Sitting down to reflect on 2018 has in many ways been a total joy. When Byng and I set the team the challenge to share their top 3 highlights of this year, most conceded that it was almost impossible to do as so much had happened. As I looked at the responses coming in and the way Byng had crafted the story of 2018, I felt overwhelmed and quite emotional. When you sit amongst and have the privilege to help lead such a talented, vivacious, thoughtful and caring team, I haven’t had to look too far to see what a year it has been, with so many individual and collective achievements, learnings, and successes. 2018 has really been sensational one – it hasn’t been easy and this is most certainly the highlights reel, but it has undoubtedly been a very special year for Impact Hub Birmingham.
On the 31st December, this day 4 years ago, I was very excited that we had already raised £25,000 through our rather ambitious crowdfunder, but internally was petrified about if we would make the rest. Through all the amazing support and generosity, chipping away at me personally were the people mocking the grand mission and vision to seed a movement for a fairer, more equal and just city. So many asked ‘How are you going to do all this? The business model and the vision doesn’t line up. It’s nice what you guys are saying but it’s not realistic’. These comments played on loop in my head, whilst outwardly we forged forward to a 5 year R&D project to look at what citizens like us, in places like ours could really do. Four years on I could not have asked for a better combination of work, learning, community, strategy and people. I genuinely feel proud we have got to this point, and haven’t yet given up, let the real estate story of cities break us and have grown into and developed a more ambitious strategic plan.
There are big changes afoot too. It’s true this is our final year as Impact Hub Birmingham, and you can read more about why here. It is also time for us to announce publicly that we are leaving the Impact Hub network at the end of 2019. We are aware there are difficult times ahead for the UK specifically but also across the globe. Whilst geo-political issues drive us apart networks like the Impact Hub have an important part to play in bringing us closer together. We hope to see the network flourish and will remain a close ally and champion of the work of makers, founders and members striving for a brighter future. We have particularly benefited from, been inspired by a close relationship with Impact Hub Oakland and would thank them specifically for all they have done; the path the founders paved, the intentionality of their founding mission and all they are continuing to do on a daily basis, in a difficult context. We would like to thank the Association for the support we have received from many makers over the years. In the spirit of collaboration and shared values we look forward to hearing about how the network evolves over the next few years as the Next Level Strategy is implemented.
It’s not all over yet though, and so it is really important we stress the Best Year Ever plan, a year where you can use the Hub as a platform to build your dreams and missions. I feel proud of a warm and collaborative relationship we’ve shared over the years and that we can all go on from strength to strength, closing Impact Hub Birmingham in the way we opened it, with you all. At this time we would also like to give a hat tip to the brilliant co-founder Joyjit Sarkar who will step down as a director in 2019, and Dan Zastawny who will remain a director but is pursuing new opportunities, and thank them for their pivotal hands-on support over the years!
The Year in Review below gives you an impression of the breadth and depth of work we have done and a tiny taste of what has been happening from the team. This is my moment to do a little nod to a group of people who inspire us to be better, hope for more and fight for the future. A very special thank you to 00, Indy Johar and David Saxby, the Dark Matter Labs team, our community in every sense and most importantly to the Impact Hub Birmingham team, who sacrifice financial and personal gain, and invest in building together, remembering that none of us win, if we don’t all win together. It has been an honour, and I am already excited about what 2019 will bring.
At the start of the year we began the process of synthesising research from the governance work we had been doing in 2017 with Snook to create a visualisation of a service blueprint of our member’s journey’s through Hub from awareness through to exit. This has been a catalyst for multiple interventions and improvements at hub, creating some much needed clarity so that each of our team could be smart and intentional about where we would be best to invest their time and energy. This made way for a refresh of our membership offers, the redesign and involvement of the whole team in our discovery tour experiences and an overhaul of Mission Birmingham.
