You can find Impact Hubs in over 100 locations, across five continents and more than 50 countries. Local innovators who care deeply about making a difference to their community founded each and every Impact Hub, and everyone does it differently. The global team supports every Impact Hubs and together they work tirelessly to connect the dots between each person, city, country, and region. This locally rooted, globally connected framework is key to accelerating our worldwide movement towards sustainability.
In practice, this translates to our support for the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) through our activities.
All the Impact Hubs have their local story, but there is a global one that helps understand the big picture. Read the compelling story of dauntless men and women who wrote the first chapter of our global story.
How did it start?
In 2000, a young, idealistic group of graduates from Wales’ Atlantic College decided to test the boundaries of the status quo. Securing London’s Royal Festival Hall for a millennium event, they wanted to initiate a debate on the connections between global environmental, social, and political issues, persuading Nobel Prize winners and influential thinkers to speak. Even the Dalai Lama was enlisted for a video address.
Their boldness saw them invited to host an NGO event for the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. But instead of accepting it, they chose to create a more meaningful alternative — a people’s summit. They joined forces with local activists in Soweto who were transforming a township wasteland into the Soweto Mountain of Hope, aka ‘SoMoHo’, an arts, environmental education, and community hub, which outshone the UN summit and touched heads of state, as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Back in the UK, they wondered how they could bring these perspectives into the world of work, and thereby help people consider more purposeful careers that tackle urgent world issues. Looking into it, it hit them: People were already trying to action impactful ideas from their kitchen tables, not reaching their potential in isolation. Their growing group of collaborators changed this in 2005 when they found a space to bring these isolated entrepreneurs and innovators together: a run-down London loft that would house the forerunner of Impact Hub.
The concept of ‘The Hub’ came to life, bringing change-makers together with the shared workspace, community, and events needed to advance their ideas and create new collaborations. Soon transformed with a community-designed interior using recycled and reused materials, The Hub met London impact makers’ needs for a collective action space and quickly filled up.
Months later, The Hub’s rapid growth made its hosts reach out to their networks, keen to discuss how to best support their expanding impact community. To their surprise, the resulting gathering in 2007 had little to do with member support but instead was full of people eager to find out how to open their own local Hubs all over the world.
An Impact Movement Is Born
So the team examined the principles of space co-creation and community building that were born in Soweto and tested in London, curious to see if Hubs might also work elsewhere… By 2008, there were nine Hubs on three continents.
The new spaces became rallying points for people passionate about building a radically better world, and the new Hub founders also connected — seeking inspiration in London and traveling to each other’s spaces to find out how to turn societal challenges into opportunities.
Dozens of would-be Hubs emerged following a centralized body in London, which envisioned the blooming network of Hubs developing as social franchises. But, by 2010, the founding teams came to a realization: Their future had to be a collective one.
This realization led to the creation of a bottom-up, democratic governance model. It came to life in late 2011, marking the Hubs’ transformation into a genuine collective: one with a co-leadership structure and shared practices to shape a new way of doing business together, in and for the world.
In 2013, the empowered network reinforced its focus on purpose-driven innovation and, with this, chose a more fitting name: Impact Hub. Over the next four years, Impact Hub expanded its global reach and more than doubled its community of entrepreneurs and innovators to over 16,000 members across the globe. Instilling conscious leadership around social and business innovation, Impact Hubs inspire, connect and enable positive change across diverse contexts and economies to prove that the future of business is found in profit that serves people and the planet.
Since 2018, as a truly global network, it is now tackling its next challenge: Impact at scale.
As mentioned before, Impact Hubs always express our support for the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) through our activities. Here are 8 of them!
1. The Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP), and the SparkShare project from the Boston Impact Hub (Lilly Marcelin, Founding Director, Resilient Sisterhood Project and Neil Silverston, Co-Founder and Executive Director, SparkShare and a member of Impact Hub Boston.):
Lilly Marcelin started the Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP) in 2012 after spending many years working with victims of domestic and sexual violence and noticing that many of the women were silently dealing with reproductive health complications like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and other gynecological cancers.
