Change the City: Plan Bee

Life after landing a grant.

April 2017Add a comment

A little over five years ago, Bee Public started out as an idea rolling around in my head, which soon ripened to obsession. Bees pollinate a third of our food and have been dying at an alarming rate for more than 10 years. I saw dozens of chicken coops popping up all over town, but where were the beehives? Bee Girl to the rescue, I thought. I ignored well-meaning friends who told me to spend the winter writing a business plan—the textbook first step. Without putting pen to paper or gaining 501(c)3 status, I got swept up in what’s known in the cause world as “doing the work.”

Before I’d kept a single hive, I found myself passionately describing pollination to a crowd at Dig IN, desperate to be a voice for the tiny insects. Then I started a few hives and taught beekeeping classes. The project grew seemingly overnight when I teamed with Earth Charter Indiana and the Arts Council to apply for a SustainIndy grant in 2015. We would merge what we had each been doing—honeybees, youth education, and art—to create Save the Bees Indiana. The city liked our idea and gave us $10,000 to offer talks, place beehives at schools, and help pass pro-bee legislation.

I spent the next year buzzing around town, talking to more than 2,000 kids. In 2016, Mayor Joe Hogsett proclaimed Indy a bee-friendly city and did the bee-waggle dance with dozens of third- and fourth-graders. Then we teamed up with City-County Councilor Zach Adamson to pass a pro-pollinator resolution, making Indy, at the time, one of only 25 localities in the country to do so.

When the dust settled, all the grant dollars gone and the final report submitted, I still had no plan on paper for Bee Public. Had I chosen the right path? I think so, because jumping in and rolling up my sleeves changed my perspective. Bee Public’s mission is so much clearer now, with youth education at its core. I’ve created some solid partnerships and gotten the word out in ways I couldn’t have if I had been locked away writing a business plan. It’s tempting to seek out another grant right away, but for now I’m enjoying the flexibility—with no board to manage, the project can grow and shrink seasonally. I don’t need to change my mission on the whim of a funder. The lesson I learned was that you don’t have to let the process be so intimidating that you don’t do it at all, or get down on yourself if you haven’t made that funding plan yet because you’re caught up doing the work. For me, I can now sit comfortably with uncertainty when I think of this quote: “Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly. But the bumblebee doesn’t know it, so it goes on flying anyway.”

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