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Supporting Innovation Spaces Internationally:


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This document summarises the discussions held by a group of funders and other supporters of innovation spaces internationally. The event took place in London on 24th September 2015 and was hosted by The British Council, Hivos and The Indigo Trust.

We explored factors which contribute to their success and failure and the challenges of monitoring impact, before exploring the following themes in breakout sessions:

1) Hub leadership
2) Community building and skills development
3) Financial sustainability
4) Hub communities addressing civic/social issues

We hope that this discussion sparks greater strategic thinking and collaborative programming amongst philanthropists, the corporate sector and other stakeholders.

Published in: Technology
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Supporting Innovation Spaces Internationally:

  1. 1. SUPPORTING INNOVATION SPACES INTERNATIONALLY Sensemaking of the session September 28th, 2015
  2. 2. SUPPORTING INNOVATION SPACES INTERNATIONALLY WHAT? Our challenge is to collectively explore the beginnings of new collaborative programmes and initiatives that can help strengthen the sustainability of hubs and the role they play in civic engagement. WHO? You are invited as an expert within a diverse group of practitioners, funders, convenors and infrastructure builders. WHY? Hubs have extraordinary potential to deliver high impact solutions and civic impact but too often they are working in isolation, unable to learn from or inspire one another. They can also suffer from a disjointed funding model and are at high risk of failing. HOW? Swarm will facilitate a collaborative working session where we will learn from each other and via case studies to co-design some potential areas for future cooperation
  3. 3. WORKING SESSION FLOW 3 Introductions and sense of purpose around HUBs Playback of what you told us you were looking to collaborate on Examples of HUBs that are innovating Participation in a theme to find common ground on solutions Close with a sense of where overlap and commitments can be made
  4. 4. PARTICIPANTS AND INTENTIONS 4 DUNCAN EDWARDS, INSTITUTE OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES - Interested in the intersection of technology and hubs and aligning commitments PAUL MILLER, BETHNAL GREEN VENTURES - Have a number of informal relationships with other hubs and interested in how support can be further developed across the hub community ROBIN MILLER, DALBERG - As head of their technology practice and as a former hub founder and member, interested in how growing gaps in digital inclusion can be bridged - through Hubs and Hub programmes - to ensure technological innovation creates positive disruption SAMEER PADANIA, OPEN SOCIETY - An interest in how journalists interact with Hubs and civic spaces INDERPAUL JOHAR, ARCHITECTURE00 - How Hubs can move from a pseudo real estate model to a movement model that focuses on systems change and is legitimate and adaptable in different geographic and economic contexts SIMON MARSHALL, BIG LOTTERY FUND - Interested in how you can take tech out in the wider world BEATRICE PEMBROKE, BRITISH COUNCIL - Interested in financial sustainability as well as how these often quite elite and inward-looking spaces can be opened up to broader communities LYSNSEY SMITH, BRITISH COUNCIL - Interested in how Hubs can better communicate with one another
  5. 5. PARTICIPANTS AND INTENTIONS 5 JONATHAN ROBINSON, IMPACT HUB - Looking to create a new, bolder model of support for communities that goes beyond the bricks and mortar hub approach LOREN TREISMAN, INDIGO TRUST - Interested in how funders can better support Hubs and how they can integrate civic engagement FRAN PERRIN, INDIGO TRUST - As a funder, interested in how funders can better support these spaces BEN MOSKOWITZ, MOZILLA - Digital skills are important for individuals and society and Mozilla has an interest in potentially adapting its own skills programmes to hub environments to create sustainability and leadership MARK CRIDGE, MY SOCIETY - Hubs have been a successful user base for many My Society products but there is still a feeling that they are not maximising potential GIULIO QUAGGIOTTO, NESTA - Has made many mistakes in setting up Hubs and wants people to learn from that BRENTON CAFFIN, NESTA - Focus on capacity building and creating tools that help Hubs and their stakeholders do innovation better KHURAM HUSSAIN, OMIDYAR NETWORK - Have invested in hubs with a certain amount of success and failure. Interested in sustainability, business models, successful collaborations,
