26 November 2020

The New Economy Starts with Networks of Collaboration

The closing of one d​o​o​r is usually a symbol of a new door opening. The changes that are spreading across the world today, most of them linked to COVID-19, are turning the world upside down. This is a decade like no other, yet with turbulence comes reflection and change. And there has never been a better opportunity than there is now to explore new methods of constructing and building a better tomorrow. This is relevant to all areas of life: from career motivations to business development to personal and professional relationships and beyond.

It is the open-minded and solution-oriented people that Impact Hub values highly, many of them being a part of the network. Impact Hub is located in over 100 cities around the world and supports over 16,500 social entrepreneurs, all of who share a vision of building ventures that have a positive impact on people and places. One such Person is Hermes Arriaga an entrepreneur, facilitator of meaningful conversations, mentor, and business designer. Hermes is one of  Impact Hub Zagreb’s co-founders and currently the managing director and has shared with us his realizations in this time of change and renewal.

There is no doubt that the word coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been one of the biggest topics to be addressed around the world in 2020. But, some people have had other priorities to tackle first. Take as an example the soap and water shortages that
refugee camps in Sudan are experiencing; or the people recovering from a devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, leaving them without a home last August (while dealing with a pandemic). 

Many of the biggest issues on our planet are of a tremendous level of complexity to solve and at Impact Hub we understand that a societal transformation for good does not happen in isolation, it requires collective efforts.

Collaboration is part of our History

History has shown that it can only take a group of committed and intention-aligned people to shake systems. The data and information that we have been gathering, for the last 6 years as part of our annual surveys in the Impact Hub network, constantly confirms that community is the solution no matter the issue, and networks of collaboration play the main role. Community is now also the path to recovery. Last year alone, the over 270 entrepreneur support programs Impact Hubs run, generated 1,358 new ventures with the help of local associates and partners. Those ventures do not only look for a financial return but also 38% of them put social return at the same level of their financial gain.

About a month ago, I was invited to be part of an interesting discussion on Zoom (where else?) about building collaborative methods of cooperation and networks as part of the Unlearning Talks series by StartGreece, a capacity building and fellowship program for young professionals in Greece. While preparing for the discussion, I realized a rather logical but interesting thing about building intentional communities of support. I knew from our own Network data that collaboration is enabled by trust, a sense of belonging and strong community norms, but I did not know that collaboration is strongly associated with increased work performance too, according to the Beyond co-working: Drivers of collaboration in shared workspaces working paper, a very insightful study published last year. We witness in each one of our spaces across 5 regions the increased level of quality and professionalism of people’s work, the measurable social and environmental impact of their ventures, and the increased access to business support and investment capital that they have. It is only logical to think that work performance happens as a natural consequence of that. 

Collaboration goes online

Back in April, when our Network was actively engaging with each other for support, we learned about the incredible effort to organize 28,000 participants online throughout a weekend, coordinating 1,500 solutions to fight the virus during the #WirVsVirus online hackathon in Germany. An initiative co-led by Impact Hub Berlin that could only be possible due to the decentralized, purpose-driven initiative of a few, and overwhelming support from unlikely allies to take the solutions further. The effort inspired many similar successful initiatives around the Impact Hub world like the CadaDiaCuenta Hackathon with 18 participating countries in Latin America, or the Swiss #VersusVirus with 263 teams and their follow up incubation program.

Taking in the inspiration from our network

This inspired me to also contribute and take action in Croatia.  I wrote an email to local partners and 3 weeks later we had a team of 10 initiators and 22 supportive organizations to run versusvirus.hr, the first virtual hackathon ever registered in Croatia to share and rapidly develop ideas for the current health crisis. 

Impact Hub’s activities have been guided by the belief that no single business or NGO acting alone can address the increasingly complex challenges in our societies. Despite our differences around the world, I believe now more than ever, we need to join forces to continue making this a better world for everyone. 

The world is changing and many Impact Hub makers (staff) are part of that transition team together with the 16,500 Impact Hub members and the ever-growing network of collaborators and supporters we are working tirelessly to contribute and support our communities how they need us most. From Geoff, Impact Hub Boston co-founder, calling all and every one of his contacts -and beyond- to get up and cast their vote in the last US presidential election; to Ani, CEO of Impact Hub in Yerevan creating an entrepreneurship program for displaced women from the Artsakh area.  

I am sure that our collaborative initiatives will thrive and multiply, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because we believe this is the right path. The pandemic has only made us stronger, brought us closer together, and reinforced our energy.