Designing Innovative Solutions to Problems

Have you ever been working on solving a complex problem and felt stuck? You knew there had to be a way forward but you just couldn’t see it? That’s how designing a poverty alleviation ministry can feel.

Take the issue of food insecurity as an example. Most people are familiar with a “soup kitchen” model as a way to address this challenge in a community. But is a soup kitchen effective in solving the problem of food insecurity?

Developing Effective Ministries

At one level, providing food meets an immediate need, but it doesn’t deal with the underlying issues that are causing food insecurity. As an emergency measure, a soup kitchen can be a great help. But in the long run, it may end creating dependency, disincentivizing other solutions.

Beyond that, the soup kitchen model only treats the symptoms of the issue of food insecurity and not the root(s). It doesn’t address the larger question of why people lack regular access to food in this community. 

Another drawback to this model is that it creates an us/them dynamic between the people who are providing food and the people who are in need of food. It’s transactional in nature. The person in need is viewed as a “receiver” and doesn’t have an opportunity to contribute his or her own unique gifts and talents, undercutting something crucial to their humanity

Innovative Approaches to Old Problems

If the approach we’re using isn’t working, how do we figure out something that will work? In other words, how is a ministry that wants to help without hurting supposed to move forward? After all, a challenge like food insecurity is so complex that it can feel like an apparently “tried-and-true” method like a soup kitchen is the only solution.

Through Innovate: Ministry Design, the Chalmers Center has been working with ministry teams from around the world to design creative solutions to situations like these. In fact, we actually worked with several soup kitchens to help them redesign their ministries so that they become relational and participatory rather than transactional!

Innovate trains teams in asset based community development best practices, God’s story of change, and innovation and design thinking tools. We’ve come alongside hundreds of ministries to coach them through thinking differently about solutions to complex problems in their communities.

If your ministry team would like to get training and coaching from the Chalmers Center to help you design (or redesign) a poverty alleviation, Innovate is the best way to do that. Enrollment for the fall cohort is open, and you can get the early bird discount if you enroll by August 15.

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.

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