  6. 6. PARTICIPANTS AND INTENTIONS 6 THOMAS FEENY, RESULTS FOR DEVELOPMENT - Interested in working with donors to understand how they can support innovation directly, align their goals and build a sustainable pipeline HELEN TURVEY, SHUTTLEWORTH FOUNDATION - Interested in the collective intelligence in the room and in highlighting the cultural relevance of what Hub spaces are working on as well as incorporating ideas into new Principe venture ANNA CHOINICKA, THE FOUNDATION - They help to support start-ups is interested in how they can use partnerships for sustainability MATTHIAS FROEHLICH-REHFELD , GIZ - Looks at collaborative systems of exchange between digital innovation, maker cultures and startup ecosystems SARAH DRINKWATER, GOOGLE CAMPUS - Campus has expanded around the world but tech is still too siloed - interested in where there is overlap with civil society and how those bridges can be built SOPHE LEFERINK, HIVOS - Leaving role as a traditional funder but interested now in sustainability and civic engagement for hubs and how they open to a broader community JONATHAN WONG, DFID INNOVATION HUB - Interested as a funder in hearing a compelling evidence-based narrative as to why to invest in hubs in preference to other areas of innovation and to hear about sustainability models and the role of donors in catalysing them NICOLAS FRIEDERICI, OXFORD INTERNET INSTITUTE - Researchs hubs and innovation spaces
  7. 7. HUBS exploration - A summary of factors for success and failure 7 SUCCESS FAILURE Leadership • Driven and ambitious leaders Execution • Tailored, structured and well considered support • Open and flexible Community and wider ecosystem • Strong and diverse partnerships - with corporates, funders and civil society • A strong understanding of local context - skill level, connectivity, social and cultural context • A well nurtured broader community • Ability to harness diverse talents - from individuals, activists and creatives, not just NGOs • Global and local connections • Inspire communities • Aligned with the needs and agendas of stakeholders Sustainability • Sustainability is built in from the start Impact • Ability to articulate a broader impact beyond the Hub Mission • Mission undefined Leadership • Failure to develop wider management team and plan for succession • Leaders that are unfocused and distracted Execution • They try to do too much and end up being too generalist • Too much talking, not enough doing Community and wider ecosystem • Failure to articulate and define value proposition • Elitist and separate from the wider community • Failure to align activities with broader government agendas • Too donor focused • Too much belief in their own hype Impact • Failure to demonstrate impact
  8. 8. HUBS exploration - Success and failure - the importance of definition 8 Participants also pointed out that the sector suffers from a lack of alignment around definitions and expectations. This lack of alignment contributes to the erosion of trust between stakeholders, difficulty in getting initiatives off the ground and a lack of direction for the wider Hub community. In particular: 1. DEFINITIONS OF SUCCESS - Success is variably defined. Narrow measures focus on number of sustainable start-ups created 2.EXPECTATIONS AROUND TIMEFRAMES - Funders often focus on short timeframes for impact but this is to miss the point that many hubs are operating in difficult market conditions that have an influence on innovation cycles 3.EXPECTATIONS AROUND HUB ROLE - Hubs are part of wider systems. While Hubs need to assess the dynamics of these systems accurately and create relationships with other parties in order to generate success, not everything can be achieved through Hubs.
  9. 9. Learnings from THEMES 9 Financial Sustainability • Models are quite varied really; rent vs. consulting vs. return from startups vs. grants vs. crowdfunding • Renting vs. owning property makes a big difference • Do the founders, stay on as CEO/MD • This is not a big or high margin business • Ability to monetise the intangible assets created • Based on the legitimacy of the group and its purpose • Naming of research & development vs. Innovation Leadership Community development Civic engagement • Could you back and piece together existing programs to create a suite for the leaders • Should the vision be 1000 ten person hubs, rather then the other way around • HUB might just be a spot that has a need that it is serving • Natural emergent from the roots of where the need is • Spokes rather then HUBs maybe • Stop unfocused hackathons, the solution is rarely a mobile app, do not let donor drive the problem • Deliberate cross-fertilisation of groups (tech, policy, design, funders) • No need to continue to ‘romantise' the new, start with what is already there in the community • Who is framing the problem? civic works better when addressing real need, not always tech answer! • Recognise role of existing hub in the existing ecosytem • Skills exchange are needed • Building and upskilling in the community • Let the building happen more organically, coming from the community and not push too much from donors • Networks & groups can facility this building with introductions as groups exist • DIY toolkit and other online tools exist • Need to be matched by the on-ground person knowledge and then supplemented with on-line community
