A CREATIVE AGENDA FOR THE PRAXIS COMMUNITY
Over the long term, the future is decided by optimists. To be an optimist you don't have to ignore all the many problems we create; you just have to imagine improving our capacity to solve problems.
– Kevin Kelly, author and founder, WIRED
Since the early days at Praxis, our vision has been inspired by the Clapham Circle, a group of committed Christians in 19th century England whose biographer, Stephen Tomkins, observed that “the ethos of Clapham became the spirit of the age.” They worked on a wide variety of causes—dozens of creative responses to the particular issues, struggles, and trends of their time and place.
Today, no place alone—not London, Silicon Valley, New York, DC, Beijing, or Mumbai—can fully embody or claim to shape the spirit of the age. Cultures are intertwined and relations are global. But the body of Christ is global, too, and our ethos can shape the spirit of every age in every place. This is part of what it means to be a witness to the good news.
How does this happen in practice? As members of the body of Christ, we are to be faithful in our callings of bearing and restoring the image of God—wherever we are, whether our sphere of influence is slight or great. Still, in each generation, some vocations seem to carry outsized power to shape cultural trends. And in our generation, a disproportionate number of startup entrepreneurs may be entrusted with that kind of agency. Indeed, Praxis exists to help a generation of ambitious builders steward that influence wisely and generously for God’s glory.
So what will we work on? What will the creative action of Christians be in our age?
At Praxis, this is one of our governing questions. We’ve spent the last decade reviewing and supporting hundreds of ventures from a culture-facing, mission-minded perspective. We see every venture against the backdrop of the latest social trends, technology, business models, and venture formation processes—and by the light of God’s heart for our world.
Given that experience, we’ve begun to identify several areas where we believe redemptive innovation could be profoundly good news. And we want to see redemptive entrepreneurs work in these areas, using their ingenuity to create ventures that make the world more beautiful, just, and humane.
Four years ago, we built a starter list of Opportunities for Redemptive Innovation (ORIs) pointing to relatively unexplored issues and spaces where entrepreneurial Christians could step into shaping the spirit of this age, offering something new through ventures. We’re building expansively on that list through this updated collection of ORIs.
These Opportunities for Redemptive Innovation represent much of the work of this community. They span and represent our past, present, and future. We’re thrilled to report that many of these ideas originated through the persistent and patient work of our community and portfolio—through many who are reading these words—as well as from so many good souls we haven’t yet had the privilege to meet.
At the same time, they’ve been written with a mind toward what might be to come.
Any one person or venture can and should be a faithful witness to God’s rule over all things; but no project, campaign, or venture can have a meaningful effect on the spirit of the age on its own. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth, working as a collective body to love our neighbors creatively and well; and in so doing to address the major issues of our time. We believe that a shared creative agenda can help concentrate our energy where it’s most needed—and that is the aim of these ORIs.
A few clarifications and caveats. First, we offer these not as domain experts with an authoritative point of view on these subjects—but as engaged, curious, passionate observers of our world who love to help people build meaningful things.
Second, it’s worth noting that significant redemptive work is being undertaken and often pioneered by non-Christian leaders who model the redemptive pattern of creative restoration through sacrifice in the way they live and build into the world. Our work here is not to claim that our work is better, but to follow and join them gratefully, demonstrating that “all truth is God’s truth” and that the gospel frees us for common-grace collaboration with those who do not share our faith. (Consider William Wilberforce’s legendary collaboration with Charles Fox toward the abolition of the slave trade.)
Also, note that there are “horizontal ORIs” not listed here that apply so broadly that it would be a disservice to limit them to a single vertical item in the list. For example, you’ll find that matters of ethnicity, race, gender equity, and economic justice are threaded through a multitude of issues, from housing to finance to good jobs.
Finally, we acknowledge that these are clearly written from a Western point of view, given our original context operating from the US; and from the perspective of those with considerable cultural and economic agency. There are whole categories of issues unaccounted for here, and we affirm that there are gaps in our understanding that, if bridged, will lead us to reframe some of these issues.
The good news is that this is a living document. We want to use it to learn and be redirected by wise experts; to acknowledge sins of both omission and commission as we discover them; to create visions and views on adjacent issues; to develop community around these ideas—and while doing all those things, to build ventures together.
In this spirit, we hope this list encourages you to join God in the renewal of these things.
Ways to engage with these ideas:
1. If you’re already working full-time on a venture in one of these areas, we’d love to have you apply to our Business Accelerator or Nonprofit Accelerator, where you can find peer community, mentorship, values-aligned capital, team support, and more.
2. If you’re sketching an idea for a new venture around an ORI, and considering whether to pursue it seriously, we’d love to have you apply to Academy Venture, our pre-seed program, to develop your concept.
3. If you’re an investor or philanthropist interested in one or more opportunity areas, please let us know so we can get you connected to our collective work.
4. If you’re a builder looking to join a venture working on one of these issues, check out our Job Board and Talent Network. Search for one of the organizations mentioned among the ORIs, or get to know us more through our Praxis Academy Core and Vocation programs.
In today’s commercially-driven world people are more likely to be seen and referred to as 'consumers' than anything else. Instead of being met with resistance, this shift has often meant that individuals have formed their identity through a composite of brands, and product purchasing can be guided more by the desire to make a statement about one’s identity and values than strict utility. As a result, the lines between social movement, capitalism, and community are increasingly blurry (see: Nike, Whole Foods, and Patagonia).
Given this reality (which is with us for both better and worse), we’d like to support entrepreneurs with a vision for building brands with a counter-culturally virtuous and optimistic view of the world, spreading hope and beauty, eliminating stigma, and most fundamentally, redirecting our identity away from materialistic consumption and toward lasting contentment.