Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)

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The emergence and metamorphosis of MEDA is highly instructive of the changes that have taken place in the Mennonite society and begs for deeper analysis. The original MEDA emerged in 1952 as a response to requests from Mennonites in Paraguay for assistance from North American Mennonite entrepreneurs, since Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) was not in a position to respond directly. Among MEDA's primary objectives and procedures were to help people to help themselves by entering into partnership agreements, with initiative from local people for economically viable business ventures.

Because the Paraguayan experiment was successful, the program was expanded to projects in Tanzania, Somalia, Zaire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Sicily, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Colombia, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Bolivia. Many of the projects were only moderately successful for a variety of reasons, including cultural discontinuities.

In the meantime, the Mennonite Community Association (MCA) movement seemed no longer to serve the needs of non-farming Mennonites entering the broad commercial and industrial world. Together with Mennonite colleges, the MCA formed Church, Industry and Business Associates (CIBA) in 1969 to make church and community resources available to Mennonites in business and industry. CIBA's objective was basically to provide the education, counsel, inspiration, and mutual sharing which were missing in the institutional church setting. Regional seminars on ethics in business, annual conventions, a journal called Marketplace, and relations with college business departments and their students were some of the main activities. In 1973 Mennonite Business Associates (MBA) emerged in the eastern United States. CIBA and MBA merged to produce MIBA (Mennonite Industry and Business Associates) in November 1976 (Marketplace, January 1977).

After several joint meetings, MEDA and MIBA were officially merged in November 1981. The "new" MEDA is a pronounced synthesis of the old MEDA interests and the newer MBA and CIBA concerns. There is a domestic section (with offices in Akron, Pa.) which has an educational, inspirational, and discernment mission expressed in annual conventions, regional chapters and programs, MEDAnet, (an employment service for Mennonite College students in business), and other activities. The international section, headquartered in Winnipeg, carries forward the economic development objectives, mainly in underdeveloped nations where Mennonite missions have operated. It is supporting extensive small business development and cooperatives. A cocoa-producing cooperative in Haiti and a woodworking business in Jamaica are thriving examples. There has been considerable government support for MEDA international programs, especially from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The "new" MEDA is an expression of lay concern regarding the interplay of faith and economics with surprisingly little official church support and recognition. Clearly the traditional rural church knew how to integrate the farming occupation into its ecclesiology and faith, but the Mennonite church community has yet to learn how to relate to the burgeoning commercial and business membership.

Additional Information

MEDA home page

Author(s) Calvin W Redekop
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Redekop, Calvin W. "Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 21 Jul 2024.

APA style

Redekop, Calvin W. (1990). Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 570-571. All rights reserved.

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