People Outside the Square

By July 16, 20148. General News

Karen Corr at Outside the Square
Bringing people together to ignite positive change is a challenge for all Changemakers. In this post we share with you the successful format to bring people together that Make a Change recently provided to the City of Greater Bendigo.  Make a Change enabled the local government to engage directly with their local community and make a real impact upon their healthy community objectives.  Karen, the director of Make a Change, has some great tips so you can do the same in your own community.

Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
 Margaret Meade

The Outside the Square is a public talk format delivered by Make a Change that celebrates local people who think a little differently to create positive change in our community.  It is a format that successfully engages and brings people together to change the world (or their backyard!).

Outside the Square works as it is safe to participate, and everyone is an expert with something of value to contribute.  Momentum for positive change and high participation rates are achieved by attracting people who are interested in doing things differently. The City of Greater Bendigo’s recent Healthy Communities Outside the Square event attracted seventy people.  Council aimed to recruit five local health champs, however twenty people put their hands up to take on this role in Bendigo as a result of attending Outside the Square.

Outside the Square Bendigo the Healthy Communities participants

The key elements to Outside the Square to attract engagement and participation can be easily adopted into your planning.  Here are three tips from Karen:

1.    Have local speakers.
Outside the Square works as it has local speakers, who are not experienced speakers, but are passionate about the change they are making.  Peer to peer speaking will result in people coming away from your talk feeling inspired, empowered with the thought; “I can do that too.”

2.    Have a cosy venue without any sharp corners.
Outside the Square really started making an impact when the venue became cosy and relaxed in a Community hall.  Initially it was hosted in a pub and also a commercial meeting place, but in these more formal spaces something felt amiss.  A community hall shifted people from listeners to participants in something greater – the talk is more relaxed and connections are easier.

3.    Don’t make the talk “nice”
Outside the Square isn’t just an event that you go to listen. Karen is pretty clear when she says. “What you are hosting simply will not work if people go home and saying – gee that was a nice talk.”

Design pockets or spaces in the forum for activities for the audience to interact with one another.  Outside the square does this with:

•    An informal mid break for a cuppa and food (often healthy cooking by a local community group as a fund raiser)
•    Encouraging people to talk to the person next to them
•    Ask questions
•    Facilitate a thinking activity or sharing activity between random groups of people in the room

The City of Greater Bendigo certainly made a big impact on their desired outcomes to engage community with their Healthy Community strategy.  Make a Change was able to bring to the council new networks and connect with people who want to make a difference in a safe, yet participatory environment.  

Contact Karen to learn more about Outside the Square and creating environments that bring change makers together.

Download Make a Change People Outside the Square Engagement Tips