Come on in - and welcome to your second Creative Hubs Leaders Magazine.
This is where we take stock after an eventful year of the European Creative Hubs Network // discover a Turkish incubation model for social impact, with one the country’s biggest companies on board // dig further in ATÖLYE’s mind in a thought piece on community curation // the Artist + Others inspires with thank-you-cards for their local municipality // take it slow with The Trampery, who worry about their members’ stress levels // learn from Italian hub leaders about getting local recognition // and know that hub leaders are really everywhere: unexpected proof with a courageous creative community from Afghanistan.
Still some time left? Pick something for your nightstand in the Hub Leaders Library.
Here are some of the incredible hub leaders featured in this magazine:
This magazine has been prepared as part of the European Creative Hubs Network project, co-funded by the EU’s Creative Europe programme. It has been developed by the British Council together with Open°, an open-source platform and global meeting place for hub-makers.
What shape will the European Creative Hubs Network 2.0 take in 2018? After the first 2-year funded phase, what is a sustainable model for the future of the network? Hub leaders gathered in Sheffield to discuss the running, founding and joining of the network. Take a quick glance at the thoughts and ideas in this (10 min) audio story below.
Anna Maloney (Hackney Wicked): “We are talking about the future of the European Hubs Network. The question is how do we develop a model that utilises all the skills that we have across the network but make it sustainable. To make it commercially viable so it can feed itself, without draining the small resources of the hubs that are members.”
The number of creative hubs leaders is growing rapidly. Feeling a bit overwhelmed in this fantastic frenzy of experiences and expertise? Some conversation starters for the next time you meet these leaders on Slack or (even better) in IRL.
Hi, George Gachara, Fatima Simao and Ben Kolp: what is on your mind?
George Gachara // Kenya // HEVA // Nest Collective
“We are achieving a lot in Kenya as a country. I think we are at a very interesting place today: digital technologies in Kenya are almost on par with global standards. Internet mobile usage is at its highest and digital communications is at the forefront of African countries, so lots of good shifts.
At the same time, there are also things we need innovate around. We inherited models, religious and cultural beliefs that are showing active opposition to our constitution. We sometimes find ourselves in the middle of these tensions. It happens that we are caught off guard and our work is banned from being displayed in Kenya.
More than 30% of all employable youth is currently unemployed in Kenya. We run the HEVA fund, which is the first in East and Central Africa focusing exclusively on creative enterprises. We are investing in over twenty enterprises with financial facilities up to $100,000. That is on top of the production and business skills to a network of about 400 creative enterprises and businesses that provide services in the creative industry.
Talk to me about: these efforts help creative employment, but also a deepened expression: creating unique cultural East African products for the East African and global value chains. One that increases the intellectual property ownership amongst design-led businesses.”
Fatima Sao Simao // Portugal // UPTEC - Science and Technology Park of the University of Porto // @fatimasss
“UPTEC is not one hub, I look at us as a collection of different hubs.
Ten years ago, UPTEC was created to help a university with their knowledge transfer strategy. To do that, we provided space and business development to promote young start-ups (UPTEC supported over 337 companies the past 10 years). We also attracted innovation centers and research departments from companies to work with the university. A network appeared - not just with creative technologies, but also in bio-tech and marine sciences for example.
Things have changed a lot over the past ten years. Right now everything is organised in a more hybrid way: it is harder to define something as purely ‘creative’ or ‘technological’. Thankfully - it became normal to merge skills and resources from different backgrounds.”
Talk to me about the exploration programme of UPTEC: where early stage start-ups interact with architects, scientists, designers and artists for new perspectives on their businesses.
Ben Kolp // Spain // The Living Room Coworking // @Ben Kolp
“I co-founded the Living Room, which is a community space for freelancers, mainly who come down to the Costa del Sol to live in the sunny location and who fancy company to avoid working in isolation at home. We are now a community of 70 people from 25 different nationalities.
Talk to me about: workations. A chance for location independent freelancers and entrepreneurs to come down to Malaga and spend a week to a month. We sort out accommodation and we sort out their office and provide them with a desk. Co-workers just need to organise their flights and we’ll pick them up from the airport and we bring them to their flat in a co-living arrangement.”
