ImPACT Fest Launches Hartford as a Sharing City

A ShareFest by any other name is still sweet. Recently, sharing organizers in Connecticut hosted ImPACT Fest at Bushnell Park, in downtown Hartford. The goal for the event was to raise awareness of the area’s many assets, especially those that involve the sharing economy. The first of what organizers hope will be an annual event, the ImPACT Fest was funded in part with a #SharingSpring grant from Shareable and was a cross-sector event that allowed community members to make face-to-face connections with various community entities and organizations.

Lead organizer Olusanya Bey says that strengthening community and increasing awareness of various services was part of the vision for the fest. “We wanted to generate and foster a greater sense of cooperation and collaboration between the community and those serving it,” he says. “We also wanted to raise awareness of Hartford's timebank.”

Lead organizer Olusanya Bey with a young ImPACT Fest participant

Over 40 local businesses and non-profit organizations participated in the ImPACT Fest, along with 10 social enterprises and 50 local artists. An estimated 500 community residents attended, including around 75 individuals from the homeless community.

Organizations had information tables set up throughout the park and there were vendors, a farmers’ market, and a social enterprise village. There was an area for kite flying, and workshops on drumming, yoga, hip-hop dancing, salsa and more scattered throughout the park. There was also a stage for performances that included folk music, Kirtan, jazz, Armenian folk dancing, traditional Chinese dancing, hip-hop, spoken word, improv, and Bhangra.

Local organizations were able to connect face-to-face with people at the ImPACT Fest

According to Bey, the highlight of the event was a pop-up Street Store for the Homeless that was operated by volunteers from the homeless community. The store served as a hub for various homeless services organizations to connect.

“We started out partnering with one organization, Faces of Homelessness, that serves the homeless,” he says, “and by the day of the event we had two more organizations,Journey Home and Night Angels, on board.”

Patricia A. Johnson, a consultant and community leadership developer with the Christian Activities Council told Bey, “I have two organizations collaborating with my summer program for the youth, that I met at ImPACT Fest. You all did a really good job!’”

In addition to information booths for local sharing projects, the ImPACT Fest featured music, workshops and dancing.

The event served to catalyze the local sharing community and spark inspiration for making Hartford a sharing city. Through the ImPACT Fest, organizers were able to recruit young, passionate people to the local timebank, iron out some administrative and organizational details around it, and focus on planning events that will create opportunities for members to engage in time exchanges.

Organizers have already been asked by Public Allies Connecticut to work on next year’s ImPACT Fest and a number of Allies, including Bey, formed the Hartford City-Share Project, modeled after BayShare. The idea, says Bey, is “to explore how city stakeholders and the sharing community can work together to help the sharing economy flourish in Hartford to benefit the city, businesses, and communities.” He adds, “We also want our organization to be a resource for the mayor’s office in promoting the sharing economy, and serve as a resource for the community by hosting events and providing educational materials so that more residents and businesses engage with sharing economy.”

The highlight of the event, says Bey, was a pop-up Street Store for the homeless.

The planning team consisted of 11 members with the following seven actively planning and executing the event: Emily Petersen of Knox Inc.; Maral Wozniak of Village for Families and Children; Lauren Little of Husky Sport; Anita Cotto of Connecticare; Ojala Naeem of reSET Social Enterprise Trust; Cynthia Bualong of Open Studios Hartford/Artists In Real Time; and Bey of Public Allies Connecticut.

The biggest challenge that the team faced was getting the city to waive their park permit fee, which they accomplished by going to a press conference and talking directly to the mayor.

Bey explains that organizers would not have been able to accomplish what they did without the help of a great team of advisors. He also stresses the role that Shareable played in inspiring and supporting the event.

“Shareable has been a great help to us,” he says. “[The] website has been our new library, providing us with great resources, and the mini-grant allowed us to purchase all of the signage and t-shirts we needed for our pop-up Street Store.” He continues, “We are looking forward to continuing to collaborate and work with your organization as we move our city closer to becoming a true sharing city.”

The ImPACT Fest brought people together to learn, share and enjoy the local community's talents.

For those planning similar events, Bey advises recruiting people from the different sectors of the city to help and letting them take the lead in their areas of expertise.

“Make the event a cooperative, collaborative effort,” he says. “Especially make an effort to involve the community residents themselves, so they own the event and increase the chances for sustainability.”

As is the case with many ShareFests, music and the arts were a big part of the ImPACT Fest.

A success by all measures, the ImPACT Fest managed to bring people together, initiate new projects, spread information and share knowledge, space, skills and goods.

Derek Santiago, who is the Public Allies Connecticut Hartford Program Manager and a Hartford native told Bey, "I've never seen an event in Hartford, before ImPACT Fest, that brought the different cultures in Hartford together at one time, in the same space, sharing the park and information with each other. It was great!"