The Young Women’s Trust is unique. They’re the only charity devoted exclusively to supporting and representing disadvantaged young women in the UK, and last month they celebrated their hard work and achievements with a positive and inspiring event at Impact Hub Islington.
With only 20 permanent employees, the Young Women’s Trust is a small charity with a wide reach. The trust works with women aged 16-30 to improve their employment prospects and mentalhealth through free, transformative interactions with highly trained professionals.
The charity also research and campaign for the kind of systemic changes that will improve the situations of all young women. By working to create opportunities for women, regardless of their background, to access good employment and build a secure financial future, they aim to change our whole society for the better.
We were delighted to host this summer celebration for the trustees, employees and volunteers at the Young Women’s Trust. With inspirational speeches from some of the charity’s beneficiaries and great food from Elysia Catering, the hub provided a space for energising conversation and the people who came gave glowing feedback.
Thrilled to celebrate summer with some of the wonderful staff, supporters, volunteers and other coaches of @YWTrust tonight. And best of all, meeting and hearing from the young women who have used the coaching to such amazing effect. #inspired
— Charlotte Semlyen (@MsSemlyen) July 24, 2018
Just a treat to have a @YWTrust summer celebration with so many young women this week. Hearing beneficiaries Jenny and Lauren tell their tales with such poise, strength and passion for the charity was goosebump-giving! pic.twitter.com/nw3lGf2VWG
— Alex Birtles (@alexbirtles) July 26, 2018
It was great to meet some of the amazing young women who have received support from @YWTrust and now volunteer their time back to help. Proud to #volunteer for this organisation. It's making a massive difference https://t.co/TTxYkNsVQ0
— Morgan Vine (@MorganVine_) July 25, 2018
Impact Hub Islington is in search of inspirational, energetic and proactive individuals to join us
and contribute 4.5 hours per week in the voluntary role of community Host Member. In
exchange for this contribution Impact Hub Islington will offer its ‘Hub Unlimited’
You will have a unique opportunity to contribute to building a knowledgeable, interactive and
flourishing community of purpose-driven entrepreneurs, creatives, doers and dreamers. The
Hub is part of both a local and international network of work-spaces and has built a strong
world-wide reputation as an innovator in co-working practice that enables communities of
socially minded enterprises and freelancers.
About the volunteer role (Member Host for ‘Feedback & Falafel’)
The Islington Impact Hub office runs daily interactive social events, which are open to all its
members. A team of volunteer Impact Hosts help to curate and coordinate these activities from
week to week. ‘Feedback & Falafel’ takes place over Tuesday lunchtime in our Islington offices and is
managed by two Host Members.
The responsibilities for this role include:
- Curating, designing and hosting weekly Feedback & Falafel workshops
- Soliciting ideas for topics from within the community
- Enrolling and enabling members to facilitate their own F&F
- De-briefing with facilitators and collecting feedback
- Producing and distributing comms materials
About the volunteer role (Member Host for ‘Feedback & Falafel’)
If you are interested in in volunteering for this unique role and receiving the benefits on offer
from the Impact Hub Islington then please contact [email protected]
* Hub Unlimited Membership plan includes; unlimited hours per month of workspace use, discounted meeting rooms, discounted access to events.
London housing market uncertainty
The government has just launched a new £240 million Community Housing Fund to help grow the community-led housing movement. With growing uncertainty about the London housing market coupled to ever-increasing need could co-housing be the next big thing for London? And if so, what would that look like, and what is required to make it happen?
Could cohousing take off in London?
Could the cohousing housing model, which began in the 1960s in Scandinavia and has since gathered popularity elsewhere in Europe and the US, hold the key to the illusive sense of community we are all seeking? Is this mode of living just for hippies or does it hold a wider appeal? How does cohousing differ from other types of community housing like cooperatives? Is it even possible to find viable land for these types of projects, esp. in or near London? Can community-led housing deliver more affordable homes and more security of tenure? And how would anyone go about finding a group of like-minded individuals interested in pursuing this type of living?
