How to make Nova Scotia kick ass, a Hub take

Part Three: Impact hubs, a 'jump start' for nova scotia?

This is the final instalment of a three part blog series by the Hub Halifax. You can view 'Part One: About the Hub' here, and 'Part Two: The Missing Link' here.

The Hub Halifax shared workspace at 1649 Barrington Street, 2nd Floor will close on May 1st. There is a need for a larger, better equipped space with proper resources to support the enterprising work of our membership, largely made up of social entrepreneurs, community organizations, nonprofits, start-ups and freelancers.

Hub co-founders Tracy Boyer and Joanne Macrae are focussed on refounding the Hub Halifax and creating a Nova Scotia Impact Hub Network.

The refounding process will attract and support a new team of founders. This team will seek investment to purchase a building in downtown Halifax and support the development of a Nova Scotia-wide Impact Hub network. We seek to enable spaces where a variety of enterprise, innovation and social impact can transform our communities and our economy.

If you want to be part of making this happen, we definitely need you to work with us on this entrepreneurial journey.

Click here to sign up on our mailing list and keep in touch with the movement. Read on for more details...

The Hub’s journey has been a rich learning experience. In over six years in business we have seen hundreds of entrepreneurs and community leaders use our space to grow businesses, develop ideas and make change happen.

The journey has been both an eye opener and an eye poker. We know and hear that there is still a huge need for what the Hub has to offer, now more than ever before. We want to stay in Nova Scotia and we want people to come and grow roots in Nova Scotia.

In our last blog post, we argued for a shared vision, including better coordination between those serving the entrepreneurial field in Nova Scotia. We believe variety and diversity in enterprise are important. We believe growth in ventures that provide a social and financial return should be a priority for our province and region.

It is important to appreciate that–although we have experience in the field of entrepreneurship and specifically Hub making–it will take more than the Hub founders to act upon this vision and execute on a strategy that will succeed. We need a wider network of support.

For the next year, we will work on making our vision a reality: to increase the diversity and support in the Nova Scotia entrepreneurial ecosystem by building an Impact Hub network with a strong Hub Halifax. This is the time we are able to give and this province has no time to waste.

Bringing the Ecosystem Together

If government is funding agencies, institutions, and organizations to support entrepreneurship, and they are not working well together, that’s a big problem. An excerpt from a recent blog post by Brandon Kolybaba, owner of Cloud Brewery, says:

“In Nova Scotia alone there are 8+ different agencies all with the same basic objective that is: economic development. Well, if it's not blatantly obvious to everyone I'll say it, they all basically suck at what they try to do, and in the business world they would all be fired.”
"It's starting to look to me like we chose "Never"

We are calling on the new Department of Business to work with us and entrepreneurial organizations towards creating a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem which has a shared purpose and which works together to build a better future for this province.

We want more entrepreneurs and we want to increase their success. This means we need to be clear about who can best serve those people at different parts of the journey, from idea to growth, all the while reducing risk so that entrepreneurs can get traction quickly. Intuitive navigation, increased flexibility, and adequate resources–obtainable in a timely fashion–are fundamental to a functional entrepreneurial ecosystem. We want entrepreneurship is to be an attractive and viable option for employment. To do this, we need to be clear about what we are doing, for whom, with whom, and how it all connects to the big picture.

A province-wide Impact Hub network can jump start this process. In our vision for an Impact Hub network, system partners would be present in Hub spaces across the province to offer relevant programming and support, keeping in touch with entrepreneurs in real time. We can offer a space to make connections and transactions, a space in which all parts of the system can come together regularly.  

The Impact Hub: A Global Movement

The Hub Halifax is a member of a global network and home to social entrepreneurs around the world. Impact Hubs do the following:

“We set out to create spaces that borrow from the best – a prototyping lab, a start-up incubator, an inspiring office, a learning space and a think tank – to create a unique ecosystem for social innovation. Spaces with all the tools and trimmings needed to grow and develop new ventures for sustainable impact by providing access to the right experience, knowledge, networks, finance and markets. But above all, spaces for meaningful encounters, exchange and inspiration, full of diverse people doing amazing things.” 
– Global Impact Hub

The Hub Halifax has been a space for meaningful encounters, exchange and inspiration. When we started in 2009, the Hub and shared workspace was a new idea to many in our region. It wasn’t cool yet. We took on the risk to do this because we saw a need that wasn’t being filled. There were a lot of seeds and not enough water; the ground was hard. Overall, we have been missing the resources and partnerships to make this ground fertile. This created real challenges throughout our six years in operation. Despite these challenges, the impact of the Hub Halifax has been substantial, and it is is wide-ranging and diverse, but we know more impact is possible–and critical for the future of this province.

