More than just a good idea: developing an innovation community

Published 20 June 2011

phillip-thomas-bloggA new initiative called ‘Unison’, which aims to help useful and innovative ideas come to fruition, particularly in regional areas, is about to swing into action.

A collaboration between UNE and the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastucture and Services (DTIRS), Unison is a process ‘that is itself innovative’, according to Dr Philip Thomas, Principal Research Fellow in Innovation in the School of Business, Economics and Public Policy at UNE.

Called ‘Intentional Innovation Community Workshops’, the events will consist of a free, half-day workshop and follow-up workshop in Armidale, Tamworth, Moree and Narrabri in July and August, 2011. Dr Thomas, who is coordinating the workshops, says the purpose is to help turn ideas into useful outcomes.

Participants will learn about the concept of building Intentional Innovation Communities (IICs) from internationally-recognised speakers Ted Alter and Michael Fortunato from Penn State University.  They will be able to share their ideas and hear of possible actions that can create an overall strategy for supporting innovation in our communities.

‘We need to get useful ideas to actually happen,’ Dr Thomas said. ‘People have good ideas at a personal, community and business level, but it is often much more difficult to make things happen in reality, particularly within a regional context. Many creative and motivated people do it on their own but bringing knowledge and skills into a collective process can make it much easier.

‘This is an opportunity to meet other like-minded people within your region. Within this process you are effectively bringing in knowledge from much more than one individual to complete the task required – and this is the idea of the Intentional Innovation Communities.  We will talk about how to combine empowerment, trust, collaboration and creativity to achieve action.’

Dr Thomas said the process is designed for community ideas and business ideas alike. ‘These old silos of thinking are melting, and the new wave of innovation brings together those who have not traditionally talked to each other. We are keen to have people come along from all sorts of backgrounds and ages to fuel innovative possibilities.

‘From these workshops we can create a “hothouse” if you like, a safe place to share ideas, and we’re confident this process can deliver exciting prospects. We have great thinkers and doers within our region,’ Dr Thomas said.

The initiative is supported by the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC, Tamworth Regional Development Corporation, and DTIRS. Initial workshops will be held in Armidale on July 20th, Tamworth on July 22nd, Moree on August 19th and Narrabri on August 23rd. Bookings (for catering purposes) can be made by calling Kate Schwager on (02) 6799 2477. Further information can be obtained by calling Dr Thomas on (02) 6773 3908.