A network of creative professionals is looking to improve the city by doing what they do best - being nerdy.
Nanaimo Design Nerds are embracing their inner geek as part of a new initiative to support the creative economy. Founding members say Nanaimo has started to attract a growing number of creative professionals but until last year, had no way for them to get together and collaborate.
The NDN aim to bridge the gap, hosting 'idea jams' where people with different skill sets can get together and discuss ways to make Nanaimo a better place to work and live. No one owns ideas developed at the events, allowing anyone with the time and motivation to take them on.
Innovation Island, for example, is looking at building an 'hive' environment where entrepreneurs share work space and office equipment. It is an idea that percolated at an NDN jam.
"Business models used to be about being competitive and keeping your ideas to yourself. That is not how we do things now," said NDN member Jackie Duys-Kelly. "We share ideas and better them for the greater good because we know that if we don't . . . the ideas might never reach their full potential."
Design Nerds have gained traction in cities like Vancouver and New York, and now Nanaimo residents are picking up on the trend. There are more than 130 "ad hoc nerds" willing to take part in NDN events and six key members. Even the term 'nerd' is taking on a new meaning in the Harbour City.
Years ago the term might have been considered an insult, now it's "cool to be alternative and passionate about what you enjoy doing," said Sarita Mielke, a graphic designer and member of NDN. "Nerds are willing to sell their soul to do what they love doing and that separates them from the general public."
Nerds are also driven to make their communities "amazing" places, she said.
Nerds' ideas have led to old cards being transformed into miniature parks, green building initiatives and collaborative work spaces for students. Last week, the NDN hosted CycleArt to encourage people to bike, use public spaces and create art. It has also created a social media page to help connect creative professionals.
All of the initiatives the design nerds do are aimed at empowering the creative community and sparking ideas that other local groups can make happen, says Mark Ashby, a founding member of the NDN and former president of Vancouver Design Nerds.
"It is very powerful to go from having nothing to developing the bones of a proposal (during an jam)," Ashby said.
He sees the popularity of the design nerds only growing as more creative professionals move to the city and hopes they can not only build on Nanaimo but inspire more creativity.
© Copyright 2013