  10. 10. SUMMARY of the session 10 Indy: in just 10 years there are now 700 of them, that is quite something. regardless of full evidence of impact, something is happening Indigo: 1/10 of the time we need on this topic Lots and lots of summits and conferences coming up very soon…seems like an opportunity to gather again at the right opportunity; SOCAP is a place where a gathering of social accelerators always meetup together More research is really needed on the impact, the space//skills//value that has been gained Civic program looking at 12 places to doing testing and understanding against Traditional donors might need training or coaching as they get involved in this space Could we more clearly figure out the failures and get them better documented
  12. 12. Appendix 12
  13. 13. SUPPORTING INNOVATION SPACES INTERNATIONALLY The British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2BN Thursday 24 September, 2015 10:30 - 13:00 with Lunch to follow
  14. 14. Have you worked with and/or through hubs? CURRENT AND PLANNED WORK Are you currently developing and/or delivering programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa? Yes -10 No -1 Yes -12 No -1 Multinational programmes
  15. 15. Would you be interested in working with other attendees? COLLABORATIVE INTENTION Would you be able to provide resources and/or funds to a programme that interested you? Yes - 9 Yes, in the future - 2 Yes -14 No answer - 2 Potentially - 1 No answer - 3 The results from the questionnaire point to great experience and a great desire to collaborate on new projects
  16. 16. PROGRAMME THEMES TO EXPLORE Financial Sustainability Business models Products and services Learning communities Digital skills Leadership skills and development Products and services for civil society Digital journalism Policy engagement Increasing diversity Youth employmentCreative economy Digital skills and access Financial product development Leadership Community development Civic engagement The group coming have pointed at these specific areas, that group into themes that they are exploring around Hubs
  17. 17. HUBS exploration; factors of success and failure group #1 17 •Local context, eg. tech skills, connectivity, society’s understanding •Strong partnerships with corporates, funders, civil society •Tailored and structured support to startups and social organisations •Community strength behind the HUB SUCCESS FAILURE •Champion distraction, leader dependent •Hard to clearly define what will happen need stronger value proposition •Hard to demonstrate impact •Local communities do not understand it •Can be elitist •Could they have more relationship to government and align with agenda •Too generalist and try to do too much •Over pulled in direction of donors focus
  18. 18. HUBS exploration; factors of success and failure group #2 18 •Density and willing •Open •Of the community •Flexible •Connections, globally and locally SUCCESS FAILURE •Lack of knowledge of local needs •Unclear mission •Inflexible •Lack of clarity •Ability to demonstrate impact •How does one define success?
  19. 19. HUBS exploration; factors of success and failure group #3 19 •Bring in diversity •Critical mass & density of community & connections •Good local drivers, eg. regulations, skills, infrastructure •Good reputation/well known •Use opens to share/scale •Build strong community first and focus on their needs •Tailored, structured support for members, startups, social orgs •Strong, diverse partnerships, breakout of silo, corporate, civil society, funders •Harness the talent of individuals, activists, creatives to tackle social challenges — not just traditional NGOs •Focus on need/challenges of local communities, map the interests of wider community •Narrative around contribution to change, impact beyond the hub SUCCESS FAILURE •Exclusive/elitist •Talk shop and lack action •Champion/leader distracted •Hard to define value prop clearly •Hard to demonstrate impact •Wider community do not understand role •Too generalist •Over pulled in directions of donors •Struggle to bring in diverse player too capital city focussed, english speaking, wealthy, just techies, etc
  20. 20. HUBS exploration; factors of success and failure group #4 20 •Inspiration •People who lead Hubs, board, operations •Sustainability built-in from the start •What is success? Sustainability? number of startups? donors can just ask for numbers •Build ecosystem from the start •Action based research, aligned with international community •Hub collaboration more broadly with wider system actions more broadly SUCCESS FAILURE •Not given a chance to prove themselves •Evidence point •Mismatch between donor and community expectations •Disconnect with policy and government structure and systemic change •Innovation takes a long time •Cultural dimension is important •Only look at things from their own perspective and believe the hype