With the knowledge, the team, and the resources, we are confident that a new Impact Hub Halifax would be transformative for our community and economy.

We envision a new start in a larger space in downtown Halifax, with a mix of both anchor tenancy and flexible, timely memberships. With the right partners, we could create a place where different types of ideas take root and grow into new ventures.

Impact Hub Halifax will be a place of work for organizations, enterprise, freelancers and system partners to do business, innovate, offer programming, and be in touch with emerging trends.

An Impact Hub network in Nova Scotia

At the local, regional scale, we seek to share our learning and connect more intentionally with people in Nova Scotia who wish to make Hubs in their home communities, many of whom have reached out to us over the years. Without the right resources and a strategic approach, these places risk reliving our experience of isolation. We want to activate shared knowledge and experience to make the path forward more impactful and a better experience.

Hub spaces run by entrepreneurs with local knowledge and experience are a real solution to creating healthy rural development and innovation. Examples already exist with the successful rural prototype of The Hub South Shore*. However, they too would have greater local impact if the right mix of support was present to accelerate growth.

We have been listening and watching developments across the province and the Atlantic region that embody a similar sense of place making to the Hub in Halifax. In a recent presentation at the ShiftRural planning conference, Kate Oland, librarian and mother, shared her view on Community Hubs as well as some insight on rural and urban divide.

“If we truly want urban and rural to function as a team, we need to listen to rural dwellers and take their lived experience into account when we plan systems and buildings.”
"Ruralizing" Planning: Community Hubs by Kate Oland

We respect the on-the-ground knowledge of residents and their capacity to come together and make decisions about how to rebuild, reorganize, and reframe the way they live to survive in a changing local and regional economy. We seek to build relationships and share knowledge about facing such challenges. We have the collective capacity and will to tackle the challenges that lie ahead–but we need to ensure that we are not operating in isolation, and we need to create a network to support those who need it, when they need it.

Elements of a Nova Scotia Impact Hub Network

An Impact Hub consists of three distinct elements (as described by the Global Impact Hub):

"First, it is a vibrant community of passionate and entrepreneurial people who share an underlying intention to bring about positive change and act as peers to cross-fertilize and develop their ventures.  

"Second, It is a source of inspiration that provides meaningful content through thought-provoking events, innovation labs, learning spaces, incubation, programs and facilitated conversations that support positive impact.  

"Third, an Impact Hub is a physical space that offers a flexible and highly functional infrastructure to work, meet, learn and connect. The magic happens where these three elements connect and are brought to life through the art of hosting.” 

In fall 2015, we will call together Hub makers from across the province to participate in a summit. We can learn from leading edge thinkers and from each other to determine how best to leverage our local assets and make our province stronger through Hub spaces. This summit will go beyond talk and will culminate in the creation of a framework for establishing an Impact Hub Network.

We are only at the beginning of what’s possible: a network of people and spaces that will make positive social change in our communities and create a stronger, more resilient Nova Scotian economy.

Are you with us? If so, please join the movement and help us build this network. Join our e-list and learn more about an emerging virtual network. Sign up below:

How to make Nova Scotia kick ass, a Hub take

Part two: The Missing Link

We need more start-ups and, in the larger scheme of things, it does not matter whether they are goods producers, service sector firms, or creative sector enterprises. And their size doesn’t matter or whether they are conventional private businesses, or cooperatives or social enterprise. We just need them to grow, employ more people and participate in out-of-province trade.
— Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians, The Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, February 2014

The actions we take toward the One Nova Scotia priority of Energizing Entrepreneurship and Innovation have an extraordinary amount of potential to create positive change for our economy and our community.

In our Hub Halifax start-up and in being with people on their enterprising journeys over the past six years, we have encountered a well intentioned but fragmented field of actors working to support entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is investing a significant amount of money in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, with funds provided to organizations like CEED, CBDCs, Innovacorp, Halifax Partnership, NSBI, and, more recently, the Volta expansion and university sandboxes.

Are these government investments adding up to more than the sum of their parts, building an ecosystem in service to entrepreneurs and not organizations?

If government invests strategically with a vision for the future in mind, the return on investment will be greater and more diverse. The Nova Scotia economy would grow in new and exciting ways that are currently difficult to imagine.

Entrepreneurs need support that’s easy to find, timely to access and flexible at different stages of a business’ development.

