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Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

When K and I got back to Sydney after four years living overseas in April 2012, we weren’t aware of Vivid Festival beyond a few facebook updates noticed and then forgotten over the previous two years. I accepted a speaking invitation even, without really realising what I was getting involved with. And then May rolled around and the city lit up.

Literally.

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Vivid wasn’t just a bunch of talks, it was a showcase of the most amazing digital projection technology I’d ever seen, complimented by Burning Man-style installations around the Harbour foreshore. It was extraordinary. And that was just the “Light” part of it; there’s also a brilliant Music program and, yes, a bunch of talks which comprise the Ideas stream. Each would be an awesome festival in its own right; together than seem to energise the whole city.

Despite my rockstar fantasies it’s the Ideas section I find myself involved with again. This year I’m thrilled to be part of four events, two of them organised by my friends at Vibewire, one put on by StartSomeGood ourselves and the last a panel on the funding of creative projects organised by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

Here’s my personal program if you want to come along to any of them:

  • #fastBREAK: Save the World: A special edition of Vibewire’s monthly #fastBREAK sessions made up of rapid-fire ideas from interesting people. Instead of the usual 7.30am Friday start this is at the very civilised time of 10.30am on Sunday May 25 at the Powerhouse Museum. It also features an incredible line up of speakers, from activists to politicians to hip hop legends to and entrepreneurs. It’ll be my please to introduce them all as MC (yo yo!). Get your tickets now!
  • Funding Creative Work Now: a panel on the new ways creative work is being funded, featuring a bunch of awesome creative entrepreneurs and me! 1.30pm Thursday May 29 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Be Awesome at Crowdfunding Masterclass: I’ll be teaching a 3-hour crowdfunding masterclass sharing everything we’ve learned while helping people raise millions of dollars through crowdfunding. Find out everything you need to know to be awesome at crowdfunding and how you can use it to launch or grow your initiative. For creative or social entrepreneurs, community organisers or non-profit fundraisers. 1-4pm Thursday June 5. Some tickets still available, book now!
  • Pitch the Future: A pitch event for ideas which could change the future, hosted by Vibewire in partnership with StartSomeGood. I’ll be hosting. This should be really fun and is free so come along! Sunday June 8.

And I’ll be in there with the family tonight when they turn the lights on at 6pm.

If you’re in Sydney have a great Vivid Festival! If there’s particular events you recommend please share them in the comments below.

Photo of the Sydney Opera House lit up during Vivid Festival by Jason Meaden shared on flickr with a creative commons license.

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What an incredible feeling it was to open the Changemakers Festival at HUB Sydney on Friday night. Looking around at the smiling, supportive faces, and knowing that similar near-simultaneous openings were happening in five other cities around Australia, I felt slightly overwhelmed by joy, pride, gratitude and relief. We did it! What started as an outlandish proposal a year ago had turned into reality thanks to the work of an entirely part-time team of four which I am so honoured to have been part of.

This is the first national Changemakers Festival but there was an event of the same name held in Sydney last April, organised by the Australian Social Innovation Exchange (ASIX) led by the late, great, Steve Lawrence. It was one weekend in Sydney and while the idea and language behind it were very powerful the format and late organisation meant it wasn’t all it could be.
This Changemakers Festival version 1 was held the weekend after I got back into Australia after four years living in the US and, exhausted from packing up our house in San Francisco and the trip home, and semi-marooned on the Northern Beaches staying with K’s family, I didn’t actually make it to the event. But the concept caught my attention and I felt immediately there was so much more that could be done with it.

That April weekend as the event was taking place in Redfern I actually said to K “I’m going to run that and take it national next year.” I’m only rarely given to grand pronouncements of intent like this, and they usually don’t work out. But here I am. I had a great opportunity in September/October last year to consult with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) after they had taken over management of ASIX following Steve’s passing. I held forums in Sydney and Melbourne and interviewed 20 leading social innovators in Australia to better understand the value proposition of a community of practice around social innovation and what those involved in that community were looking for. Amongst the various recommendations I put forward I suggested that the Changemakers Festival should be re-launched as a national, open-source festival. Early this year TACSI asked me if I would be interested in making that happen.