This September.. join us for
Weds 19th Sept @ 18:30 – 21:00
Location: Impact Hub Islington
You’ll hear from Alex Whitcroft, the founder of the brand new Cohousing London group and himself an architect specialising in sustainable and community-led’ projects and developments, about his personal experience of living in a successful land trust community in the States and his ambitions for the new Cohousing London group, which seeks to connect individuals interested in pursuing cohousing projects in London and the South West. Alex will share examples of successful community-led housing models around the world, including projects he is already working with in the UK and key tips for joining or setting up your own community-led housing initiative.
Facilitated by Joost Beunderman, Director of Impact Hub Islington and at the design and strategy practice 00, and we warmly encourage input from the audience during the Q&A and invite you to join us for networking after the event. Tickets are FREE but due to ticket popularity and venue restrictions registration is compulsory so please register HERE on Eventbrite to secure your place as soon as possible. Our events are very popular so do register soon to avoid disappointment.
Alex Whitcroft: Alex is a designer and architect based in London. His work focuses on environmentally and socio-economically sustainable design, including innovative technologies, community empowerment and ownership, and product and material lifecycles. Alex works on Passivhaus projects as an Associate Director with Bere Architects, alongside acting as designer-developer for sustainable housing and meanwhile use projects with KIN Architects, and developing digitally fabricatable building systems as Architectural Lead at the WikiHouse Foundation. He is also a certified Passivhaus designer, trained facilitator, member of the Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative steering group, RSA Fellow, occasional university critic, and advises and speaks on sustainable construction, digital fabrication, community, open/cooperative organisations, and the collaborative economy.
Joost Beunderman: Joost Beunderman has been a Director of Impact Hub Islington since 2011. Along with his work at Impact Hub Islington, Joost is also a Director of architecture and strategy practice 00 and one of the co-founders of Impact Hub Brixton. He has worked on a wide range of research and strategy projects including the ‘Compendium for the Civic Economy’  and ‘Places that Work’  and has led a wide range of collaborative regeneration strategy projects. Whether working on issues around employment space, civic participation, outcome-based finance or institutional innovation, his focus is always on creating the conditions for a more democratic city.
Cohousing London group: The Cohousing London group is for people interested in living in cohousing communities in London and the London area. The aim is to bring people together around community housing projects and provide the expertise and support they need. We are in discussions with councils about disused public land as well as exploring on-market and off-market private sector sites. We have also been doing other important behind-the-scenes things like getting financing in place, getting on public sector deliver frameworks, etc. In short, we are ready to start moving things forward and getting potential residents together to help steer the project(s) going forwards.
Impact Hub Islington: Impact Hub Islington is an open community of purpose-driven entrepreneurs, creatives, doers and dreamers, powered by a shared workspace and learning environment. We are part of a global network of over 15,000 passionate individuals and organisations in more than 100 cities around the world. Since February 2017, we have been creating 27 Dingley Place, a new civic platform where people from a range of professions come together to collaborate in new ways, imagine and shape a better future for London.
We were thrilled to host the first Real Talk event last week, a brave space for women to explore the myths and barriers that plague feminism, equality and liberation for women today. The series is convened by Janice Gittens, a teacher, therapeutic coach and activist from Islington.
Janice opened the space by setting the context, which can be summed up by this quote:
“Women have a lot to say, and this is the space to say it.”
Joined by the Hub toy elephant, she invited everyone’s elephants into the room, to be discussed with openness, curiosity and compassion.
Janice was also joined by poet Tolu Agbelusi, who read two poems from her collection that touched on her experience of frequently being ‘othered’ as a Black woman in Britain. In an open conversation with Janice, Tolu shared reflections from her professional experience as a barrister. She talked about having to assert herself in previous jobs to confront the repeated false assumptions colleagues would make about her capability, her education and even the language she used to express herself. She is now bolder and more daring and has ultimately stopped caring about matching other people’s assumptions and expectations who they think she is and should be.
Tolu’s reflections were followed by Janice reading a few pages from a piece that we believe should become a memoir. In it, Janice recounted her experience of arriving in the UK as a Caribbean immigrant child. Her assimilation process into British society involved many challenges and began with being mocked by her accent and looks every day at school and punished by her teachers for defending herself. Janice shared the challenges she faced living between two cultures, the specific constraints she experienced as a woman of colour in the UK and recounted the time she brought her school before the Race Relations Board, aged 11.
