Round Up of the Regional Innovation Facilitator Tour

The second annual Meshpoints Facilitator Training Tour was a great success, building on the knowledge gained through previous learning modules for our fast growing network of facilitators from across regional Western Australia, taking in innovation hubs in both the Metro and Midwest. The tour enhances work carried out by Meshpoints over the past 12 months to support strong innovation ecosystems across regional Western Australia. By recognising the unique challenges and opportunities in our regions, Meshpoints are able to engage relevant practitioners and spaces that have “been there, done that” to ensure lessons learnt aren’t lost along the way, improving sustainability and efficiency of financial spend for partners and funders alike.

The 2018 Regional Innovation Facilitator Cohort

The tour was preceded by a set of learning modules covering

  • leading and learning (vision and values),

  • effective relationships (communication and stakeholder relationships),

  • innovation fundamentals (stages and support), and

  • growing community (platforms and momentum).

These learning modules were delivered remotely via interactive web-conference allowing for participants from the Pilbara, Metro, South West and Great Southern to interact weekly through online video, then complete a series of follow-up activities and reporting on those activities. This digital approach to teaching and learning enabled practitioners that are essentially ‘alone’ in their regions, to connect, support and learn from others without having to leave their region.

Getting a first hand intro to Spacecubed

The tour was held over two days in March (building on the one-day tour model of 2017) to provide facilitators with on the ground training in the operational aspects of coworking, networking and learning programs, develop collaborative projects, action plans and gain exposure to diverse examples across multiple contexts that could then be applied back in their region. The tour cemented the learnings from the initial learning modules, and allowed for the critical ‘face to face time’ regional practitioners often lack. Feedback from the tour was extremely positive, with an overall satisfaction rating of 98% and comments such as “I loved being a part of the tour, to experience community collaboration and activation in action” and “great to work through an action plan and reflect on our two days of learning”. The mood over the two days was busy but jovial, with participants enjoying the first day based in Perth, working with space, community and host leads from Spacecubed, Flux/Core Innovation Hub, Impact Seed and Meshpoints, followed by lunch with key industry networks then a tour to Fremantle to take in some privately owned coworking spaces, with a hard earned refresher at Strange Company to round out the day.

City Hive in Geraldton

 Day two kicked off with early flights up to Geraldton where Angie West from Pollinators and City Hive welcomed the cohort and we took in a tour of the historical parts of Geraldton, and then we were back into the brain work. The sessions on day two covered a myriad of different areas including space fit out, activation and digital systems. For the business sustainability session we were lucky enough to connect with a previous Pollinators board member (via video link up) to learn firsthand about the history and varied models of Pollinators and City Hive since its inception.

Over a delicious lunch the practitioners spent time getting to know the community of Pollinators including tenants and board members, which was enlightening and inspiring. The participants then explored Pollinators’ extensive activation of the Geraldton town centre, and met with creatives that have successfully activated disused areas and buildings for multiple uses, creating a sense of community and celebration in Geraldton. The time spent in the Midwest was so valuable and added another dimension to the tour, with those involved really appreciating the differences in context, community, and operational considerations between Perth and Geraldton.

A little time for fun and games

 For anyone that wasn’t able to join us this year, expressions of interest are being taken by katie@meshpoints.com or chandra@meshpoints.com. Feel free to get in touch for further learning modules and to talk about becoming part of the Western Australian Innovation Facilitator Network.

Regional Innovation Facilitator Tour

All regional innovation practitioners are invited to join a two day training tour on 8th and 9th March, in Perth and Geraldton.

The purpose is to build capability in those leading innovation in the regions through their work as facilitators, entrepreneurs, incubator hosts, support service providers, and in government. The tour will include specific training modules, workshops, networking and time with the people behind incubators, accelerators and investment programs. This face-to-face activity complements the online training modules and practitioner network.

If you are interested in joining the tour, limited places are still available, please contact us:
Katie@meshpoints.com or Chandra@meshpoints.com

The tour will provide participants with on the ground training in the operational aspects of coworking, networking and learning programs, develop collaborative projects and share learnings with other regions, as well as developing updated action plans for progressing ventures and professional development.

The tour comes at a particularly relevant time as regional innovation facilitators state wide look to form collaborative partnerships to access funding from the State, and Federal Incubator Fund.

