Eugene Cho

My 5 Personal Advice for Social Innovation (and for the White House Conference).

Hi friends, readers, visitors, and stalkers:

Thanks for keeping up with my blog. I’d like to ask you to lift up a prayer for me. Sometime later today, I have the honor and privilege to be one of 10 speakers at the inaugural White House Faith-Based Social Innovators Conference.

Here’s the official verbiage and part of the invitation:

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, in coordination with the Office of Public Engagement, would like to invite you to speak at an event at the White House on Wednesday, July 11. We are hosting a forum to discuss the important role that faith-based social innovators play in expanding opportunity and addressing social issues.

Part of the program will include “TED-style” sessions where we will highlight the work of several leaders and organizations who are finding innovative ways to make a positive impact on our society and economy. Each innovator will have 5 minutes to present and then answer 2-3 questions. 

I’m encouraged by this because no matter what your faith or religious background may be, there is one common area we must work together with and for: The Common Good.

And as my faith in Christ is of primary importance in my identity, calling, and trajectory, I want to – even and despite my imperfect faith – represent Christ well so that in my words, works, and even warts, others might be fascinated and drawn to my Lord. I’m particularly reminded of these quote from Jesus, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. that inspire me deeply.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Jesus | Matthew 22:37-40

“We do (our work) to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible…” ~ Mother Teresa

” Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

As you might have read above in the description, each person gets 5 minutes.

Huh. What? Gulp.

Anyone that knows me knows I lean towards verbosity and not succinct, concise, and compact statements. My previous sentence proves that clearly.

But I’d like to share a few things here in hopes that my brief presentation might help someone who also feels inclined in the areas of social innovation and entrepreneurship. Let me pause for a moment and say that these terms are all buzz words and while it’s true that these terms can mean different things for different folks, the general sense is that they refer to using new or newer strategies, methods, organizations, and ideas to help engage social issues. In some ways, one can contend that it’s not necessarily new but to constantly innovate in order to meet our social needs and challenges.

For my 5 minute presentation, here’s my 5 pieces of advice for Social Innovators and Entrepreneurs.

You can’t do everything.

The person or org that tries to do everything will do nothing well. Focus on a few things and kick arse on those things. Know it. Breathe it. Love it. Live it.

And do it well. Do it with excellence. Do it with integrity.

Know that there are others who are doing other things. You can collaborate, celebrate your work and the work of others, but ultimately, know that you simply can’t do everything.

So, what do you feel convicted about; What needs do you seek to address; How will your social innovation seek to address those needs?

You can’t ask people to do something you’re not willing to do.

Read that 10 times. And then read it again.

Once you ask people to do something you’re not willing to do, you lose your integrity and you become a salesperson. I think part of the reason why One Day’s Wages has resonated with folks is because in sharing our family’s story of giving up a year’s wages (back in 2009) to engage the cause of extreme poverty, folks understood we were trying to walk the walk.

Yes, we’ve received our share of criticism from many folks who’ve accused us of being arrogant, boasting, un-Christian like behavior, etc…but in a world of excessive skepticism and cynicism, we felt this was important to demonstrate our commitment and leadership.

Nebulous idealism isn’t going to change the world.

Good  intents are good for feel good stories.

Hear this loud and clear: There’s a cost and sacrifice.

Everyone loves the idea of justice and compassionate until there’s a personal cost. The thing is…there’s always a cost to justice and compassion.

Pursuing visions and dreams will always cost you something and more often than not, it’s not just one thing.

Seeking to change social conditions, create opportunities, and starting new ventures may sound good but after the honeymoon phase (and sometimes even during it), you’ll realize it takes sacrifice and cost.

While I love to encourage and assist people in their dreams as social innovators and entrepreneurs, here’s my rule for how I share my time:

I won’t listen to anyone that’s not willing to sacrifice something for their visions and dreams.

Translation: Nebulous idealism isn’t going to cause change and impact. You got to work hard…and then work even harder.

Make it clear. Make is simple. Make it compelling.

Your greatest asset will likely be you (initially) and then (eventually), your team and supporters. Your most compelling content will be your vision. Your greatest real estate will likely be your website.

Is it clear? Is it simple to understand and convey? Is it compelling…are you using hope, beauty, and courage rather than fear, guilt, and shame. The former is sustainable. The latter gets more traffic – for a moment – but fizzles.

Does it work?

This, ultimately, is the million dollar question. People may have different opinions of how they define success and while your enterprise, organization, idea, company, or cause may not be the most successful of its kind, it’s okay but you have to ask yourself the question:

Does it work…because it has to work in order for it to be sustainable and…impactful.

The goal isn’t to start an organization, or a cause, or a social enterprise. The goal isn’t to have aesthetic websites, cool t-shirts, or engaging social media mediums. Ultimately, you want to make impact.

Is it making an impact?
Is it causing change in the areas of needs?
Is it making an impact?
Is it doing so with integrity and dignity?
How do you measure impact?
What data do you obtain?
What data do you obtain, gather, measure, and assess – beyond feel good stories?

…There’s more. Lots more.

There are a few other significant questions but heck, I have only 5 minutes but we can spend a great amount of time on all of the aspects above and then add numerous additional conversations of a) Who is your audience, b) Is your idea open-sourced and accessible, c) The temptation of dis-honest storytelling, d) Issues of human dignity and Human-connectedness, etc.

Consider these words from another Christ follower named Martin Luther King, Jr. –

“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.”

You might also want to read my 5 Personal Advice of Entrepreneurs.

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24 Responses

  1. diane says:

    Go Eugene! Your 5 minutes at the 1st Idea Camp changed me. Less is always more when it gives God room to work in others’ creative minds.

    Change the world for God’s good, friend!

  2. Loved this post, Eugene. Thank you. Honoured to be praying for you today.

  3. Mike W. says:

    Outstanding! May the Lord bless your words and prepare the hearts of those in the audience… Be strong in the Lord!

  4. Wow, what an honor! I’m praying for you 🙂

  5. Francisco M. Litardo says:

    Fantastico. Gracias por compartir esto. Bendiciones en tu presentacion!

  6. Thank you, Eugene. Praying for you at the White House. Thanking God for your words.

  7. matt says:

    Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Eugene: Is this what you think the Gospel is?

    • Dave Harrold says:

      Matt,

      I sure did not get the impression that is what he is saying. Notice the MLK quote comes after verses in Matthew. Seems like a nice extension of Jesus’ words to me.

      • matt says:

        Dave,

        Well I hope you’re right but MLK’s quote sounds like he (MLK) thinks that’s what the gospel is or maybe he thought that was more important than the gospel. I would posit life’s most urgent question to be : Are you reconciled with God? Wouldn’t you? MLK’s quote here is pure law. There’s no gospel in it.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      I’m certain you’re a new reader because if you’ve journeyed with me for a bit, you’ll know differently.

      Thank God that the Gospel is not a quote or a blog comment. PTL.

  8. […] “Anyone that knows me knows I lean towards verbosity and not succinct, concise, and compact statements,” he wrote on his blog. […]

  9. Debbie says:

    So glad I saw this. Definitely will be praying! Great post by the way…..great insights. Will share with a couple of leadership teams I am part of.

  10. Spot on post. 5 points were great. Very thought provoking.

  11. Great post. Keep up inspiring others

  12. […] “Anyone that knows me knows I lean towards verbosity and not succinct, concise, and compact statements,” he wrote on his blog. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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