Hub leaders Paolo Montemurro and Laura Sgreccia work 500km apart along the east coast of Italy. Their communities face similar challenges, but Materahub (in an ancient city in Italy’s southern Basilicata region) and Warehouse (Marche) take different approaches in solving them.
Paolo and Laura share what works: and invite you to replicate, hack or adapt their success stories. In the second part of this story, they talk about getting local recognition for young entrepreneurs and creative hubs - and the resistance they face in this quest.
Different starting points
Some of the statistics Paolo and Laura grapple with on a daily basis: the younger generation (between 18 and 34 years old) is now the poorest in Italy: an unicum. There are now 2.2 million Italian families without a job income and almost 23% is self-employed, earning less than their older counterparts. “We face an incredible braindrain”, says Paolo, founder of Materahub. “Especially in our regions, with lots of small towns and villages, the end is nowhere in sight and it is only getting worse.”
Paolo: “I founded Materahub in 2011. At the time, the city of Matera was in a race to become the European Capital of Culture (which the city will be in 2019). It was a chance to attract attention for creativity and culture: to build a new entrepreneurial ecosystem right under the spotlight of Europe.”
Protecting cultural heritage is in the DNA of Materahub. The cave dwellings ‘the Sassi’ in Matera are UNESCO protected. “In 2011, we were amongst the first to connect the protection of our heritage with entrepreneurship. We started working as a connector between different players of the cultural, creative, institutional and entrepreneurial sectors. This focused remains important for us. We now run Ipogeos, bringing together Italian and foreign companies to restore, catalogue and build tourism around the heritage of Matera.”
The Warehouse had a different starting point. Laura explains: “I was an aid worker for years, working across the world. When I returned to Italy, I realised there were no tailored programmes or opportunities for youth in my very own habitat. So I co-founded a small company in 2013 to support small and medium enterprises.”
“It was clear that any progress had to come from the handicraft, design, tourism or food sectors: sectors that Marche historically excels in. The Warehouse was build to create an ecosystem of human resources that co-generate projects to improve our challenging local context.”
Within five years, both Materahub and the Warehouse became pioneering hubs in their regions: “We are regarded as a ‘new place for a different kind of learning’ by the Marche community, says Laura.
Here are two examples of programmes that worked:
(1) Fake It Till You Make It - Soft skills theatre
Paolo: “We collaborate with a network of theatre companies in North Sweden. I know it does not seem so at first sight, but we have lots in common. Young people leaving this region to capital cities too.”
The Fake It Till You Make It’ theatre project provides young creative entrepreneurs with skills for social inclusion and employability with an intersectional approach. The implementing partners come from all over Europe.
Norrbottensteatern (Sweden), plus a regional network theater companies in Basilicata, L’Albero (Italy) bring theatre methodologies and is complemented by APEM (Spain) employability expertise as well as Materahub (Italy).
On stage, entrepreneurs learn how to perform in front of a group or speak and pitch with confidence. “After an initial exploration we are now turning these experiences into a methodology on how theater, applied in different contexts, can generate and stimulate innovation and new skills”, says Paolo.
If any creative hubs leaders are interested: a training week in Basilicata will happen in September 2018 for European operators interested in the project practices. Do you have your own experiences with theatre in your hub? Get in touch with Paolo to help inform their method.
(2) Geronimo - collective intelligence
‘How might we tap into and strengthen the collective intelligence of entrepreneurs in Marche?’ - this was the guiding question for the design of the Geronimo project of the Warehouse. The primary goal was to bridge the competencies and the capacities of young people. ‘At the same time, we wanted to stimulate entrepreneurial attitude of the people that play a role in the young entrepreneurs life: their parents and teachers for example”, Laura says.
Geronimo (Geronimo is the Italian acronym for Giovani Eroi, Nuovi Imprendotori, meaning Emerging Entrepreneurs, New Heroes) was an initiative in 2015 implemented by eight professionals and coworkers at the Warehouse. The Warehouse collaborated with the local job centre and provincial authorities.
The job centre selected 18 unemployed youth that received training in topics such as: resilience and social innovation;
- how to deal with constructive criticism
- how to fail fast and learn fast
- how to collaborate and learn from peers through stories
- how to plan a business and how to improve the understanding of the real needs of an idea
- creating for it a real sustainable competitive advantage
Today, six of the 18 youth still run their profitable businesses. They are working in the fields of experiential gastronomy and tourism, food, engraving and publishing, illustration and design, upcycling and artistic handcraft. “What makes me most happy, is that these six businesses are collaborating. An example of collective action is between Marche Wow and Le Affinità gustative. Marche Wow is about experimental gastronomy - and it now features an experience at the traditional cheese makery of Le Affinitia.
