American Univesity of Beirut

OSB transforms war-torn societies through local entrepreneurship

​​​The 2019 creation of Suliman S. Olayan’s Business in Conflict Areas Research Group (BICAR) fills the void in both academia and practice concerning how businesses start, grow and sustain in conflict settings. The group’s work focuses on poverty reduction and peacebuilding through indigenous businesses in conflict settings, and aims to support governments and the humanitarian sector to help rebuild war-torn regions through business development.

Across the Middle East, a number of protracted conflicts are negatively impacting the region. When such conflicts erupt, those with the means to do so often flee, leaving the most vulnerable to weather the storm of war and rebuild once the fighting is over.

“Local businesses play an essential role in the recovery process, which in developing countries employs large swathes of the population and provides goods and services to the vulnerable, subsequently helping to reduce poverty and foster peace,” explains Dr. Jay Joseph​, the project leader. “Seeing this opportunity, governments and the humanitarian sector are moving to support business-based development programs to kick-start growth in conflict settings. However, knowledge around how to start, grow and sustain businesses in conflict is lacking, resulting in high failure rates and wasted donor funds.” BICAR, through their research expertise, aims to understand the type of business and accompanying mechanisms that support growth, with the aim of optimizing donor funds and humanitarian outputs in conflict-affected regions. ​

The BICAR team focus on a range of factors to help businesses in conflict areas, including financial growth and transformative outcomes, supporting female run business, utilizing the role of family business, environmental sustainability, and how business can foster peace. Although only recently established, research by the BICAR group has been published in the Journal of World Business, Journal of Intellectual Capital, book chapters and conference papers. 

Their work on transformational entrepreneurship in conflict settings also won the Best Paper Award at the 2019 International Council for Small Business World Congress. Additionally, the team has completed research projects for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Iraq and Lebanon and is working with partners such as the International Organization for Migration (Iraq) to provide insights on business-based livelihood programs. ​

“The BICAR group is transforming business thinking by reestablishing the importance of thousands of small businesses operating across the conflict-affected regions of the MENA region, while also filling the global knowledge-gap that exists on how to utilize businesses-in-conflict to reduce poverty and foster peace, ” says Dr. Alain Daou. Through AUB-OSB, the group is also demonstrating how business, and business schools, can be actively engaged in not only market development, but also humanitarian goals, optimizing world-leading research to meet this end. As thought leaders in the field, BICAR members aim to provide support to both governments and the humanitarian sector in helping rebuild war-torn regions of the Levant.

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