There are a variety of organizations who aim to provide that support, and we–including the Hub Halifax–each have something important to bring to the table in service to entrepreneurs.

If we want to see real growth in numbers of entrepreneurs and truly encourage their success, we need to change how we behave as a collective.

We need to work together. We need to think about support, expansion and collaboration between industries, and situate the resources in a logical and intuitive way. Otherwise, the process of starting a business will remain confusing and startups will be less likely to succeed.

Our collective imagination is limitless, and the possibilities expand when we imagine together. The collective body of entrepreneur support organizations in this province can and should begin to imagine the future we want--and that future will inevitably be bolder and better if we work toward it as a coherent whole.

Right now, we see increasing levels of collaboration between partners concerned with enabling technology start-ups. Volta is poised to become the ‘Communitech of the East Coast’ and university sandboxes such as Cape Breton University’s UIT Startup Immersion, are connecting to this vision.

The technology industry holds a great deal of promise for this province’s economy. But we still need more support for startups in a variety of industries. We need to give all kinds of  entrepreneurs opportunity to develop their ideas and grow their businesses, especially those whose ventures will also produce a social return.

Expanding the Vision

“Love it or leave it, one thing is for sure: technology-enabled social entrepreneurship is here to stay. Get ready to join the movement.”
– Selene Biffi, social entrepreneur and innovator, The Guardian, January 29th, 2015.

What would happen if we expanded that vision--not only to extend to a wider variety of industries, but also to value and support social purpose business?

There is a rich variety of talent and vision among the people of Nova Scotia. There is also a great deal of passion to make this province a better place to live. If we could combine those two strengths with entrepreneurship, we would be well on the way to the healthy economy the Ivany report insists is possible.

As Shorefast Foundation founder and rural economic development visionary Zita Cobb said at the Dalhousie Planning Conference, we should be dreaming of a future in which every business is a social business.

Fogo Island, for example, is pioneering a movement in Economic Nutrition.

“We are… excited about the potential this practice holds, not only for our business, but for others around the world looking to build a new economic system that offers a better balance between the return on economic capital and the health of diminishing sacred capital (natural, cultural, social, human, and physical capital).”
Fogo Island Shop website

Indeed, the Ivany report encourages all kinds of entrepreneurship.

Further, the Ivany report didn’t hit on all of the possible avenues for growth in this province - and given its focus on innovation, it wouldn’t have wanted to!

As Paul Bennett wrote in the Chronicle Herald:

"Social enterprises are so new that they did not figure that prominently in the Ivany Commission’s research summary. Even though the report flagged the need for promoting “a culture of entrepreneurship,” it tended to take a narrow view of entrepreneurship as something to be taught in the P-12 schools or the community college system." 
– Paul W. Bennett, The Chronicle Herald, November 12, 2014

Many of the startups and small businesses that have used the Hub space over the years have been social enterprises. There have been artists, community arts organizations, designers, small and nimble non-profits devoted to issues like active transportation, sustainability, democracy, mental health, the welfare of students …. and the list goes on.

Many of these companies are still operating in Nova Scotia, fostering economic growth and enriching the lives of the people who live and work in Nova Scotia.

Their businesses and business models are incredibly diverse. When they were first starting up, or trying to grow, they were uncertain about the risks they were taking and how to succeed. At the Hub Halifax, they found both the tools of a physical office space and a wealth of expertise, advice, support and encouragement. We’ve seen firsthand that a shared workspace is the perfect environment for success.

With regard to supporting fellow entrepreneurs, it doesn’t matter what kind of businesses those entrepreneurs are running. Their knowledge is transferable to other industries, and their passion extends well beyond their own niches. When people come together in a shared space, innovative ideas ensue: by the coffeepot, across a shared desk, over the email list and through the many networking opportunities such a space offers.

And a shared workspace offers so much more than space.

If we want to be bold, if we want to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and risk-taking, there’s no better tool than a shared workspace like the Hub. In a spirit of togetherness and hive-like energy, it supports, nourishes and helps to expand the variety of enterprises we seek to grow in Nova Scotia

Moving Forward Together

The fields of social finance, social enterprise and the mash ups with tech and venture capital are exploding. Our friends in the south at Impact Hub San Francisco run a profitable conference called SOCAP: Social Capital Markets, which “is dedicated to accelerating a new global market at the intersection of money and meaning.”

Where do money and meaning intersect here in Nova Scotia? We can most effectively find that intersection–and make it grow and work for our economy–with a diverse group of entrepreneurs working towards a shared vision. Economies are healthier and more resilient when they’re diverse. Therefore, a diverse range of start-ups are more capable, because of their diversity, of having real, long-term impact in creating healthy, well-rounded economies and communities.

