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Global Connections Excellence and Expertise

L.I.F.E conference examines interaction of faith, entrepreneurship

People from more than two dozen nations took part in the virtual conference

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Global Connections Excellence and Expertise

L.I.F.E conference examines interaction of faith, entrepreneurship

The Leading the Integration of Faith and Entrepreneurship (L.I.F.E.) Research Lab hosted the virtual 4th L.I.F.E. Academic Research Conference at the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University last week. The LIFE Conference convenes a community of scholars from around the world who focus on the study of faith and entrepreneurship. This year, more than 200 people registered for the conference from more than 25 countries. 

The theme of this year's conference was the emerging subfield of religious entrepreneurship. The keynote entitled, "Religion Matters,” was delivered by Dr. Nathan French, Associate Professor of Comparative Religion and Faculty Affiliate with the Center for LIFE at Miami University.

French helped people think about what is the matter with religion by addressing the word matter in two senses.

  • What is the matter with religion as in, why some entrepreneurship scholars feel less comfortable studying impacts of religion, and more comfortable studying how psychology, anthropology and sociology affect entrepreneurial decisions and practices?
  • What is the matter with religion as in, what is the physical material that creates, supports, confuses and undermines religious belief and practice, and how might we think about entrepreneurial approaches to developing, selling or removing those materials

Next, scholars Niels Rietveld and Elco van Burg discussed a special issue of Small Business Economics Journal that focused on Entrepreneurship and Religion.

Three of the breakout articles were presented by the authors, addressing:

  • Cognitive approaches to religion's effects on entrepreneurship
  • How entrepreneurial thought is adopted by religious organizations (using the Church of England as a case study)
  • The effect of religious language on early investors in entrepreneurial activity.

Finally, two panels ended the conference:

  • Miami's Kylie Heales moderated a panel on challenges and opportunities in publishing at the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship.
  • Breakout groups hosted by senior scholars in faith and entrepreneurship responded to paper proposals put forth by junior scholars, as a way to encourage the growth of the field.

“The active and vibrant participation in the conference continues to show the emergence of the field of research on faith and entrepreneurship,” Founding Director, Center for Social Entrepreneurship and professor Brett Smith said.

“I was delighted to see the broad swath of academia represented at the conference. There were professors from large research universities in North America and Europe, to be sure. But, we had scholars from big and small institutions on every continent (except Antarctica) presenting their work and building the field together,” Center for L.I.F.E. director Cory Driver said. “The diversity of approaches to research and the multitude of entrepreneurial activities and religions studied created an academic kaleidoscope that was truly exciting to witness.”

Over the last four years, the LIFE Conference has reached 750+ scholars across the globe and has contributed to the growing subfield in religious entrepreneurship. The Center for LIFE was established in 2023 after it received substantial endowment funding. It focuses on building academically rigorous, practically relevant knowledge at the growing movement of faith and entrepreneurship.