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Our Place Events: A startup that harnesses small actions for big change

Laura O’Connell-Rapira, a recent graduate of New Zealand’s first social enterprise accelerator programme Live The Dream, is the founder of Our Place Events

?Social enterprise is hot right now – the government recently announced a partnership with the Hikurangi Foundation to help build a national social enterprise incubation and development service, funded with assistance from Contact Energy.

Our Place has just launched a new series called Sunday School Sessions and is on a mission to redirect the profit from their parties to helping the planet and helping people, with its first Bass The Boat Party helping to raise funds for Sustainable Coastlines. Also on the agenda is an upcoming series called Thursday is for Th(dr)inking – yep, for real!

 O’Connell-Rapira explains their philosophy below in more depth…

Tell us about your experience at Live the Dream.

It’s an amazing opportunity to be thrown in a room with 20 or so radically idealistic young people with the time, energy and lack of outside commitments (mortgage, children, spouse) giving up their summer to learn how to apply the tools of business to getting good done in the world. It was SO valuable to have an immersive, concentrated working experience, pressure really does make diamonds (the Live The Dream tagline).

Though tackling that work-life balance thing continues to be a challenge, I’m pretty sure it’s actually more of a myth.  If you choose the path of an entrepreneur – there is no work/life – it’s all just life. I also learned that business, like life, is mostly about building and maintaining effective relationships, and that living in NZ we have the unique positioning of being only 1 or 2 degrees away from meeting a CEO or minister, and that by buying someone a cup of coffee, you’d be amazed at how generous people can be with their time and advice.

In a nutshell what is Our Place all about and what sets it apart?

Our Place works to connect the crowd to the cause through creativity, crowdfunding and collaboration. There are two ways of sharing knowledge – you can push information out, or you can pull people in with a story. We like stories. We use the cultural mediums that people already know, love and freely adopt – things like art, technology, media and events to connect the user experience to a higher, more action-oriented purpose.

We think crowdfunding and collaboration helps to break down the “us” and “them”. It’s no longer about “you” supporting “our” work to help “them”. Rather, it’s all of us working together to meet and overcome a challenge.

Can you give us an overview of your initiatives/events?

Sunday School Sessions is a series of events on the first Sunday of every month. It’s always in a unique location (like a boat) and a portion of the profits always go to the planet – organisations like Generation Zero or Sustainable Coastlines. But it’s more than just a donation, the event is about providing a platform for good initiatives to showcase their work and for people to discover new information, projects and solutions.

Thursday is for Th(dr)inking will take place on the last Thursday of every month. It’s a series of events in central Auckland where we ask event-goers to put on their thinking caps to help tackle some big problems. We bring in a small crowd of maybe 30 to 50 people (that we bribe with the promise of free food). We do some ice breakers, present an issue and then we watch a presentation or video from an organisation that wants some community engagement or input (local council? NGO?).

The group then splits off into facilitated groups to break down some key issues and brainstorm potential solutions. It’s inspired by an event called The Feast – the difference is, we’ll be drinking wine and/or beer while we chat about how to save the world. Imagine it like those “state of the world” chats you have with your friends at the pub, but with a sober person there taking notes and putting the good ideas into action.  

What’s one thing you’d love to pull off in 2014?

We want to feed 5000 people a delicious free lunch made completely from food that would have otherwise gone to waste in Aotea Square on the same day that the third Hunger Games film comes out. This is to highlight how broken the food system is in a world of hungry people. 1/3 of our global food supply goes to waste while six people die every minute from hunger. This is just not okay. And it needs to change. 

Our philosophy is…

Everyone should have a nice life. We should be kind to the planet. Small actions x lots of people = really big change.

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