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: