On Thursday 20th March 2014, representatives from local and state government, non-profit and business came together at CityHive for the launch of the Midwest Learning Marketplace pilot project.
Below is a summary and some of the highlights of the conversations, which are the basis for Pollinators expanding stakeholder engagement and developing the technology to meet local needs. If you are interested in also being involved as a partner, adviser, early adopter or user, please complete the 5-minute stakeholder survey and Heather, project manager, will follow-up with you.
The ‘marketplace‘ is a one-year pilot project that will bring together all the learning, training and development opportunities across the Midwest into a single online platform. There is a specific focus on community and NFP organisations, and the aim of the marketplace is to “Increase the amount, quality and reach of learning and development opportunities in the region“, and to ultimately increase the capacity and capability of our community sector in the Midwest. The intention is for the platform to be financially self-sustaining beyond the pilot period.
Pollinators and partners have been scoping out this project and a solution since late 2012 and we summarised the context and scope in this presentation (contributors to the scoping are listed at the bottom of this post). In summary, the current challenges across a wide range of stakeholders included:
- Need for quality training and professional development to be delivered locally,
- Difficulty finding out what training is on, with no ‘single place’ to find out,
- Under-subscription of existing training,
- Quality of services and demand for new training largely unmeasured,
- Unwanted or unnecessary travel to Perth when needs could be met locally.
Thanks to seed-funding through the City of Greater Geraldton Community Grants Scheme, Pollinators are leading on development of an online platform that could meet those needs. While there are local or national services such as EverythingGeraldton and EventNation (that promote events), Seek Learning (training targeted at job seekers) and Open Sesame (directories of online learning opportunities) none of those adequately meet the local needs.
At the workshop participants rated potential benefits and features of the platform including:
- Listings that can be searched by location, topic, price, date,
- Rating and recommending training and providers,
- Booking and even participating in courses online,
- Requesting or suggesting training to see who else is interested,
- Tools for training providers to list, market, embed and sell their training,
- One online place where ‘everyone’ and ‘all training’ could be found.
Having known that many of these features would be desirable and were technically possible, Heather and Andrew from Pollinators had been consulting with website owners and developers to understand how they could ‘work’. By ‘work’ we were assessing similar or related tools and platforms that would meet the local social need, have wide reach, encourage the appropriate sort of user and provider interactions, and be financially sustainable.
We looked at dozens of platforms and projects across the world, and some of our learnings are summarised below.
- You can’t do everything for everyone
- The WACOSS DropIn project had a huge scope to increase collaboration in the community sector. They’ve chosen to start with a limited set of the most valuable features and functions.
- ‘Free for all’ isn’t financially sustainable!
- School of Everything looks like a great concept. We wondered if too low margins from too many low-cost courses just didn’t add up to cover the costs?
- Markets need buyers, sellers and services
- The marketplace will need to be attractive to both training providers as well as users. We think you’d need to be useful enough for the providers such that they start using the service even before there was a critical mass of users to market to.
- Everyone’s got something to offer, at a price
- Online marketplaces like AirTasker (visit https://www.airtasker.com/) or AirBnB show that if you can make the barriers to listing and offering a service low enough and the potential earnings high enough, then you may increase the total size of the market.
- Ability to test demand reduces risk
- Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and StartSomeGood allow entrepreneurs or artists to test demand and interest in their service before they commit to it. The same ability to test demand can reduce the risk for providers to test the market for a training (without committing to running it).
- Recommendations increase quality
- TripAdvisor and other sites are so valued and popular because there are real people making recommendations and providing feedback on the services provided. This public feedback increases trust and increases quality.
- Geraldton can lead Australia
- As far as we can tell, the same challenges exist around Australia (and the world) and there appears to only be one platform in the UK that would meet the requirements. That means if we can develop or licence something that meets the needs, it could solve a problem for more than just the Midwest.
- Markets enable collaboration and emulation
- Markets are rarely purely competitive. There’s often collaboration too. This can be as simple as referring on to others, clarifying your point of difference, emulating someone else who’s doing really well and can even extend to collaborating with others e.g. a multi-session, multi-trainer ‘course’ made up of different services from different providers.
Armed with that learning and insights, this project will move into the next phase, aiming to start trials in July 2014:
- Development — April to June 2014
- Training and Trial — July 2014
- Launch — August 2014
- Support & Evaluation — August to Dec 2014
If you are interested in also being involved as a partner, adviser, early adopter or user, please complete the 5-minute stakeholder survey and Heather, project manager, will follow-up with you.
Thanks to those individuals and organisations who’ve contributed to development of this project so far.
- City of Greater Geraldton
- Apprentice and Traineeship Company
- Geraldton Regional Community Education Centre
- Department of Sport and Recreation
- Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health
- Geraldton Universities Centre
- Blaze Digital
- Midwest Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- WA Council of Social Services
- Centacare Volunteer Services
- Midwest Development Commission
- Durack Institute of Technology
- Small Business Centre Midwest
This blog post was written by Pollinators Executive Officer Andrew Outhwaite