Keeping it Beta: Social Innovation & The Black Church. A Case for Strategy, Design & Social Change.

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God created . . . and it was good. People of faith are a part of God’s work of creation that from the beginning of time has created and innovated without fail. A mantra of the ecumenical Black Church is that we serve a God who “keeps making a way out of no way!” Out of conditions of scarcity, malice, and hardship, enslaved Africans living in America created possibilities and opportunities for themselves. Fast forward to 2022, and that spirit of innovation still exists within the stories and lived experiences of African Americans across time.

In this work I will suggest that innovation must continue to be an intentional practice of the black church. Given the monumental changes brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, I am compelling leaders to move towards the work of innovation and to illuminate opportunities of innovation within church environments. I would argue that the ecumenical Black Church has led many movements of social impact and connectivity yet our language for describing that kind of work has been too limited. I’m interested in narrating and interpreting the work of the ecumenical Black Church through the lens and discipline of social innovation, traditioned innovation, design thinking, and strategy.

We are at an intersection and inflection point in 2022. Virtual sanctuaries have replaced physical ones. The average parishioner has not walked into a sanctuary in the past two years. How does that change our concept of innovation, outreach and strategy? As a former publicist, current brand strategist, and church planter, I am very interested in the way the ecumenical Black Church is being received in society right now. I’m interested in threading who the ecumenical Black Church has been and who it can be. This is a renaissance moment. Let’s join together and see what we can create. Let’s dream together.





Cudjoe-Wilkes, Gabriella Elizabeth (2022). Keeping it Beta: Social Innovation & The Black Church. A Case for Strategy, Design & Social Change. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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