In the context of the Windrush scandal exposing the scale and prevalence of systemic racism in UK government institutions and society at large, Janice’s story was particularly resonant, and many participants in the room shared similar experiences.
To hear from everyone, we broke into small groups for a World Café style conversation around the following questions:
- How has your race, faith, class and culture shaped who you are today?
- What has limited you in expressing who you are?
- How did you overcome these limitations?
As there aren’t light topics, Janice shared some key values for the conversation and encouraged everyone to bear them in mind:
Each group had plenty of pens and snacks on their table, and people were encouraged to doodle away and record anything that struck them as relevant during the conversation. To the right are a few quotes from one of the group conversations.
We could have carried on for much longer… And we were stunned by the courage with which many women spoke about experiences they’d had with regards to their womanhood and its intersection with their race, faith, class or culture.
The conversation was rich, deep and felt very connecting, particularly following Janice’s call for women to “stand shoulder to shoulder” rather than competing with one another. There was also lots of laughter – it’s rare to find this kind of joy and humour alongside the difficult and uncomfortable stuff!
Janice says she is very much exploring what this group could become, treating the first three events as a space to discover and scope the issues and topics that are close to women’s heart that can often remain hidden and unheard. Her vision is to build a community of women who want to actively shape society and get behind other men and women who are already doing great things to amplify their voices and stand shoulder to shoulder with them. What exactly this will look like will emerge over the next couple of months, but one thing that’s clear for Janice is this:
“We cannot repeat the same paradigm and expect things to change. We need a new paradigm.”
We are thrilled to be supporting these conversations and growing community and invite you to be part of it! The next Real Talk events are taking place on 24th May and 21st June.
All images by Janice Gittens and Julia Oertli
A conversation between social researchers and pole artists about being a woman in Islington
On International Women’s Day 2018 we hosted an event that brought together academic analysis with pole dance. Sounds unusual? That’s what we thought too, at first. What happened on the evening of the 8th March was a uniquely rich conversation between perspectives that may seem very different on the surface but share many similar hopes, concerns, interests – and a genuine curiosity about each other.
In a time of tense political debate, social divisions and filter bubbles, spaces where we can meet each other in an open way, with compassion and trust can help us heal relationships fraught by judgement, prejudice and ignorance. In a very small way, this event was an attempt to create a space for dialogue, discovery and connection in Islington.
How the event came about
In September 2017, the BBC Woman’s Hour released a report that rated Islington the worst place in Britain to be a woman. After reading the report, we contacted the lead authors, Julia Griggs and Allison Dunatchik from NatCen Social Research, to invite them to discuss the findings with us on International Women’s Day 2018. When Ayana Patton from the Persepolis Pole Project got in touch a few weeks later with an idea for an event on the experience of female pole artists in Islington – also on International Women’s Day – we got curious. Could we somehow combine the two?
Designing this event involved quite a few conversations between the social researchers, pole artists and our wonderful facilitator, Yasmeen Akhtar from TrustLab, to work out how we might navigate a public conversation that engages with both high-level UK-wide data and the lived experiences of female pole artists in Islington – as well as a pole dance performance by Miss Pole Dance UK and Islington resident, Rachel Tolzman.
The panel (from left to right): Rachel Tolzman, Julia Griggs, Yasmeen Akhtar, Allison Dunatchik and Ayana Patton. Image: Julia Oertli
A key intention for this event was to get people thinking about their implicit assumptions – both in relation to a high-level report such as the one commissioned by the BBC Woman’s Hour as well as the widespread (and often harmful) assumptions about pole dance as an art form. To do this, we needed to involve audience members in the conversation from the moment they walked through the door. So we first invited everyone to write a key word they associate with the labels ‘social researcher’ and ‘pole artist’ and stick them on a wall.
