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The Changemakers Festival is over for 2013. After 155 events in every state and territory attended by more than 5,000 people, and after personally attending 14 of those events, it’s time to step back and appreciate what just happened.

We are so grateful for the participation of so many organisations and individuals around the country. Events were hosted by corporations, universities, social enterprises, non-profits, community groups and individuals. They ranged from pitch competitions to participatory workshops, film screenings to panels, major conferences to yoga and mindfulness courses. Deloitte hosted social enterprise pitch nights in all 11 of their offices around Australia, the most of any organisation. Hub Sydney hosted 12 events, the most of any venue.

Online events included Google+ Hangouts, twitter chats and webinars. Progress conference brought together 600 changemakers in Melbourne’s Town Hall and the Transitions Film Festival premiered a program of social change films in Adelaide. #4Good Brekky meetups happened in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Byron Bay early in the morning and the Green Drinks meetups happened in Sydney and Brisbane in the evenings. Opening Night events were held in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Alice Springs with 500 people turning up.
We estimate 5,000 people attended a Changemakers Festival event in total. Thank you all for turning up and being part of this conversation. Your voice is important.

Thank you also to our sponsors who backed us in this first year as a national distributed festival and allowed us to make it happen. Organisational sponsor The Australian Centre for Social Innovation has been an incredible home for the Changemakers Festival. Principal sponsor Deloitte threw themselves into the Festival. Supporting Sponsors were the Macquarie Foundation, ING Direct, Good Design, The Government of South Australia, The Steve Lawrence Innovation Fund, IN Daily and StartSomeGood. Thank you all for your vision and your support.

On a personal level thank you to TACSI for embracing this idea and inviting me to help make it real. Thank you to the amazingly talented team I worked with, who all did so much with such limited time and resources. Carolyn, Elise, Ryan, Christian and Natasha, it’s been such a pleasure to work with and get you to know you all better.

I was lucky enough to get to 13 great events during the ten days, 7 in Sydney, 5 in Melbourne and 1 online. They included Yoga for Change and the #4Good Brekky meet-up early a couple of morning, Deloitte-hosted social enterprise pitch events in Sydney and Melbourne, the FWD and Progress conferences and Unleashed Summit at the Opera House. I presented the youth-led organisation of the year at the Unleashed Awards which was a great honour. And to wrap the whole thing up StartSomeGood and Think|Act|Change threw the closing night party at Button Bar. Despite my fears that the awful weather would kill our attendance heaps of great people came out and it was a lot of fun. As had been the trend all week I met interesting, passionate, inspiring people.

It has genuinely been one of the great weeks of my life. I met so many great people and heard so many great ideas and stories. And this is what it’s all about. It’s about coming together and sharing our unique perspectives. It’s about learning from one another and supporting one another to make a difference.

This is just the beginning. I’m super-excited to build on this platform and take the festival to a completely new level in 2014. I hope you’ll be part of it!

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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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From the Melbourne forum

TACSI, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, has recently taken over management of ASIX, The Australian Social Innovation Exchange, and are exploring how best to carry on their work of connecting and enabling innovators. I’ve am thrilled to be participating in this process by facilitating the input of social entrepreneurs, innovators and those who support their work to help guide the way forward.

This is happening in three ways:

Firstly with 18 Individual interviews with 18 thought-leaders in our sector, including social entrepreneurs such as Brad Krauskopf from Hub Melbourne, Rebecca Scott from STREAT, Brodie McCullock from Space3 in Perth and Marcus Westbury from Renew Australia. Organisations represented include the Foundation for Young Australians, Social Traders, The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Centre for Social Impact and the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence. It’s a real treat to be able to speak with all these inspiring and committed changemakers and a big responsibility to reflect their insights to the TACSI board.

Secondly we’re hosting public workshops in Melbourne and Sydney.

Thirdly if you’re reading this I’d love you to take ten minutes to fill out this survey.

We all seem to understand instinctively that social innovation emerges best from a supportive community with a diversity of participants and support. The question becomes: how do we achieve that? What is the role than an organisation like TACSI and a program like ASIX can play in helping to foster both a community of innovators and a culture of innovation.

If you care about social innovation in Australia and how social innovators can best be supported this is a chance to help set a direction that makes a real difference for all of us. The survey will only take a few minutes (only six questions!) and your contributions will help guide my report to the board of TACSI and help them map a way forward for ASIX which supports our community and the work that needs doing to create better futures.

This is all happening very fast with my report due next week so the survey will only remain open until Saturday morning. Please check it out.
You can also follow the conversation and share your thoughts on Twitter via the #asixnext hashtag.

Thanks!

If you have any questions about the unification of ASIX and TACSI they should be directed to Martin Stewart-Weeks, a director on the TACSI board and co-founder and Chair of ASIX.

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