“The clock is ticking for this tomato,” stated Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, a social entrepreneur from Nigeria, holding up a single red tomato. This was the opening line to a very imaginative social enterprise proposal called ColdHubs1 that he presented during the Fledge Session at Impact Hub Seattle on July 6, 2015. He described an inventive new refrigerated food storage unit—essentially, a shipping container with solar-powered refrigeration for produce in communities where no electricity is available. Then Nnaemeka demonstrated how these refrigerated storage units could be located in public markets throughout Nigeria, dramatically expanding the life of that tomato from two days to twenty-one days for a modest storage fee. This would mean a dramatic increase in the fresh food supply for consumers, greater income for farmers and vendors, and an enormous reduction in agricultural waste. Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu plans to scale ColdHubs up to serve public markets all over Nigeria and then expand this social enterprise to other countries in Africa. His simple, scalable invention illustrates the power of social enterprise to impact millions of people. The clock is ticking, and not only for produce but also for people and the planet.
I have some very good news—and some really bad news. The good news first. God seems to be at work not only through people of faith but also people of compassion who are bringing welcome change to our world in what some are calling an “innovation revolution.” In the last ten years there has been a veritable explosion of new forms of social innovations, like the Cold Hub, all over the planet.
The good news just gets better. Much of this new changemaking celebration is being led by young innovators from Gen Y (those born between 1981 and 1997) and Gen Z (those born between 1998 and 2014). Since Gen Y and Gen Z are the first digital generations, they seem to be more aware of the daunting social, economic, and environmental challenges facing our world. Most importantly, a surprising number of them are determined to do something about it.
Even though research also shows that some in Gen Y and Gen Z do feel more entitled, I want to join, support, and learn from those who want to use their lives to have an impact on the lives of others. I think what we are witnessing, however, is a changemaking celebration more than an “innovation revolution.” I suspect you will also celebrate the sense of satisfaction and significance changemakers often seem to experience as they create and discover in ways that make a real difference in the lives of others.
I believe the Spirit of God may well be using the lives of these young social innovators, who are largely outside the church, to entice and challenge those of us in the churches to become much more a part of this remarkable new movement that is making such a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors. Why would any follower of the servant Jesus want to settle for less and miss the best— discovering how God can more fully use our lives to make a little difference in our troubled world?”
How is God using the lives of young innovators in your community to do serious changemaking and what are creative ways we can join this celebration?