We propose reframing the One NS priority of Energizing Entrepreneurship and Innovation. As a community and as a province, we need to ask ourselves:

How do we attract more people from different fields and backgrounds to start and build enterprises?

How can we build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is easy to navigate, flexible, and meaningfully collaborative, in order to support startups’ development and inevitable change?

We need to connect entrepreneurs with one another and turn entrepreneurship into an experience that is desirable to more people. If we do that, we will also see the province succeeding with other OneNS goals, like Adapting to a Changing Demographic and Rebuilding our Trading Economy: Going Global.

With the right support systems and collaboration, we can make that happen. Our challenge is to start singing from the same songbook. 

The many significant achievements of community economic development and social enterprise groups across the province are indicative of what can be done when leaders in different sectors put their heads together to change attitudes and build a better future from the ground up.
— Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians, The Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, February 2014

In our next blog post, Part 3, we will share our ideas for how to bring the entrepreneurial ecosystem together towards a common vision and sustained collaboration, and how our vision for an Impact Hub Network in Nova Scotia could serve that field. This is based on our knowledge of the ecosystem, our understanding the needs of entrepreneurs and working with people to prototype urban and rural models that will energise our economy and empower our community.

How to make Nova Scotia kick ass, a Hub take

The Hub is a valuable asset to our economy and community, with potential to grow in Nova Scotia. We need the right kind of support. 

We want to be part of the solution and we belong at the table with decision makers. The collaboration we seek involves respectful relationships with people in positions of power that value the work we are doing.

Hub Halifax co-founders, Joanne Macrae and Tracy Boyer are publishing a series of 3 blogs to share the story of the Hub, talk about what we see happening, and share our vision for healthier economic and community development. This will be followed by a call to action. 

Part 1: About the Hub

The Hub Halifax thinks globally and acts locally. We collaborate in new and meaningful ways to support the emergence of an entrepreneurial ecosystem that inspires and equips people to take their big ideas to the next level. Diversity is key to unlocking our community potential.

The Hub is a physical workspace where individuals and organisations from various fields come together to exchange ideas and share networks. People work independently and together, building solutions to business and community challenges. The Hub is built on the belief that when individuals from different sectors and backgrounds work side-by-side, day-by-day, innovation is inevitable.

The Hub Halifax opened in February 2009 to bring people together and address four needs which seen as missing in existing infrastructure and offerings in our community:

Halifax as a talent magnet

We see our friends and young people with ambition leaving to work elsewhere because they can not find a place to work in Halifax that meets their needs. Nova Scotia’s talent is being lured elsewhere. The Hub seeks to attract and enable entrepreneurs and social innovators by providing opportunities and a space for talent to flourish. The Hub contributes to making Nova Scotia a destination for talent by providing an experience that resonates locally and connects globally.

A place to bump into the right people at the right time

Innovation and new entrepreneurial ideas often come from unexpected interactions. Making ideas successful requires access to a network of experienced and talented people as well as understanding emerging trends. It takes diverse perspectives and skill sets to create innovations that have impact. The Hub attracts a mixture of people from various fields so that creative collisions can occur, making new initiatives inevitable.

Ground that is not hard

Fresh ideas, like seeds, need receptive, fertile soil to emerge strong and productive. Regrettably, Nova Scotia does not have a reputation for being a land of opportunity. Many businesses and initiatives in the province struggle because it is often difficult to break ground and try new things, good initiatives go unsupported. The Hub fosters fertile ground to help remove barriers so that people and their ideas can flourish.

A space to take risks

Our culture is risk averse which can impede innovation. We need a place where trying something new doesn’t mean risking everything–a buffer zone that allows us to learn from failure and success. A place where big risks are possible because you don’t have to lose your shirt by trying something new.

A crucial success factor for any entrepreneur is the complete and utter confidence that they will succeed. We need to filter out the perspectives that tell us our ideas are impossible or inadequate. The Hub creates a culture where people believe in each other and themselves, encouraging one another to think the unimaginable and roll up their sleeves to do the impossible.

Six years in, Nova Scotia still has work to do in these areas and we still believe in the power of the Hub to play a critical role in the process. We have witnessed the positive impact on the more than 150 businesses that have started, taken root, and grown while at the Hub. Since the inception of the Hub, we have hosted many conversations with our members, one of whom was the Halifax Regional C@P association about a network of Hubs in Nova Scotia.

