The power of unlikely collaborations
As I look back on 2019, one of the absolute highlights was collaborating with the masterfully creative Adam Ferrier and CJ Holden to produce s p a c e – a gathering of unlike minds. The three-day event was an Australian first, built on a framework of peer-to-peer learning, with no speakers and no spectators. The event attracted a community of disruptive leaders -affectionately named our inaugural s p a c e cadets – to Byron Bay to disconnect, collaborate, and create in one of the most inspiring locations on earth.
s p a c e was built on a few big ideas:
We need to have more un-likeminded conversations.
In an age of intensifying digital echo chambers, breaking from routine thinking and giving ourselves over to unconventional collaborative experiences is paramount to creativity, critical thinking and empathy. s p a c e is designed to deliberately interrupt our norms, give us pause to reveal assumptions and seek out new thinking. Curiosity and play supersede self-consciousness. With no fear and no formal agenda, we are able to step up and own the collective experience. We give each other permission to be ourselves, rather than our job titles.
No passengers allowed.
There are intentionally no official speakers or themes at s p a c e, the content is designed and led by our attendees. In this way, a spirit of generosity runs through s p a c e, with each attendee contributing something of their choosing to the fully immersive and participatory program. This manifests in the form of talks, workshops, skills sessions or whatever can be creatively concocted! In fact, our participants’ creative interpretation of the brief (on top of the wide array of interests and passions of the content itself) was one of the standouts of s p a c e.
You do you. But make sure you ‘do’!
We know life-long learning is critical and cross-pollination of ideas extremely valuable, yet in an age where people fly for hours to attend a conference in person, practically every conference, festival or event retains a one-size-fits all, cookie-cutter approach. We want to shake up leadership in Australia by challenging the way we convene our leaders. The s p a c e format is a facilitated smorgasbord, allowing everyone to navigate the three-day experience in choose-your-own-adventure style. From sunrise Friday until well past sunset on Saturday, participants had the opportunity to attend as many different sessions as they liked, each led by peers. Often there were as many as ten different sessions running at once!
We designed the event specifically to ensure our s p a c e cadets were compelled not only to do as they pleased, but more importantly, to ‘do’. s p a c e has a real focus on turning conversation into action with ‘do-tanks’ providing the opportunity for attendees to pitch ideas and build a team of helpers to pursue their aspiration. This year, s p a c e do-tanks spurred 10 post-s p a c e projects covering everything from education to indigenous leadership development and urban evolution.
Our overarching goal was to play a part in building a more ambitious Australia through shared ideas and collaboration. What stands in the way of such collaboration? Australia does seem to habour a few parochial handicaps. We think it’s time we kicked tall poppy syndrome to the kerb and supercharged our country’s ambition. It’s time we united the people who believe in constructively trying to solve problems versus destructively denigrating the attempts of others on social media.
We believe, as Einstein put it, that the definition of insanity is thinking we can keep doing things the same way and get a different result. We hoped to create the conditions for new conversations and collaborations to flourish- the space to be challenged, to explore, to think deeply and to, after three short days, find yourself with scores of new friends, colleagues and potential partners-in-impact. And we were truly humbled by the reaction of the community who participated in round one… the letters, emails and calls we received in the weeks following s p a c e conveying the positive impact and emboldened focus of participants was awe-inspiring. This groundswell has energised us to take s p a c e into new territory in 2020- creating more immersive experiences, working on diversifying our community even further and taking do-tanks to another level.
We dare you.