Word associations with the labels ‘pole artist’ and ‘social researcher’. Image: Ayana Patton
We used these word associations to start the panel conversation. Yasmeen Akhtar invited the panelists to reflect on their profession as social researchers and pole artists and what assumptions they had made about each other before meeting. With the help of a toy elephant (to name elephants in the room) and questions from the audience, the conversation quickly took us to some core challenges about being a female pole dancer, a social researcher and a woman in Islington.
Here are a few quotes that capture the breadth of the conversation:
Rachel Tolzman, Miss Pole Dance UK, on pole dance as an art form:
“Pole dance and pole fitness is the same thing. It’s a form of dance, it’s a creative outlet, it’s a performance, it’s a form of fitness. It requires strength, grace, agility, musicality, discipline and dedication if you want to go anywhere with it.”
Julia Griggs, social researcher at NatCen, on the scope of the BBC Woman’s Hour report:
“There are many things about Islington that are great and that we couldn’t capture in the index [of the BBC Woman’s Hour report] […] things like diversity and community that we know are really important to women where they live. […] However, [discussions about the report] raised some really interesting points and started lots of really interesting conversations .”
Ayana Patton, pole artist and founder of the Persepolis Pole Project, on the under-representation of the perspectives of female entertainment artists in public life:
“Women are from all different groups and they include pole dancers, strippers, sex workers. How often are they included in conversations we have about women? How often do we talk about their pay and working conditions and seriously consider them? […] And How many famous actresses started out as porn stars because they couldn’t pay their bills with their art? There are many artists involved in the sex trade because they don’t have opportunities to make money the way the rest of society does.”
Contributions from the audience captured in a Tweet:
Key questions from the audience included whether women across Britain should have been involved in determining the dimensions of the BBC Woman’s Hour report index; if female pole artists’ experiences differ across the UK; and if there is a parallel between the extremes of wealth and deprivation in Islington and the spectrum of empowerment and vulnerability within the pole dance industry. To hear the panel’s reflections on these questions, you can listen to the conversation in three segments on YouTube.
We ended the evening with a beautiful performance by Rachel Tolzman, who gracefully mastered the pop-up pole kindly sponsored by Lupit Pole.
Rachel Tolzman, Miss Pole Dance UK, performing at Impact Hub Islington. Image: Julia Oertli
Rachel’s performance was followed by audience participation around the pole, facilitated by Persepolis Pole artist Aleksandra Karolina. We never knew a pole could be such a brilliant tool for engagement!
Aleksandra Karolina (right) teaches members of the audience a few simple moves on the pop-up pole. Image: Kirstie Wielandt
We learnt a huge amount from this event and experienced how valuable it is to bring people together who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to engage in a deep way. We want to host more conversations like this on topics that are alive in our borough. Particularly, we want to create spaces to talk about things that are on the fringes of public discourse.
Janice Gittens, a therapeutic coach and teacher from Islington, is launching a workshop series this month, Real Talk, which has exactly that purpose. If you live or work in Islington or beyond and identify as a woman, you can sign up to the first free workshop on the 26th April at Impact Hub Islington and become part of a network of women who want to shape and influence life in Islington.
Janice Gittens (standing) announces the launch of Real Talk, a workshop series for women in Islington: “What’s missing in Islington is real conversations – about race, identity, sexuality, age, representation.” Image: Julia Oertli
We will be plotting future public events of this kind. If you have an idea for a collaboration, topic or any feedback or suggestion you’d like to share with us, Julia will be delighted to hear from you.
Our heartfelt thanks go to Ayana for her energy and vision, Julia and Allison for their open mind and curiosity, Rachel and Aleksandra for their generosity and presence and Yasmeen for her graceful guidance and facilitation. Big thanks to Lupit for sponsoring the pole, Elysia for the lovely catering and Mayan for all the behind-the-scenes help that made this event possible.
We’re incredibly excited to announce the launch of ReDesign, a 3-year social action programme that brings together young people from Islington aged 17-24 to shape and re-think different areas that affect their lives.
More jobs are created in Islington every year than there are people. Yet the number of young people not in employment, education or training remains high. Where’s the disconnect?
