Cause + Affect, Jane and Steven Cox | BCBusiness

Cause + Affect, Jane and Steven Cox | BCBusiness
Jane and Steven Cox plan for the inaugural FUEL event.

The team behind PechaKucha brings a diverse new event to Vancouver

Would you be happy paying for a ticket to an event featuring potentially high-profile business speakers—without knowing who is actually booked to talk? For the sake of “open business” and “community engagement,” Cause + Affect Design Ltd. brand strategists Steven and Jane Cox think customers may well be.

Steven and Jane are the masterminds of the popular PechaKucha dialogue event in Vancouver, and worked on the creation of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Fuse nights. The Gastown-based partners in life and work have now created an altogether different initiative, FUEL (The Future of Urbanity, the Environment and our Lifestyles), that switches the focus from the usual talking-heads to the attendees.

Buying cheaper early tickets (individuals from $65 to $95 each; small business packages $360 for six) enables people and companies to be part of the creative process. The inaugural two-day FUEL Vancouver event will be held in May in the 700-seater Vancouver Playhouse, and will include a mix of hands-on workshops and theatre presentations. The early ticket holders will be involved in the planning process, from deciding which discussions the day and evening programming will host to choosing which local experts and global speakers will participate in dialogue series.

The event will focus on four broad areas—food, sustainability, technology and design—although nothing will be discussed in silos. “It’s all about mashing it up and looking at the intersection of all those four themes,” Jane says.

The couple says 15 per cent of tickets have been bought since the initiative launched last week, including small business packages by local group Fairware Promotional Products Ltd., which makes socially and environmentally responsible promotional goods, and by Chambar Restaurant.

“We had people joining without knowing much about it, because people like what we do,” Jane adds. “Now what’s really exciting is the conversations, questions and dialogue that’s happening all over the place. It’s about wanting the public and the business leaders to engage in the making of FUEL, of being involved in the creative process and even at the event itself. We consider them part of our team.”

The Coxes see the growing concept of “open business” as key for the event that’s been a year in the planning. “We think it should resonate with business leaders that understand that what they do isn’t in a bubble anymore, and to be successful and relevant you need to embrace and understand the bigger picture,” says Jane.

“People are leading businesses now and you need to think about how technology is disrupting business as normal and allowing everyday people to come in and challenge. I think businesses will be interested because they are thinking more than ever in community and engaging locally.”

“Vancouver is shifting to being an entrepreneurial city,” Steven says. “It has a lot of ideas that the world can learn from, and a lot of cities are doing things that are really relevant to Vancouver.”

While he admits that the public’s or business folks’ suggestions of uber-famous speakers may be a long shot, he suggests that the more people ask about one particular person, “the more ammunition we have to reach out to that person to say, ‘Hey, people really want to hear from you.’”

“It’s like having a crowd-sourced presenter, and saying, ‘Vancouver really wants you,’” Jane adds.

FUEL Vancouver runs May 29-30.