In 2012, some of those conversations led to a collaboration between the Hub Halifax and two long time members Tim Merry and Matt Hall towards the establishment of Hub South Shore. This rural Hub prototype is part of a growing movement in the international Impact Hub network to bring the Hub model to rural areas and be part of reimagining and engaging local economies. The Hub South Shore and the Hub Halifax have met on various occasions to consider establishing an interconnected network of Hub spaces across Nova Scotia. The Hub South Shore has seen early success and in April 2015 they are relocating to a new space on the main street of Mahone Bay. They articulate their evolution and the need for investment in a recent video blog.

Have a look at the following handful of successful Hub members who are part of our past, present and future:

Mindsea ~ mobile design, publishing, and delivery of iPhone, iPad, and Android app solution

Nocturne Art at Night ~ a free annual event showcases and celebrates the visual arts scene.

GrowthClick ~ help clients bring their best ideas to market and achieve greater growth online.

Carboncure ~ affordable green concrete is now a reality.

I Heart Bikes ~ bicycles are fun and we are passionate about sharing this experience.

The Springtide Collective ~ reconnecting Nova Scotians with the democratic process and imagining ways of doing politics differently.

Shindig ~ I’m Andrew Burke and I do software and other related things.

HMS Financial ~ simplifying insurance payments in Canada.

The Food Wolf ~ a food truck delivering a fusion of mexican and korean food.

Famous Folks ~ A collection of entrepreneurs, storytellers, and technologists.

Handelabra Games ~ play is important. They create fun digital board game experiences.

Centre for Law and Democracy ~ believes in a world in which robust respect for all human rights underpins strong participatory democracy at all levels of governance.

Students Nova Scotia ~ We give students a united voice in Nova Scotia.

The Sierra Club ~ empowers people to protect, restore, and enjoy a healthy safe planet.

Dale Zak ~ Mobile software developer aiming to change the world one story at a time.

Hop Creative ~ Graphic & Web Design is our specialty.

Common Good Solutions ~ supports social enterprise development in Atlantic Canada

Sunshine Renewables ~ On a mission to educate and promote the most affordable, reliable, and innovative renewable energy sources for homes and businesses.

Mapability ~ A better way to find your way. It is a map created together to empower you. 

Hub Members use Social Enterprise to make Nova Scotia a better place

More social startups in Nova Scotia will build a prosperous economy and community

The One Nova Scotia Coalition articulated a goal to increase the number of enterprises in Nova Scotia and increase their success. The Hub Halifax observes heavy emphasis on technology startups in the media and through meetings with government. Meanwhile, our neighbours in Ontario are investing $4 million into the growth of social enterprises. What are we doing to support social enterprise in Nova Scotia? It is time we seize the opportunity to amplify the success of a diversity of startups and build a strong field for many kinds of enterprise.

Here, The Hub Halifax highlights the work of three Hub members who use enterprise to create financial and community profit. We believe growth in this area is critical to the future of our Province and our World.

Sunshine Renewables

Is it possible to cut your energy bill and be more green? Yes–and Sunshine Renewables can help.

“Our mission is to educate and promote the most affordable, reliable and innovative renewable energy sources for homes and businesses. We are committed to long lasting relationships, the highest standards of customer service and satisfaction. Today with these safe, clean, reliable sources now affordable to everyone, we are here to guide you every step of the way.”

Sunshine Renewables has been in business for two years and employs 16 people. They worked with over 1000 homeowners to do energy efficiency upgrades on their heating and hot water systems in 2014.

Call them today for a free home assessment:

The Springtide Collective

Do you vote? Do you feel engaged in our political system, in our democracy? The sad truth is our democracy is not working as well as it could; many of us simply are not participating anymore. Enter the Springtide Collective. 

“The Springtide Collective is an organization dedicated to reconnecting Nova Scotians with the democratic process, and imagining ways of doing politics differently.” 

Springtide has built profitable business products. These include their educational “Three Minute Citizen” videos which have been licensed in for use in high schools and colleges from Ontario to Vancouver, and were been adapted for print for sale to a half-dozen newspapers across the province. The sale of these and other products and services fuels Springtide’s independent work for building a better democracy. Get involved and work with them to make democracy better at

The idea of starting the Springtide Collective originated from conversations that wouldn’t have happened if not for the Hub Halifax.
— Mark Coffin, Springtide founder

"Common Good Solutions helped us identify business opportunities to turn our non-profit into a business savvy social enterprise that provides services to clients across the province and Atlantic Canada.” – Mark Coffin, Springtide Founder 

Common Good Solutions

How do you make profit alongside positive community impact? Common Good Solutions (CGS) has the answers. As experts on social enterprise, CGS is the first certified B-Corp in Atlantic Canada–and they walk the talk. 