We also welcomed a cohort of awesome BCU graduates to our creative, playworker and hosting teams for 3 months. This was an enriching exercise in mutually learning from one another’s fresh perspectives, and has led to us welcome Jordan to our events team full time, as well as seeing talented people find their next steps in marketing and communications roles, teaching, and further study.
In March DemoDev won The Urban Challenge Award with PUBLIC and West Midlands Combined Authority to explore how we can create this new supply model in the West Midlands. Read more in Andy’s DemoDev update blog from earlier this year.
It was also an honour to welcome co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Khan-Cullors for the Birmingham launch of When They Call You A Terrorist, as well as kickstarting child-centric ethnographic research in the form of Mini Detectorism.
The summer saw a busy season of work begin, with pilot co-work and creche sessions taking place in Bearwood throughout May, before a Build, Make & Mend festival and street play in early June. You can find out more about all aspects of this work at bearwood.cc.
As Impact Hub Birmingham turned 3 years old, at our birthday party we relaunched our mission to reflect the growth and reality we see, live by and work towards every day, bringing specific mission strands to the fore, Creative Resistance,
#RadicalChildcare and DemoDev.
In July, our creative team brought their passions straight into our programming as temperatures rose to record levels, hosting Brum Zine Fest, celebrating independent publishing and DIY making, bringing people together using zine approaches, methodologies and formats, and Boxwars Brum, part of an ongoing exploration of playful spaces that help to cultivate progressive behaviours.
Later that month 40 people came together across 2 days to design ways to radically improve outcomes for children and families. With a range participants, speakers and combined teams from Impact Hub Birmingham and Dark Matter Labs, over 200 ideas were generated drawing on 8 family case studies, stories in the data and a range of tools designed specifically for the lab. The outcomes have now been curated into 10 interdependent investment areas in no particular order that we believe need to be invested in simultaneously to radically transform outcomes for children and families. Visit the purpose-built site to delver deeper into these and more at radicalchild.care.
August saw the launch of Birmingham Community Homes, a movement to kick start a renaissance of community-led housing in Birmingham, Immy took part in The Ambiguity at Stanford d.school and Impact Hub Birmingham was named as one of NESTA and Observer New Review’s 50 New Radicals for 2018. Happy times, babs!
By October, Bearwood had a brand new baby bear from lovely mama Amy — “7lb 2oz healthy, hungry & ready for the #RadicalChildcare revolution (after a quick nap & perhaps another feed)”, and Byng & Daniel were hosted by Instytut Kultury Meijskiej in Gdansk, looking at new creative hub models with a focus on artists and communities alongside other organisations from across Europe.
November saw one of our most significant developments to date, as we formally launched our vision for a bold new project – Civic Square: building the neighbourhood of the future – at a community Town Hall meeting and online, announcing the beginning of our final year in our current space in Digbeth’s historic Walker Building. Read more in our blog all about The Final Year and beyond.
As the year drew to a close, Nikki became the inaugural Reader in Residence for Birmingham Literature Festival, we launched a Best Year Ever philosophy to make this final year in our current space the most exciting period of time in the hub story so far, we dived into a packed season of programming welcoming Micah Bournes, Jason Reynolds, Outspoken, Can We All Be Feminists, Decolonise Da Ting and Knights & Bikes with Gabrielle Kent (our first #RadicalChildcare x #HubTalks collaboration), and launched a new Mission Mondays format to explore what Mission Birmingham means to one another, and how we can keep it vibrant together. Phew!
Beyond a range of more physical highlights, events and interventions throughout 2018, co-founder Indy Johar has quite relentlessly challenged us to dig deeper, think bigger and continuously invest ourselves into the R&D for the future. In 2018, his work at 00 and Dark Matter Labs grew around the world, and the insights and learning have touched every part of our work, most significantly radicalchild.care. In true Indy style, we have a bespoke reflection from Indy that we are proud and excited to share it, as there is a real sense amongst our teams that work that has been in development for many years is at a very interesting, exciting and important point.
