Recently, I had several epiphanies, as we road-tested our business plan with a dozen smart people who gathered at The Collaboratory in downtown Dayton, Ohio.
A little background: Several months ago, we teamed up with the University of Dayton to host a half-day workshop on campus: Retirement Reinvented. Nearly seventy people participated, as we explored a new model for retirement, where work and leisure are in more perfect harmony.
While this workshop was a success, and more are planned for 2018, we longed to crack the code to grow a more vibrant community in Greater Dayton, where members would help one another.
Granted, patience has never been my strong suit, but growing a local cohort in Dayton wasn’t happening fast enough – so I enlisted Peter Benkendorf at The Collaboratory to help us.
The Collaboratory: Fertile Ground to Move Ideas to Action
Okay, I’ll admit it – they had me with the cool name, but their mission was also in lock-step with what we were striving to achieve.
“The Collaboratory moves ideas to action. We provide infrastructure for people and organizations to collaboratively develop community initiatives that generate new economic, civic and creative opportunities and value. The result is a healthier, more thriving region.”
At Retirepreneur, we’re championing a movement to usher in a more graceful and gradual downshift for work in retirement. We’re creating, curating, and distributing a wealth of content (via podcasts, videos, articles, etc.) to help the age 50+ crowd make a smooth and successful leap from full-time job to part-time freelance gig, doing work they enjoy.
But if you’re largely beating a digital drum, there’s only so far you can advance with local community formation.
We recognized the need to foster more regular face-to-face conversations at the local level, where these folks could gather and explore how they might apply the freelance strategies we’re sharing. Parachuting in to host a workshop every now and then can be helpful, but without meaningful reinforcement, these local communities will fizzle.
Alas with me in Cleveland, a three-hour car ride away, there would be limits to how often I could travel to Dayton, especially with more speaking gigs and seeding more communities in my backyard and beyond.
Yet Dayton, the official birthplace of aviation, continued to be the place I longed to focus on more intently. Orville & Wilbur’s first ideas started there and I’m betting there are a few more breakthrough ideas waiting to be hatched in Dayton.
While we haven’t solved this challenge completely, amazing breakthrough ideas are starting to emerge.
Growing Bigger Ears Isn’t Easy
Sure, I could have booked meeting space in Dayton and facilitated this discussion myself, but I’d be tackling this with a healthy dose of cognitive bias. I’d also be compromising my ability to listen and reflect on what was being shared.
To extract meaningful insights, I needed to step aside and have someone else lead these discussions. Someone who understood my business plan and could pose more thought-provoking questions to the group. I also needed someone who was already a trusted advisor within this community and who could invite new voices to the table.
Peter Benkendorf and his colleague, James Saleem delivered soundly on all counts. While the discussion started with background from me, I had to step away, zip my lip, and listen. For those who know me well, you’re likely smiling, as you know this wasn’t so easy.
It’s too soon to share details about where we’ve landed and what the path forward might be for this Dayton contingent.
What I can share at this point…
- Most agree, more support to help this “vintage” segment land richer and more rewarding freelance gigs would be beneficial – not just for the individuals, but for the greater Dayton community.
- Dayton is already well ahead of the curve with their Del Mar Encore Fellows Initiative, where they engage older adults in more altruistic endeavors (aka, social entrepreneurship).
- Several who participated in this first exchange are interested in continuing the conversation.
- A second discussion at The Collaboratory will happen later this month, as they explore next steps for community formation.
And one of the biggest epiphanies for me?
It’s best if I’m not present for this follow-up conversation.
We’ve planted the seeds in Dayton – first with the UD workshop and now through this gathering at The Collaboratory and they’re starting to take root. As much as I want to help move this along, it’s best if the local champions explore if/how they might advance community formation and help it flourish.
Stay tuned… as the next chapter in this Dayton story unfolds, we’ll keep you posted.