The University of Newcastle, Australia

Humanities start-ups workshop attracts social entrepreneurs

Monday, 10 July 2017

What do a Festival of Repair, shared childcare for international students and a guerrilla busking flash mob event have in common? They were just three of the human-centric business ideas that underwent an intensive two-day workshop to nurture ideas at the Humanities Start-Ups Workshop on 29-30 June.

Presented by the University of Newcastle’s Centre for 21st Century Humanities in partnership with Maitland City Council, the workshop attracted a diverse mix of ages, cultural backgrounds and experience. Held at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, the first day featured talks by business experts and start up founders. Participants heard from:

  • Ben Nix a chartered accountant and business advisor from Pitcher Partners;
  • Peter Jamieson from Anditi, a software solution provider;
  • Professor Paul Egglestone, Head of UON’s School of Creative Industries;
  • Helen Hopcroft, a participant of last year’s start up workshop who is now spending a year dressed as Marie Antoinette to promote Maitland as a creative city and tourist destination.

This was followed on day two by a fast-paced session where twelve participants each had just five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges. Julie Wicks, Business Development Manager at Umwelt; Christine Gerakiteys, CEO of Ideation at Work; and Jack Elliot, Chief Data Scientist for software start-up Flamingo, were the judges.

The judges’ verdict was that every idea was viable and they were especially impressed by the emphasis on reinvention and renewal for local communities.

“These were very original presentations, commented Elliot. “It’s all about giving back”.

The top three pitches as selected by the judges were delivered by Maitland identity 74-year old Frank Oakes who plans to start a finger puppet performing company; Bolwarra Heights resident and UON lecturer in the School of Creative Industries Dr Susan Kerrigan for an ambitious digital histories project; and Branxton artist and blacksmith Will Maguire for his ‘festival of repair’ concept which would seed a regular community day of skilled locals fixing broken stuff for reduced rates at his workshop.

Other pitches included a one-stop digital community notice board, a bespoke video documentary service to record oral histories for aging family members, a micro-theatre troupe, a film festival, a flexible plan for re-homing greyhounds that ensures their long-term welfare and a digital coffee online information hub.

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