Next year, the first Kenyan Impact Hub, a co-working and encounter space for social businesses will open in Nairobi. Tonight, the co-founders invited anybody who is interested in joining the Hub community to find out about expectations and needs. Around 40 national and international people attended. A feeling of community, collaboration and mutual trust started during the session.
Starting co-creation, ending competition
This feeling became visible in the end when co-founder Eric asked everybody to address the neighbour by saying “I am a thread” and reaching out a hand. This created a connection that symbolized the start of co-working and co-creation and the end of competition by approaching the neighbour in a friendly way.
In the format of a “World Café” people separated into small groups of around six people and discussed several questions. For each question the groups split up and mixed again so everybody was able to talk to as many people as possible.
How do you envision the impact you wish to create in your work?
At first, fellow visitors shared some very interesting concepts. One man is working on a system to provide physical addresses to facilitate mailing and deliveries. A woman shared that she just opened private boarding schools for boys and girls that encourage and empower students to really use their skills and to believe in themselves. Another woman is going to create a social business around fashion. Somebody else was working in renewable energies.
What are your challenges? How do you see Impact Hub support in addressing them?
There were a lot of diverse answers: Some hoped for a change of mindset, away from competition and towards collaboration. A young woman raised her dissatisfaction with the current school system and explained that it only asks for text book answers and doesn’t encourage students to think out of the box. She also criticized that women were expected to get married after school, have kids and two dogs.
Thinking out of the box and fostering exchange among social businesses
Some asked for working groups to support each other and to foster exchange among those who want to make a change in society. Others pointed at the self-development aspect: If you want to change the world your have to start with yourself, feel comfortable with what you do every day and lift others up. Infrastructure was also an issue: stable WIFI-connections, power generators to compensate power outages and affordable office space are not accessible to everybody in Nairobi or other parts of Kenya.
Current Nairobi co-working scene caters mostly to techies
Participants raised their dissatisfaction with existing co-working spaces in Nairobi which mainly cater to the tech scene. Some called existing hubs “elitist”, “clique” or “cartel”. One man shared how his friends walked into one particular hub and walked out shortly after that because they didn’t fulfil the expected economic demands. There were big hopes that Impact Hub would be open to anybody, regardless of financial status and that it would focus on social businesses instead of tech start-ups.
The co-founder trio
Victoria Nyakundi, Eric Kariuki and Freyja Oddsdottir met in 2010 at an event of the international student organization AIESEC. They have been working together in other projects. “We still like each other, even after going through rough times” they said in unison.