In year 1, ReDesign is tackling the challenge of creating meaningful paid work experience opportunities that are accessible, relevant and enjoyable for all young people in Islington. This means addressing multiple barriers that young people have identified, which can prevent them from getting into good placements, such as:
- Not having access to the right information
- Caring responsibilities for family members and/or children
- Not having finished school
- Not having the money to travel far distances or afford smart clothes to attend interviews
- Lacking family support structures and/or stressful home environments
- Being in insecure housing
- Having a criminal record
- Having a visible and/or invisible disability
- Struggling with poor mental health
- Having undocumented status
- Lacking relatable role models and the confidence to apply for opportunities
- Being out of their comfort zone in a new physical location and environment
Working with All Change artist Kenny Baraka and sector specialists from Islington Council and local organisations, five employers from Impact Hub and six young people from Islington will interrogate these challenges and co-create a prototype paid work experience programme that will be piloted at Impact Hub Islington later this year. They will question existing models and ask what both young people (especially young people who face different forms of disadvantage) and employers (especially small businesses) need to run a successful paid work experience programme. In the process, ReDesign will offer 10 paid work experience opportunities for young people in Islington in year 1 and gather feedback and ideas from over 100 young people in the borough as well as 30 local employers.
Here’s a picture of Kenny with the six Young Creatives involved in ReDesign:
Impact Hub employers participating the co-design process include: Web Architecture and Technologies, Room for Tea, 64 Million Artists and Octophin Digital. Participating in a paid work experience with Impact Hub employers this summer will create a unique opportunity for young people to get an insight into various types of purpose-driven businesses and support each other along the way by working from the same shared workspace.
ReDesign is part of a wider Islington Council-led initiative called Ambitious Communities, which also involves social action projects by Global Generation and Clear Village. We are running ReDesign in collaboration with All Change, our partner in our new home 27 Dingley Place. Our vision for 27 Dingley Place is for it to be a place where opportunities aren’t just available on paper but accessible to everyone; a place that connects higher productivity with higher purpose; supports people’s well-being throughout different life stages and nurtures good human relationships; a place that appreciates multiple realities and celebrates different forms of knowledge. ReDesign is a first step into this vision by creating pathways into good employment designed with and for local people.
We will share our insights, successes and failures here as we go along and invite you to join the conversation if you feel passionate about similar questions – just drop Julia a line, who will be thrilled to hear from you.
Isabel from Impact Hub Zurich and Julia from Impact Hub Islington swapped Hubs and lives for two months in autumn 2017 (you can read about their experiences here). They have now put together a How to do an inter-Hub exchange handbook that details the process they went through to initiate, organise and monitor their exchange in order to get the most out of the experience.
The hope for this handbook is to inspire other Impact Hubs as well as organisations with connections abroad to engage in similar activities that can be tremendous opportunities for inter-organisational learning as well as personal and professional development.
This particular exchange was specific to the European context and the individual circumstances of the exchange staff and organisations, but it may nevertheless be a useful reference point for others attempting something similar.
So feel free to share, use and adapt it widely, and if you have any questions or comments, just drop Julia a line on [email protected]
Guest blog by Robinsons Accountants, who will be offering free 1-on-1 finance advice to Hubbers from February 2018.
January tax returns remain a taxing (no pun intended) and daunting time for entrepreneurs, with many putting off the task until the very last minute… Robinsons Accountants are here to make tax returns as simple and pain-free as possible and help you avoid the £100 fee for missing the deadline! Here are our top tips:
- Register with HMRC early
If this is your first time sending a return, you’ll need to first register online. You will then receive a letter with a 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and be enrolled for the Self Assessment online service at the same time. Make sure you don’t leave this too late as it takes 10 working days (21 if you are living abroad) for you to receive an activation code. Should you wish to register by post, fill in this form on-screen and post it to HMRC.
- Get your records in order
If you’re self-employed, you will need to have a full record of your accounts. You will need to know and share the full amount of what you have been paid during the year (your P60 can help with this). Also, how much you may have received in dividends, any investments which might have matured over the last tax year and how much interest you may have received on your savings. If you receive any benefits or government allowances this should also be taken in to account.
