Arriving in Geraldton from years in Sweden, UK and traveling, I was holding a question about "the conditions that are enabling of sustainable human communities. My 5 year inquiry has taken the form of action-learning, contributing to projects and ventures that I (and others) assessed as high-leverage contributions to Greater Geraldton moving closer towards being a sustainable community. And, since 2011 my efforts have been primarily focused on growing Pollinators Inc.
In that 5 years, by my assessment, I've invested much more in the 'action' than then 'learning'. In the last 2 years Pollinators Inc has grown, gained momentum, and is moving beyond being a 'startup' social enterprise (i.e. nearly having a stable business model, with core services mostly independent of grant funding). That growth has taken a big investment of time and energy from a range of individuals and organisations and at times has felt a little...isolating. Strange term to use when we're growing a 'community' that's very connected, but we have consciously focused on making the enterprise work locally, so the isolation has been relative to the capital city and international networks of coworking, social innovation, social enterprise etc.
Now, it seems, the conditions are right such that the best return on investment for myself, Pollinators and Greater Geraldton may be to understand more about how what we've been doing and learning relates to other types and scales of human communities. To do this next stage of the inquiry will involve more research and engagement, in the form of conversations and collaborations with those from other regions. It's likely to take the form of some interviews and podcasts, travel, and even academic research.
In this post I'm sharing the focus, scope and nature of the first part of the next phase: an application to complete a Churchill Fellowship project for 4-8 weeks in 2015-16. It seems likely that in mid-2015 I'll start interviews, conversations and a podcast series with locals and others from across Australia who have experience in this area. Those Australian conversations will set the scene for a wider international scope.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this?
Critique, suggestions and offers of support or collaboration are welcome!
And, for those regular readers, 'no' I don't count this as something 'new' as per my 2015 resolutions!
Growing innovation in communities as a contribution to local and global outcomes.
Local communities that are deliberately fostering social innovation may create more than good local outcomes: they may have global influence. This project will look at communities (especially smaller city regions) where the success of multiple local innovations has attracted global attention. The intention is to how local innovations emerged and were grown, and if (and how) the global attention has been contributive. These learnings will be relevant for Australian communities seeking to grow innovation ‘ecosystems’. The intended benefit is to encourage more Australian communities to be ‘good for the world’ by growing successful local innovations that also have global influence.
Knowledge and Dissemination
The project focus will be on understanding and documenting:
- Factors that contributed to multiple local innovations succeeding,
- Way in which local innovations are documented, celebrated and disseminated,
- What enables communities to ‘learn’ – locally and from each other,
- If and how these communities have benefited from their global contribution.
Dissemination of the knowledge gained will be through:
- Case studies published online and a podcast series (in planning),
- Presentations (in-person and online) to networks, communities and conferences,
- Highlighting relevant ideas or initiatives to specific people or communities,
- Application of knowledge in Geraldton, which is increasingly being looked to for its leadership on various social innovations.
Benefit to Australia
The project’s intention is that more Australian communities are ‘generative’ i.e. aligning innovation and benefit at the local, regional and global scales. This project focus is on sharing insights into the conditions and characteristics of innovative communities, and on the experience and impact of attracting global attention.
This project has emerged due to my experience in a city where deliberative democracy, social enterprise, health, and education initiatives have all attracted some national or international attention. As the success and attention on these individual innovations has ebbed and flowed, questions have arisen including: how to sustain the local initiatives; the balance of resources invested in local, regional and international networks; and how to best present and engage with other cities and regions for mutual (and global) benefit.
This project is timely due to Geraldton’s position, and the awareness that other cities and regions similarly aspire to be ‘innovative’ and form ‘alliances’ for local benefit, to share learning and also to gain a competitive advantage in global markets. Thus this project that has emerged from local observations may have benefits to many cities and regions in similar situations, and contribute to a more innovative and prosperous Australia.