37: How Community Outreach is Changing Roanoke | Brad Stephens | CoLab

Be Inspired | Do Good:

Brad Stephens is a man of many talents with great experiences in community outreach. He is currently the Director of Co-Lab with two locations in Roanoke, he helped create Noke Codes and Big Lick SOUP initiative, and he is currently involved with three ongoing impact projects: Noke Votes, Thriving Places Project, and Roanoke Roulette.

Brad has not always lived in Roanoke, although he now has his roots here now. He previously grew up in Charlottesville, moved to Kentucky for college, moved to Washington, DC to live with his wife, and moved down to Charlotte, NC; all before coming up to Roanoke. His wife and he chose Roanoke because of its location to their family, his graduate school (Virginia Tech), the accessibility of finding a job.

Roanoke has now become their home because it’s a ripe atmosphere for community involvement. Some say Roanoke is about five to ten years behind other major cities, which is reflected in the low cost of living, but that is perfect for Brad and his ventures. The community has great collaboration with a supportive mindset. His idea for Noke Codes or Big Lick SOUP may have struggled in other cities, but Roanoke welcomed it and asked how it could help.

The biggest challenge that Brad is facing now is how to get more people involved with his projects. While many people locally know about Big Lick SOUP, if he ventures out to different parts of Roanoke, he struggles to share his vision and bring people on board.


More from the Big Lick SOUP website:

What is Big Lick SOUP?

Big Lick SOUP (Supporting Outstanding Urban Projects) is a micro-grant event partnered with a community meal. Everyone in the Roanoke community is invited and asked to make a small donation at the door. Once there, we’ll hear four pitches for community projects.

What kinds of projects? Anything that has a positive community impact is a possibility.

After hearing the pitches, everyone will eat a delicious meal and vote on which project they like best. The project with the most votes will get all of the money raised at the door to do their project.

Every attendee is an individual funder creating change in our community! Even the projects that don’t get this money will wind up with more of the recognition and encouragement necessary for their project.

The model for SOUP was created in Detroit, but there have been subsidiaries all over the planet. You can read more about it at Detroit SOUP.com. They have been doing this for more than 4 years now, and they’ve even been able to start neighborhood level events to spark innovation on an even more intimate scale.

Big Lick SOUP is envisioned as an ongoing project, not a one-time deal. We anticipate having several citywide events every year. We would also love to see neighborhoods leading their own SOUP events. So come out and get in on the ground floor of this exciting project!



Email Brad at bas615@gmail.com

Email Brad at brad@colabroanoke.com

Facebook: Brad Stephens


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