The Interfaith Business Network is about Business, Faith, and Social Change

The Interfaith Business Network is a new Partner of AI and Faith, working to develop a network of business school students and alumni around questions of diversity, inclusion and equity, business ethics, and faith on a pluralist basis.  Angie Luo and Breanne White are co-founders.

 

What if all businesses had a soul? In 2019, as a State of Formation Blogging Fellow, I pondered this question, along with questions about how interfaith leaders could contribute to the creation of a future with artificial intelligence created from a place of love, rather than a place of fear. The failings of capitalism (i.e. unethical business practices) are deeply intertwined with the failings of our democracy, and to turn it around, we need business leaders armed with the interfaith skillset to give all religious, spiritual, and secular identities a place at the conference table.

I became involved with interfaith work when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, after taking a History of Christianity class and realizing that I could no longer be a part of the Catholic faith I had grown up with. Through this work, I not only discovered the life-changing ability to define God as I understood God, but also developed a deep comfort with and passion for having conversations and building community with people whose beliefs were different than my own. When the 2016 election happened, it shocked me that no one was able to respectfully disagree with each other anymore. I realized that the world was changing and that interfaith leadership was more important than ever before.

When I became a graduate student in the M.S., Social Entrepreneurship program at the USC Marshall School of Business, I started to wonder about the intersection of business, faith, and social change. If religion had been a driving force for positive social movements in history, shouldn’t my classmates and I be talking about it? To my disappointment, interfaith startup ideas went ignored and invitations to interfaith events declined. Religion, like politics, was taboo in the business school environment – even social entrepreneurs who agreed that businesses needed a soul weren’t willing to go there. What was it about the language and lens of faith that led to this disengagement?

It was a breath of fresh air when in the Fall of 2020, I met Breanne White, an MBA student at Wharton, who was as passionate about the intersection of religion and business as I was. I still remember our first phone call, late for me on the West Coast on a Friday night, even later for her on the East Coast, learning about each other’s backgrounds and faith journeys – our call lasted over an hour and we could have kept talking all night. Her professional interfaith experience in the Middle East fascinated me, and her determination to advance interfaith leadership in business was clear.

Our friendship and collaboration over the past year has led us to found the Interfaith Business Network and host the Interfaith Business Network podcast. We envision a world where every workplace and classroom is inclusive and faith-friendly, where the diversity of everyone’s faith and beliefs are celebrated and used as a tool to build businesses and products that make the world better for everyone.

 

Interfaith Business Network

The Interfaith Business Network’s mission is to advance religious identity as part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at business schools and corporations around the world. We are a growing community of business students, educators, working professionals, and organizations sharing resources, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities on Slack and LinkedIn.

Our board represents leaders connected to Interfaith Youth Core, AI and Faith, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, Wharton, and the USC Marshall School of Business. Our faith identities include Christianity, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Secular Humanism. When we say interfaith, we intend it to include all people, of all faith and belief backgrounds. All are welcome, in celebration of the beautiful diversity in religious, spiritual, and secular identities.

I never could have guessed that two years after I wrote down that AI developers should program their creations with interfaith-based cooperative values, I would be having a conversation with a new friend from the Wharton School, Breanne; with David Brenner, the Board Chair of AI and Faith; and with Linda Kinstler, the author of the New York Times piece Can Silicon Valley Find God? about why religion and faith matter in the tech sector. In the Interfaith Business Network Podcast Episode 3: Integrating Faith and Artificial Intelligence, David and Linda share their insights about the influence of religion in AI development and provide advice for technologists and business leaders who wish to build ethical products and a future that is good for everyone.

 

Call to Action

Success for the Interfaith Business Network will look like an active and engaged community on LinkedIn and Slack with people who are passionate about building inclusive and ethical workplaces, classrooms, and communities. Our goal in the short-term is to build a fellowship program for business students from at least five business schools. In the long-term, we want to reach at least 500 members with representation from as many business schools as possible and have big ideas for bringing business students, faculty, and corporations together to keep talking about the soul of business and technology.

Please share our website with anyone who is passionate about the intersection of religion and business, follow us on Twitter, and join us on LinkedIn and Slack! You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

If you want to get more involved or have ideas to share, we’d love to hear from you: interfaithbusinessnetwork@gmail.com.

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