The street is packed with thousands of people. Music is playing from two stages. Food trucks line the curb and vendors are eagerly selling their products to interested customers. And all money goes to support the community. Sound too good to be true? Enter: The Festival for Good.
Originally called the SEA Change Festival, The Festival for Good began in 2016 after founders Patrick Westerlund and Emily Savors noticed a lack in community awareness of the blooming social enterprise ecosystem in Central Ohio. The concept of mission-driven businesses was rapidly growing in Columbus and there needed to be a way to highlight these organizations and connect them to customers.
They came to the ultimate decision that a street festival made up entirely of social enterprise vendors was the best way to raise awareness and get the public to support local social impact businesses.
“The desire was to bring attention to the concept of social enterprise,” current festival chairwoman Lauren Edwards explains. “At the time there wasn’t a lot being done to kind of bring that attention other than maybe once a year.”
What started as a small group of social enterprise support leaders trying to make a difference in their community, has grown into a team of passionate volunteers, committee members, and funders from across Central Ohio. POINT, Atlas Community Partners, and SocialVentures all take part on the planning committee, while The Columbus Foundation and the Business of Good Foundation lead the way with consistent funding. Wright-Patt Credit Union has signed on as a sponsor this year expanding the impact into the corporate world.
The Festival’s reputation and impact on the community has also grown, getting the attention of new participants each year.
“More and more people are excited to be a part of it,” Edwards says. “Every year we get more and more vendors and food trucks and bands and all kinds of people just reaching out to us and saying, ‘Hey, can we be a part of this effort?’”
This year, things are looking a little different. As 2020 caused so many of us to alter our way of life, The Festival for Good had to reimagine the event differently from the street festival that usually draws thousands of people and boasts 30 plus vendors. But pivoting is nothing new for the Festival. Three locations in four years has allowed the planning committee to be flexible and creative when it comes to ways to grow the social enterprise ecosystem.
Amidst the challenges of the hosting an event during the coronavirus, Edwards and her team were determined to continue the festival, by pivoting to a “hybrid” experience of a virtual scavenger hunt and a week full of online demonstrations leading up to a smaller “social enterprise takeover” at the Clintonville farmers market. The market will showcase 12 social impact vendors and a livestream for viewers at home.
Despite almost forgoing the event this year completely, Edwards and her team ultimately made the decision to pursue the festival virtually later this month, for the sake of the social enterprise vendors, whose business and capital were at risk during the pandemic.
“We’re doing it primarily as a marketing and sales campaign for every vendor that signs up, because they will not survive if we don’t step up now,” Edwards says. “We moved it to November, so that it was leading in to the shopping season for the holidays. Any challenges that we face in pulling this off are really minuscule compared to the challenges that our vendors are facing every day.”
The digital “festival” will include daily online events from social enterprises and prize giveaways that encourages viewers to get involved, without getting Zoom burnout.
“We’re trying to offer something that is fun and relevant, but is not time consuming,” Edwards says. “It’s not an extra effort for people to participate in, no more than just clicking on a link and watch a short video, or, do this thing where you’ll learn something cool and be able to support people who are doing really amazing work in our community.”
Though the format of the festival might be new, the mission remains front and center: to support social entrepreneurs and connect them to customers.
“Our team has done a really great job in pivoting and listening to the needs of the vendors too, and really trying to do what’s best for them and what will connect them with the community,” committee member Stephanie Page says.
“One goal is to lift up and share the news and the names of the businesses in Central Ohio that are doing good,” she explains. “Then the goal is to educate people and say, ‘Look at all of these ways that you can do more good with your dollars right here in Central Ohio.’”
While the virtual “festival” begins November 8, the scavenger hunt is now live on the Festival for Good website. Fill out fun questions about local social enterprises, and tune in for a week of exciting announcements and social impact activities, followed by the Clintonville Farmers Market event on November 14. Visit festivalforgood.org to RSVP and learn more on how you can participate.
Founded in 2014, SocialVentures is a non-profit organization that advances remarkably good businesses—businesses that intentionally integrate social impact as a non-negotiable component of their business model. To contact SocialVentures, send an email to [email protected] or visit socialventurescbus.com.