Spark It Up Breakfast Club 2 – Fire Starter Festival

Guest post by Open Change Intern Barbara Mertlova

The two weeks long Fire Starter Festival  was nearing its finale, in which projects that would receive a share of the £20,000 available funding were to be announced. Before that, however, Open Change’s Mike Press hosted a sequel event to the first Spark It Up Breakfast. The white, bitter morning Dundee woke up to that day did not stop this week’s brilliant speakers from coming to The Circle Dundee and delivering another ideas-sparking conversation.

Introducing the guests, Mike asks why they do what they do. The audience first gets an insight into the motivations behind the work of @Anna Fowlie, who operates as Chief Executive of the Scottish Social Services Council. She speaks about trying to make things better, but emphasises the importance of wanting to achieve that in safe way. Along the same lines, @Alasdair McGill as a self-described creative entrepreneur, mentions constructive discontent as one of the drivers behind his actions. “It will be hard, but lean into the discomfort, embrace it, and with the help of the people around you, make a change.

, @Dr Jennifer Jones tells us her story of becoming an academic in response to an early discouragement from teachers at school. Reflecting back, she believes the tough times in her life were what allowed her a personal insight into some of the changes that the people she now lectures or works with, want to bring about. And similarly, @Kirsty Thomson looks back at her childhood, sharing the constant fight with the system her family went through, as she has a younger sister with disabilities. Today, Kirsty is Chief Executive of The Circle Dundee and a CEO of ACK, using her empathy to transform services.

Having seen how personal experiences help shape individual values and provide a drive behind positive changes, Alasdair uses a quote to demonstrate the difference between ‘grumpy troublemakers’ and people who put their frustration into good use: ‘You can complain about anything three times. The next time, get up and do something about it!’ 

The question is, how do we translate our words into actions?

From the short debate that follows, there arises a matter of the reputation that the Public Sector seem to be fighting. We must educate young people about the challenges the world is facing and support them in radical ideas. Politicians must start considering the impact of the decisions they make beyond their term, and generally all businesses and social enterprises should make full use of user feedback. Ask questions, empower communities and individuals to get involved, and realise the potential of your autonomy – those are the common views we are presented with during the morning.

To conclude, our speakers are asked for one piece of advice to anyone, who is trying to have an impact, but aims to do things differently. Believe, don’t rely on traditional ways and share – that is a summary of the key concepts coming out of the incredibly inspiring conversation, as each guest uses their area of expertise to support it with own experience.

‘Hold a feather’ and stick to your self-belief, is Anna’s message for Dundee, highlighting the vast opportunities that lie in the city nowadays; to transform education, services, and lives in general. If only we don’t fall into the ‘habit trap’ of continuing to do things purely because that is how they have always been done, and if we engage in collaboration, rather than fearing our ideas to be ‘stolen’.