No One is a Prophet in their Own Land
“We are new stakeholders in our local contexts”, Laura explains. “At the beginning we were seen as competitors for education. Whereas what we really are is an add-on to existing curricula in the region.”
Paolo: “We still struggle to get recognition on a local level, in contrast to the recognition we feel at an European level. The Latin saying goes: No one is a prophet in their own land, and that is true for us as well. Sometimes it is easier to get recognition from people that are a thousand miles away than your own neighbours.
Paolo speaks of a policy-loop: “There is a mismatch between local politicians who want a clear and visible effect, something immediate for the elections. We are much more interested in the long-term. We create interventions that could only pay-off in five years time for example.”
“So instead of local action inspiring local policies, we sometimes see that we directly inform European policy (when we are called to contribute to programmes on a regional levels), that then trickle down, via a detour back to Italy.”
Convening local stakeholders
“In December 2017 we held a workshop in Marotta for EU policy makers. This was an important event for many reasons”, Laura says.
“We invited local stakeholders, government, NGOs for example, to our hub for this workshop. We noticed some of them mainly looked at our hub as an activity center. A workshop like this allowed us to tell a different story. One where we performed as a connector between local and EU levels. It brought them closer to the real meaning of our hub.”
A 3-part deep dive in ATÖLYE’s buzzing world in downtown Istanbul. Atilim (community & prototyping lab), Emre (communications) and Duygu (imece programme) offer us a sneak peek in their daily operations and recent developments.
Part 1: Mapping masters - on ATÖLYE’s magic maps about their own community and creative hubs in Istanbul.
Part 2: Thought piece: community curation - Atilim’s thought piece with invitations for you to engage.
Part 3: imece: a new incubation model - Duygu explains the new social innovation platform, with the Sustainable Development Goals at its core.
538 nodes is what it took for ATÖLYE to map out part the creative world in Istanbul. In two interactive maps, it opens up networks that seem knotted up - into an easy navigable oversight that displays to every viewers’s needs.
Graph Commons (a venture of ATÖLYE’s alumni Burak Arıkan) is a collaborative platform for mapping, analysing and publishing data-networks. It helps people and organizations to transform their data into interactive maps and untangle complex relations that impact them and their communities.
Listen to Emre Erbirer explain how ATÖLYE used this tool:
The second map ‘Istanbul Creative Hubs’ was build in collaboration with the British Council to raise awareness about the contribution of these hubs to the creative industries and encourage future partnerships: “In this world of fuzzy logic and messy challenges, the much-adored one-man-show only goes so far. Collaboration across disciplines is an indistinguishable aspect of success in the long term, especially as all activities are increasingly affected by network effects on all fronts.”
Get in touch with Emre if you want to learn more about using this tool in your own hub.
Atilim of ATÖLYE wrote a (long!) thought piece on community curation. He is looking forward to discuss this with you - and improve it with your input. The article includes several discussion points, but your own are also very welcome. Get on the ECHN Slack channel or get in touch with Atilim directly.
The term ‘Curation’ has become a ubiquitous notion lately. We hear this buzzword from corporate customer acquisition narratives to content creation platforms across sectors such as music, travel, dining and more.
In ATÖLYE, we live by this word as we think about our projects, events and most importantly, people. In this article, we would like to touch upon why it is important, what our intentions are and how we try to build our community through a diligent curation process. We did our homework in terms of scanning through previous essays (most of which are quoted), and believe that our model can contribute to the global discourse with its applied guidelines pertaining to space, purpose and diversity.
Curation has become almost indispensable in a world of excess
Around 10 years ago, the term ‘curation’ had a more limited definition. Back then, what we understood from curation was merely related to museums or art exhibitions. The etymological journey of the word also implies that it has been used to impress selecting, organizing and looking after the art pieces in various contexts since 19th century.
In his book, Michael Bhaskar remarks how this term we borrowed from the art world has turned out to be a critical, yet sometimes controversial strategy for our age. (Curation: The power of selection in a world of excess , 2016) Today’s most successful companies like Apple, Netflix, Amazon use “curation” to empower their growth by offering their clients more customised and appropriate choices.
