed GE companies to propose and test new ideas in a protected setting. Failed ideas would not impact the company’s earnings or an employee’s performance evaluation. Creativity is needed, on all levels, to adapt to changing times.

Innovation, however, must also be managed. As a result of one of the Imagination Breakthroughs, GE built a $100 million factory to produce sodium batteries that could be used to back up generators. Unfortunately, Comstock pointed out, “there was no single market segment big enough to accommodate all those batteries.” GE had only considered developing good technology, not the overall market picture. From this failure, Comstock created GE Ventures and a structure for evaluating projects. GE then began to experiment with small-scale changes, and a growth board would meet every 90 days to review projects. If a project was not working, then it could be discontinued before incurring major loss.

Comstock’s desire to use imagination and innovation (channeling Thomas Edison, GE’s founder) was not welcomed by everyone. In fact, it sometimes created open tension with her colleagues. Comstock’s advice is to embrace tension as part of the creative process, as uncomfortable as it might feel.

Imagine It Forward is rich in advice on how to cultivate and test new ideas in a business setting. The corporate culture of the large companies Comstock describes, however, is brutal. Perhaps something to be learned from her book is that measuring success only in terms of financial gain is also a failure of imagination. Making money to maintain power and status without also working toward the flourishing of relationships and all creation might be an empty enterprise. ◆

Eileen R. Kinch is a freelance writer in Lancaster County, PA.

TRUST book jacket imageTrust: Twenty Reliable Ways to Build a Better Country by David Johnston (Signal/McClelland & Stewart, 2018 222 pp, $22.95 US, $29.95 Canadian)

To call David Johnston’s life accomplishments impressive is an understatement.

A graduate of Harvard, Cambridge and Queen’s universities, Johnston has been a law professor, dean of the Queen’s law school, head of two Canadian universities, and Governor General of Canada (from 2010 to 2017). He has also written or co-authored numerous books.

If, as he hints in this thought-provoking volume, he is at age 77 “on the last leg of my life’s journey,” Trust may be his most enduring contribution to public discourse. Given the well-considered arguments he makes in this book, this reader hopes there will be many more to come.

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

ValueOfEverythingBy Henry Friesen

The Value of Everything: Who Makes and Who Takes from the Real Economy by Mariana Mazzucato (PublicAffairs, 2018 368 pp, $28 US, $36.50 Canadian)

If you believe the world’s economies are working just like they should, don’t bother reading this book. If it has never troubled you that the chief executive officers of the Fortune 500, (the five hundred most profitable US industrial corporations), earn more than 300 times the average worker’s wage, or that the estimated wealth of the world’s 62 richest people in 2015 was equal to that of the bottom 3.5 billion, this book will just annoy you. But the book is a must-read if you’ve been concerned by the inequities in mature economies that seem to grow unchecked.

surviving failure

As printed in The Marketplace – July/August 2018

Surviving Failure (and a few Successes) By Merle Good (Walnut Street Books, 2018, 184 pp., $14.99 US, $19.99 Cdn)

It’s one thing to fail in business; quite another to talk openly about it.

Merle Good and his wife Phyllis suffered the ignominy twice in more than four decades. His new book boldly strips bare the raw impact of seeing a beloved enterprise on the ropes and offers counsel for others on the same journey.