The Big Issue La Trobe Business School Wodonga The Big Idea Competition
On Monday 30 November 2015, it was announced that The Vibe Collective, also known as La Trobe Business School students Samantha Richardson, Nathan Potter and Jenny Bevis, had won the 2015 Big Idea competition. The annual competition, organised by The Big Issue, invited students from participating universities to develop a concept and business plan for a social enterprise that can change peoples’ lives for the better. The Vibe Collective won in a highly competitive final, pitching their business plan to judges from The Big Issue, the professional services firm PwC, and the social development enterprise organisation Social Traders. The competition is connected to the La Trobe Business School subject MGT2SEB Social Entrepreneurship: The Big Idea, coordinated by La Trobe Business School academic, Jeremy Seward.

 We spoke to Jenny Bevis about the project, the success of The Vibe Collective, and how they feel The Vibe Collective can make an active difference in peoples’ lives.

Social engagement and the regional community

When asked about the inspiration behind The Vibe Collective, Jenny Bevis’ enthusiasm is infectious. “The idea for starting The Vibe Collective arose from personal challenges we faced. We asked ourselves: What problems do we see in our community? What impacts us directly?” After Bevis moved to Albury-Wodonga, she found that the only ways to make friends were either through sport, or through work: “When I moved to a regional area, I mainly made new friends through work and a netball team. But a huge amount of people can’t always access these social streams – they might be injured, or arrived in town off-season.” Bevis believes that’s when soft skills start to suffer: “People are dependent on personal confidence, employment opportunities, and a strong social network to develop good soft skills. If some of these factors are compromised, it will make things significantly harder for young people trying to build up a network and develop the right skillset in order to secure a job. They need these social pathways, not just to form personal relationships at home, but also to make a difference at work, interacting with colleagues and forming meaningful relationships.”

Wodonga, the region where these students are currently studying, currently has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Victoria. In the eyes of the Vibe Collective, this issue is symptomatic of a bigger, intersectional problem. When the trio started looking around their community, they noticed that people in their age bracket were having a harder time meeting people than their counterparts in a city like Melbourne, or Sydney. They mainly engaged with friends through online platforms, and their social lives became more virtual and stagnant. The unemployment rate cemented this trend, by closing off one of the major community pathways to meet people.

The Vibe Collective: a social antidote

When Jenny, Samantha and Nathan started the collective, they discovered that by organising simple events, they were able to address some of the challenges facing young people on multiple levels. “We organise workshops, events and also have the annual festival. By having three different delivery options for our events, we want to give people the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the event industry while meeting new people at the same time.” At the first event, the collective only expected about fifty people, but they ended up tripling their numbers. The response was overwhelming, and it became apparent that they had tapped into something the community really needed.

By organising live music events as well as workshops the group hopes to make a big social impact in the long run, equipping their members with the skills, knowledge and confidence they will need in the workforce, while also giving them the networking opportunities they will need, being young. “We don’t just want bums on seats, but we also want people to feel present and included, and actively participate in whatever we are organising. Usually when we organise events like this, people feel shy at first – arriving in duos and being a bit awkward, but by the end of the day, everyone is swapping numbers. The good thing about a forum like ours is that it has a low threshold – you know that everyone is there to have fun and to connect with each other.” In Jenny’s eyes, it doesn’t matter what the delivery is, since The Vibe Collective goal is always the same: “We want to let people live the best life possible, and feel present in the life they live.”

The group have received interest from Social Traders Australia and will test-run The Vibe Collective concept over a series of events and workshops.

Keep up to date with The Vibe Collective on their website.