“What are the conditions of enabling of healthy, resilient, sustainable human communities?”
This was the question co-founder of social enterprise Pollinators, Andrew Outhwaite asked himself before embarking on a 10 year commitment to working in regional Western Australia – the city of Geraldton to be exact.
A coastal city in the mid-west region of WA, you’ll find Geraldton roughly 450 kilometres north of Perth.
With a stretching coastland of impeccable beaches, sunny weather and a backdrop of vast farmland and the Moresby Ranges, it’s not hard to understand why Andrew chose this part of Australia to spend the next decade in service to regional communities.
But it wasn’t the first time Andrew had spent time in this idyllic locale.
Some years earlier he took a job in marine and coastal conservation where his passion for sustainability started to blossom.
It was landing this job in ‘Gero’, as it’s affectionately known to many West Aussies, and seeing the ecological challenges being faced that opened his mind to leaving Australia in search of somewhere in the world that created sustainable communities and see if he could bring back and apply those learnings here in Australia.
Fast-forward almost six years later and Andrew found himself back in the city that had first sparked his interest.
It wasn’t just the charm and fond memories that drew him back; it was what it had to offer in terms of opportunities.
Everybody knows each other in Geraldton and an economy that supports and fosters innovation and creativity.
Basically, key enablers to nurture healthy, resilient, sustainable communities.
However, there was something missing and together with other local innovators, Andrew started working out how to better support entrepreneurs and innovators.
Pollinators initially started as a member network backed by a social enterprise model, organising and offering networking events and facilitating workshops.
Within just a few years, the organisation started seeing the positive impact it was having on the community – ideas and innovations were blooming.
Ideas were being fostered and nurtured, innovation was growing and a sustainable community beginning to form.
Today, they have their own dedicated premises called CityHive, one of Australia’s leading regional co-working hubs complemented by space for creative industries, events and retail.
They also offer digital training for not-for-profits and small businesses, accelerator and training programs to grow innovative ventures, and mentoring programs in which new ideas are nurtured, in addition to the regular facilitated networking and innovation sessions.
With the nbn™ network now available throughout the City of Geraldton, Andrew said the benefits of fast broadband have been obvious.
“Access to the nbn™ network has been transformative in terms of the ability to do business – from web conferences and cloud-based collaboration, to providing access and an attractive location for global influencers – it’s really allowing our community to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,”^ Andrew said.
“In fact, with things slowing in the mining sector, it has actually provided an opportunity for people to think outside the box or finally launch the venture they’ve always wanted to start.
“We have a couple of local ventures who’ve started up online global businesses while enjoying the benefits of flexible working hours and accessing high-speeds anywhere in town, a local life-coach who can provide her services worldwide at the touch of a button and many accessing online training and education to upskill or obtain expertise in other sectors.”^
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there was a 25 per cent uplift in sole-traders in the last year, representing a rate of more than 70 new businesses per week, compared with an average of around 55 per week in 2009.
“At Pollinators’ our mission is to nurture innovation and people that enable healthy, resilient communities by taking control of where, when and how you do business. The nbn™ network is helping us achieve this through access to fast broadband,” Andrew said.
Now a fully nbn-connected City, Geraldton businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of a new grants program launched by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and nbn.*
The $150,000 grants program is aimed at fostering innovation across the nation and offers three major grants of $25,000 and six minor grants of $10,000, with one of the minor grants recipients in line to receive an additional $15,000 through an nbn staff vote.
The grants program is designed to help promote and support organisations that are innovatively using the nbn™ network for their business activities.
Grant entries close at midday on Friday 17 February 2017 (AEDT). Winners will be announced in March 2017. To enter.
* Entry is open to organisations currently using an internet service over the nbn™ network (based on a wholesale speed tier of 25 Mbps or higher), registered and operating in Australia with a valid ABN.
^ Your experience including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network depends on the technology over which services are delivered to your premises and some factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans, signal reception and how your service provider designs its network.