It is important to keep a full record so you can fill in your tax return correctly and avoid any penalty fines – which can become costly. There are easy ways to help you gather and safely store this information such as cloud storage like Dropbox, scanning your receipts and bank statements and creating a monthly spreadsheet recording transactions. It is then easier to access should you be asked for it by an accountant or HMRC officer.
- Make note of any tax relief you’re entitled to
You can deduct some of your business’ running costs to work out your taxable profit as long as they’re allowable expenses. Things such as office supplies, travel costs, insurance/bank charges, advertising/marketing, stock and/or raw materials can all be claimed back as allowable expenses. Your Impact Hub membership counts too!
If you work from home, you may be able to claim a proportion of your costs for things such as heating, electricity, Council Tax, mortgage interest or rent, and internet and telephone use. You will have to decide a reasonable method for dividing your costs such as the amount of time you spend working from home.
- Use Simplified Expenses
Working out costs can be baffling so to avoid using complex calculations we recommend using Simplified Expenses. These are flat rates that can be used only for business costs for vehicles, working from home and if you are living in your business premises. The good news is you can work out your simplified expenses in 3 steps:
- Record your business miles (for vehicles), hours you work at home and how many people live at your premises over the year.
- Use the flat rate for vehicles, working from home, and living at your business premises to work out your expenses.
- Include these amounts in your Self Assessment tax return
To know whether simplified expenses are what suits your business, use HMRC’s simplified expenses checker to compare what you can claim using simplified expenses versus what you can claim by working out the actual costs.
- Benefit from your memberships
If you are annual member of the National Trust, English Heritage and London Zoo, you may be pleased to know that these memberships count as a donation to charity. You will be able to reclaim the tax paid on the donation even if you agreed for the donation to be classed as Gift Aid.
Likewise, if you are member of professional or trade bodies, you may be able to claim their fees against tax. Check the official list of approved professional organisations and learned societies to see whether your trade body made the list. You can only reclaim tax on memberships that are beneficial for your job.
The downer is that you can’t claim back tax on life membership subscriptions and if the fees/subscription weren’t paid by you.
- Check your pensions
If you have a private pension, the company running it will have automatically added the basic tax relief of 20%. However, if you are a higher rate taxpayer, you may be entitled to claim a 40% relief on your tax returns. There’s no need to worry if you are paying into a company-wide pension pot as your company claims tax relief on your behalf.
- Get some help
HMRC provide countless information via their Self Assessment helpline and website. However, they are in high demand during the Tax Returns period, so you could be waiting for over an hour and it can prove difficult to know which guidelines apply to you and your business.
For more personal 1-2-1 advice you’re best off reaching out to an accountant. Accounting experts can help you understand advice and recommendations and even fill in and submit your tax return, so all you have to do is pay the final sum.
With over 20 years of expertise, Robinsons Charted Certified Accountants, specialise in personal and corporate tax with a personal touch. If you have any business enquiries, please consult http://www.robinsonslondon.com/, email [email protected] or follow the respective Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn pages.
Isabel and Julia first met on Skype on a cold January morning in 2017. At this point, there was only a bad Skype connection and the vague idea of doing a staff swap between Impact Hub Islington and Impact Hub Zürich at some point later in the year. Fast forward nine months, during which many more Skype meetings took place and funding from Stiftung Mercator Schweiz was secured, they met in London to start the 2-months exchange. It didn’t just involve swapping organisations and teams – they went all in: flats, bicycles, neighbours, hobbies and pets.
The exchange was sparked by an appetite to learn from another Impact Hub and concluded with plenty of insights, memories, chocolate/tea and renewed energy gained. Here Isabel and Julia share their main take-aways from the experience.
