Faith and Development Essay Competition

2010 - 2011 SEVEN-CIFA Essay Competition

The deadline for this competition has passed. Please go here to view our current grants, scholarships, request for proposals, contests, and competitions.

Cambridge, MA – April 23, 2010 – The S.E.VEN Fund (SEVEN) is pleased to announce its 2010-11 Essay Competition in partnership with the Washington DC-based Center For Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA). We are seeking essays on enterprise solutions to poverty from around the globe that are faith-based, faith-inspired, or interfaith efforts. The competition will award two (2) prizes of US $5,000. The submission deadline is October 15, 2010 at midnight Eastern Standard Time (EST). Winners will be announced on December 15, 2010.

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Essay Question
Essay Question: Expanded
Questions & Answers
Important Dates
Terms & Conditions

Essay Question

Writers are asked to submit a first-person narrative describing enterprise solutions to poverty that are faith-based, faith-inspired, or interfaith efforts. Illustrations may come from any domain, including healthcare, education, consumer products, human rights, and others; examples must represent innovative private solutions to public problems.


We are interested in exploring the relationship of business to faith. Is business, when guided by faith, more effective at creating prosperity around the world? Does a faith perspective change a business’ relationship to its key stakeholders (customers, owners, workers, future generations) in a positive way? Are faith-based and faith-inspired enterprise solutions to poverty more effective than conventional methods? Can interfaith efforts bridge gaps that secular efforts cannot? Does a faith-based understanding of entrepreneurship and profit-making infuse business with a profound moral purpose? Does the combination of sound business principles and concern for others result in sustainable, long-term solutions?

While we often hear of secular efforts to fight poverty and its related issues, we rarely hear profound stories describing the experiences of people who integrate a spiritual perspective. We aim to change that, and are interested in hearing stories exemplifying enterprise solutions to poverty that are faith-based, faith-inspired, or grounded in interfaith collaborations/partnerships.

Foreign economic aid and government programs have spent billions of dollars over the past five decades to alleviate the high number of people living in poverty. No country has been lifted out of poverty solely as a result of these efforts. One-dimensional aid programs do not end poverty because they associate poverty solely with low to no levels of income for individuals and families.

Poverty in its broadest and more relevant sense may be understood as stemming from an impoverished sense of self in relation to God, community, and the environment. A holistic approach that takes account of the full human person is necessary for effective poverty alleviation. Physical, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects need to be considered if we want to truly create abundance. Defining poverty, for example, as a lack of integration with global networks of productivity helps reframe our understanding of the problem and the solution.

The notion of creating wealth is often stigmatized, and businesspeople regarded as too self-interested to be a force for positive social change. But what if they are informed by a spiritual worldview? A faith-based approach helps one regard material rewards from a perspective of temporary stewardship. Sound business principles ensure that efforts result in more than a handout, instead growing into self-sustaining solutions that affirm the dignity of all. Faith compels us to act with others for the common good of all.

Further, what if these efforts take place in an interfaith setting? Are communities of diverse faiths mutually called to tasks of love and service, collaborating to improve the human condition, and participating in their shared faith? Does interfaith action and dialogue on a grassroots level create opportunities to explore a common vision and identify transformed behavior? Perhaps interfaith action redefines the boundaries of who is perceived as a neighbor and who is included in one’s community?

Essay Question: Expanded

Writers are asked to submit a first-person narrative describing enterprise solutions to poverty that are faith-based, faith-inspired, or interfaith efforts. Illustrations may come from any domain, including healthcare, education, consumer products, human rights, and others; examples must represent innovative private solutions to public problems.

We are looking for stories and lessons learned about innovation, failures and projects, collaborations and businesses created, for-profit enterprises funding non-profit solutions, and the people helped by such efforts. The essay should be no longer than 2000 words, in English, and each submission should start with a 100-word abstract and a 100-word biography of the author.

SEVEN and CIFA are looking for stories in which people of faith or faith communities have decided to stimulate human and economic development through an “unorthodox mix” of for-profit entrepreneurship, business strategy, faith, collaboration, local wisdom, and mutual benefit. Essay writers are asked to read the three stories below and, informed by what they read, share their own stories to help us inspire others and highlight where such efforts are taking root and flourishing around the world.

