Innovation Begins with a Problem

“The biggest barrier to the gospel is trauma.”

This is the problem local leaders working with orphans and vulnerable children in the majority world shared with the founder of RiverCross. Trauma hinders children from coming to Christ.

Local leaders shared that they know how to tell the children about Jesus. What they didn’t know was how to overcome the barrier of trauma that keeps children from trusting him.

How could we solve this problem?

Innovation begins with a problem. Our problem was simple. Local leaders needed to be equipped to set orphans and vulnerable children in their communities free from trauma so that they could come to Jesus.

How could we solve this problem?


Local leaders serving orphans and vulnerable children told us that 80% of the children they serve had experienced sexual abuse and exploitation. What the leaders needed was training to equip them to protect, rescue, and restore these children from trauma. We listened.


These leaders are the experts on their culture and their communities. They taught us about the power of story. PowerPoint presentations and workbooks would not stick like story. We learned that a story-based training would be most effective.


Having an evidence-based trauma training program was critical. We dove into the research and turned to trauma experts to determine our key learning objectives.


We couldn’t risk a global game of “Telephone” with the content. We needed an enduring design that would not leave room for misinterpretation. So, we engaged an award-winning team affiliated with Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey series to produce audio dramas to anchor our training program.


Rather than producing an entire series, we produced three pilot episodes and tested them in Africa with the help of Dr. Charles Madinger, director of the International Orality Network. The results were so impressive that we completed the seven-episode series. Piloting the program gave us confidence to move forward.


We launched our trauma training program in Africa with 100 leaders serving in orphan care organizations. Doctoral level evaluation has determined that our training program results in positive changes in compassion, knowledge and skills, and confidence to act.


With success comes the need to scale. We are now offering consulting, discussion groups, workshops, and coaching both in-person and virtually across Africa, and in the United States and Canada. We are developing a trainer’s program, considering a digital learning system which would enable us to train anyone anywhere, and laying the groundwork for broadcast of the audio dramas through community radio stations.


We know that it is not enough to merely report the number of people who have participated in our workshops and the number of children they serve. So, we determined to not only measure outputs, but outcomes.

We are developing a story-based assessment tool utilizing WhatsApp. This tool will enable us to not only measure acquisition of knowledge and skills, but also track actions taken to protect, rescue, and restore orphans and vulnerable children from trauma.

Innovation is not a one-time process.

With the success of our first program, innovation didn’t stop. One audio drama program was not enough to address the problem. Local leaders needed an introduction to trauma-informed care and specific modules designed to address vulnerabilities.

So, using our innovation process, we developed the framework for a comprehensive training program to be anchored by a 60-episode series called Jabota Bridge that can be contextualized and dramatized in multiple languages.

Jabota Bridge is being designed not only to anchor RiverCross Workshops for adults, but also to anchor RiverCross Clubs that help orphans and vulnerable children discuss their story, heal from trauma, and cross from trauma-defined lives to fullness of life in Christ.

Eight episodes of Jabota Bridge have been produced. The only barrier to producing the remaining episodes is funding.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” Trauma hinders orphans and vulnerable children from coming to Jesus. But, through RiverCross, local leaders are being equipped to overcome this barrier and help these precious children cross from lives defined by trauma to trust in Christ.

Innovation starts with a problem. What problem are you trying to solve? Could the innovation process we use give you a fresh approach to solving your problem?


Cindy Finley is the executive director of RiverCross. With RiverCross, she is on mission to equip local organizations to set the world’s vulnerable children free from trauma. To connect, email Cindy at [email protected].

The post Innovation Begins with a Problem appeared first on Outcomes Magazine.