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Nadworny: The Social Hack

02/23/12 5:55PM By Rich Nadworny
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(Host) Commentator Rich Nadworny is an expert in new media and digital marketing. Recently, he took part in an event designed to jump-start design thinking and innovation - a  skill set that looks to play an important role in Vermont's economic future.

(Nadworny) A few weeks ago I organized an event called a Social Hack. It was an extension of the social media breakfast events some colleagues and I have been running for the past three years. Usually we bring in national speakers for a morning event, with food, of course, to inspire our local community while providing us Vermonters a chance to actually meet with one another.

This time, though, we did something different. In addition to bringing in two amazing speakers, we actually got people to spend the day tackling a key social and economic issue in Vermont: the Localvore issue.

In Vermont, the local food system supplies16% of all private sector jobs in the state and food manufacturing is the state's second largest manufacturing industry. The Farm to Plate strategic initiative has the goal of increasing our local food production by 5% over a 10 year period to help grow our local economy and to improve the health of all Vermonters. Our challenge was to identify ways to facilitate that growth.

During the Social Hack, people of various backgrounds, who had never worked together or met each other before, let their creativity run wild. My favorite image was probably watching the Insurance guy, wearing the only blazer in the audience, brainstorming with the cool, tattooed Burton Snowboarder.

The idea that their group, Team Beet, came up with was an idea based on an Apple A Day. They called it the Core Card. Using your smart phone, you'd track all of the times you ate local food or shopped at a farm or farmers market. You'd earn rewards while your information would help insurers lower premiums by proving you were eating healthier. Kind of like safe driver discounts.

Another group, Team Kale, came up with a game called Ate 02 (that's A-T-E) in which people competed with each other by snapping pictures of Vermont Localvore products they bought. The pictures would earn them points they could redeem for discounts and other rewards.

The group with the winning idea, Team Arugula, reimagined the milkman into the modern CSA. They concepted a system where busy people could check their phone or Web to see what produce and semi-prepared food they could buy, and plan what food they could make with it. Then, they could meet a farm truck on its Beet Route and purchase local food for a quick and nutritious dinner.

Our next step is to work with Champlain College and the Agency of Agriculture to develop one of these solutions. But beyond that, many participants have taken steps on their own to either flesh out the business plans, or to build out their own ideas from those that the groups didn't choose.

The most interesting part for me, though, was to show and reaffirm to everyone what a talented bunch of people we actually have in our state. The social hack was really an experiment to see what energy we could release in the community when we combined our best Vermont resource. People.

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