We recommend authors review the following examples as potential models for their submissions:

  1. An interfaith business solution to a pervasive social problem:
    Mrs. Nafiza Nuriddin, a Muslim, and Mrs. Ayen Deng, a Christian, both from a small town in northern Sudan, were concerned about the rate of disappearance of young women in their community. Girls were leaving to take up work in North Africa and Italy. The few that returned shared horrendous tales of forced prostitution and enslavement. Nuriddin and Deng, both women of deep faith, established a sewing school and clothing-manufacturing operation to create jobs at home so that young women could have an alternative means of employment. Six women at a time participated in the three-month training program. Those that completed the course were given a sewing machine and a contract for clothing production, which guaranteed an initial income. Thirty-three women graduated over three years, and twenty-seven continued on to produce for the clothing company. The profits from the clothing company were ploughed back into the training and sewing machine purchases, helping to create sustainable livelihoods for the women. Nafiza and Ayen’s story was told to us orally. We regret that we are unable to find any written information about their story. This is a perfect example of why we are engaging in this competition: we want to unearth stories that have not been told or published, acknowledging and affirming that this work exists, so that these people may inspire others and become the new role models in poverty alleviation.
  2. An individual integrates business and faith to develop new paradigms for wealth creation and poverty alleviation:
    SEVEN Fund co-founder Andreas Widmer’s chapter “My Faith In Capitalism” (In The River They Swim, Templeton Press 2009) tells the story of how his journey as an entrepreneur and his faith came together to shape his views of economic development. The chapter depicts a new model that challenges existing paradigms of top-down aid based on purely secular values, and proposes a faith-based approach that brings together faith and profit, a concern for the poor, and free market wealth creation. As a practicing Catholic, he found inspiration in his faith that applied to the free market model of the economy, realizing that as a system the free market (i.e. democratic capitalism) offers humanity a greater chance to excel than any other economic system. And while this system can also lead to profound abuses and injustice, it can also represent the most direct and sustainable escape from poverty. It is each person’s conscience that makes the difference, and one’s faith is a great source to form the conscience. In his article, Widmer describes the Catholic perspective on how the free market offers a great opportunity to be used as a force for good. Widmer’s essay can be found in “In the River They Swim,” more details of which are available at
  3. Business experts inspired by faith support African entrepreneurs through hands-on coaching:
    Karisimbi Business Partners was founded by 3 Christian families from the US. They seek to alleviate poverty by mentoring ambitious and strategically-placed Rwandan entrepreneurs through picking up where micro-finance, business incubation, and small business development models leave off. Acting upon their motivation: “The love of Christ compels us to use our best where the need is greatest,” Karisimbi Business Partners builds businesses by developing the management capacity of promising mid-sized ventures with untapped potential. They aim to ensure that enterprises can employ many, export often, pay taxes, build industry sectors, and establish role models for a new generation of Rwandan business leaders.. This intensive work cannot be done quickly or from a distance, but requires a partnership, which entails working alongside ambitious entrepreneurs for years at a time. Karisimbi Partners do not see their work as aid or charity; they see it as a true partnership with the people of Rwanda, affirming the dignity of all participants. To learn more about Karisimbi Partners, please visit their website,

The winners will be announced on December 15, 2010. The winning essays may be published on SEVEN’s and CIFA’s websites, or in selected magazines and publications. SEVEN, in collaboration with CIFA, intends to publish a selection of all submitted essays on its website and in a book. By entering the essay competition, authors give their permission for their essay to be used in selected publications. Any essay published would be done so with proper attribution to the author.

Questions & Answers

What is the essay question?
Writers are asked to submit a first-person narrative describing enterprise solutions to poverty that are faith-based, faith-inspired, or interfaith effort. Illustrations may come from any domain, including healthcare, education, consumer products, human rights, and others; examples must represent innovative private solutions to public problems.

The essay should be no longer than 2000 words, in English, and each submission should start with a 100-word abstract and a 100-word biography of the author. The abstract, biography, and any sources you may cite are separate from the 2000 word count for the essay.

Who can participate in this competition?
This essay competition is open to all participants globally.

Where do I get a paper application?
There is no paper application required for this competition. Essays should be submitted here:

How do I submit my essay?

  • Submit your essay electronically in an MS Word or PDF format only, using the submission form on SEVEN’s website. All information requested, including contact information, abstract, and essay should be included in a single document. The url is:
  • Every essay MUST, in addition to the actual essay, include a 100 word abstract and a 100-word biography at the beginning of the document.

Along with the submission, you MUST include the following information in the submission form, as well as on the first page of your submitted essay:

  • Your full name and mailing address, a contact telephone number and your email.
  • Your degree-level and field of study, or professional position, as applicable.
  • A brief 100-word biography of the author(s).

Why have SEVEN and CIFA selected the short essay format for this competition?
We believe that the short essay format is a powerful and underutilized mechanism in development thinking. It is a versatile medium that requires succinct, insightful writing that can be published in multiple venues.

Does this program support a preferred philosophical or scientific agenda?
The program is co-sponsored by CIFA and SEVEN.

CIFA sees the religious sector as critical to efforts alleviating poverty, hunger, and disease. They see that these efforts are often fragmented, underfunded, under accounted for, and under recognized. CIFA seeks to realize an agenda supporting the tireless work of faith communities and the potential collective impact of the efforts in the development arena. They recognize and honor the extraordinary examples of faith-based collaborative solutions to end global poverty.

