Talking strategy, collectively – Learnings from the Impact Hub Global Gathering 2018
16 October 2018 - Sophie Münzberg


Every year a different Impact Hub from our global network hosts founders, managers and team members (we call ourselves makers) from Impact Hubs around the world to discuss the future of our network. This year we all traveled to Montreal & Ottawa in Canada. Our Co-Founders and Managing Directors Nele and Leon represented us as Impact Hub Berlin (and as the only German Hub!) at this years’ Global Gathering and these are their thoughts about the intense couple of days with the international Impact Hub family.


Imagine three days of intense discussions with people you are doing business with, share many experiences and challenges with – but who you might never have met before. On the other hand for us it is always also an experience of coming home, of a shared excitement, constant exchange and embracing the huge opportunity to create impact at scale together. Since our network is co-owned by all Impact Hubs and we operate under the 1-Hub-1-Vote rule, these yearly face to face meetings are a unique occasion to talk through strategic initiatives, relationship building, collective decision making and other core needs of all us makers.

After hosting the last Global Gathering ourselves in Paretz, close to Berlin last year, we were more than happy to attend as participants this time – rather than being the hosts, and to fully contribute to many really interesting initatives and decisions. We felt that there are some learnings that could be great input also for others when it comes to the challenges of scale, diversity and impact driven business models – so this is why we want to share some of our key take-aways.


We are still a network of relationships
Even though we have grown rapidly, we are still a network that relies on personal relationships as a key driver of our development and success. Having realized and intentionally made this a principle of how we work together was definitely the right step and is starting to pay off. For us this shows that no matter how much an organization scales – the power of relationships is unparalleled and can be supported, but not supplemented by rules, principles or values.


Growing Pains
With now over 100 locations in more than 50 countries it feels like we are finally stabilizing. In order to improve the way we work together on a global level and strengthen our relationships, we are looking deeper into the principles of trust, empathy and co-responsibility. This comes in an effort to drill down to the core of what makes us function as a global network. We are hoping to share a Maker’s Manifest that captures how we work together on a global level in the coming year.

With this growth happening now, we are also looking into the global business model. Currently all Impact Hubs pay their membership fees through their Membership and Venue revenue – because when the network started it was essentially about co-working and community. In the past years though, local business models have diversified significantly and many Impact Hubs are playing key roles in building local eco-systems, supporting innovators to create impact in all parts of society and much more. So for us the process of adjusting our business model has been a challenging one that we still haven’t finished. We are only starting to learn what pivoting in a huge organization can mean.

 

Collaboration as a diverse network
Impact Hub Makers are a community in its own right and we constantly prototype ways of collaborating with each other across the globe. But collaboration is hard. And it gets harder the more diverse you grow as a network – as it requires common understanding, and all stakeholders need time to be heard. Culture plays a huge role and local realities differ wildly. For us, consciousness about this diversity and its challenges is the first step – the key is to create and nurture a culture of trust. Trust that everyone brings their best to the table is key for respectful and appreciative conversations. Protected spaces for controversy are just as important. In the end collaboration is never easy, but it holds huge promise for impact at scale! In this spirit we will soon be kicking off a new global strategy to develop more multi-location programs that span countries, cultures and communities.

 

The old board welcoming the new board into office.

It was especially impressive to see how once again makers from around the globe took responsibility, especially when bringing on our new global board for the coming three years: Alberto Masetti-Zaninni (Impact Hub Kings Cross), Katie Miller (Impact Hub Ottawa), Monica Hidalgo (Impact Hub San Jose), Patricia Lopez (Impact Hub San Salvador) and Sara Anjargolian (Impact Hub Yerevan). In addition, Tatiana Glad (Impact Hub Amsterdam) is extending her term by a year to insure smooth transition of the board.

If you want to know more about our history check here.