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news / journal 11.01.2017 Words:Camilo Potocnjak-Oxman

The Story of Stir, p.1

In late November, 2014, a small team were tasked by the CEO of the recently founded Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) to develop a program that would help them to better connect with and engage youth and creatives with the emerging local entrepreneurship scene. That was the starting point for what would later become Stir.

It has been over two years since that time, with much of what happened becoming legend… mainly because we’ve forgotten many of the details. However, as we move towards our third Season of Grants, the Stir Crew thought that it would be important to share the story behind Stir, to recognise the people involved, and to invite you, as new members of the community, to take part in the next stages of what we would like to see Stir become. So without further ado, here comes the first part of The Story of Stir!

Once upon a time, there was a big push on behalf of the ACT Government to promote, connect and accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in the Canberra region. This push led to the foundation of the CBRIN, which brought together elements of the local government, the major universities and some of the leading research institutions present in our city.

This amazing initiative was well-received by many members of the academic and business communities. However, two key groups seemed to be absent: Youth and Creatives.

In order to better engage with these groups, Sarah Pearson (known affectionately as “The Mother of Stir”) contacted the team that had been working on the redesign of the InnovationACT competition, led by Camilo Potocnjak-Oxman, Rish Ratnam and Vince Ward, to task them with developing a program that could connect with youth and creatives and help them feel welcome in the world of entrepreneurship, small business and startups.

Although the team was quite youthful and creative at the time, they couldn’t help but feel that this task was one that they could not do alone. It was extremely important to them that whatever they did, it had to recognise the needs and desires of the people who CBRIN was aiming to connect with, and above all, avoid making the program a “token gesture”. For this purpose, it was determined that the best approach was not to tell, but to ask.

This led to the overall goal of developing the program in close collaboration with the youth and creative communities. The team began by setting objectives that could help to gain a better understanding of what these groups would need from a program looking to encourage them to engage with entrepreneurship. The objectives that were set are provided below:

1. Explore
“Identify recurring issues related to entrepreneurship and innovation experienced by a wide range of youth and creative communities.”

2. Narratives
“Identify meaningful narratives that help to connect a wide range of youth and creative communities with entrepreneurship networks and opportunities.”

3. Messaging
“Identify the right channels and voice for the communication of entrepreneurship initiatives to a wide range of youth and creative communities.

4. Community
“Establish strong ties with motivated members of youth and creative communities, allowing for an ongoing discussion of their needs and desires.”

From these objectives, the team designed a series of game-like exercises that would became the basis for a collaborative workshop. These exercises aimed to be playful and fun, allowing people to feel confident in their ability to express what they really needed, in a trusting and comfortable environment. The original diagrams used to describe these exercises can be seen below:

Once the workshop had been designed, the next step would be to find and invite the right mix of youthful and creative participants for the workshop.

Tune in next week for the second part of the Story of Stir, where we’ll talk about the secretive SHIFT ONE Crew, the workshop event, and some of the things we learnt that led to the creation of the Stir platform!

The Stir Crew would like give a big shout out to Monica Glasgow for her help with this article. Thank you!

Stir is a platform born from collaboration. If you would like to take part in developing and growing the platform, please contact us at

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