It has been a bumpy ride, but we would do it all over again
It was about this time of the year three years ago when our dear friend Amos brought us keys to our very first Factory “office”. We were on cloud nine! The company was registered by court on Valentine’s day (!) and not long after that we were about to have a headquarters!
Well, at that time it didn’t matter to us that the key-chain tag said: „STORAGE BESIDES OFFICE“.
Life between boxes was awesome from the start. We began literally from scratch, only with a handful of curious clients who were waiting for us to get ready to work and maybe give us a chance… Yes, it has been a rough ride at times but looking back, we would do it all over again.
Participatory Planning – our core expertise – has been growing fast and sometimes unpredictably during the past decade. We knew from the start that we must be adaptive. Constant re-thinking and re-validation of the services that we offer became a crucial habit. “Our market” – the cities and regional governments, international institutions but also community organizations and initiatives – matured hugely since we received our first office keys.
Then the Covid-19 pandemics dramatically spurred utilization of digital civic tech tools and pushed further towards accepting participatory planning as an effective tool for the public sector to deal with all kinds of agendas.
From day one we had a clear vision for the company and even the dramatic world developments didn’t change that, which is something we are immensely proud of. “Let’s not do projects that don’t make sense,” says our unofficial mantra. This compass helped us to be patient, decisive, and motivated throughout the years. It is sometimes difficult to keep the direction steady since we operate in a pure business arena and are dependent only on the will of our clients to pay for services we offer. On the other hand, especially now on our third anniversary, it is so rewarding to be looking back and being able to say that we really have been “manufacturing impact since 2019” as our website claims.
When asked to give an elevator pitch about the work we do, we often joke and sum it up like this: “When the Friday’s discussions about value and importance of participation ends and the following Monday you find yourself beating your brain on how to turn that idealistic last week’s plan into practical project, that’s exactly the moment you should call the Factory for help.”
Fortunately many clients do call us and they seem to genuinely enjoy our approach. In three years we were awarded with a trust of over 50 city governments, ministries, institutions, and organizations from all around the world. Even though preparation and planning of many of these projects began in that small storage room, delivery was completely real on the ground and affected the lives of tens of thousands of people. Besides the EU countries, we have gained exciting experiences in places like the Balkans, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.
We now consider many of the Factory’s clients to be our dear friends. It is exactly they who motivate us to keep going forward and to always improve. It is a pleasure to see how the market is slowly leaving its early adopter stage with participation and community engagement becoming a truly mainstreamed trend, even in places where effective inclusion of public and stakeholders into planning processes has been traditionally viewed as pure science fiction.
Advanced clients on the other hand are inclined more and more to be truly bold. They see the need for employing participation as a bulletproof and a meaningful system serving their communities. Also the projects are becoming more ambitious, agendas are becoming more complex, and one can find a participatory layer in very large projects such as in planning of the strategic infrastructure or strategy creation. All this pushes us as a company to deliver not just specific projects, but to operate in the field of management consulting and capacity building. In three years we have grown from seasoned participation practitioners to true process designers, management and civic tech consultants, evaluators, and strategists.
Our core team has seven members now and is rapidly growing (we are looking for new colleagues, spread the word!). Number of experts we cooperate with on our projects is much much higher though. We have been able to secure long-term impact-driven projects which definitely elevated us from the start-up stage.
We believe that we are keeping the ship on the right course and are hugely excited about the future. We are grateful for the experience and most importantly for all the friends, colleagues, partners, and clients (you know who you are!), who made it possible for the Factory to be built, to grow, and to mature. Thank you!
Katya Petrikevich & Tomas Rakos
P.S. We are again looking for a new office in Prague! This time a proper one!