Street Feast – the growth of Ireland’s biggest neighbourhood party

Nothing brings us together like eating together. An informal invite to a neighbour to share a meal is so often the starting point of a meaningful connection.

That’s why Street Feast has played a central role among the ChangeX idea partners since the very beginning of ChangeX. A Street Feast can connect neighbours for the first time, but for many it’s also an annual ritual that brings neighbours together to celebrate the place where they live. Since 2016, Street Feast and ChangeX have grown alongside each other and we’ve learned a lot along the way!

About Street Feast

Street Feast founder Sam Bishop

 

Street Feast happens across Ireland on a fixed Sunday in May or June each year. People invite their neighbours to meet for a shared meal out on the street, in a local park or in the front garden. Sam and the Street Feast team send out free packs to everyone who signs up and they provide encouragement and support with tips on how to organise a successful Feast.

The packs include invites, bunting, a guide to hosting a Feast and more. Every year Sam gets a funder on board to provide the necessary resources. In recent years, many County Councils across the country have come on board to cover the cost of packs. In 2019, Street Feast became part of the National Community Weekend in Ireland “The Big Hello”, funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development. Local communities could also apply for small amounts of additional funding for their Street Feasts and other community events with their councils.

The Challenge

How to scale up from 300 to more than 1,000 local events within a year

When Street Feast joined ChangeX in 2016, they were preparing for year 7 and looking at how to encourage more people to start Street Feast but also how to increase the impact of Street Feast.

“We had been thinking about how we could inspire people who host a Feast to move on and do more stuff, once they’ve done a Street Feast. ChangeX had started to build a marketplace of ideas so it felt like the natural thing to do to link in with a community they were building around all these different ideas like GIY, FoodCloud or Men’s Shed.”

Along with the hope that Street Feasters would become more regular changemakers in their communities, Sam also had to decide whether he wanted to build out the technology he needed to scale his idea up.

Our goal was to see 1,000 Feasts happen in 2016. We knew we had to invest in building a more advanced website for the registration process and data management to deal with that many people and to understand who is doing what. We weren’t sure about the costs that would be involved in building the tools needed to do that. We also needed partners on board to reach our goal of 1,000. 

Up until then, Streetfeasters would register for their pack on the Street Feast website and to organise their events they would often move to sites like Facebook. It was difficult to get an overview of what was happening in one place, so Sam decided to use the ChangeX platform instead of building out his own platform.

The solution

Building a registration for yearly events together

Triggered by Sam’s needs we built a registration process optimised for one-off events complementing the product for groups we already had. The Street Feast case is not unique in community development: One national event day, but with more than 1,000 local hosts organising individual events under the same umbrella.

Sam needed a place to manage all that, to support people through the process and to follow what was happening on the ground.

Working off Street Feast’s experiences of what was needed to do that, we built out a registration process that would allow people to sign up to get the free pack while also creating an event page to invite neighbours and friends and discuss their plans for the party.

The Street Feast website, instead of hosting all the data, now simply links to the registration on ChangeX where the community lives under the Street Feast brand.

Besides managing the data, Street Feast also needed a way to support hosts and answer requests quickly.

When registrations open things get very busy at Street Feast. There are always questions coming up and it’s important to us that we answer them quickly and with a consistent tone and message.

We were able to use the ChangeX Customer Relationship Management infrastructure to stay in contact with people and offer support to our hosts. Both using the same system, made it easy to hand over any queries regarding the tech side of the registration to the team at ChangeX while dealing with the Street Feast specific questions around things like insurance or packs on our end. It’s like an extension of our team.

Scaling up to >1,300 Street Feasts

Taking Street Feast from 172 to 1,164 in year one on ChangeX was due to joint efforts in getting the word out across social media channels, newsletter, media partnerships, and digital marketing.

“Being a small team of mostly volunteers running Street Feast, it’s good to have a committed partner on board who puts additional effort into getting people excited about Street Feast and is as excited about the idea as we are.

 

In 2018, I was also able to reduce the investment in Facebook Ads that I had spent before because I could rely on people finding their way to the registration. But also knowing that a lot of Feasts were already happening, now as an annual tradition.”

One of the biggest chunks of work the Street Feast team has to get done in the run-up to the big day is sending out the packs to people who register.

“Once a week we export our list of new starters from our admin panel to work through the addresses and send out the packs.”

Street Feast outside Ireland

In 2018, we tested out the idea of Street Feast in the US where ChangeX has an outpost in Minnesota. About 20 people organised feasts in Greater Minnesota using the Street Feast blueprint with invites and How-To guides. 

A Street Feast in Willmar, Minnesota

It’s been great to see Street Feast come to life in another country. Jen, from ChangeX Minnesota helped to localise the guides and organised the local shipping of the packs. It was great to see the photos of Street Feasts happening in another part of the world. This was us dipping our toes in the water but I’m encouraged enough by how this worked in the US to look at the possibility of taking Street Feast to Melbourne, Australia and potentially other international cities.

Reporting impact back to funders

Street Feast has received funding for the packs from multiple County Councils in Ireland and wanted to keep all of them in the loop about what was happening in their region: How many Feasts had signed up where? What was actually going on?

Through ChangeX, every County Council had access to an impact dashboard to follow the registrations in their County.

Impact Tracking for Co. Wicklow

 

It was helpful to be able to give the councils an overview of what was happening in each County. We used the data from the impact tracker to report back to the County Councils on how many feasts were taking place. We could share the map with the breakdown per county and relevant motivations and updates from people in that County.

10% of Street Feasters are involved with other community ideas 

When people sign up to start Street Feast, they also become part of the ChangeX community and can find out about more ideas to bring their community together.

So far, one in ten people who have hosted a Street Feast are also involved in another ChangeX idea. For example, 17 Street Feasters have also started Playworks at schools in Ireland.

A community of social entrepreneurs who believe in community action

Besides joining forces with our idea partners to inspire people to get involved in ideas that improve communities, there are a lot of ways that social entrepreneurs can work together. For instance, Sam hosted a Street Feast in Dublin in collaboration with FoodCloud. Many social entrepreneurs like Sam are used to figuring out by themselves how to make things work and building their communities. But it’s good, every now and again, to come together to discuss shared challenges and learn from each other.

Sam Bishop at a ChangeX event presenting the results of the 2017 Social Progress Index at Dogpatch Labs Dublin

Besides working with ChangeX on spreading Street Feast I got a lot of value out of the community of social entrepreneurs that are part of the platform. Meeting them in workshops that ChangeX organise and learning from each other is an inspiring and motivating experience.  

 

Help to fund the spread of this idea

Start a Street Feast (The official Street Feast day has been in May but you can use the Street Feast guide and materials at any time to host a Feast in your neighborhood)

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