Think Like An Opportunist - How To Multiply Your Impact When Engaging Communities
Missed opportunities pass us by every day. There’s nothing worse than discovering something you’ve missed out on, and then moments later realizing that opportunity may not come along again.
Have you ever discovered hidden inboxes on your social media accounts, then felt your heart drop as you realise you’ve missed the chance to collaborate with someone fantastic? They’ve reached out, you’ve had no idea, and now the opportunity has been and gone.
Have you ever rushed out the door and made it halfway to where you’re headed, when an image of that great book or sketch sitting on your bedside table - the one that would be perfect for the conversation or workshop you’re about to have - tauntingly pops into your mind? No time to go back, but now you feel less prepared than you should be… guess you just have to make do.
If only we had the foresight to identify opportunities – and take them – before they became ‘missed’.
Most projects bring with them many opportunities to compound their impact and I believe one of our most important tasks is to identify these and capitalise on them. How can the delivery of a humble community event, for example, become a vehicle for:
the launch and pilot of a new regional crowdfunding platform
testing collaboration tools and refining the workflow of a decentralized team
building engagement with an online community beyond the event itself
demonstrating a new organizational output model
building a connection to valuable capacity and experience, without huge financial costs
generating metrics that quantify your impact without hours of data collection and analysis
creating the narrative backdrop for a knock-on effect of more social impact projects aligned to your goals
Get Cheffed* was an inaugural event held in February of 2018 showcasing the local food culture of Gippsland. This is a region undergoing significant socio-economic transition and ReActivate Latrobe Valley - the organisation that I am a part of - has positioned itself as a influencer during these times of change. For us, Get Cheffed became a vehicle for all of the above, but it wasn’t designed to be that at the outset.
It was our opportunistic and layered approach to ‘production’ that got us here.
For this to happen the team behind the scenes needed to be willing to take risks and try things, and to think laterally about what kinds of value could be created through the process.
It also meant seeking out expertise strategically, even when the budget was tight, and prioritising high production value in the places that count. And, as always, timing is everything.
Without going into the detail we can pluck out the moments that made the difference and the most valuable nuggets of wisdom to take forward.
Through the event we made a point of plugging into talent, knowledge, experience, technical capacity and exposure that would have taken us decades to produce ourselves:
1. We tapped into the local food culture of Gippsland by bringing three prominent chefs into the discussion early.
They had the profile, they had the networks, they had their own social media and community presence, and they know food. Anything we did was amplified 3-fold.
2. We teamed up with Pozible to build ReActivate Base. We became the guinea pig for Pozible’s new crowdfunding platform-builder while establishing a localised digital infrastructure. We also generated an income stream from every successfully funded project. We went ahead and tested the platform, successfully crowdfunding the Get Cheffed event through ReActivate Base, proving the concept and community buy-in for both.
3. We cosied up to the 2018 National Sustainable Living Festival and registered the Get Cheffed event in the programme. This connected our event to an international audience, meaning we showed up in more feeds and searches, and were stumbled upon more often by more people outside of our typical audience, but aligned with our mission.
4. We brought in a hotshot event producer with Gippsland roots to advise us in regular, short sessions. Belinda Collins from The Social Crew has left her mark on events like White Night, Festival of Live Art, and Pause Fest and she knows the pitfalls and the hacks that can make or break events like ours.
Relative to our overall budget, this was a significant expense, but the time it saved, and the techniques we tapped into to amplify and measure our impact were invaluable.
Money well spent, and now we have that knowledge for next time.
5. We teamed up with Bank Australia and Gippslandia to find common ground and leverage each other’s inherent value and capacity. Bank Australia is a customer-owned bank that does banking with a genuine social and environmental purpose – they have capital and a social agenda. Gippslandia is a quarterly publication telling inspiring stories about all things Gippsland – they have the ability to produce beautiful images and stories and have positioned themselves as a driving force in regional transition. ReActivate Latrobe Valley is a think-and-do tank that inspires optimism by gathering and testing creative ideas for local spaces and economies – we have ideas and we’re ready to give them a crack.
This event needed to be a captivating story that could be retold into the future as new regional narratives take shape, so this was a match made in heaven.
6. We invited personalities to take part in the event but their cred needed to have more than one dimension; this event was about food as an innovative, culture shaping practice. Our guest judges each brought something special to the table besides being well-known foodies. We had a dairy farmer who runs farmers markets and uses profits from their dairy to fight mental health issues in farming communities. We had a chef who has teamed up with Megan Gale to bring a fine-dining experience to the everyday Melbourne Café culture. We had a restaurateur that coaches local schools to grow herbs and microgreens to trade with local restaurants and cafes. We had a grower and chef who creates small-scale, sumptuous food gatherings on her farm property bringing together themes of radical sustainability and slow food in casual gatherings of strangers. Our MC was a foodie, a fibre-artist and a writer – she’s now harnessing her inspiration from the event to write a Get Cheffed cookbook pairing local producers and chefs from Gippsland to profile a hyper-localised food culture.
Looking back, even in this process there were plenty of missed micro-opportunities.
There’s no way you can ever explore every potential through the process of delivering a project, but setting an intention to add layers to each step is a strategic starting point that I’d encourage.
The approach we took added layers to the delivery of the Get Cheffed event, and those have now become lasting layers of our organisation into the future.
About Get Cheffed
*Get Cheffed was a live cooking event held on February 18, 2018 in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. ReActivate Latrobe Valley were the team that brought this event to the community in 2018, and are on the lookout for an energetic and passionate team to take the reins for next year. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any leads!
More about the 2018 pilot event here.
Visit the Gippsland crowdfunding platform, Reactivate Base.
About the author
Kyle Bush is a designer and educator based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is Project Coordinator of ReActivate Latrobe Valley, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria. He is also a sessional academic at QUT and RMIT, teaching into various design disciplines at each institution, from years 1 - 5.