It seems like excess is the key term to explain this transformation. We are now inundated with more information and more goods than we know what to do with. Moving from scarcity to abundance on accessing the information makes selecting, finding and cutting down to show what really matters more crucial. In this abundancy, people are used to having a wide variety of choices. Thus, expectations become higher, people expect more customised stuff to be put in front of them. And the fact that a filtering process has taken place, makes people more likely to engage in the final content. It almost became a required expectation.
It is safe to say that scarcity breeds engagement. An intriguing article by Cedric Giorgi (Founder of French Startupers Community) compares 2 different Facebook groups (owned by him) in terms of communities’ engagements levels. (Linkedin , 2017)
First group is completely open to join and open to post any content whereas the second group was selective on members and restrictive on what is posted. There are nearly 3 times more members with a bit more wall posts in the first group, however, the engagement levels (based on comments+reactions) demonstrates a significant difference in the favour of the curated one.
Communities in scarcity: “With whom I am together with?”
Just like curation, the traditional definition of community seems to be outdated. It is interesting to think about the evolvement of the word community in line with curation and understand both of their relation to the term excess .
that we born or fit into; it is something we choose for ourselves and express our identities through (The Atlantic, 2017). Community has no geographical boundaries.
In the past, communities were more likely associated with a group of people living in the same physical location: neighbourhood, school, town. This is what the dictionary definition suggests in the first place as well. However, community, now, implies a meaning that is not merely something
Thanks to the revolutionized social media methods of interaction, we - millenials that are born into abundance - have an incredibly easy access to the wider clusters of people. While abundance occurs in the numbers of people we could access, the question of ‘’With whom I am together with?’’ could easily be raised up. We then tend to choose our communities depending on our shared values, interests or needs. This is where communities start to be built around shared purposes and needs instead of physical links. Community, itself, derives curation automatically and that happens around shared purposes.
We have shared purposes. So, aren’t we done with being a community yet?
Everyone has millions of different goals and interests that they could share with others. However, it is fair to say that having a shared purpose would not be enough for communities to exist, unless the members of the community care about each other. Interesting podcast from Victoria Stoyanova, a community architect, reveals the core qualities of curating strong communities around a common purpose. One of the key points that she mentions is to constitute ownership and trust among members. Even simple details like celebrating birthday, remembering one’s dog’s name become crucial to establish these relationships. If we are not listening and caring about each other, there are no ways we could show off our vulnerabilities and this would end up with becoming a simple people group instead of community.
Community Builder Fabian Pfortmüller nicely examines the shift in our understanding of communities in his article and describes the difference between communities and other similar people groups (Medium, 2017). Unlike project teams, companies or political movements optimizing for external purposes (collective goals) ; communities optimises for internal purposes ( the relationship and the shared identity) . What separates communities from rest of the groups is that they come together around an internal purpose.
There must be a person assigned to catalyze these relationships and establish trust carefully and systematically in each community. This person is certainly not a receptionist sitting at the entrance of the space that community gathers. Some people like community managers / builders / architects / curators lead this process for communities to survive and reach to the external and internal purposes collectively. That mainly becomes through creating a safe space for community members to take initiative.
“We are against boundaries, our community is open to everyone.”
While talking to people especially in the context of creative hubs, I personally hear the upper quote a lot, as if it is a strategy to build a community. However, it is seriously hard to understand how being open to everyone might reinforce a community.
Some might think that applying curation criteria would be elitist or snobby approach in building communities. But, not all boundaries are always bad; especially if we structure them around a certain purpose. Boundaries can be used to create a safe space where vulnerability could be shared.
Executive consultant Charles Vogl shares a really nice insight in his article, “Why do communities need boundaries?”
“If everyone is inside your community, then your community cannot be distinguished from no community. Acknowledging the boundary between your community and the outside world helps you create something as opposed to nothing.”
If people are running businesses around communities (like in creative hubs or in coworking spaces), they, of course, need to think about the financial sustainability of the organization. In that case, taking anyone to community on purely from a financial point of view would become an easy way out sometimes. That is not incorrect; sustainability of the organization comes in the first place naturally. What is incorrect, from my point of view; is to acknowledge the term community as a open boundary thing to get more members in.
