Nature Festival SA: Arts, Adventure and Aboriginal Culture

  • 2023

  • Service
    Public Sector Services

Commissioned By:

Hinterland Innovation

Designed In:


Learning from prototypes that deepened personal connection to nature but failed in scalable impact, we launched Nature Festival SA as a large, collaborative systems change project presented as a festival. We have succeeded in making a new ‘cultural moment’ with 250+ partners, 780+ events, 500+ media mentions and 43k+ participants.

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Image: Denis Smith
Image: Denis Smith
Image: Ramsay Taplin
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  • In a time of climate change, bushfires, and global pandemics, now more than ever we need to cultivate a deeper relationship with nature. As individuals, that relationship is fundamental to our wellbeing. As a society, that relationship is the foundation of all of the work that we undertake to protect and steward nature. Unfortunately modern life and technology cause a slow 'entropic drift' away from nature. We know identity and narrative are some of the most impactful levers for systems change, so we sought solutions to strengthen individual connection to nature while also reinforcing positive collective narratives.

  • We started with research and prototype projects that succeeded in individual connection to nature but failed to achieve broader culture attention. So we designed a lightly-curated, open-access, distributed festival model and infrastructure to make a 'cultural moment'. In 3 years we have enabled 780+ events with 250+ partners for 43k+ people. We designed the festival to focus on "x + nature", as in 'food + nature', or art + nature' to start with people's existing interests and invite them into a deeper connection with nature. We draw on narrative theory and focus on curating arts and Aboriginal Culture to influence culture.

  • We've had a great impact on collective narrative with over 500 mainstream media mentions in 3 years and based on our evaluation (n=817), 89.2% of participants reported that the Nature Festival increased South Australian pride in nature. In terms of individual relationship, 78% gained new knowledge, ideas or insight and 74.2% felt that their relationship with nature was deepened. A further 69.1% were inspired to take positive action to care for nature as a result of the festival. Further, we've inspired others with our 'Aboriginal Culture Ambassador' and 'micro-grant' innovations being copied in at least two other festivals.

  • We wanted to reach outside the usual suspects, so our key audience is "I'm no greenie, but..." focusing on people who aren't 'greenies,' but might like taking their family to the beach or like great food and wine. This informed a design choice on "x + Nature" events that start with people's diverse interests and connect them back to nature (instead of a traditional nature-first education approach). The festival needed have a large impact with a low overhead, so we designed it as a lightly-curated, open-access model. This also influenced how we designed the commissioning and curation framework, the nimble organisational structure, and an overall theory of change with a collaborative partnership model at its heart. Other features include the flexible online program design, a distributed hub model that's brought the festival 'to the people 'with over 100 regional events, our Aboriginal Cultural Ambassador who sets the tone with partners, the role designs of the Curators who commission, recruit, and shape events, and our 'Micro-Grants' which give small organisations and artists support to shape and try new ideas. Ultimately, we are presented to the public as a fun new festival, while also being a carefully designed social impact initiative.