“CGS supports and celebrates social enterprise development in Atlantic Canada. We provide the space where smart business tools and social impact meet.”

Recently, CGS hosted Innovative Ideas, a competition in partnership with BOYNECLARKE. Over 30 post-secondary student teams with social and innovative business ideas competed in a day of sessions on entrepreneurship, and pitched to two teams of judges for their chance to win over $23,000 in cash prizes. The first place winner in the social enterprise stream was “Afri-Sea” by Tim Cranston and Todd Mercer

David Upton, CGS co-founder, says their focus helping organizations “make a dollar while making a difference.” To learn more about CGS and their work visit

The Hub Halifax is proud to support a diversity of enterprises, freelancers and non-profit organizations in Nova Scotia. The Hub is interested in growing our impact and looking for public and private support.

Contact the Hub: Tracy Boyer 902.222.5473 or Breton Cousins 902.499.9806
1649 Barrington Street, 2nd Floor, Halifax, NS

Springtide's Better Politics Awards

The first ever #BetterPoliticsNS Awards recognize leaders in our community who are part of building a better democracy. Written by Hub co-founders Joanne Macrae and Tracy Boyer.

Since 2013, Mark Coffin and a small team of volunteers have been exploring how best “to reconnect Nova Scotians with the democratic process and imagine ways of doing politics differently.”  They call themselves the Springtide Collective, a non-profit and non-partisan group who want our democracy to work better for people.

The Springtide Collective started up at the Hub and has been operating as a social enterprise, working hard to balance both a strong social mission and a their pocket book. One of their first projects was developing a series of short, fun, educational videos that “put politics in simple images and plain language.” These videos are now being licensed and used across Canada.

On Wednesday evening, Springtide hosted the first ever Better Politics Awards at Saint Mary’s University “ honor politicians, public servants, journalists, and members of civil society who have demonstrated the ability to inspire others as citizen role models.”

The evening’s guest speaker was Michael MacMillan, co-author of the 2014 best-selling book Tragedy in the Commons, and co-founder of Samara, a national organization researching and promoting greater political engagement. Michael began his intro with great praise for the work Springtide is leading. Springtide is doing tactical work within a system that is not working well, such as running events like the Better Politics Awards, while also playing the “long game” towards a better democracy.

Springtide founder Mark Coffin shared open criticism he received on a local radio talk show about giving anything to ‘evil politicians’. Mark believes that we need to recognize some of the good in our system in the short term, and encourage more of this behaviour, while on the road to greater repair in the long term.

There were fabulous candidates nominated for the awards, such as Jayme Melrose of Common Roots Urban Farm and Hilary Beaumont, a well respected and followed journalist. People enjoyed Gordon Stevens contribution of Lost Cod t-shirts and the winners humbly accepted their awards. We look forward to next years event!

Don’t wait until next year to get involved! Make Democracy Better with the Springtide Collective, their vision needs your participation. If you can’t give time, give them some MONEY!



Podcamp Halifax 2015

From the main staircase to the coat check and all the places in between. A privileged white woman attempts to distil the essence of Podcamp, a volunteer's perspective. Written by Hub co-founder Tracy Boyer.

Podcamp organizers and Hub Halifax co-founders Joanne Macrae and Tracy Boyer @ Podcamp. 

Podcamp organizers and Hub Halifax co-founders Joanne Macrae and Tracy Boyer @ Podcamp. 

For years I’ve been involved in helping organize Podcamp Halifax. Each year, there is something that keeps me coming back.

This past Sunday, I sat with Ian Conrad, Breton Cousins and Joanne Macrae for an exhausted after event drink. We basked in the afterglow, a hazy fatigue and the satisfaction of a job reasonably well done. It always feels better when it’s happening and then over. The run up time to the event is sort of insane. I feel a combination of guilt and excitement. There is never enough time to do all the things you want. Things get missed but wonderful gifts of sessions and sponsorship appear. Regardless, the imperfection, the informality and the openness help make Podcamp what it is.

Podcamp is unique to other events I have attended in the city. I took some time to consider the unique qualities of the event I really enjoy and what it is I love about it.

