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Idealog's Most Creative: The Generosity Journal's Patrick Shepherd talks creativity

Pat Shepherd was one of the People's Choice winners for Most Creative in social enterprise/charity for Idealog and Accenture's Most Creative People.  While many choose to support their favourite charities every now and then, Shepherd wants people to give regularly, ideally around 1% of their income every month. His charity One Percent Collective makes this easy, plus they publish The Generosity Journal, a magazine and website full of amazing stories and charitable folk contributing their time and talents. Here, he discusses creativity, lessons learnt and where he wants to go next. 

What does creativity mean to you?

To me creativity is all about collaboration. I can come up with ideas by myself, but it’s when I bounce them off other people and get other brains in the mix that I find the true creative magic happens.

What do you think it is about your nature/habits/interests that makes you creative?

As a photographer, my eyes are always open to inspirations and spotting the little things in life that others might walk past. Even without a camera in hand, this awareness to my surroundings never goes away and I think it helps me soak in lots of ideas, inspirations, emotions and so many more elements that help get the creativity flowing.

What first drew you to your chosen field?

My father loved photography and bought me my first SLR when I was 15. I loved reading the mags for tips and getting out there shooting film, I became a total magazine geek just soaking up the ideas and inspiring images they featured. Guess that’s why I ended up running my own publications (Exposure Lifestyles and The Generosity Journal) over recent years.

What was your upbringing like, and how do you think that led you to where you are today?

I was super lucky in that I got to travel lots. My parents were living in Brunei when I was born and then my father continued to live in so many countries when I was in my teens and my 20s. I got to visit him many times and take my camera along with me. I think it was this that led to me packing my backpack when I was 20 and heading off to Oz for a year of exploring as I was pretty comfortable with wandering around myself and going where the wind and the camera took me.

Where do your best ideas come from?

Mainly when I escape out on the mountain bike or when I do some tramping. I find lots of ideas come when you are in the fresh air and you just hope that the best ones stick by the time you’ve got home, washed off the mud and had a chance to write the ideas in the journal.

What does inspiration look like for you?

I love reading mags like Wired, Offscreen, Idealog and the kind that share amazing ideas, innovations and stories of people doing things differently. Even though I definitely don’t remember every single feature I ever read, I just find soaking it all into my brain gives me an awesome inspiration bank of ideas that seem to pop up at the right time and place when I might be looking at new ideas or chatting over projects friends are working on.

Is there an ethos/motto you abide by in your work?

“The worst they can say is no”.

If there were a secret to success, what would it be?

At One Percent Collective we have three key values, one of them is ‘Be Human’. I just find that the best way to go through life and business. Building relationships on the fact that we are all human and we all have shared goals around health, happiness and so much more. If we can talk to each other as humans, then good things will happen! (The other values are Be Open and Be Real).

What were some of the challenges that you faced early on? What went wrong? Any regrets?

One Percent Collective has just turned 5 years old with over ½ a million dollars raised. Getting to this stage has been an insane challenge in so many ways. Many people would have given up and put it in the too hard basket, I was just lucky enough to have an incredible support network who put a roof over my head when I had no money to pay my rent, who gave us a desk space (thanks BizDojo!), who believed that the regular giving experience had to change and who stepped up to back us with this generosity movement.

Do you work a lot? Do you have an obsessive part to your personality?

Ha, my partner Laura has been great at ensuring I have a good work/life balance. I try not to work weekends anymore and instead spend them with the amazing people in my life. However I also totally don’t mind doing the odd Saturday work if needed every so often, I love my work and get a real buzz from working on all the projects we do. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist of course, hence why I’ll put in the extra hours to make sure everything is just right!

To me creativity is all about collaboration. I can come up with ideas by myself, but it’s when I bounce them off other people and get other brains in the mix that I find the true creative magic happens.

What’s the secret to resilience?

I’ve kind of learnt this weird way of thinking that the answer is always going to be no, it means that if it is a no you simple shrug your shoulders and carry on. If it’s yes, you jump for joy and throw your fists in the air. In the charitable when you are asking people to give their money away, you find that’s often not top priority for people, so no’s and no replies are common, this was something I learnt early on when I started managing SpinningTop.

What have been some of the highlights of your career?

There have been so many wonderful projects and people that I’ve been lucky enough to work with. I think when Mark Albiston of The Sweet Shop filmed two Superhero videos for us, was definitely a highlight. As we had around 50 people volunteering to create two incredible videos all because of this crazy 1% idea I had in the shower way back, ha. Ladi6, The Phoenix Foundation, Loren Taylor, Trinity Roots and more all got involved to support our incredible cast of local kids, standing back and watching the magic being created was just amazing for me. Plus the videos inspired so many more people to join the Collective which was such a joy to see!

What do you think New Zealand is like for creativity? Is there something about ‘Kiwiness’ that helps or hinders?

I left Scotland when I was 20 so I didn’t get to see so much of what creativity looked like there. Living in New Zealand I have just been blown away at how willing people are to share their knowledge over a coffee and then likely collaborate on ideas. Money is often the last thing on people’s minds, yes we all need to pay the rent, but I do find in NZ that’s often the part people are least interested in talking about until maybe it’s a real necessity for the idea. This could possibly hinder creativity if you can’t put food on the table, however it always seems to work out some way or another.

What would be the advice you’d give someone who wants to turn their creative passion into a full-time gig?

At first it will be more than a full-time gig to get things going, you have to fully immerse yourself in your passion to make all the contacts and get all the introductions you might need to make it work. Back when I was getting into music photography and had just moved to Wellington, my friends would all be at parties and I’d be by myself at a bar waiting for a band to start so I could photograph them and keep pushing my learning of music photography. I shot so so many gigs for free, until eventually I started getting hired to shoot music, I created my own publication of musicians and expanded my contacts even further. If I hadn’t done the hard slog from day one, I wouldn’t be doing what I do now.

What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

That not everything will go to plan so ensure you have a plan B and if all does go knees up, just breathe and remember that you are alive, healthy, have good friends and that you will get through the challenging times!

Where to next? Do you have a goal you’re working towards?

We’d like One Percent Collective to have over 1,000 donors by the end of 2018, this will mean almost ½ a million raised each year which means our partner charities can have even more impact on this world. With a miniscule marketing budget we rely on the support of the Collective to help spread the word and inspire others to get involved. We’re now at 400 donors so we’ve got 600 generous people to inspire through 2018. A tough goal, but with support from our creative friends and some very exciting ideas in the works, I’m crazy excited for what 2018 will bring!

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