With the tour already attracting participants from the Pilbara, Mid West, Metro area, and South West of Western Australia, it will provide invaluable network connections and relationship building opportunities, as well as the chance to meet and greet with local industry and sector partners.

If you are interested in joining the tour, limited places are still available, please contact us:
Katie@meshpoints.com or Chandra@meshpoints.com

The tour builds on work carried out by Meshpoints over the past 12 months to support strong innovation ecosystems across regional Western Australia. By recognising the unique challenges and opportunities in our regions, Meshpoints are able to engage relevant practitioners and spaces that have “been there, done that” to ensure lessons learnt aren’t lost along the way, improving sustainability and efficiency of financial spend for partners and funders alike.

Tour objectives

  1. Training in operational aspects of coworking, networking and learning programs

  2. Meet relevant industry and sector contacts to progress partners

  3. Develop collaborative projects and share learning with other regions

  4. Exposure to diverse examples with aspects appropriate for their region

  5. Develop updated action plans for progressing ventures and professional development

Training topics

  1. Space - practical guidance on making spaces “work” fit-out and activation: office, coworking, events, creative industries

  2. Community - practical guidance on curating communities: calendars, events and technology platforms

  3. Hosting - how to effectively relate to new and potential customers: ethos, services, communication, procedures

  4. Incubation - planning and delivery of venture support: programs, costs, scheduling, facilitation

  5. Collaboration - tips on facilitating collaboration in your region: sectors, ventures, locations

  6. Sustainability - key challenges and tips for financial sustainability and delivering outcomes

Tour schedule (details subject to change)

2018-2021 Regional Innovation Recommendations

Below and attached in a presentation are our current recommendations for growing WA’s regional innovation capability and ecosystem.

This is a critical area of need.

The State Innovation Strategy and and innovation ecosystem maturity model emphasises how capability and connectivity amplify investments in infrastructure or initiatives in specific regions or industries.

All relevant state government agencies and Ministers have requested our advice in this area, and we are reaching out to Federal agencies too.

These recommendations have been consistently made in a range of WA government strategies and reports since 2013. In 2017-18 we reviewed the recommendations, and in consultation with regions demonstrated the need, merit and benefit has only grown.

What we haven't yet seen is what is needed: follow-through, commitment and collaboration on implementation.

If you want to collaborate on growing our regions through innovation, please get in touch.

Principles

The recommendations are aligned with the pillars in the State Innovation Strategy, and the ‘Innovation Ecosystem Maturity Model’ adapted from Advance Queensland and presented in the Regional Addendum.

Key principles and assumptions include:

  • Align - funding with intended impact, and align programs across governments

  • Outreach - communicating effectively with regions takes time and investment

  • Leverage - off existing initiatives: hubs, networks, funds, programs, events

  • Grow - be strategic about growing local ecosystems as per maturity model

  • Target - target sectors, locations to deliver the most benefit locally, and for the state

Recommendations for 2018-2021

These recommendations are not in priority order. They are specific to the scope of:

  • Focus: state-level initiatives, reaching all relevant regions

  • Excluding: region or industry-specific actions, ‘regionalising’ existing programs (e.g. IOTY), cross-agency cooperation on innovation (in itself a very important action).

A. Mapping and Reporting

B. Champion capacity building

C. Digital connectivity hubs

D. Access to education

E. Showcases and investment

We estimate a 3-year government investment (Federal, State and Local) of $1.7 million over 3 years would leverage 100 to 200% cash and in-kind leverage from partners.

Details of the recommendations are in the presentation below - click image to view/download.

We can provide full details of precedent programs (previous, interstate, piloted or currently running) for all of these recommendations.

Contact us for further details and to collaborate on implementation. 

Growing capability in the regions through online training

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We recently completed a very successful pilot of online training for regional innovation facilitators. Below is a summary of the structure, outcomes and how you can get involved in future programs.

Context

This training was in response to strong demand from practitioners and clients for appropriate training, and recognition that there was nothing else appropriate available. The modules were designed as per the purpose and principles in the overview to provide professional development for regional innovation facilitators. This training was specifically complementary to individual mentoring and practitioner action-learning calls and discussion forums.

Practically, each module needed 4 hours of attention from the practitioner to participate in a web conference, discuss questions in the online forums, and undertake practical tasks in their community that advanced both their venture and learning. Each session was designed and documented to the same standards as used in TAFE, specifying: learners needs, requirements, and the intended knowledge, skills and learning. We also deliberately developed the content and format to mirror what facilitators may deliver to ventures in their space or network i.e. participants learned about how to deliver learning while learning useful content. 