To figure this out I went back to a fundamental question. What is Podcamp? I thought that answer would come easy. I’ve only regurgitated a blurb about what Podcamp is to 100s of people over the years. Working the coat check this year after 12pm, we were in front of the public who were tentative, curious, suspicious and intrigued by what was going on. Ok, yes the snacks out on the neighbouring table were a big draw, especially for big bags, but we responded to a lot of questions about Podcamp. On our list for next year is a new communication now in conceptual design – What is Podcamp?

Where do you start to answer that question? I usually start by explaining my interpretation of an unconference. Unlike the conference norm, Podcamp is intentionally non-hierarchical; the attendees are also presenters. We invite anyone interested in sharing something they know to host a session, regardless of background or skill level. There are no content or character judges.

The unconference approach creates an openness to the unknown, resulting in an agenda which is diverse in its content and changes each year. This makes it interesting for both the participant and organizer. There are always surprises.

The barriers to entry as a volunteer, presenter or attendee are low. We like to think Podcamp is an inclusive and welcoming unconference. But this year, via Twitter we heard something that contradicted that sentiment:

The class divide is absolutely evident when you look around #PodcampHFX, even though it's a free event it's for privileged people.”

As an organizer your initial reaction is to be defensive about a tweet like this (“It’s free, it doesn’t get more open than that.”) There are many ways to consider the tweet about privilege and the ensuing comments in the thread that followed it.

When I got over my defensiveness, I was able to really consider and hear this view for what it was. It takes courage to ask questions and make statements that rock the boat. I think it is very important to point out where you see something not working well in our community.

This tweet, the content of our conversations, and the discussions in the sessions themselves helped me see something I love about Podcamp. It’s something I feel doesn’t happen enough in our community: honest and respectful discourse.

I think people who come to Podcamp not only believe in this, they live it on various social media platforms and come together and live it at the event.

There is truth in the tweet about privilege, even if it was a criticism about something we work hard to create. It’s a hard truth to unpack for many of us who live with privilege every day. Months earlier a friend on Facebook who lives in the UK posted an article by Joyce Miller: Product Review: The Invisible Backpack of White Privilege from L.L. Bean. It says a lot and was a reminder of something I take for granted. That tweet speaks to a larger, broader truth within but also outside of Podcamp in our society.

To me, Podcamp creates a place to be open, honest and challenge what you see, hear and what is happening. If this is true, critical, controversial or just different views should always be welcome and understood as part of the wisdom and insight of a community that is inherently diverse.

So again, what is Podcamp? From the website:

“Podcamp is an unconference for people interested in social media, blogging, mobile, web design and all the internets in between. It’s free to attend and anyone can host a session.”

It gets described as a digital unconference but I think the part that makes it really special is the piece about “all the internets in between.” To me, that is an invitation to bring something precious and important forward that perhaps doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else. What does all the internets in between mean? It could be anything and everything. I think it’s the wonderful crack in the digital infrastructure for something to get through.

It was interesting to look back later and see that the tweet about privilege was retweeted by 5 people and favourited by 20. That means something. I think I’ll leave the analysis of that to folks like Giles Crouch at Thistlwood. From Giles session it was interesting to see that the environment, women’s issues, and bullying were leading content in conversation on social media. That’s a change from last year–we are venturing into content that is more complex.

Podcamp also creates a space where technology and social values collide in a beautiful way.

In my experience with the Hub Halifax, I have seen the explosion of technology startups and more recently the emergence of many more social enterprises. Have a look at SOCAP or closer to home, the Centre for Social Innovation.

Unfortunately, I see too much divide in emphasis and investment between technology and socially oriented ventures. At Podcamp, the blend of these two things are prevalent. I think this is in part to do with a broad invitation however imperfect on the privilege front. Two sessions this year looked directly at technology and social values: Does Twitter build social capital? by Ryan Deschamps and Social media as tool to overcome the Digital Divide by Andrew D. Wright. Of course, there was some straight out digital content which is also totally fine but there is a healthy blend happening.

To finish up, it was great to have Ryan Deschamps, one of the Podcamp Halifax founders, in town all the way from Regina. It was a particularly special year for Ryan because he worked for the library when he started Podcamp with the vision that it would one day be held in a new central library space. That day was January 18th, 2015, a dream realized.

After talking about the journey, his question to all of us, as I heard it was:

“The dream of a central library venue has been realized. What is the next dream for Podcamp Halifax?”

There are a lot of possibilities and challenges, what could we do for 2016?

In chatting with Jeff White of Kula Partners (who hosted a great pre-Podcamp party!) we both wondered if there could be more Podcamp-like unconferences in Halifax. Some people have asked for more than one day or multiple events in the year. This year there was even a request for a kids Podcamp! Maybe we just need more of this kind of event or people might consider changing their more traditional conference to a Podcamp-like experience.