Isabel: Zürich to London and back
While my ‘home’ Hub in Zürich has doubled in size within the last two years, which prompted some rethinking of our approach to community building, Impact Hub Islington looks back on over 10 years of community building experience. What a learning opportunity! It was a very special feeling to come to the place where the Impact Hub story began, and I definitely found the inspiration I was hoping for. Here are two things that will stay with me:
- Community needs both fun and personal connection: I attended a community event every day of the two months I was in Islington, throwing myself into the experience. It struck me that these events both created a space to chat and be silly, but also to talk about the challenges people are facing. The personal dimension created a strong sense of belonging, while the events also offered something at the professional level. I participated in the U.Lab meet-ups for people interested in systemic social change, where I connected with so many participants at a deep level while being offered the opportunity to think about the world in bigger terms. I was reminded of my own creativity and playfulness during a number of activities including crafting, carving pumpkins and meditation… and it felt great!
- An Impact Hub can truly get you started in a new city: London can be a fairly daunting place, so when I first walked through the doors of Impact Hub Islington and was greeted with a warm smile, I instantly felt really welcome. Known to be one of the friendliest Impact Hubs in the network, I can say it definitely lives up to its reputation! Every day I got to know new people at the community events, gained new perspectives and learned new things. In the evening, there were some really interesting events on offer on topics including storytelling and how to negotiate purpose and profit in business, as well as a legendary Halloween party. In addition to making new connections and friendships, I heard from a number of members how their business had developed since joining the Hub. People seem to be very generous in sharing connections, which can really help when you’re starting out!
Julia: London to Zürich and back
As the ‘original’ Hub in the network, Impact Hub Islington is known for its coziness and tightly knitted community. Islington has remained small over the years, with 170 members and a small team of staff, with a strong focus on community building. So Zürich was a real adventure for me – over 900 members across four locations and a team of 60+ employees (!) I worried that it would take me ages to remember anyone’s name…
Looking back, it has been an incredibly insightful two months, and I am really grateful to all the lovely people who made me feel so welcome! Key things I have learnt:
- Space design really does shape people’s behaviour: Impact Hub Zürich has many communal lunch tables, a spacious kitchenette and a beautiful rooftop terrace. Given the options, it seems silly to eat lunch at your desk. I’ve observed lunch clubs forming spontaneously every day between members simply because there is an inviting space to sit. Our space in Islington is more limited in that way, but there are still things we can do to encourage people to have regular communal lunch breaks – they’re great for everyone!
- The scales may be different, but the community is made of the same stuff: Whether you have 900 members across four spaces or 170 in one location, the basics of what makes people feel part of a community are the same: being seen, experiencing meaningful connection and feeling included. In a large community like the one in Zurich, it’s perhaps more about forming smaller clusters between members that gives them a sense of belonging, rather than aiming to make everybody feel connected with everyone. After all, scientists have suggested that humans aren’t capable of cultivating more than 150 relationships at a time… That’s a real challenge for Impact Hub Zurich that they’re trying to address by encouraging members to join topic-specific tribes or social clubs.
- Hearing an outsider’s perspective on my ‘home’ Hub is invaluable: Throughout the two months, Isabel and I would Skype once a week to discuss key things we’d picked up across several categories including space, community, team, programmes etc. The fact that we each knew our respective teams meant that we were able to have really meaningful conversations about the observations we’d each made in our exchange Hubs. It’s sometimes difficult to disentangle things when you’re in the middle of it, so Isabel asking questions like ‘why do you do it this way?’ prompted loads of helpful thinking. In Islington, her input lead to the development of a protocol for running different kinds of events.
This was an experiment in inter-organisational learning that we can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in gaining a new perspective on their work. We are developing a handbook based on this experience to share with Impact Hubs around the world as well as any other organisations interested in doing something similar (if you’d like to receive a copy email [email protected]). We both came back refreshed, inspired and with renewed commitment to our work in our ‘home’ Hubs.
We’d like to thank Stiftung Mercator Schweiz and their Expeditions Programme team for their generous support that enabled this exchange to happen, and our teams who welcomed a new colleague with such open arms.
The incredible possibilities of digital collaboration – 4 take-aways by Debbie Warrener
A member of Impact Hub Islington since it was the only one in the world – there are now over 120! – Debbie Warrener works as a leadership trainer for changemakers and wannabe changemakers. Her work is about enabling those concerned about the need for change in the world to step into their full potential, passion and purpose. Find out more about her work here: www.innerleadershipouterchange.com