That being said, we also support the idea of communities to be open circles. In the end, we are not buildings walls to protect the community; but instead, we are trying to establish certain membranes in order for communities to transmit and receive from the outside world effectively. People from outside of the community should intervene in some of the community processes to breed the community in certain ways. There could be several ways to ensure that. Space configuration itself would allow other people to interact with others from outside the community through various gatherings, talks and other events.
Community Curation in Practice
After clarifying what we, as ATÖLYE, understand from community curation, it makes sense to boil down some of the key aspects both in curation and community; and explain how we merge these as a toolkit in ATÖLYE’s community curation. These toolkits are related to space, purpose and diversity.
Right neighbours vs. right house: A guide for community curation
In Turkish, we have a proverb which could be directly translated as ‘’get right neighbours rather than the right house ’ ’. We are highly inspired by this notion while curating our community at ATÖLYE. Our approach, ‘’Build Community, Space Will Come’’ directly refers to this adoption that communities should be built not depended on physical attachments (Medium, 2017). This mindset shapes the way we curate our community. If people would like to join ATÖLYE just for working in a comfortable space without any other steering motivations, we could easily say that they are not the right fit for the community.
This approach also gives clues about our growth strategy regarding the community. In contrary to many space-driven ventures based on real-estate mindset, we prefer to put our energy into the curation of the community in order to engage right people to create a unique synergy. Because we believe this synergy would turn into something that could create value in the long run. This vision has been broadly discussed in one of our Medium posts titled ‘ Deceleration: In Praise of Slowness and Trust’ (Medium, 2017).
If we had planned to expand through the number of members we would have continued with opening the second space and fill it with new people. Space, in our case, affects our curation by means of limiting the capacity. Since last year, we are around 150 people (our full capacity), which makes us to tighten the curation processes.
While designing our space, we configured our membership models (part time, full time, office type and corporate) so as to allow 150 people to be fit in the community. This decision was inspired by Dunbar’s number. According to the anthropologist Dunbar, this is the number of people with whom we can maintain a meaningful relationship, whether in a hunter-gatherer society or on online groups.
It is interesting that our experience at ATÖLYE so far shows that people clusters engage more in Dunbar’s suggested sub sequences (5-15-50-150). In parallel with that, the daily traffic of our space is around 50 people; and in community activities, most efficient knowledge sharing environments are being provoked when there are 15 people at most.
Clearly communicating internal and external purposes from day one and reminding it throughout the process is essential in the curation of a community.
We attach a great deal of importance to carefully maintaining both an interdisciplinary and an interpersonal balance when putting together the ATÖLYE community. The main purpose of this curation is to create a learning environment in which community members fulfill their needs professionally and socially; and potentially collaborate on projects that could create long term value.
This might sound like a generic purpose which could be easily internalized by everyone. However, the key approach for us is not looking for members to fit into this purpose, but to contribute to it effectively.
Being a contributor of the purpose is more important than being a proper fit for the community.
Diego Rodriguez, former partner of IDEO, addresses hiring criteria in relation to team culture in his article (Linkedin, 2015). He prioritizes cultural contribution over cultural fit in choosing right candidates. Similarly, we try to understand how a candidate member would contribute to this purpose and what they could bring to the table for the sake of the community. We examine this through our membership application process.
The first touch point for people willing to join ATÖLYE community is the membership application form in our website. In conjunction with the explanations in our website, this form gives applicants the first hint about the curation we apply and its purpose.
When the candidates fill the form, it delivers us a brief introduction about their field of work, their needs and possible contributions that they might make aligned with the purpose. After reviewing the form, we invite people for a coffee on 1:1 meetings. These meetings take approximately one hour per candidate.They are not typical ‘space tour’s to show off the space and it’s amenities. Instead, these are sincere conversations to communicate the fact that people matter at ATÖLYE. It is very important for us to talk face-to-face with people who’s interested in being a part of the community so that we can elaborate on what their expectations are, how they work best, what their interests are, how they could possibly support people in the community and how they could benefit from our community in return.
These meetings also give us a chance to know more about candidates’ future plans in terms of new projects and venture prospects. This allows us to see possible collaboration opportunities they could make with other members and ATÖLYE’s strategic design studio team. Through this discussion, candidates could also acknowledges the value of community as a way of supporting each other professionally.