Delivery

The modules were designed as overviews, or as one participant called them "wormholes", where a whole domain of expertise was covered and where it may take years to learn all aspects. The content was contextualised specifically for WA and drew on theory, practice, case studies and a library of more than 67 documents (e.g. templates, blog posts, audio recordings) were provided to supplement participants learning. Module topics were:

  • Module 0 - Facilitator induction: assessments and agreements
  • Module 1 - Leading and learning: vision and values
  • Module 2 - Effective relationships: stakeholders and communication
  • Module 3 - Innovation fundamentals: stages and support
  • Module 4 - Growing community: platforms and momentum

The four participants (from Albany, Bunbury, Port Hedland and Newman) expressed excitement that this training was available and extremely satisfied with its delivery: immediate post-webconference participants rated an average of 95% for all modules; post-module evaluations rated 85% overall, 95% for facilitator, 95% for content. 

The training was also effective in being directly beneficial to their ventures and regions, as participants immediately put knowledge and skills into practice in their region. Examples include:

  • New customers e.g. researching and reaching new audiences using new methods
  • Business planning e.g. used templates and examples in a strategic planning session
  • Access to resources e.g. found new opportunities relevant to ventures in their region
  • Grew new networks e.g. actions to grow new communities in their location

Next

For the participants, each was offered a debrief and mentoring session to identify learning wants and needs. These ranged from skills in curating community-generated news content to knowledge of the evolutionary stages of sustainable regional social enterprises. Excitingly, several participants and practitioners are expert in areas that others want to learn in, illuminating a pathway for cross-regional collaboration on delivery.

For the program, the evaluation identified possible changes to its intensity (e.g. one module per fortnight, less content per module) and potential to involve other guest mentors and presenters. There is also an option to make the upcoming 'Training Tour' in Perth and Geraldton a part of the learning modules.

Additional resources are required to deliver this again to a wider audience, and to extend the modules and library to new topics (e.g. governance and sustainability for innovation networks) and in more detail on existing areas (e.g. space fit-out and activation).

For those interested in accessing this training or collaborating on its delivery, please get in touch!

The subtleties of branding and communication in the regions

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Part of Meshpoints scope of work with Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Shire of Newman on two projects has been to assist with branding, marketing and community engagement. Through these projects and connecting practitioners statewide, it's validated our past experience that communications and stakeholder engagement in the regions is nuanced and complex.

This can be far from straightforward in a regional context. We know from previous experience that effective regional communications often need a more nuance and more complex approach than for innovation networks or services in capital cities.

For communications to reach and impact sufficient numbers of people, there are some key factors to consider, including:

  • There are fewer innovators and entrepreneurs, spread across a broader range of industries. This means targeting a narrow demographic or industry is not going to have sufficient impact,
  • Papers, radio, posters and face-to-face meetings are just as important as any digital campaigns, and all channels need to be engaged to reach the right audience, but also to please partners e.g. for some Federal funding programs the Canberra-based managers want to see posts and mentions on Twitter, while a local partner wants to hear it on the local Indigenous radio station and most of the actual target audience are going to engage on Facebook or through the local paper,
  • Branding often has to be welcoming to both established (Chamber of Commerce) with the innovative (creative industries networks), and in the case of Port Hedland, take the pervasive 'red' of the dust into consideration in the selection of the colour palette,
  • Seemingly unrelated events and activities may be great opportunities or significant conflicts and need to be taken into consideration with timing campaigns e.g. local markets, horse races, school holidays, timing of the end of shifts at the mine, sporting carnivals. Because local people in the regions often wear 'many hats' (and all at once) anything happening in their community could be enabling or a barrier to them engaging.
  • Local or regional internet speeds will limit the types of content accessible by your audience.

These considerations and more have been reflected in the branding scope, the communications schedule, specific content development and more.

Further, a recent action-learning call with practitioners from around the state revealed how different it is in each region. While the categories of considerations (demographics, events, channels) are the same, the considerations themselves (exactly who to target, when, and what channels work best) are completely different. The great thing about this realisation for all, was that the learning and reflection about it was all still relevant, as are the templates, models and procedures we have developed.