“It’s been a really great year, developing the work we started with #RadicalChildcare and the North Camden Zone, going beyond identifying the idea and need for systems change in our cities to start building the practices, tools, relationships, governance, financing instruments necessary for it. This involved to name but a few, working around the world.
In Canada with Mcconnell Foundation, Community Foundations Canada, MIS, and MaRS to develop a Civic Capital Lab, focused on how building the new means for financing shared, civic and public goods in our cities and equitably capturing the value the create. In Denmark with BloxHub in setting the framework for a series of experiments in 2019, which explore the implications for machine readable policy / real-estate contracts / licensing. With UNDP developing NextGenGov for seeding a new global portfolio experiments in the future of governance in an interdependent world, where transgressions are both increasingly micro, molecular and massive in number but also the rise of data science, machine sense-ability, machined bureaucracy give us new means to both visualize, regulate and comply ennobled to this future. London with Camden Town Unlimited and the Greater London Authority is developing the next generation of inclusive innovation district which goes beyond hunting unicorns to accelerating civic innovation alongside technological experimentation, embedded in the Camden and Euston area. It’s mission is to ensure inclusive, sustainable growth remains the core principle of technological progress in the creation of a 21st century economy.
These are just a few of a series of experiments the DM has been developing around the world to build the new capacities, competencies and capabilities necessary to remake our cities and build CIVIC SQUARE.“ – Indy Johar.
When I think of what I am personally most proud of in 2018, it’s a few key things, deep in our foundations that maybe aren’t visible to everyone. I feel incredibly excited that we started to see the early fruits of the Town Hall strategy emerging. Moments like the #RadicalChildcare Systems Lab showed us that we could go incredibly deep and strategic in our work and thinking with Dark Matter Laboratories, whilst also being grassroots and citizen focused, bringing together a vision for a system investment portfolio with a range of people in the room, not in ivory towers in the capital; something that we have talked about a lot, but now have created a roadmap for the work. More than just our team or organisation’s achievements I am excited about how our ecosystem is growing and working together, in a time where funders, investors and so many people want to be able to put us in a neat box with a one line elevator pitch, with simple work and simple tangible quick outcomes. We have practically achieved lots but we have resisted the simplicity and worked closely with a range of people, to push what is possible and the breadth and depth of work we feel matters. Some key examples of this include radicalchild.care with Dark Matter Laboratories, Affordable Land with WikiHouse / Open Systems Lab and looking forward some really exciting work kicking off in January 2019 with Kate Raworth. This is really important to me, in a time where very little truly encourages deep investment in R&D, true ecosystem working, with funders / investors instead encouraging you to simply and codify everything to fit into funding boxes. We have delivered lots, stayed open to a wide range of community members, but continued to work hard to go deeper. This has not been easy, and at every turn, when trying to take the next step we’ve been told that this isn’t an approach funders would recommended.
We will continue to resist conforming to what the business model allows, the boxes that funding and investment wants to put us all in, but instead ask what does the world need? We want to work with more people who continue to ask what the world needs, those who want to forge bold new futures and believe that our collective work will be about pivotal collective progress in incredibly dark and challenging times for so many. I hope as a team, community and wider ecosystem we continue to resist the hero and scale worshipping structures that still surround us all, and, whilst pursuing bold missions, we do so together, in many ways soberly, collectively and collaboratively to look at the structural challenges that face us. As Indy Johar reminds us regularly, the next revolution will be a pretty boring one. In many ways we need to fight for the basics again. Personally, it’s been a glorious and incredibly difficult year for me, but I know in 2019 I and we all must dust ourselves off, and fight for the futures we want to build, and remember we are not only allowed to hope, to dream, to be bold, to have grand missions and to try different ways to get there, but that it is our collective duty to.
So, after a pretty tough 2018 for so many of us here in the UK, let’s dare to dream and fight for the future.
Immy Kaur & Louise Byng on behalf of Impact Hub Birmingham