The Story of Stir, p.4
Welcome to the overdue (and slightly longer) chapter four in our Story of Stir series. In our last chapter we talked about how the original concept for Stir concept emerged from the collaboration and ongoing discussions of the SHIFT ONE crew. This chapter will close off the story of Stir’s origin, in particular how the platform was developed, and provide an invitation to take part in our third season of grants. Without further ado, the Story of Stir, part four!
This initial concept was not a fully formed solution. Intentionally, the team behind Stir did not want to push their personal agendas. For the platform to make sense, it had to be developed collaboratively.
So they went back to the SHIFT ONE community and asked who would like to be involved. There were several different opportunities to provide comments and participate in the conversation. These included:
Events skills and experience: aimed at defining what kinds of events would be appropriate for the platform to host, whether they be promotional events (like a launch), educational events (like a workshop) or others (showcases, gigs, markets, etc). This also focused on determining what kind of presence the platform could have at events hosted by other communities;
Personal project experience: focused on people who had a project they were working on either professionally or as a hobby, and could provide insight into what the platform’s application process should cover, which parts needed additional educational support, and which parts could be eliminated for a better experience;
Marketing skills and experience: aimed to get a better understanding of the target audience(s), the right messaging for the platform, which channels would be appropriate to get the message across, and what kind of social media presence it should have;
Education skills and experience: invited people from teaching backgrounds to help with learning experience people would get from the platform. This included pedagogical aspects of the site and events, how to make tools to help people learn on their own, and above all, how to ensure the entrepreneurial content was described in a way that was accessible to a wide range of people;
Design and branding skills: this part focused on naming the platform, using mood boards to develop the “look and feel”, developing a visual identity, and implementing these things across all of the many web and print elements;
Game design skills and experience: this last area aimed to recognise that using the platform should be fun. It should encourage people to participate and “play together” in creating and promoting projects.
Based on people’s responses, we combined these 6 areas into 4 teams that would tackle development of the overall platform, to then be implemented by the team behind the project.
The teams all worked interdependently, with their contributions made available to the whole community for comments and constructive criticism. This was important because it was clear that, as with anything new, it was unlikely that there would be “one correct way” of doing things. By allowing for input from different perspectives, it would be possible to reduce some of the mistakes that happen commonly in innovation.
Teams met twice each between the 29th of January and the 7th of February, 2015. Below are some insights (and piccies!) from each of the teams.
[Ed] Education Team: “Make it easy to understand”
This team combined people who expressed having skills and experience in education with those who had personal projects. Among the people present were high school and university teachers, private tutors and life-long students, all of whom were also in some way from a creative background. They worked on translating some of the business concepts from a widely used framework known as the Business Model Canvas. From these translations, they then began developing questions that could help someone from a non-business background to cover the main aspects of an entrepreneurial project in a simple step-by-step manner. People with projects were invited to test the questions, identifying any problems with wording and misunderstandings that could be corrected. These questions became the project creation process for the platform, and led to the development of some of the tools you can find on the site, and later, the project creation session which has run close to 20 times in the past two years, most recently at the Wind It Up festival.
[Ev] – Events Team: “Make a splash at existing events”
This team counted with the participation of some key people who were at the time working on some of Canberra’s iconic events, including Art, Not Apart, Dragon Dreaming and one of the coolest pop up venues this town would ever see! One of the main takeaways from these sessions was that it would be beneficial to be part of existing events, and have a presence while “making a splash”. These conversations led to the design of “The Black Marquee” [insert photo], and the awesome video shot by Vince Ward, edited by Hew Sandison, and scored by Lukas Benson-Whittaker that was held within [link to video?]. The Black Marquee was taken to many places, but the most impactful was 2015’s West Side collaborative art exhibition curated by Natalija Nikolic during Art, Not Apart. Our presence there led to 750 Facebook likes in a day!
[Ux] – User Experience Team: “Make a clear story that people can follow”
This team brought together people from the world of code, design, information systems and game development. The team worked on the mechanics of the site, how people would interact with it, and how the information should be structured so that it could later be developed into a web-based platform. Although this all sounds very technical, the team was lucky to include a filmmaker who was able to focus everyone on the importance of having a clear narrative. From this perspective, designing the site became more about telling the story of what the different kinds of users (including project creators, voters, sponsors, etc) would like to achieve. This team produced the requirements that led to the first version of the Stir platform.
[Br] – Branding Team: “Why don’t we call it Stir?”
Last but not least, the branding team. This team combined people from design and marketing backgrounds. The team was the last to meet to ensure that they could include all of the insights, goals and hopes that emerged from the other three teams. The team was small, but contained a wealth of experience and knowledge in branding and community development. It was during this session that the name “Stir” emerged. Originally as a pun, then as an acronym, and later as a range of secret interpretations that may (or may not) one day be revealed. The important thing is the name perfectly embodied what the platform was looking to achieve: To mix things ups, to awaken people from slumber, and to create a murmur in the crowd, a murmur that would demonstrate just how creative people from Canberra (and beyond!) really are.
When these teams had completed their tasks, Stir was approximately 7 weeks from launch. It is important at this point to give an enormous shout-out to Juan Pablo Contreras and Guillermo Fuentes, who worked hard and long into the night to ensure that we had a platform. It was buggy, and at times it crashed, but it was also awesome.
Stir launched on the 27th of March, 2015. Since that day the site has been viewed by over 100000 people. There are now over 100 projects on the site, and over 7000 people have registered to create projects and vote. There have been two seasons so far, with the Summer of Stir being a recent addition to our programs. During these, Stir has delivered close to $30000 worth of grants funding. None of this would have been possible without the hard work of all of those people who one day got up on a Saturday morning and decided to Cause a Stir.