Town Halls for Social Change Pt. 2
28 March 2016 - Impact Hub

Town Halls for Social Change Pt. 2

From Start-Ups to Movements of Change

This is the second instalment in a 3 part series about the future visioning of Impact Hub by co-founder Indy Johar and the wider Impact Hub Birmingham team. Together we are re-imagining the future of work and how we impact our wider communities.

We quickly realised that the theory of change in places like Birmingham needed to expand beyond the start-up and social venture meme as primary actor of change (or indeed the driver of a business model). This was equally true if we were to be relevant in Myanmar, rural Halifax or other places where space scarcity is much less of an issue than in the global cities of the developed world. After all, in many instances of wicked, deep-seated social or environmental issues, change is no longer the responsibility or the capability of a single actor, organisation, institution or domain . To address issues like the UK’s failing housing or childcare systems, or the global CO2 emissions from agriculture, change needs movements of actors both on the demand and supply side of innovation and intervention. Regulation, finance, data and cultural norms all need to shift – and a theory of change based on heroic, single-bullet start-ups just doesn’t cut it.
Change in this world cannot be designed as a strategy written for one organisation but has to consist of the investment in growing a movement of change, or shared intent, a mission which is an open invitation to take part and innovate together; a shared language and understanding of interdependent issues; and the distributed collective intelligence of a movement.
This reality of societal change in the 21st Century, requires us to reinvent places like Impact Hubs as system change accelerators but not just start-up accelerators. Instead of incubating discrete cohorts of start-ups, these hubs would be successful if they were platforms and convenors of movements of change across multiple actors, agents, citizens, corporates and institutions and start-ups.

From Venture Capital To System Financing

In parallel, this emerging theory of change and impact means Hubs need a new model of financing themselves, one which transcends co-working model. Places like Impact Hubs need to develop new skills, capabilities, models, methods and practices to structure investments for system change – to become a new class of intermediary between agents of change and the liability and opportunity holders. We increasingly believe this future requires us to reimagine a new model of social “derivatives” financing focused on system change; experimenting with a synthesis of direct, oblique and outcome based returns, using a fusion / derivative of traditional finance tools like equity, debt, grant and outcome delivery contracts.
This should become a place where change-makers don’t pay to use the infrastructure, but are instead are paid to shift the outcome of places.

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Towards Legitimate Spaces

Thirdly and finally, these new movements and the spaces that provide trampolines for them also need new models of legitimacy – ones which deeply acknowledge the need to work with, but also move beyond the legitimacy of, representative democracy and the state. This is a future which requires us to acknowledge that the public good can come from public, private and collective actors, and to re-imagine legitimacy based on radical relational openness and massive civic participation – unleashing and democratising the power to co-create our society. We need to create a new model of governance, participation and public accountability for this new class of civic institution. A new Town Hall; a place for us to democratically create our society.
Click here for Town Halls for Social Change Pt.1.
And stay tuned for Town Halls for Social Change Pt. 3…