Sweet Notions Already Shows What Future Mission and Ministry Will Look Like

Summary: This post profiles Sweet Notions, the most recent social enterprise start-up element in the Matryoshka Haus international network. I see this decentralized network as a forerunner in missional ministries and Kingdom enterprises. With nearly a decade track record to its credit, Matryoshka Haus continues to develop organically with components of contextual discipleship, creative collaboration, micro-businesses, and social transformation movements.

Sweet Notions “rethinks * restores * and reclaims” through sales of donated fashion accessories. It also sponsors Design Camps – a safe environment for empowering women by training them in marketable skills to “upcycle” accessories. Sweet Notions is definitely an ongoing case study to watch, if you want to see more than glimpses now of what holistic mission and ministry will look like later.

Snapshots of QBL (Quadruple Bottom Line) Ministry

Everyone wonders now and again what the future could look like.

For instance, just this week several very intriguing big-picture dialogues have gotten underway on future-oriented topics. On Ed Stetzer’s blog, the MissionShift series will look at the past, present, and future of “mission.” On David Fitch’s blog, a recent post tackles whether specific ministry models are helpful and harmful, and this includes considering future consequences to how we do things in the present. These two blogs consistently draw in relatively wide audiences for thoughtful exchanges, and are worth taking a look at.

Here we are in the second decade of the third millennium, and questions of which-one and how-to for ministry methods and models are still crucial and relevant. I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. What I do see changing some is the desire people express to see HOW these paradigms or those ministry models actually look when disciples have lived them out for a while. And on that particular angle, I would commend to you Sweet Notions.

From what I foresee as the directions cultural trends are driving future ministry, a typical profile of core values and operational systems for Kingdom enterprises will eventually look like what Sweet Notions’ profile already does.

The most recent enterprise in a chain of visionary social transformation outreaches, Sweet Notions was catalyzed by Shannon Hopkins and Jessica Stricker, key leaders in the Matryoshka Haus network. (For a mini-case study on Matryoshka Haus, see the bottom half of this post.). Sweet Notions seeks to “upcycle” donated fashion accessories, sell them through pop-up shops and events, and integrate Design Camps into this process. (Upcycling is the practice of taking something that is being disposed of and transforming it into something of greater use and value.) The Camps empower vulnerable women affected by homelessness, human trafficking, and their refugee status to refurbish and repurpose outdated donated accessories for resale. As the women develop marketable skills, they also begin to see how they can repurpose their lives.

I could write a whole blog post that tracks how Sweet Notions emerged, what principles it uses for positive transformational impact, and where it seems to be heading. And I will likely do that sometime, but instead, for now, I really think it would be well worth your time to SEE it and not just read it. Watch a masterful and delightful 3-minute video on the Sponduly site for project fundraising:

Sponduly – Sweet Notions

If you like what you see, then please LIKE it on Facebook, Tweet it, share the link. And, if you’re so inclined, please donate on the Sponduly site … Sweet Notions is hoping to win a £500 prize and raise their goal of £2011 to help with the core costs of running the Design Camps. You can also keep up with Sweet Notions on their Facebook page.

Sweet Notions truly is a worthy cause, and you’ll also get more than just a glimpse from them of what future mission and ministry looks like …

More About Matryoshka Haus

In fact, for nearly a decade, I have been tracking what became Matryoshka Haus, which is the overarching network designed to catalyze multiple expressions of Christlike “quadruple bottom line” – community, ecology, economy, and spirituality. In other words, it uses a systems approach to service that proves itself good for people, the planet, profits, and personal transformation. I believe this network is ahead of the curve when it comes to Kingdom transformation enterprises. Part of what makes Matryoshka Haus unique is its focus on catalyzing new, sustainable start-ups – not on specific locales or people groups, programs or products, but on a reproducible start-up process that leads to a sustainable structure, regardless of what kind of specific enterprise or issue is involved. Also, at this point, it draws from an international “pick list” of participants in Australia, Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Europe – so but don’t be surprised if that range expands through natural networking over time …

Matryoshka are the Russian nesting dolls, and Matryoshka Haus ministries are intentionally created to fit with and within one another. They are also designed from an organic approach that helps them be viable, reproducible, and sustainable, and also to have components that can be virtual and international. I have been writing about Matryoshka Haus activities for quite a while now. I add new pieces to their historical profile every so often, and other parts are already on the web, produced by other participants. Absorb these stories and the principles they demonstrate, and I think you’ll better understand:

  • How an organic, multigenerational network forms, unfolds, and disciples people. “Launching the Training Trail,” a history of what became Matryoshka Haus: Part 1 (2003, origins), Part 2 (2004-2007, unfoldings, which includes the networks’ core values).
  • How an interactive art exhibition or other event can draw from many communities on multiple continents. Doxology Art Exhibition (2005) Introduction and “Reflections on Doxology” Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • How a social transformation movement to address the demand side of human trafficking can also become a successful campaign for political change. The Truth Isn’t Sexy (2006-2008).
  • How an international network can draw from local and virtual participants to create practical and accessible organizational tools for social transformation systems. The Fourth Bottom Line: Spiritual Transformation (2009). The Transformational Index (2009-present).
  • How a search for sustainability in ministry can lead to a ministry that helps women from difficult backgrounds rebuild a healthy life that is sustainable. Sweet Notions (2008-present)

For overviews and images for many Matryoshka Haus projects, check out Shannon Hopkins’ website.

UPDATE December 2011: My friend Becky Garrison wrote an article on “fashion that impacts social change.” It features Sweet Notions and Nomi Network, both of which use fashion production as a means to empower women from vulnerable backgrounds as they learn skills and produce eco-friendly clothing and accessories. Check out her article on Halogen TV’s site: Let Your Fashion Make a Statement For Social Justice.