If you’ve read our blog or listened to our podcast, you know that we talk a lot about problem-solving. We exist to teach children to solve problems, start businesses, and create innovative solutions to lead their families and communities out of poverty.

In Episode 18 of the Canopy Life podcast, Christi and Evan discuss how Canopy Life is addressing BIG problems by first solving the small ones.

It may seem like the best way to solve problems is to solve the big problems, but today we want to flip that on its head and provide one way that you, the reader, can solve big problems in our world with a seemingly small act...

Here’s what we mean by problem-solving:

To solve a problem means to create a solution that eliminates a barrier or overcomes a challenge. In the Canopy Life context, it includes a lot of values.

There are ways of solving a problem that are more effective than other ways. For instance, if you solve a problem, but come to the solution through unethical means, you haven’t actually solved the problem.

 Solving a problem involves empathy for another, creative thinking, challenging assumptions, imagining or improvising, being an ethical decision-maker. It means exploring and creating in a climate of change, risks, and setbacks, but ultimately creating ideas and products with value and meaning attached.

When we say problem-solving, what we really mean is innovative problem-solving: creating ideas and products with value and meaning attached.  It requires finding a solution that serves others. There’s a deeper meaning connected to the solution. To us, that’s a greater version of problem-solving.

innovative problem solving

Why should we value learning to solve problems more than just solving the problem itself?

We humans have a great desire to solve big problems. What we forget sometimes is that there are other problems to be solved that were created by solving the problem before it. Because of this, we value learning to solve problems more than just solving the problem itself.

Solving a problem is still important. Teaching people how to solve problems will solve more problems than the one problem.

Christi Gordy, Canopy Life Podcast Episode 18

At Canopy LIfe, we emphasize listening and empathy to avoid some of the pitfalls of new problems, but it’s still unavoidable. Every solution, especially the successful ones, will always create new problems. Empathy helps make sure, as we are co-laboring toward solutions together, we are doing it in collaboration with the person that will benefit from the solution.

Here’s a great example of how providing a solution can sometimes create a new problem.

To solve the BIG problems, we solve small problems.

To solve big problems we solve small problems. There’s the quintessential quote: How do you eat an elephant? The answer is “one bite at a time.”

As Jordan Peterson says, “If you want to change the world, make your bed in the morning.” Start with what you have control over. I think I would define responsibility as the ability to respond to the world around you. It’s not taking control over things. It’s responding to what’s around you in the present moment.

Evan Chasteen, Canopy Life Podcast Episode 18

“It can be something as small as waking up each morning and making your bed.  Suddenly, you’re no longer using up brainpower to do that, and a more orderly life will lead you to more margin and order to tackle bigger things. A seemingly small, habitual solution can lead to solving very big problems.”

Christi Gordy, Episode 18

Child Sponsorship at Canopy Life is a “seemingly small act” but it solves very big problems in our world, and on a smaller scale, in Kenya and the communities of the students at Canopy Life.

Sponsoring through Canopy Life seems like the solution to a couple of small problems: Connecting children to others and predictable income for Canopy Life. If these two problems are solved, what bigger problems are also taken care of?

Among so many other things, sponsorship impacts unity, a sense of hope, and because our students are sponsored no matter what tribe they come from, restoration out of division, helping to break down tribal barriers. Sponsorship sends the message to our students, “You’re worth my time and investment,” and that message brings our students dignity, self-awareness of their personal purpose, and hope for their future.

Those seem like very big problems to tackle. Even Canopy Life can’t tackle those problems on our own. It’s like we have all been given a string to pull on a very large tapestry. When we all pull those strings at the same time -through our own sponsorships and commitments- together, we have the power to unravel this very big tapestry to solve very big problems.

Christi Gordy, Episode 18


Depending on how you sign up for sponsorship, it can even restore choice and agency to kids in poverty. In February, we allowed our students to choose their sponsors for the very first time. We asked people to sign up as a Handpicked sponsor but to NOT select a student. Instead, we took the sponsors’ photos to Kenya, and Canopy Life students got to pick their own sponsors. It was SO powerful.

solving problems Canopy Life

Handpicked specifically restores choice and agency to students at Canopy Life.  When you live in a rural, poor community, there are not many options or choices for these kids. Imagine never having had much choice or options to choose. And then you get to pick the person who is going to love on, partner with and champion your dreams!

Sometimes, the child’s reason for picking that sponsor is something simple, like “they had a dog in the photo,” but it’s still their choice. It’s a really big deal.  It solves a big problem with a small, simple act like signing up to be #handpicked, instead of just signing up to sponsor a specific child.

You can be one of the 30 people who impact the future of Kenyan leadership by investing in our students.

We want to do this again, and we need more people to get involved. Specifically this month we are looking for 27 more sponsors to join.

To sponsor a child, visit our sponsorship page by clicking the link below, or find out more about Handpicked here.

Canopy Life podcast solving problems
Stream on iTunes and Spotify.