That’s it. Thanks to everyone who made 2015 another great year to be at Podcamp Halifax.

Office for rent at the Hub - find your nook downtown!

Available now - office for rent at the Hub Halifax, located at the Vogue Building at 1649 Barrington Street. 


The Hub is a shared co-working space. We recently relocated to the Vogue building and have PRIVATE offices! There is one left. If you enjoy a workplace with a community atmosphere and if you feed off the energy of a space filled with people doing great things, the Hub is for you. Then again, if you're feeling anti-social, you're in luck; because you'll have your own private office, you'll be able to shut the door and get down to business whenever you need. 

Rent includes: 24 hr access to your office space, use of kitchenette, coffee, office supplies, printing, faxing, scanning, and use of our shared meeting room, equipped with whiteboard and projector. 

We are seeking a commitment of at least 4 months (until May 31, 2015). 

Please contact us if you are interested or have any questions!

The Hub is accepting new members!

Hi friends,

The Hub is currently accepting new members!

As you can read in our previous post, we’ve moved to a new location a few months ago and we’re currently operating in a pretty cool interim space. We’d love it if you’d come by and check it out.

Our offering is the same as before – at the Hub, you’ll have access to work space, wifi, kitchenette, office supplies, meeting space, a printer, scanner, fax, and mail handling services. More importantly, you’ll be part of a vibrant community made up of members from many different sectors, from nonprofits, to startups, to freelancers, to community groups, working in such fields as the environment, tech, social enterprise, education, and many others. Come try out the Hub free of charge for a day – just email Breton@thehubhalifax.cato set up a time.

Our general pricing framework is as follows:

  • 30 hours/month usage: $150/month
  • 60 hours/month usage: $250/month
  • Unlimited hours/month usage: $350/month.
  • You can also have a desk that is yours only, where you can leave all your stuff – monitors, etc. – for $400/month.
  • More on Pricing here

We’re also happy to work out a pricing arrangement that better fits your needs.

Please email contact us if you are interested!

We are still here!

Hi, out there!

Well, friends, it’s been a while since we’ve updated our website. Now that things are finally starting to slow down we want to take this opportunity to let everyone know what we’ve been up to over the last few months.

Since our last somewhat ominous post, we did in fact move the Hub from 1673 Barrington Street to 1649 Barrington Street, just a few doors down from our previous location. Despite the short distance, the move took a lot of work and we couldn’t have done it without the help of many of our terrific Hub members.

‘The Hub Vogue,’  as we’ve taken to calling it (as we are now in the Vogue Building), is temporary, but we’ve done a lot to make our interim space one that is conducive to the kind of  creativity we work to inspire. You wouldn’t know it now, but when a group of Hubsters first toured the new space, we were met with walls of every imaginable colour–the running joke was that it was like walking into a bag of skittles. Each wall seemed to be a different colour – one red, the next one yellow, the next one purple – sometimes, the very same wall was two totally different colours. It took some time, but eventually we painted just about every wall, window frame, and door–all with the same colours found at the old Hub–and when we were done the place finally started to feel like home.

True, it’s different here at the Hub Vogue. There are nooks and crannies and private offices that our old space didn’t have. Many of our members have told us the new layout is actually working better for them–they find they’re able to hide away more easily to get work done when needed, but still get to bug the person next to them if they have an idea they need to bounce off someone. We built some new tables, brought in some new members, and Hub Host alumna Amy Donovan generously loaned us some of her beautiful art for our walls. And while the space itself is different in various ways, the sense of community that’s at the heart of the Hub is more intact than ever. In fact, several members have shared with us that working together with their fellow members through the move–those many late nights spent painting and lugging furniture–helped them to get to know one another even better than before.

As we mentioned, the Hub Vogue is a temporary stop for us and we’re still actively planning the Hub’s next steps. We believe Halifax still needs the Hub, and we want to make sure the Hub is able to fulfill that need to its greatest capacity. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we’re always looking for new members to join our Hub community here at Hub Vogue. If you’re interested in becoming a member, send us an email. Our offering is the same as before–a shared work space with all the necessary office amenities to help you get the work done, and of course a chance to be part of a vibrant community made up of members from many different sectors, from nonprofits, to startups, to freelancers, to community groups, working in such fields as the environment, tech, social enterprise, education, and many others. We’d love for you to come try out the Hub for a day, free of charge, so you can see for yourself how great the Hub can be.