"If you see your ideas and projects as 'experiments' in the way a scientist would, then you can set yourself free of fear of failure."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Dr Cathy Hope, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Design in University of Canberra and Founder of Play Activation Network.

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a few ACT public green space projects with government, industry and community to help make our public spaces more community-led, inclusive and vibrant. In my role as Engagement Coordinator at the University of Canberra, I’m also building productive relationships between my Faculty – the Faculty of Arts and Design – and our local communities so that we can positively contribute to the ACT and surrounding regions.

I established the Play, Creativity and Wellbeing Project (PCWP) in the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research at UC in 2016. Play is such an integral but under-investigated capacity – not just in childhood but across the lifespan. It helps us to connect and belong, to express ourselves and to explore identity; to experiment, create and release. It is a powerful tool for improving wellbeing. The PCWP brings together people and places in targeted projects that draw on creativity and play for better well being.

An example of this is Haig Park Experiments – working with the sectors and community to transform this under-utilised and unsafe place in Canberra into a community hub. We worked with over local 230 artists, as well as local businesses and community groups to activate this lovely place.

Why is innovation important to you?

Innovation is the space I most like to occupy because it’s where potential lies. Creative play facilitates innovation because it involves the activation of both familiar and novel elements to create something new. If your activation is responsive and thoughtful to people’s wants and needs then it’s like a fresh and liberating breeze that blows over stale or stuck systems, methods and cultures.

What drives you to make a difference?

I am passionate about Canberra – it’s such a fantastic place to live, work and play – and I want to contribute in any way I can to bring out all of its potential, make it the best version of itself that it can be – inclusive, diverse, vibrant, green, pioneering and progressive, interesting and unique.

And I love the people that live here. They all want to make a difference, and that drives me.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

Women make great innovators because they know how to generate and drive change, and to bring people along with them at the same time .

It’s important to take risks and to embrace your mistakes. If you see your ideas and projects as ‘experiments’ in the way a scientist would, then you can set yourself free of fear of failure – and instead consider your work like a test and trial, with the findings informing and improving your next experiment.

What are you proud of right now?

I’m not so much super proud as super thrilled that I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know all of the people in and via the Play Activation Network, which I established to bring together people from across the sectors who are interested in play. Honestly, the people in this town are just so interesting, compassionate, open, intelligent and fun to hang out with. I meet a new amazing person through the network and my other projects every week!

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