Posts Tagged ‘Changemakers Festival’

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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Kate grabbing a quick moment to work on her campaign

Kate grabbing a quick moment to work on her campaign

My wife Kate has been running a crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood over the last three weeks, to launch the first offering from her yoga-focused social enterprise, Yoga for Change.

It’s been inspiring to watch her prepare, launch and run her campaign, and I couldn’t be prouder of her for her success in reaching her full goal of $2,000. This will allow her to set up her social enterprise, purchasing insurance, getting her first aid certificate and investing in mats to take to her classes, then running 5 morning classes at Hub Sydney from November 4-8, as part of The Changemakers Festival. (As of this writing the campaign has 16 hours to run so you can still contribute and get some great rewards!).

Watching the way she’s made this happen has given me a new appreciation for the work we’re doing at StartSomeGood to support emerging changemakers like Kate. As most of you know we have a 13 month-old who Kate has been taking care of full-time. So she only has limited snatches of time to work on her campaign when Bodhi is sleeping or with relatives. This is not so different from many of those using our site to pursue their dreams I think. While most wouldn’t have toddlers underfoot necessarily they often have full-time jobs they’re holding down while working on their social initiative on the side.

Watching Kate juggle her various responsibilities has made me see the importance of the way we approach things, and has been a good example of some of the techniques that help crowdfunding campaigns succeed. Here are a few things I’ve thought about:

You have to be brave

I remember when Kate’s campaign went live. She’d be preparing for this moment for weeks. She had good rewards and a solid plan. She’d lined up her first donors. But when the campaign was suddenly live on the internet she looked at me and said “I suddenly feel scared.” Crowdfunding is scary. You have to put yourself and your ideas out there. You have to do something people are often bad at, which is ask for help. You have to be personal and therefore vulnerable.

Only those who have the courage to try have the possibility of success.

It has to be easy (enough)

With Kate only having limited bits of time to make this happen it was abundantly clear to me how important ease of use and communicate is. A crowdfunding platform like StartSomeGood allows people to set themselves up and offer something to their community much more quickly and easily than setting up your own website and then driving everyone to it. That allows entrepreneurs to get on with telling their story and inspiring support without worrying about the technical stuff. Crowdfunding isn’t easy, it definitely takes hard work as Kate would attest, but where we can make it easier that’s what we’ll strive to do!

Support and advice matters

One of our values is being a partner to all those looking to use our site. This means we’re not just a self-serve platform, we’re a collaborator. We offer advice, suggestions and encouragement to all the projects using our site to help increase their chance of success. For Kate I think our advice around rewards and storytelling has made a difference.

Offer real rewards

Kate’s campaign offers rewards of real value. Obviously passes to the actual yoga classes but also tank-tops with “Yoga: Be the Change” on them and lovely sustainable yoga matts. With a business Kate is able to access wholesale rates, allowing her to offer these mats at approximately what they cost at retail, making it really easy for anyone thinking they’d like a new mat to purchase one via her campaign. She didn’t try to ramp the price up to maximise her return, she priced it according to what the market was used to paying.

When setting her campaign up she was undecided about whether to offer metal drink bottles or tank tops. She put the question out to her community on facebook and got 20 responses running heavily in favour of the tank tops, so that is what she offered. That’s 20 people who had input into her campaign and probably felt a greater sense of involvement than they would have otherwise, making them more likely to then contribute (to get the tank top they said they wanted).

Be generous

As part of her promotion Kate has written guest blogs for a couple of yoga studies, to better reach the Sydney yoga tribe. She’s done a lunchtime talk on personal sustainability at the Hub, the better connect with the people who work there. She’s also been running free yoga classes for friends in our home studio for the past couple of months, encouraging their generosity in return when her campaign launched.

Give of yourself and others will give back to you. Support your tribe and they will support you back.

Thank you to everyone who supported Kate’s campaign, I can’t wait to do yoga with many of you in November!

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