For the last two and a half years, a repurposed factory in Digbeth – the creative heart of the city and Brum’s first officially recognised Social Enterprise Quarter – has been home to a new player in social enterprise: Impact Hub Birmingham.
Impact Hub Birmingham is part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community centre. It is part of a global network of over 100 impact hubs now growing in over 40 locations around the world. Over 15,000 people are members of these hubs. Impact Hubs are physical spaces but they are also more than this: they are communities, a collective movement committed to building a better, fairer and more just world — through activism, entrepreneurship, campaigning and rethinking.
The range of organisations, institutions and individuals who work from and in partnership with the Impact Hub has continued to grow since the record-breaking crowdfunder #EpicBrum nearly three years ago, when 580+ backers pledged a collective total of £65,000. It was this funding that enabled work to begin to transform the Grade II listed space at The Walker Building in Oxford Street, Digbeth.
The connections and collaborations have continued to grow from there through hosted community events, from weekly Food for Thought and Pot Luck Lunches to Digbeth Trade School (an open learning community pioneering new methods of exchange and barter) and Open Project Nights (weekly open evenings for activists and ideas people). Impact Hub Birmingham also prioritises work in key fields such as radical models of childcare, urban economics, health, social entrepreneurship, the role of artists in society, and tech and data for good.
Highlights from a packed second year at Impact Hub Birmingham include producing the biggest TEDx the city has ever seen, launching the first Parent Membership of any Impact Hub in the world and welcoming 1000s of people through its doors to use the workspace, host or attend an event or just drop in for a coffee.
Why Impact Hubs are significant
Impact Hubs represent a movement of some significance for two key reasons, I think. First, their supporters, users and members have a predominantly younger age profile, and they are exceptionally diverse — socially, culturally and politically.
And second, and perhaps most important, Impact Hubs can be seen as part of a new practical expression of social engagement and a new way of approaching social change. While radical in ideas and purpose, they lie outside the conventional structures and models of social activism and perhaps precisely for this reason have the potential to enfranchise and empower a new generation of activists.
BSSEC has now held several events at Impact Hub Birmingham and those who attend never fail to comment on the venue, its facilities and the stylish, light-flooded interiors that reflect the informality and energy of the Hub. We find that people seem to engage well there — they come along and they want to participate; they feel part of something special. Put simply, when we hold events at the Hub we get more out of people. We think that in just a few years Impact Hub Birmingham has become a significant new force in social enterprise in the city.
How you can help
If the Impact Hub model is new to you and you want to find out more, Impact Hub Birmingham is offering a wealth of opportunities to get involved. You can:
→ Sign up for a tour.
→ Try out a space at Impact Hub Birmingham and investigate its various membership options.
→ Relocating your team? Consider Impact Hub Birmingham — book a chat with one of the directors.
→ Host your event at Impact Hub Birmingham.