by Hayley Purbrick, Big Sky Ideas
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual
A finalist in the 2017 NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award, Hayley Purbrick has a vision to create vibrant small town communities across regional NSW filled with people who think like entrepreneurs. Through her social enterprise ‘The Riverina Collective’ she hopes to influence cultural change from the grassroots up and to encourage people to see opportunities and take action.
The most confronting experience for me has been moving to a new town with a barely newborn leaving my stability behind. It is an experience I won’t forget and one which is familiar to many people. Sometimes life takes us away from our stability, asking us to rebuild our social connections.
A move can either make or break an individual’s spirit. But why is moving so difficult for people?
For me, my confidence dropped almost immediately, as soon as the newborn fog lifted. At the time I went through a lot of self-assessment, is it me, is it them, what’s missing? When I found myself chasing down a girl for a chat near our farm, it dawned on me suddenly. The problem was I felt socially isolated.
It is well understood that social connection improves physical health and psychological wellbeing. When we are connected we have lower anxiety and higher self-esteem. The Country Women’s Association understood this when they established in 1922. Yet, for me I had to make a conscious choice to connect, recognising that if I didn’t I would never feel happy in my new place.
So that’s what I did, I created an opportunity to connect with people in my new town.
The result was an experience I would recommend. It opened opportunities to collaborate and do ‘stuff’. When I made the choice to connect I was rewarded with the opportunity to do something much bigger—collaborate.
I was embraced and celebrated. It felt amazing and I made a decision right then to make sure everyone in my community would have the same opportunity to feel just as I did.
As I explored how I would do this I kept coming back to four building blocks essential to ensuring I could create this feeling in others; provoke open thought, provide support, create environments free of judgement and inspire people to dream.
As it developed the synergies with entrepreneurship became clear—entrepreneurship is not a business model instead it’s a mindset. Meaning if I could find a way to foster entrepreneurial spirit in people the community is rewarded. And I would achieve my goal.
This prompted the start of my social enterprise Big Sky Ideas to foster entrepreneurial spirit in small towns throughout Australia with a vision to ensure everyone who lives here feels celebrated and embraced. We have a big goal but anything is possible and in the interim we have a few things going on.
We facilitate a women’s group called The Riverina Collective. We meet in Deniliquin three times a year and discuss difficult topics with an optimistic outlook. Women in the community share their personal stories of success and failure. Storytelling is a powerful force towards connection. We have also set up a collective workspace (or co-working as they say). We prefer collective because you don’t have to be working to be there. This space gives people the opportunity to explore their ideas, work and collaborate in an open environment. No town is too small.
Next on the agenda is a 12 week women’s innovation program. The program is different approach to economic development in small regional communities utilising challenge driven innovation theory.
Challenge driven innovation is based on identifying the right problem through collaboration before looking for any solutions. Traditionally we focus on enterprise as being the only solution to our problems and the broader community sits outside of this conversation. This is a new approach bringing the whole community into the conversation.
When I got the community together for a brainstorm for our 12 week program to identify the single problem of our region they identified we are not ‘well’.
Wellbeing is described by Marshall et al. (1995) as ‘a state of being where all members of a community have economic security; are respected, valued and have personal worth; feel connected to those around them; are able to access necessary resources; and are able to participate in the decision making process affecting them.’
To hear this from my own community drives me on knowing what Big Sky Ideas is trying to create for people is worth pursuing.
And it all started because of a conscious choice to connect.
m: 0408 129 782