Well with last week’s headlines still ringing in my ears (“Burnt by bureaucracy: Toast Urunga ends after red-tape costs blow out”, Courier Sun 7/10/15), I started to reflect on the many conversations I and others in the Chamber have had with people about the difficulties experienced in organising a community event or festival in our Shire.
If I put aside some of the more obvious difficulties mentioned (eg the weather, managing the huge numbers of volunteers, parking, late night coffee, permits, paperwork, insurances, budgeting, etc), 2 key themes became clear.
The first was about attitude – put simply, when an event or festival organiser was required to deal with someone for approvals and that person’s attitude was ‘solution focused’, ‘working with you to deliver the outcome needed’, ‘compromising when it makes common sense’, then the process and experience in organising an event was very positive. This contrasted dramatically when they experienced an attitude of ‘compliance officers with an immutable checklist’ or ‘risk avoidance to make sure that if there is a problem, its not theirs’.
Of course there is always a need to manage risk or issues especially when we are involving the general community – this was never questioned. But the feedback is that risks can be appropriately managed and problems or issues solved in a ‘win win’ for all when the attitude is positive, collaborative, and solution focused.
The second theme was funding – how to get the necessary funding, whether that be from grants, entrance fees, or local business sponsorships, to not just make ends meet, but make the event sustainable into the future. I know the Chamber gets many requests for funding and I also know that as small local business I get many requests for sponsorships – whilst the Chamber has not provided financial support to any event (preferring to avoid the claim of bias as we have so many requests), my Lily Pily business provided sponsorship to 5 different community events in just the last year. Perhaps both aren’t sustainable?
Of course I know it maybe too simplistic to boil everything down to these 2 themes, but they were indisputably there and I believe linked to the recent loss of some of our local events.
Whilst I have no immediate solutions what I do know is that there is real strength in working as a group, driving change and finding considered, sensible, sustainable solutions.
The Chamber should play a role in leading a way forward as there would be few businesses in town that do not benefit in some way from our fantastic calendar of events and festivals nor would there be few businesses that have not experienced the variation in attitude that the event people found.
Whilst our membership continues to grow (thanks to all our ongoing and new members), my guess is that we have only about one third of all local businesses as members. So hopefully the above commentary and last week’s headlines is enough to get you motivated, as when it comes to driving change, there is strength in numbers as well in the diversity of views that comes from having a truly representative group.
We have the Bellingen Chamber’s AGM coming up so when better to network with other local business people, have your say on these issues (I will be floating some ideas that are forming from my discussions) and get involved. Lets harness the strength of our group to work positively with our stakeholders to ensure we have a vibrant, sustainable and eclectic mix of events and festivals in Bellingen and through that a prosperous and vibrant local business community that is deeply connected with our wider local community.
AGM: 12 November 2015 at 5:30pm for 6pm start
Place: Bellingen Golf Club
Bruce Levy (Lily Pily Country House)
President, Bellingen Chamber of Commerce
0414 615 890