| How do you create the best conditions to foster inventive new ideas and creative practice?
| How do you prepare the next generation for the future, to experiment with new tools and skills for jobs and opportunities that don’t yet exist?
| As workplace/employment practice changes - in the UK alone 1 in 30 people are freelance and not working in a formal ‘job’ - where can individuals or micro organisations go to meet unlikely allies and access inspiration, resources and investment?
In the last ten years, hundreds of innovative spaces where people can design, test, scale and launch enterprising new ideas have popped up around the world. These hubs might take quite different forms: temporary to permanent, digital to physical, local to global. They might be makerspaces, incubators, labs, hackerspaces; they could be temporary, permanent, digital or physical. But they share some common characteristics. They allow inventive and imaginative people to share workspace and access experience, tools and investment. They tend to be made from the ground up, be located in specific communities, work with egalitarian principles and be designed to create collaborations between people from different backgrounds and disciplines.
For those interested in supporting creative economies, hubs are important, not least as 85% of global employment growth comes from small start-ups. Increasingly, hubs are a platform or workplace for artists, musicians, designers, filmmakers, app developers or start-up entrepreneurs. Interestingly, they also recognise that creativity is often the product of social encounter - creative practice is not confined to galleries, artist studios or cultural institutions. They are fostering new forms of making, learning and trading that can take advantage of new technologies while still recognising the value of expertise and craft skills.
Hubs are also fostering new forms of cultural leadership. The convenors that build these spaces promote community spirit, vital to local and global economic and social development.
However, as these spaces have often popped up very quickly and work in quite different ways to traditional organisations of the 20th century, there can be a lack of understanding about how they operate and their potential. Conversely, in some cases there has been hype or over-expectation about what they can achieve. Financial sustainability is also an issue. Many investors or donor agencies are keen on supporting innovative products or start ups but there is a lack of systematic, long-term support for the enabling environment in which they are made.
Our team has been working with and through several hubs around the world for a few years. We value them as key collaborators – we try to highlight good practice, connect their conveners, provide skills and other programmatic opportunities to their communities - and we learn from them. We celebrate their variety and have found that hub convenors and communities particularly value introductions to different kinds of hubs; for example, much of our work is about bringing artists to tech hubs or social enterprise incubators, or technologists and enterpreneurs to independent art spaces.
We’ve also worked with Jonathan Robinson and the Open Team to map them through a global directory and toolkit of useful resources. Please add your hub – or one you know about – to the map.
This year we are working with other international agencies to think about how we can be more complementary and strategic in supporting these spaces long-term. We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to join us and will be sharing our findings as we go along.