By Anne Brouwer

In September I was asked by the La Trobe Business School to be part of the incubator team of My Big Idea Australia. It’s a project organised by the Australia Futures Project to encourage Australians to submit ideas for a better Australia on a range of areas such as: concern for future generations, effective healthcare, caring for the elderly and economic growth. Ultimately over 1200 ideas were submitted and 10 winners were announced. Our team went to Sydney for a two-day workshop on how to further develop two of the ten winning ideas but also to learn how to lead such a workshop ourselves. Those Australians that submitted ideas but didn’t win were given the opportunity to take part in a full day workshop on further developing their ideas. Therefore, on the 8th of October 2016, La Trobe Business School hosted a successful start-up bootcamp, called Minihack, delivering on its My Big Idea promise to train 500 Australians to be positive change makers. All Australians in Victoria involved in My Big Idea were invited.

A small but very motivated number of Victorians worked a full day on their ideas. Everybody brought their own ideas to the table ranging from tackling the obesity epidemic, setting up a system that provides legal advice for indigenous people in incarceration to an app for reducing meat-intake for a more sustainable world. It was incredible to get to know all these ideas, to hear about how the participants came up with the ideas and also to see the various stages the ideas were in. One participant’s’ idea was already picked up by the local media, another one already developed an app and some were upscaling themselves in specific skills as to better execute their idea.

The day was coordinated by La Trobe Business School’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, Dr Alex Maritz, who gave the welcoming presentation to participants in the morning. He spoke about ways for participants to refine, pitch and build on their idea and encouraged participants to share their idea with others in the room. The approach is learning by doing. The workshop participants were divided in small groups and received mentoring, support and advice from myself and several other La Trobe Business School staff members, including academics and PhD candidates. LBS Staff included Associate Professor Vanessa Ratten and PhD candidates Claudia Shwetzer and Ana Amirsardari.

I sat together with three lovely women, all three having very different ideas: using big data to tailor health care services better, a platform to bring home cooks and people who do not like to cook, can’t cook or those looking for some social interaction over dinner together, and setting up mental health healing centres where the use of a mindfulness program reduces and prevents long-term mental health problems.  I was impressed with how the ideas developed throughout the day and how well everybody got along. There was a great vibe in the room the whole day.

The feedback at the end of the workshop was incredibly positive. Contact details were exchanged and a My Big Idea Minihack Facebook Page had emerged.

For me, being the only team member with no entrepreneurial background, working with the LBS’s incubator team existing of highly successful academics and professionals, was a great experience. It was also great getting to know all these amazing people and their ideas. All in all, both the workshop in Sydney as well as the mini-hack at La Trobe University were great events bringing together lots of creative minds developing innovative ideas to make Australia even better!

Anne Brouwer is currently a PhD candidate at La Trobe Business School.