Last weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to Offline Festival with our good friends Ethos Magazine. The first festival of its kind that puts community at the top of their agenda, with a weekend full of camping, music, talks and workshops.
“It’s like your AGM, but without the boring bits”
The festival was curated by a company called Project Dirt, a web based company connecting and resourcing community projects. Their vision is to make the world a better place by helping people in local communities work together. It was all made possible with funding from Power to change, who work with community businesses to revive local assets, protect services and local needs.
Off we go!
I packed up the fiat 500 with plenty of red wine, 4 boxes of Ethos Magazines and our Favourite Digital Marketer, Jenny. We arrived quite late after getting lost around the many roundabouts of Milton Keynes, so we missed the welcome drinks with the CEO of Project Dirt, Nick Gardener. We did make it in time for the sing along social though.
The next morning we had all the best intentions of going to the 8am Pilates, but opted for a slower morning of eating and planning what we would see throughout the day. Starting with a cup of tea from Hackney herbal (followed by several more) and some breakfast from the Oat Kitchen.
The Power Forum.
Our First talk of the day was ‘Imagine Better’ with Futurist, Ed Gillespie, in the Power Forum tent. Ed wrote the book ‘Only Planet’ after he travelled the world without using aeroplanes. A co-founder of Futerra, a change agency that specialises in business transformation and creative communications, Ed’s passion is sustainability and renewable energy.
He talked quickly and passionately about what he called the 7 C’s – Context, Compassion, creativity, co-operation, choice, connection and conciseness – and how we as businesses can and should work to make sustainability normal.
Can you make money and keep your morals?
After a generous helping of Paella from Red Moon Roots, it was back to the Power Forum for a panel discussion on how you can achieve your vision without compromising your morals. The conversation explored the reality of keeping your values at the heart of your organisation. Chaired by Ed Gillespie, we heard from Alex Smith founder of Alara Cereals, Ethical Coach Jen Gale; Russ Spollin from Redfest and Phil Geraghty from Crowdfunder.
Turns out you can make money and keep your morals. If you focus on what you do well and believe in, growth will come naturally. Its always reassuring to hear from other people who work in community business and have managed to still peruse the same values that they set out in the beginning.
4 points I took away from the panel:
- Do the right thing honourably.
- Don’t let bureaucracy and policy get in the way of just doing it.
- Recruit for values – Skills can be learned.
- Being financially secure allows you freedom to help others.
A volunteer tool kit.
Our last talk of the day was ‘The Volunteer tool Kit: Creating and equal balance’, in the Eden Project yurt. The Eden project is an educational charity and social enterprise, founded in 1998 on an old china clay pit, the project shows that environmental regeneration is possible. This session was lead by Peter Leftort from the Eden Project and focused on how you can engage volunteers in your vision, support them to bring their skills and feel part of the community. We heard from Environmental educator Alice Hemming, Amber Alferoff from the federation of city farms and gardens and Julia Makin who works for London Open Spaces developing a positive and productive culture of volunteering.
As a member of a volunteer led company, this gave me interesting incite in to how other organisations work with volunteers. Volunteers cost your company on average £45 per person, whilst the volunteer is giving you their free time. Its important that both parties get as much out of the experience as possible.
5 ways to build resilience in volunteers:
- Balance – a good balance of structure and fun. Because having fun is motivating.
- Good role description – including training and inductions.
- Understanding what is unique and different about our volunteers
- What working methods are good for them.
- Devolving authority – instead of traditionally relying on one person they have ownership over their rolls.
We left the festival refreshed from the clear crisp air and full of inspiring ideas from the talks. So much so we almost didn’t notice the unnatural mount of roundabouts driving home. Overall it was a relaxing and encouraging weekend getting back to basics and remembering why we started what we do. Next time ill get up early and make more of the other other activities available, like SPOON WHITTLING!
Looking forward to next year!