SEVEN sees a number of experts who opine about poverty and prosperity: i.e., macroeconomists, businessmen, educators, political scientists, social scientists, etc. Rarely is there enough integration, where the experts of one domain borrow insights from another, and attempt to create an even more robust intellectual framework. Consequently SEVEN intends to foster this kind of integration, at the level of thought leader and practitioner.

Do you offer any guidance to authors preparing essays?
Essays should be original works that directly address the topic as outlined. We strongly discourage writers from repurposing papers from college courses or analysis conducted on another country. Repurposed papers are easy to spot, and lack the integration and insight necessary to win the competition. Further, any incident of plagiarism will be treated very seriously, and reported to the appropriate individuals including those plagiarized and relevant professional or academic authorities.

How long should the essay be?
Essays may not exceed 2000 words and must be written in English. Students may write an essay of less than 2000 words. Do not forget that you MUST submit a 100-word abstract and a 100-word biography along with your essay. The abstract, biography, and any sources you may cite are separate from the 2000 word count for the essay.

What is the 100 word abstract?
We ask you to submit, along with your essay, a 100-word abstract that states the essence of what your paper is about. This is a very useful process for both the writer and the reader as it forces the writer to concisely state his or her point and it allows the reader to enter the reading of the essay with a better understanding of the idea and subject matter.

How will essays be judged?
All essays that comply with the call for essay rules will undergo a competitive process of a confidential jury review. Expert SEVEN-CIFA jurors will evaluate and rank the essays according to the criteria described in the call for essays. The winning writers will be required to enter into a contract with SEVEN-CIFA prior to final award.

Can I submit multiple essays?
No, each writer may only submit one essay.

Can I collaborate with another author?
You may decide to submit an essay together with another author, but the prize money is per essay, not per writer. The two (or more) of you would share the prize. We especially welcome teams of students from different disciplines, as we believe that integration across domains provides the greatest insight into complex global problems.

What if I am unable to submit my application electronically?
Only applications submitted through this form on our website will be accepted. If you encounter problems, please contact SEVEN at .

Important Dates

  • Inaugural SEVEN-CIFA Call for Essays: April 10, 2010
  • Deadline for Essay submission: 12:00AM Eastern Standard Time (EST), October 15, 2010
  • SEVEN-CIFA Essay Award Announcements: December 15, 2010

Terms & Conditions

SEVEN and CIFA have sole and absolute discretion to determine which submission entries, if any, merit an award. The SEVEN Fund and CIFA reserve the right, at their sole and absolute discretion, to change, modify, extend or reduce the terms and conditions of, or to suspend or terminate, the competition without prior notice. SEVEN and CIFA will endeavor to inform participants of any such change, modification, extension, reduction, suspension or termination, as the case may be, through any media outlet deemed appropriate by SEVEN and CIFA at their sole and absolute discretion. SEVEN and CIFA further reserves the right to nullify and/or cancel any part or all of the competition if it appears that any fraud or malfunctions have occurred in any form whatsoever. Each participant undertakes to indemnify and keep SEVEN and CIFA harmless from and against any loss, damage, claims, costs and expenses which may be incurred by or asserted against SEVEN and/or CIFA as a result of such participant's participation in the competition.

About CIFA

The Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty, was founded by development philanthropist Edward Scott in September 2008. CIFA’s mission is to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the faith community in its collective effort to reduce poverty and disease. Operating at the intersection of faith and development, CIFA is committed to harnessing the potential of the faith sector as a positive force for global development. CIFA does this through increased interfaith coordination, best practices and model sharing, innovative mobilization of resources, and influential advocacy to governments and the general public. Please visit


SEVEN is a virtual non-profit entity run by entrepreneurs whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of innovation and diffusion of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty. It does this by targeted investment that fosters thought leadership through books, films and websites; supporting role models - whether they are entrepreneurs or innovative firms - in developing nations; and shaping a new discourse in government, the press and the academy around private-sector innovation, prosperity and progressive human values. Please visit

Entrepreneurs create products, services and jobs. They expand economies, improve people's lives, provide employment (high and rising wages) and bring about competition. A competitive environment, in turn, gives rise to efficiency, meritocracy and further innovations and entrepreneurial drive.

The potent combination of entrepreneurship and technological innovation can forge an environment that is conducive to further enterprise, involving even government policy in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.

SEVEN's Global Footprint

We invite you to explore SEVEN’s Global Footprint, our Latest News, and a selection of Resources related to enterprise solutions to poverty.


SEVEN is a leader in the field of Enterprise Solutions to Poverty. We ask the question, “How do we support those who are self-determined, action-oriented, and effective?” We find and invest in the innovations of pioneering thought leaders and entrepreneurs inside the world’s poorest nations; we support contrarian research, films, books and competitions that spotlight new role models and diffuse their best ideas. More

Conferences & Speaking Engagements

SEVEN hosts and participates in several conferences and speaking engagements each year.

View our Staff Speaking Engagements & Upcoming Conference Schedule