The Big Idea had a web presence long before it was a project per se, which was a first for Iriss. We set up a blog to provide access to information about our idea as widely as possible, and at any time of day. We wanted to attract interest from far and wide, and outside of our usual reach of social service organisations, so we needed to be online. From this starting point we used all the routes of communication we knew to reach people: our mailing list, partnership organisations, the champions network, our host of social media accounts, and direct mailings to community councils and facilitators.
When we came to planning the two workshop events to kick off the project, we had a set of values that we wanted to adhere to because we felt it was important that we work in the way communities work best: with organic growth and at their own pace. We also wanted to give attendees the opportunity to experience not only what it is like to work collaboratively with us, but also what it might be like to work with each other – a mixture of friends, colleagues and strangers.
Also central to our values was the spirit of exploration and curiosity. We wanted this to come through not only in the way that conversations were conducted in the room, but also in what messages and questions people could take from the event into their communities to further the conversation and explore local issues and the appetite for change. A continued wider conversation was imperative for the project to gain traction between the two workshops. However, working together on explorative and evolving projects requires a dedication to openness which can make some people feel uncomfortable. Our approach was to build in the workshops elements of creativity, such as mug painting and asset mapping, for the attendees to become at ease with expressing themselves, their skills and knowledge. We wanted to level the conversation in the room so that each person could explore their vision for collaboration, while feeling understood and respected.
Our vision was that attendees at the first session would recruit teams of community members (organisations and residents) that would join them in developing a plan for their community. We therefore ensured that people attending the first workshop could leave the session with information that they could pass on to people in their community who might be interested to join in the second session. For this purpose we asked attendees to write a letter to their community that they could use as a talking point, we distributed cards with link to the project initiation blog, and we kept the phone lines open so that anyone interested in hearing more, or discussing their own possible involvement could contact Iriss for a chat.
We managed to create a lot of interest, and a great buzz in the room on both of the workshop days. The only drawbacks were people’s availability which is a permanent, but growing, issue in the sector. Taking a whole day out of one’s schedule to attend a speculative ‘ideas event’ can be difficult to justify for many. We continue to adapt our approaches to fit with what is possible for stakeholders to commit to.
– It keeps us flexible and creative. It’s difficult, but it’s no bad thing.
Written by Rikke Iversholt