As the world is waking up to the idea that events offer value beyond just economics alone, Jessica Vandy is at the forefront of increasing awareness around the social impact of events.
Even before it has started, it’s clear that this kōrero with Sandra is going to be different from the other Oh-Ah-Ha Live interviews.
Jessica’s webpage is a give-away. You’re greeted with:
“Kia Ora. We’re going to shake things up a bit’
Let me tell you… she does. Here’s how.
Businesses have become very skilled in measuring events in terms of economic impact. But as the awareness for public wellbeing and sustainability grows, so does the need to reflect on the social impact of events.
Jessica’s quest was two-fold: How do we communicate the social impact events have in an unambiguous way? And how do we put a measure on it?
The seeds for her new business, ‘The Tenth Letter’ were sown.
The Long and Windy Road to The Tenth Letter
In Jessica’s late teenage mind, her career was that of a classic ballerina. Proudly, she gained herself a spot in a performing arts school, only to have her dreams crushed within months of embarking on her journey.
Back to the drawing board, the hospitality industry offered the lifeline she was looking for. It was also her first exposure to the events industry. It piqued her interest.
Jessica’s growing career took her to Queensland, Australia. The scale of events ever-increasing.
Until the call of Aotearoa pulled her back. First in the international bid team for Tourism NZ. More recently she became involved in the development of the event social impact programme, measuring the impact of conferences beyond economics. There was a niggling feeling she was part of something much bigger.
Aotearoa and Whāingaroa/Raglan, her hometown, had always given her a sense of community. It resonated on a big scale, and Jessica wanted to do more of it.
The link between her familiar world of events and the social impact events can have was established.
The Perfect Time to Focus on the Social Impact of Events
It’s only been 4 weeks since Jessica Vandy started ‘The Tenth Letter’. If that provokes a ‘whoa!’ from you, you’re not alone. It takes a very brave person to start a business in the middle of a pandemic. It takes an even braver one to embark on a new adventure in the events industry.
But Jessica’s reply is straight up:
‘If not now, then when? This is exactly the right time.’
The girl has guts. She’s got my respect straight away.
But Jessica may be brave, it doesn’t make her stupid.
The Tenth letter wasn’t born out of impulse. In fact, the plan had been hatching for the last 2 and ½ years. Of course, there were doubts when a global pandemic threw the world in a hurricane of turmoil. But as Jessica felt herself pulled towards family and neighbours during the April lockdown, she knew it was the right thing to do.
Growing Awareness and the Impact of Events Beyond Economics
‘My conference created this change in the community! How awesome is that?!’
Ultimately, this is the narrative that drives Jessica’s business.
The Tenth Letter is built around the idea that the growth sprouted by events is much greater than what can be measured in economic numbers. Jessica’s business finds roots in a desire to bring people together and create impact. Events are a wonderful platform for the initiation of change. Often, they create a unique cluster of knowledge, making them exceptional moments of opportunity.
As far as clients go, associations are an obvious focus. Although there is a growing awareness in businesses too. The questions remain the same: how to approach it? How to measure it?
This is how it would play out.
You and your association or business recognise a strong need in the world around you. The desire to do something about it doesn’t let go. That’s what gets the ball rolling.
From there we determine goals that set out the custom markers of how we should measure success. This could be anything from an activity to a policy change. Together with the stakeholders, we put lot of thought into these purpose-built beacons.
How much or how deep we get involved is a very fluid thing. It can be as big or as wide as it needs to be. Our contribution can be as limited as guiding you toward the next step in your project or as extensive as an overall business tune up.
Because it’s unchartered territory and because every goal is unique, the process is very bespoke.
Listening to the Winds of Change
It’s early days, both for The Tenth Letter and the awareness around social impact in the event industry.
Initially, there is quite a bit of work to be done in building the knowledge and understanding that associations can create change in a community in an organised and tangible way.
In the next few months, this is where Jessica plans to sink her teeth in; getting content out there, educating people.
She’s telling us to watch this space.
Jessica’s Ah-ha moment
Every Oh-Ah-Ha interview ends with a probe around people’s biggest Ah-ha moment.
For Jessica, the lightbulb moment came 2 and ½ years ago during an international workshop in Ljubljana where she attended a session on ‘Impact and Legacy’.
Over the years, Jessica watched other people get the ‘This-is-it!’ moment. She never anticipated it would also happen to her. But she came away from the conference skipping with enthusiasm, wanting to grow her knowledge.
The Tenth Letter is the direct result.
Jessica is on a mission to help the business events sector understand social impact and show our value beyond just economics alone.
Born in London, raised in Whāingaroa/Raglan, Jessica is the founder of The Tenth Letter, a consultancy teaching social impact and how we can use business events as a mechanism for creating positive change in communities.
After a career ending dance injury in her early twenties, Jessica has gone from ballerina to business owner. Spending the last sixteen years in hotels, convention centres, events, catering, and tourism before launching her passion project The Tenth Letter in late 2020.
Jessica is looking forward to sharing her journey, what has driven her to start a business during a pandemic, and what social impact means for the world of business events.