RSP works in partnership with—rather than on behalf of–black women and young adults in our communities. They mobilize to address deeply rooted racial discrimination, health and medical inequities, oppressive cultural/gender norms, environmental/food injustice, and other social determinants of health that perpetuate the silence and inaction surrounding these diseases. They make a conscious decision to bring a unique social and cultural approach to the discourse of these diseases. Their programs and services represent a venue of support for advocacy, activism, and education. They organize both structured and informal dialogue/individual interactions to provide a culturally sensitive safe space where women of African descent can speak freely and inquire about reproductive health conditions about which they may feel some anxiety.
Neil Silverston started SparkShare as a network of youth and adults that provides teams of young people with the skills and connections they need to become the next generation of problem solvers.
The SparkShare network is made up of diverse teams of young people around the Greater Boston area, as well as organizational partners such as mental health providers, employers, universities, and social service organizations. Their cross-community, multigenerational network model is key to eliminating silos and building a world where people can work together across communities, developing solutions, and committing to action on their communities’ challenges: mental wellness and substance abuse, gun violence, racial equity, healthy schools, youth employment.
2. Virtual Social Enterprise Food Marketplace from Impact Hub Kings Cross London:
Small businesses are among those that will be most affected by the self-isolation measures, so it’s important to support them now more than ever.
Impact Hub Kings Cross London’s new Feeding the City Accelerate program has launched to support 8 incredible food enterprises making the food system more sustainable and supporting people and planet.
They are supporting these enterprises to become resilient to shocks and grow and scale over the next 6 months.
The program brings together thought leaders in food sustainability, large scale buyers, enterprise support providers, and investors with the shared goal of supporting social or environmental impact-driven food enterprises with B2B revenue streams to grow and flourish.
They provide access to expert business analysis, mentoring and support from experienced coaches and industry heavyweights, six month’s Impact Hub “Connect” membership, and the opportunity to meet and network with buyers, including supermarket chains, restaurants, and major contract catering companies.
3. ‘Adnijóga’ (a playful word comes from the combination of giving is good and yoga) from Impact Hub Budapest:
Anna Kalmár is one of the founders of AdniJóga and also the one who’s holding classes at Impact Hub. AdniJóga provides access to the mental and physical benefits of yoga (relax and recharge our soul and body) and has a social cause.
They partner with NGOs to practice with children in state care, vulnerable women, refugees, people with disabilities, etc. By attending one of their pop-up events or by organizing an AdniJóga session at an office (or at an event), so with paying events, with the help of paying customers, they are able to bring tranquility to an increasing number of vulnerable groups. Their aim is to build communities where people are accepting towards themselves and towards others too. Anna recently, have also started looking at the big picture and asking whether social impact is enough or maybe the aim should be social change instead? Can social enterprise create meaningful and long-lasting change? So beyond being a purpose, I now look at it as a theoretical dilemma as well.
4. Jobs4refugees at Impact Hub Berlin:
Jobs4refugees are a non-profit organization with the mission to enable refugees to rebuild their lives and to become active members of German society. As we all know, bureaucracy is no easy task, and support with this is greatly needed. So they are driving integration and help people who are looking for employment realize their full potential.
In the summer of 2015 when over a million refugees came to Germany in a very short time, jobs4refugees founder Robert Barr also wanted to get involved and help. In the beginning, he gave German classes as a volunteer. It became clear quite quickly that finding a job is one of the most pressing issues for refugees. So two of Impact Hub Berlin Members, equipped with an excel-spread, started speaking to refugees in a refugee-shelter, taking down their information as well as job-aspirations and simply began to cold-call potential employers – asking them whether they would be open to hiring a refugee. This approach worked surprisingly well and we decided to build a non-profit placement-agency for refugees. Thus jobs4refugees was born.
Today jobs4refugees reaches over 21.000 refugees nationwide with the job-offers of employers they work with. They have placed over 200 refugees and reached about 1000 refugees through trainings, workshops, and consultation.
5. Virtual-coding Bootcamp at Impact Hub Harare:
Impact Hub Harare launched its first Virtual Coding Bootcamp at the end of May 2020 pivoting away from the traditional, physical bootcamp in order to adhere to social distancing norms and safety standards. The program aims to equip children aged 9 -14 years with programming skills. However, the curriculum goes beyond the ordinary drag and drop games prevalent in most kid-friendly coding classes taught currently.