And here we are. 154 events taking place in every state and territory, with 14 online events and opening night parties in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Alice Springs.

I’m especially proud of Sydney for how the community here has embraced this invitation. NSW has 48 events, more than any other state, with Sydney having more than any other city and HUB Sydney, with 12, hosting more events than any other venue. This is as it should be really, given Sydney is the biggest city, but the social innovation community here as long been seen as less dynamic and connected than elsewhere, so it’s very satisfying to show how far we’ve come over the past few years (most of which I spent overseas of course, so I take no credit!).

Thank you to everyone who turned out for all the Opening Night events, and I hope you’ve been enjoying the first weekend of the festival! Things really kick into gear next week with an inspiring array of gatherings, discussions, conferences and concerts.

Most of all thank you to the organisers of all the great events which make up the Changemakers Festival. Without you there would be no festival, and nothing for us to have launched on Friday. It’s been so inspiring to watch so many people and organisations respond to the invitation to be part of creating something bigger than any of us, something which reflects the diversity and energy of our community and tells the story of the Australia we are creating together. I am truly humbled by your generosity, hard work and passion.

I’m planning to attend the following events over the coming week:
Monday: Yoga for Change in the morning and the Deloitte Social Innovation Pitch event in the evening, Sydney
Tuesday: #4Good Brekky at Cafe Paramouunt in Surry Hills early, Green Drinks at HUB Sydney.
Wednesday: I’m on the panel for the Google+ Hangout “Financing Social Impact” along with a whos who of social financing, 1-2pm, then speaking at the FWD Conference in the afternoon following by Deloitte Social Innovation Pitch event, Melbourne
Thursday: Attending Progress Conference and hosting Crowdfunding for Changemakers at Ross House, 12.30-2, Melbourne
Friday: Progress, Melbourne
Saturday: I’m at Mentor at the Unleashed Summit at the Sydney Opera House
Sunday: The Unleashed Awards at the Sydney Opera House followed by Changemakers Connect, the festival closing night party at Button Bar, hosted by StartSomeGood and Think|Act|Change.

Phew! What an awesome few days!

I hope to see you at once of these events and that you find these next eight days inspiring, engaging and informative, that you meet some amazing new people, get exposed to some new stories and have the chance to share your own.

YOU are the Changemakers Festival.

Thank you.

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The fact that it is December is kind of blowing my mind. This year has gone by at the most extraordinary pace, blurring together in my memory like the countryside outside a speeding car. Moving from San Francisco back to Sydney, moving into a new apartment, starting a new job, welcoming our son Bodhi into our lives, working hard to grow StartSomeGood into a success, traveling regularly for business and pleasure.

I’m back to Melbourne this week for the Global Shifts Social Enterprise conference, my fourth trip to Melbourne in the last few months, which is completely unexpected. Two weeks ago I was there for the excellent FWD2012, Australia’s first conference on digital campaigning co-hosted by Oxfam Australia and the new Centre for Australian Progress. I flew there directly from Adelaide, where I was attending the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) Summer School. Both events but particularly SIX have left me filled with ideas and thrilled to have met so many amazing people working in this space. While Social Innovation might be hard to define the people who self-select to join this conversation are unusually passionate, creative, caring and intuitive and it was both a pleasure and an honour to spend a few days in their company.

Going back only two weeks before that I was up in Far North Queensland to see the solar eclipse, which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The November 14 2012 eclipse outside Cairns has been on my agenda since I was unable to make it to the last full solar eclipse in Australia, near Lynhurst South Australia in 2002. Since then I’ve framed many of my plans around this event: we had always planned to time our return from the US to be able to attend and even with a 3 month-old in our lives, and with the support of the greatest wife a man could hope for, I was determined not to miss it (I’d be waiting another 16 years before the next one in Australia which will be in Sydney in 2028). And wow am I glad I could make it and deeply grateful to K for making it possible for me to do so.

