The first annual Innovation Day was held July 18 at the OSU Cascades Dining Hall. The event brought together representatives from the most innovative businesses in the region to talk with leaders in the community. The goal of Innovation Day was to showcase innovation happening in Central Oregon and to inspire attendees to think creatively about their work, company and community.
Innovation Day featured some of the region’s most innovative companies and organizations with extremely talented business owners and community members in attendance.
The concept for the event started with Opportunity Knocks Board Member Preston Callicott and was planned and organized by Opportunity Knocks board members. The event was made possible by volunteers who helped with creating and planning the event.
“The idea was prompted by the creation of the Innovation District by the City, an effort that Preston spearheaded. We want to see Bend become known as a place where creativity and innovation are already happening and are celebrated and nurtured,” said Aly Waibel, Opportunity Knocks executive director.
There were 15 tables and approximately 30 table topic facilitators with nearly 200 attendees. Those in attendance were split into groups of 10-12 to make their way from table-to-table for twenty minute discussions on a variety of topics.
The format was very much like a speed-dating event which allowed each group to meet and discuss topics with some of the region’s leading innovators. Each discussion was designed as a two-way conversation about innovation within a specific professional field.
“Innovation Day was basically an awareness building event where community members could learn about and interact with local leaders and companies who are on the cutting edge of innovation in their industries,” Waibel said.
Table discussion facilitators included Scott Allan from HydroFlask talking about his company’s unusual culture, Shannon Keith sharing Sudara’s social impact concept, Jim Schell and Roger Lee discussing the role of collaboration in Central Oregon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and Preston Callicott and Kelly Sparks discussing the new Innovation District.
Unveiled in May 2017 the Innovation District covers most of the Upper Mill District in Bend between Emkay Drive and Colorado, Chandler and Washington Avenues. The designation formalizes the intersection of entrepreneurship and business with higher education at OSU—Cascades.
Innovation Day was an opportunity for businesses and the community to connect, learn, inspire and be inspired.
“I really appreciated all the diverse backgrounds and knowledge in the room. The format really helped spark some interesting conversations and draw from the huge breath of experience represented at the tables. When people think of innovation often technology is the first thing that comes to mind. This day was demonstrative of the notion that innovation comes in a myriad of forms,” said Jess Weiland, hyperlocal foods table facilitator and representative from High Desert Food and Farm Alliance.
Attendees from the event left feeling positive and ready to try new things, motivated to make changes and better informed about the local culture of innovation in Central Oregon. They left with notes in hand prepared with ideas to help them become more innovative in their personal and professional lives.
Table facilitators left the event knowing that the halo effect of their company being affiliated with innovation will reflect as attendees take what they’ve learned and share with the community. Facilitators had the opportunity to learn what people in the community are thinking about when it comes to specific fields of innovation.
Katie Condit, executive director of Better Together, was a table facilitator for the Workforce Pipeline and Internships discussions.
“One person never has the entire picture for an idea. Coming together to innovate around regional initiatives that are taking place opened our minds to a plethora of ideas we hadn’t considered. The day was incredibly full of ideas coming from every direction. Now we just have to wrap our heads around all the wonderful ideas that came up,” Condit said.
Discussions were led by the founders and leaders of some of the most innovative companies in Central Oregon including Oregon’s Wild Harvest, Onboard Dynamics, Smart Grow Technologies, Bend Outdoor Worx, Hydroflask, GreenFig University, Global Strategies and Deschutes Growery.
“Discussion leaders were chosen because they are currently involved in innovating a new idea. They’re not thinking about it, they’re already doing it. We wanted discussion facilitators who could talk about how they innovate and think outside the box, and inspire others to do the same,” Waibel said.
Each table was given a specialized theme to discuss including innovation in technology, the innovation district, customer and market intelligence, company culture, leading edge public education, workplace training, workplace internships, hyperlocal food, social impact companies, business innovation and innovation in construction.
By all accounts the inaugural event was a success. It was held on a Tuesday in the middle of July and nearly 200 people turned out for the full day event.
“This is awesome for a first year never been done before experiment. I heard lots of comments about how much people loved the raw, organic feel of it, the chance to have great conversations and the pace. There was just enough time for the conversation to get going so people left each table with new ideas and questions. The energy stayed high all day and people didn’t get bored, which is a fantastic measure of success in my book,” Waibel said.
The Opportunity Knocks team has already started debriefing on the successes and opportunities to innovate the event for next year. They foresee Innovation Day growing each year and becoming a major annual event that hundreds of leaders and innovators in Central Oregon look forward to each year.