Seven Years of Impact
10 Juni 2021 - Impact Hub Berlin

Today is the day. Even now, on my last day as part of the Impact Hub Berlin team, it all feels surreal, as if I’m watching myself from the outside. Every time I’ve told someone about my current job transition, I felt like I was talking about someone else. More than seven years within the Impact Hub network are coming to an end.

How do I even begin to put my experiences into words? Seven years in a lifetime of (hopefully) 80-something years is just a drop in the ocean. But the truth is, I grew up with the Hub: I started with an internship at Impact Hub New York at age 22 and joined the newly founded Impact Hub Berlin shortly after. The Impact Hub network, its organisational culture and people gave me a professional and personal direction, a sense of purpose and belonging, and shaped my value system during my twenties. So, here are seven snapshots – one for each year so far – to share a glimpse of my Impact Hub story.

2013-14: Snowstorms and starting out

I first heard about Impact Hub in a class on “business ethics” during my undergraduate studies in Paris. And yes – it was love at first sight! I instantly knew that the concept of “social entrepreneurship” was exactly what I’d been looking for. I applied to several Impact Hubs across the world and eventually landed an internship at Impact Hub New York City. I moved to the US during one of the coldest winters, the North American blizzard of 2014, which slowed the city that never sleeps to a halt.

The view from my balcony during blizzard times (January 2013)

Meanwhile in Berlin, Nele, Leon, Anna and Martin had opened the doors to the “Proto-Hub,” our first location near U-Bahn Station Leinestraße. When I returned to Berlin for my graduate studies, I met Leon at an event, and he called me a few days later asking me to join Impact Hub Berlin as a working student.

The next few months were pretty hectic, as we were gearing up to move into the new, bigger, better – and current – location on Friedrichstraße (some might recall our #MoreSpace4Impact crowdfunding campaign). Just like many other (social) startups, Impact Hub Berlin was bootstrapped. We actually renovated a big part of the new space ourselves. It was hard work and at times pretty messy… and it brought us together like no other team bonding activity could have ever done.

The last night before opening our location on Friedrichstraße 246 (March 2014)

2015: The keys to the castle

Fast-forward to summer 2015. Every year, the Impact Hub network hosts a Global Gathering for all Makers from across the world to meet, connect and learn from one another. In 2015, the Gathering took place in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, so our founders went on a road trip across Europe to participate, while I – together with the community hosts, interns and working students – stayed in Berlin. Before they left, the founders handed me the keys, told me to take care of the Hub baby, that I was now in charge for the week, and to only call if the Hub was on fire. For everything else, they’d trust that I’d have the right intuition to handle things. Up until today, this is one of the most memorable moments in my early career, when I felt 100% trust, belonging and responsibility in a professional sense And guess what: the Hub did not burn down that week. 😉

One of 250+ events hosted at Impact Hub Berlin in 2016

2016: From working student to full-time maker

In 2016, I graduated from my Masters at the Hertie School and increased my part-time employment to full-time. I also shifted from the Community Team into building up the Event Management and Venue Hire work area. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but now, looking back, I was incredibly privileged and lucky. Not only did I not struggle to find a job after graduation (unlike many graduates), I was also empowered to shape my own career path and take on new responsibilities.

2017-18: Learning how to “front-row”

How to front-row with Muhammad Yunus (April 2017)

Quite frankly, 2017 to 2018 is a bit of a blur at this point! During that time, I was mostly in charge of coordinating our events, venue bookings and the hosting team. Through one of our community members, we also had the opportunity to host Muhammad Yunus, the “founding father of social entrepreneurship.” Honestly speaking, I’ve only been star-stuck twice: once, at a Justin Timberlake concert, and the second time when meeting Muhammad Yunus. Also during that time, I boosted my newly acquired “front-rowing skills” at events with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

How to front-row with Angela Merkel (with #eSkills4Girls cohort at W20 summit), April 2017

2019: It’s okay to cry in meetings

From my perspective, 2019 was the most decisive year for the Impact Hub Berlin team. We’d geared up for growth, had hired several new people, reorganised our team structure and decision-making processes, and were ready for – as we liked to call it back then – “world domination!” But it all turned out quite differently. Three highly important partnership deals fell through, the newly implemented team structure did not work, and four people quit. To top it all off, we had to let go of two more people in order to keep afloat.

Our team culture and my sense of belonging were at a low point. As a result, we decided to seek external help. We asked a systemic coach to support us in reconnecting with one another, the organisation and our mission. This was an absolute life-safer, enabling us to speak our truth, communicate respectfully and with purpose, to trust one another again… and that it is sometimes okay to cry in meetings.

Our yearly team retreat, “Bergfest,” at Brandenburg’s Stechlin Institut (June 2019)

2020: Coronavirus patient 0, #WirVsVirus & virtual connectivity

We had our first confirmed Covid-19 case within the Impact Hub Berlin community in early March 2020, roughly one or two weeks before the virus really started to take hold across Berlin. At that point in time, no one knew what to do, the public health department was completely overwhelmed and everyone seemed to give different advice. While the member recovered, and our community navigated the intense lockdown I – together with three other colleagues, the Federal Chancellery of Germany (those connections started to pay off!) and six other social organisations co-hosted what we later found out was the world’s largest online hackathon to date.

27,000 people – including many of our members – joined forces online to crowdsource the social innovation community’s solutions to the Covid-19 crisis. Even today, I’m still in awe of the importance of that event in regard to public social innovation, accelerating digitalisation across Germany, and the power of community. 2020 was definitely one of the most rollercoaster years at the Hub. Still, I’m incredibly proud of how we as a team dealt with the uncertainty and managed to actually make lemonade out of lemons.

“Yes, we do have a hygiene concept…” (April 2020)

2021: Change, change, and change

In November this year, Impact Hub Berlin will open its doors to Europe’s largest Impact Hub: Berlin’s new home for social innovation and impact entrepreneurship, across 3,500m2 right in the heart of Neukölln. Knowing the real estate situation in Berlin, it has been very-very difficult to find a suitable space, secure a contract and keep calm along the way. But guess what?! We did it! After more than six years of incredibly hard hustle (‘cause let me tell you: community, coworking and social entrepreneurship are no easy businesses to be in) we SIGNED THE CONTRACT this spring. And the screenshot of the moment the signature was officially announced within the team shows our pure disbelief.

The money shot (March 2021)

In a way, this might be the weirdest timing I could have picked to move on from the Impact Hub community. But just as the Hub is about to step up, it’s time for me to do the same. Quitting this job and saying goodbye to the team has been incredibly difficult. Yet, knowing all the ups and downs we’ve been through together, I am 100% certain that our paths will cross again. So, dearest Hubbers and everyone else reading this, let’s stay in touch!

We will miss Sophie more than you can know! But once a Maker, always a Maker, and we know this is “auf Wiedersehen” and not “goodbye.” We hope you enjoyed this insider-story of our first seven years. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to receive our blog posts, events and awesome opportunities every month.

Good luck, Sophie!