The curriculum challenges students to expand their abilities and to think logically and outside the box. At the end of the program, the participants are able to build a basic website using HTML & CSS. In addition to learning the tech aspects of coding, it has also helped improve the student’s general computer skills and communication skills as these skills are necessary for students to completely engage with the content. Through the use of technology, Impact Hub Harare aims to reach more students and equip them with skills that will help them to adjust to the new normal and their future tech careers.
6. CODA STORY from Impact Hub Tbilisi:
Impact Hub Tbilisi’s members at Coda Story have had a smashing year, scooping up awards and getting into film festivals worthy of organizations that have been around for much longer than a year. Coda is a journalism startup that puts a team of reporters on one subject at a time and explores complex issues in a way that helps readers and viewers to understand context and connections.
The company is based between Tbilisi and New York and has a really innovative approach to journalism, which was recognized in a pretty big way in their very first year of existence. First Coda’s first web-series Clash of Narratives was shortlisted for several festivals including the prestigious Raindance in the United Kingdom, while another web-series Transmoskva was screened at Bok-o-Bok festival in St. Petersburg.
The team managed to secure partnership and collaboration deals with a range of organizations including big names like BBC and Foreign Affairs. And to top, it all, in December Coda was announced the winner of Columbia University’s Alfred L.duPont award for a radio show they produced together with Reveal. The one-hour show is based on Coda’s pilot project that investigated crisis of gay rights in the former Soviet Union. DuPont awards, often dubbed “the Pulitzer of broadcast media” are one of the biggest prizes in journalism industry. We want to help Coda to continue to grow, so take a second to like them on Facebook or sign up for their own membership program.
7. Impact Hub Houston Team continued to serve their members, support diverse entrepreneurs, and address inequalities:
-They partnered with NextSeed to keep local restaurants open, feed frontline healthcare workers, and keep essential workers employed — the majority of whom are women and people of color.
-They partnered with HCC and The H-Force and with re:3D on “PPE For The People,” providing protective equipment to minority-owned businesses and workers in black and low-income communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
– They partnered with the national Page 30 Coalition, StartUsUp, and the Hispanic Star campaign to drive policies that support minority-owned businesses and hold our elected officials accountable for implementing equity-focused elements of the CARES Act.
-They partnered with the global COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs to create a resource for purpose-driven people around the world and in our community to find funding and guidance through the coronavirus crisis.
– They have continued crowdfunding to launch entrepreneurial education programs for Hispanic/Latinx entrepreneurs, female founders, and minority youth.
And through all of that, IHH continues to provide mentorship, virtual programs, and support for our diverse members and startup community.
8. Sustainable fishing tourism at Impact Hub Zagreb:
At Impact Hub Zagreb you find the office PEAK DMC, a division of the Intrepid Group, the world’s largest adventure travel company.
Sonja Prvan, assistant contracting manager East Europe at PEAK DMC, learned a lot at her recent travel to Greece together with Croatian fisherman, whose observations are now more than ever very insightful for what the future of tourism will be after the current global crisis with covid-19. About sustainable fishing, on wwf.org there are loads of information on this topic can be found, along with what needs to be done and what they are doing. Basically, WWF defines fishing tourism as “only intended for professional fishers, allowing the diversification of their activities while continuing their traditional trade. This alternative income stream should reduce the intensity of fishing activities, contribute to sustainable management of fishery resources, and promote the cultural heritage of artisanal fishing.”
PEAK DMC, at the moment, is in the process of making and pricing Intrepid trips for 2021. and they plan on including fishing tourism activity in one of their trips, a strategy that might become more relevant in a post-pandemic world, especially because it allows diversification of revenue streams for fishermen.
The Croatian fisherman came from Lastovo Island and Telaščica – Nature Park, where fishing tourism is already included in their activities and thus were able to share their knowledge and experiences. Croatian fisherman motivated the local Greek fisherman to obtain their license, showcasing that in the end, even though it is costly, it does produce a positive effect, as well as high income. Fishermen, apart from their license, need to invest greatly in their ships, equipment, and health and safety necessities.
This all means that all Impact Hubs all over the World share the same intentions as the Global Company. Namely, ‘to inspire, connect and enable people to take entrepreneurial action in order to pioneer a just and sustainable world where business and profit are used in service of people and planet’.
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