Over the last ten years, hundreds of innovation spaces and hubs have emerged, providing access to space, resources and investment for a diverse group of inventive people. We want to work out how best to support hubs in reaching their full potential.
Many international development agencies, private companies and governments are interested in supporting hubs as catalysts for innovative, locally-driven ideas and ventures with economic and social value.
Unfortunately there hasn’t been enough systematic support, with some interventions simply stirring over-high expectations for emergent, relatively fragile organisations. At the same time, funding for the start-ups within hubs often misses the point: to strengthen the supporting ecosystem itself.
Hubs operate in different ways to institutions of the past. Their uniqueness, their newness, means hubs often don’t fit into the existing funding streams of traditional development agencies. We are still far from a real understanding of their potential.
Many hoped that hubs and the communities they support would help to tackle social challenges. To date, progress in this sphere has been relatively limited. We need to bridge the gap between different stakeholders, including techies, activists, creatives, NGOs, civil society, government officials and the private sector. Another challenge is to make sure that social enterprise is truly self-sustaining, generate income and positive change.
On September 24, British Council, Indigo Trust and HIVOS are gathering a range of international agencies, both public and private, interested in supporting hubs.
We want to address two main challenges:
The Sustainability of the innovation hub network…
…both financially and through supporting the building of inclusive communities and by helping to build their skillsets and leadership.
The Civic power of hubs…
…to help these communities tackle social challenges and to collaborate on civic projects with relevant groups beyond their immediate network; connecting the techies with activists, the NGO sector and creative industries.
We will also share learning from our successful models, pooling our progression, challenges and visions for the future to identify common goals.
- To explore the possibility of working together with more impact, with an initial focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
- To encourage more strategic and complementary support from international agencies, so that hubs and innovation spaces are more financially secure, sustainable, accessible, diverse and locally-driven.
- Ideally, to identify pilot programming ideas for this financial year with 2-3 partners, for impactful projects which create positive social change and lasting legacies.
- To test the findings of the group with hubs themselves and a much wider group of agencies.
- To encourage better understanding of the impact of hubs on international development amongst donors and other supporters.