The Eclipse

Watching the moon blot out the sun and the day suddenly disappear into darkness was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed. It’s impossible not to be awed by the experience, by the sense of galactic scale, the realisation that we are sitting on a little rock floating in space, surrounded by other rocks. The spectacle is unique and magical: watching the moon creep across the sun until, with a final solar glare, it is gone, replaced with a dark ball in the sky surrounded by a thin line of light. We happen to live at the perfect moment in the history of the earth when this is possible, a period of only 20,000-100,000 when the moon exactly fits the sun from our vantage point, before the moon’s inexorable movement away from us at about 3cm a year leaves only partial eclipses possible. I met a guy on the plane to Cairns who was going to his 14th eclipse and now having witnessed one and I understand the instinct. I’m not going to wait until 2028 to see another  – I’ve got my eye on the Eclipse Festival in Oregon in 2017 (heads-up American friends!).

The Eclipse Festival, November 14 (click for full size)

And beyond the eclipse itself the week-long music festival held under it’s path was the best I have ever attended (note: burns are not music festivals). Incredible production, inspiring music, good food and, most importantly of all, a wonderful big group of friends there to share it with, many of whom I hadn’t see for many years or if I had only briefly. Spending time with them, and making new friends, was the true highlight of the festival (as it always is).

Bodhi continues to delight and amaze K and I. Every day he seems to have a new movement, sound or ability. This is my favourite new photo of him, from our visit to my parents property this past weekend, if you’d indulge my parental desire to show him off (I have to restrain myself from saturating Facebook with Bodhi photos):

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Lantern-making at Woodford Folk Festival

I was meant to run a workshop on social change communications at Regrowth Festival the weekend before last, at 10am on Sunday to be precise. A few things went wrong with this plan:

  • I was given the wrong workshop title in the program: “Sharehood” (a collaborative consumption website which, while cool, I have nothing to do with);
  • Instead of camping with our two-month old we were staying in the nearby town of Braidwood and got away late and took two wrong turns on the way to the site in the morning, resulting in me arriving at the workshop tent twenty minutes late, which sucked, but not too much because;
  • Only a couple of people actually turned up looking for the workshop (despite a blackboard prominently displaying the correct topic of the workshop, so can’t blame the Sharehood thing too much).

Which is fair enough. I can’t remember a time I’ve been at a music festival – let alone at 10am in the morning on Sunday, when it’s possible, just possible I’m saying, that I’ve had a late night the night before – and I’ve felt like learning about social change communications.

So this got K and I thinking, what does make a good workshop topic in this kind of setting?

Festivals are experiential. You’re not there to spent too much time in your head, you’re there to run around and dance and see friends and listen to music and hang out in your campsite and so on. The best thing about festivals is how present-ing they are. With so much immersive activity and social interaction you find yourself deeply, completely, present with everything around you.

So to firstly want to go and secondly to remember to go to a workshop requires that it be something you strongly want to participate in or learn about. We decided it required a topic which is specific enough to give a strong sense of guarantee around the outcome – ie. a specific practice like yoga which you know you enjoy, or belly dancing which you’ve always wanted to try or permaculture which you’ve always been curious about.

There’s a two-word title and it describes a specific and knowable experience or outcome. But the topic must also be general enough that sufficient people at this specific event have heard about it and are interested. And it must be actionable enough that attending makes a difference, ie. the experience is either intrinsically satisfying (yoga, dance classes, lantern making etc) or you can imagine using what you’ve learned in the near future (a how to massage, permaculture, music production, etc).

We tried to imagine what we could share at next year’s Regrowth Festival (which will be back at its usual time of Easter) which is specific, general and actionable enough, unlike my workshop this year which, while somewhat actionable, was neither specific nor general enough to attract participation. We came up with the idea of teaching a “prepare for the playa” workshop to help people plan for and go to Burning Man.

This is specific enough to be knowable – ie. you know you’re going to find out about what’s involved in attending a specific festival in Nevada. It’s general enough, given that it seems like everyone has heard of Burning Man these days (all of a sudden) and those that haven’t gone tend to have a real curiosity around it, and it’s actionable, because if you’re planning to attend next year’s Burn in August you should probably be starting to plan a little, or at least get your head around what you need to plan, by April.

Hopefully this will go a little better than this year’s effort!

What do you think of our criteria for successful festival workshops? Did you miss anything?

Photo by jemasmith via flickr, available on a creative commons license.

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