The Gift of Innovation

Too often, in churches and non-profits, we gravitate toward stagnation and playing it safe. Yet, in development and relief work, the bottom line is people.

If we don’t take calculated risks for the people we love and need to help, what will we take risks for? The work we do in our churches, community and the world is too important for anything less.

A big part of Food for the Hungry’s (FH) work is innovation—and why is that so important?

  1. If we aren’t open to innovation and change, we ultimately aren’t open to what God may do through us. It’s hard for God to work from a static attitude–openness to innovation is important for giving God space.
  2. Innovation is hard. It can be hard to find time and energy for it, and hard to fight resistance to it. But if you’re not getting resistance, you probably aren’t moving.
  3. Change should be the result of what God’s asking us to do. From the little to the big, everything we do is a response to God’s call.

Innovation is essential to stay effective and impactful in a rapidly changing world, but it’s not as hard as it may sound.

Creating Innovation

To create an environment to respond to new and unusual problems in impoverished communities, FH creates easy communication between FH staff and the community, so they both have full freedom to develop solutions together.

This can be applied to you and your church or home group. Working together as a team to accomplish work in your community or in keeping relationships growing takes innovation to address communication breakdowns, hardships and other problems that arise.

These are three practices that FH’s uses, and that you can also use in your church or home group:

  • Create space to listen and to be challenged. It’s important to invite ideas and challenges. This can be subtle, but do the people in your church or home group really feeling invited to speak out? It’s important to create intentional space for these conversations.
  • Reward input from people, even if you don’t agree with it. We need to reward the effort people make so they feel encouraged to continue to bring ideas.
  •  Take ownership of the final direction taken. If you talk a lot about innovation but don’t take ownership of the outcome, then people won’t participate. As a leader, if something fails, take ownership. If something works, celebrate together. This will create loyal team members who are willing to take risks.

Faith in New Ideas

Faith is confidence in what we can’t see, and we need to live with faith. We cannot fear the unknown. We must create environments full of anticipation and an open mind to what could be and where God will lead. It’s risky but essential.

When you partner with FH, we work with experts and impoverished people to come up with solutions to end poverty. When impoverished people become a part of finding the answer to their problems—they take ownership of those solutions and continue ending poverty in their lives after FH leaves.

This helps them to be confident to address issues in the future, giving them freedom from unhealthy dependence. When you partner with FH, you’re helping to bring innovation to impoverished communities and put them on the road to overcoming poverty.

About Keith Wright

Keith is the President of Food for the Hungry (FH), with more than 20 years of innovative relief and development leadership and implementation experience in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. He spent 11 of these years working and living in Africa. Keith and his wife Heidi have four children — Denton, Fraser, Brody, and Fiona — and love being a part of the Bend, Ore. community. When not working or traveling Keith can be found fly-fishing in one of Central Oregon’s many beautiful rivers.

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