This post originally appeared on ChangeX at the very early stage of our journey.
Grow Remote joined ChangeX as an idea partner in 2018 when they were ready to scale their idea across Ireland. Using changex.org as their community platform allowed Grow Remote to move from a national event model to a local chapter model and build an active community of remote workers across Ireland.
Global Goals addressed (these numbers have been increased since!)
About Grow Remote
Tracy Keogh is the Innovation Community Manager for the West Region Bank of Ireland and the founder of a new idea to boost the economy in rural areas of Ireland: Grow Remote. Usually, when we talk about growing at ChangeX, it’s all about community gardens, and teaching each other to grow our own vegetables. This time, it’s about growing and connecting a movement of remote workers across Ireland. Grow Remote advocates for the relevant structures and governance to allow remote employment schemes but they also help remote workers to connect with each other where they live.
According to Tracy, the growth potential for rural Ireland lies in remote working, as opposed to our cities where a lot of the attention is on startups to drive economic growth. Examples of companies hiring remote workers in Ireland are Zapier, Expedia, Buffer, and Bloomberg.
The ultimate aim of Grow Remote is to “increase employment in regional areas by connecting companies, remote workers and local communities”.
Tracy is a big believer in the power of community and puts thriving communities and connection at the heart of what she does:
We believe we’re in the middle of a seismic change in ways of working that opens up a whole new opportunity for a better quality of life, for remote workers and rural Ireland. That’s why we’re building a national movement to build a remote working community in Ireland. We bridge the gap between remote work and local impact. Remote work is already there. It’s just not converting into the conversations on the ground, at the kitchen table, in the church. Remote workers are not on that side of the conversation.
When Tracy got in touch with us at ChangeX, she had already hosted a big event to bring remote workers and employers together, she had built a small team of volunteers and critically, she had identified the massive opportunity presented by building a community around remote working.
She wanted to figure out how to get people involved locally, how to empower people to become Grow Remote leaders in their own communities and to host their own events.
While the overall goals of Grow Remote were mapped out, the strategy to get there and to build that nationwide movement, was still something that kept Tracy awake at night. Following a suggestion from her team member Sean, she contacted us at ChangeX.
A couple of months later, there were 42 Grow Remote Chapters across Ireland and also a few in other countries like the US and Spain, helping to connect remote workers to each other and their communities, not just through single events but on an ongoing basis.
Setting up on ChangeX gave us everything that we have today. We were on What’sApp and knew we were onto something big. And we knew that we were helping people. But we had no way to do it at scale. Then, a month later, we were able to just send out a link and let people set up a chapter.
Opening up for registrations of chapters
Grow Remote aligned perfectly with how we think about community building at ChangeX, which comes down to empowering local leaders to build their local communities. For us, that always starts with packaging up an idea with simple guidelines that people can follow. Instead of showing people just how to host events, we advised Tracy to use a chapter model that would allow more flexibility and have a greater chance of sustaining in the long term.
We actually intended on building meetups, to go straight for solving for the #1 challenge of remote workers — isolation. But, we started this from a regional development perspective, so we took a broader view. A meetup doesn’t always make sense in a rural area, where they may be looking to focus on building a remote working community from scratch!
Supporting 42 new chapters within one month
The team at ChangeX helped us put Grow Remote in a box that could then be shipped to local leaders. The ChangeX team was able to lend experience (at no charge) in scaling multiple community projects to setting Grow Remote up for success. Having Niamh as an advisor was incredibly helpful. When you just stumble upon something – and that’s how it was for us with Grow Remote, we stumbled upon it – How do you allow for it to grow and move in a way that is still meaningful?
All chapters gathered on one platform
Tracy now manages all registrations for new groups through ChangeX which means that she can keep all the information about chapter leads in one place and work through following up with people and approving applications right through her ChangeX admin area. Everyone who joins also goes through a 5-step challenge, that helps to “test out” the commitment and readiness of applicants.
“Niamh took our chaotic ‘Oh my god there is so much here’ and actually structured it in a way that it could work operationally. The 5 step guide and challenge completely changed our onboarding.”
But, what was even more important to Tracy was having a transparent overview of chapters that is accessible for anyone at any time.
“It’s important that a community is very accessible and that’s why the map and the calendar are so important. You can log in and see where all your communities are. You can contact the local chapter leaders directly. See the conversations that are happening all in one place. It’s technology we couldn’t build and it’s also fundamental to a well functioning community that it’s open and accessible.”
Alternative to Facebook for Community Builders
Bernard Joyce in Castlebar was one of the first to register a Grow Remote chapter. He has since hosted several events and is using his page on ChangeX to keep people in the loop of what’s happening. 82 people have joined his group so far, many of whom he had not known before and who have now met each other for the first time. Bernard sees another reason to use ChangeX:
Lots of people now are hesitant or refuse to use tools like WhatsApp or Facebook to connect. ChangeX is actually a platform they are happy to register with. We should be moving to these types of platforms that are not selling out our data.
Let’s keep empowering people in communities
For us, Grow Remote was a bit different from the ideas we’ve partnered with up to this point. We were energised and inspired by the way Tracy has taken remote employment, which you might consider simply a personal career choice, an enterprise level challenge or a local government issue and turned it into a community-based solution to revitalise rural communities. We’re delighted that we could be part of the initial growth and hope we’ll be part of this movement as it keeps growing.
Why Grow Remote grew was because we empowered people to make change in their own environment and ChangeX provided the technology and the process to make that happen. People just press a button and they set up a chapter in their own area and that’s empowering.