On the other hand, through these meetings, we communicate the fact that what keeps our community together is the relationships among members. We grow through the strength of the bonds between members, not with the actual numbers of them. Trust is the key in order to reach this internal purpose. Without trust, there are no relationships, no friendships, no collaborations. This approach automatically eliminates people who egocentric tendencies on the way if they think they wouldn’t need anything from anyone.
Talking about these topics is somehow like the approval of a social contract mutually. Sometimes it is surprising for people to hear at first hand that we choose people to come despite the fact that they still need to pay the requested membership fees. Explaining about our purpose of doing the curation clarifies everything. Even if people apply in teams, we would like to meet with not only with the leader of the team, but also every team member in order to be on the same page all together.
Scarcity breeds engagement & quality.
Diversity is one of the most crucial curation criteria at ATÖLYE. Aligned with our purpose defined above, we think that innovative projects and unexpected breakthroughs can only emerge out of the right mix of people. Points of inspiration boost through the diversity of knowledge and viewpoints. The institutions like Stanford d.school are perfect examples on how putting people from various disciplines together almost always leads to breakthroughs that each group could never reach alone.
In quantitative manners, there are several criteria we apply in the curation of our community. We keep track of this data on daily basis. It is challenging to regulate this flow as we sometimes accept big teams that changes the balances instantly. Similarly, our churn is affected by members moving abroad or teams out-growing the space. Within this dynamic system, diversity remains a difficult yet worthwhile metric.
Disciplinary balance: We divide disciplines into four main scopes in ATÖLYE; and we aim for a discipliner balance between those four areas.
Creative Industries: Aimed 30%; current 30% of the community (Includes Designers: Product, Service, System, Graphic, UX/UI; Architects, Photographers, Videographers, Artists, Illustrators, Animators)
Technology & Engineering: Aimed 25%; current 19% of the community (Includes Engineers: Computer, Software,Mechanical, Civil, Electrical-Electronics; Developers)
Strategy & Business Development: Aimed 25%; current 25% of the community (Includes Entrepreneurs, Strategists, Business Developers, Advisors, Coaches)
Social Sciences & Community Building: Aimed 20%; current 26% of the community (Includes Communication Experts, Sociologists, Researchers, Lawyers, Psychologists, Writers, Editors)
Under these four scopes, we do not prefer to have more than 6 people from the same profession. That means there wouldn’t be more than 6 graphic designers, for instance, in Creative Industries scope.
This network is mapped using an interactive interface called Graph Commons, which also happens to be an ATÖLYE alumni venture. The way we approach to discipliner diversity is inspired by how we embrace the transdisciplinarity. This vision could be reviewed in our Medium Post, Transdisciplinarity as an Intent in detail.
Gender Balance: Since the beginning, we have been aiming for 1:1 gender ratio within our community. There were times we have given privilege to a certain gender while getting people in, just to balance the numbers. It is equal number for males and females at the moment.
International people ratio: 10% of our community is international people. The aim for this ratio is 20% percent. Just like other diversity parameters, we believe cultural diversity is one of the key aspects to create an efficient learning environment. In order to increase the numbers of foreigner people dropping by to ATÖLYE, we collaborate with Yabangee, a blog / organization for expat people living in Istanbul. Together with Yabangee, we organize events targeting expat people like Expat Spotlight.
Diligent Evaluation Process
Curation requires a team focussed on the process thoroughly.
In our approach at ATÖLYE, we use curation not only for selecting people in our community but also as a way of utilizing interaction potentials with the selected ones. We believe the curation process requires a diligent focus starting from the first touch with the members via application form till the first day the member spends with the community.
Our Community Team spends approximately 3 hours per a single member before they become a member of the community. This period includes:
● The evaluation of the initial application form
● Having a face to face interview, giving a space tour
● Having a weekly internal meeting for the final evaluation of the candidates to decide if it
would makes sense to involve them in the community.
● Handling member’s onboarding process in case of acceptance.
On weekly basis, we make internal team meetings for the final evaluation of the applications of the concerning week.
The evaluation starts with discussing above mentioned curation criteria for the candidate: space , purpose and diversity . We then continue with the assessment and ranking of the candidate with reference to the three topics listed below. These 3 topics are put in hierarchical order as following, in order to reveal their importance for us.
These evaluation sessions end up with 15%-20% of acceptance rate ratio in total. Being a member is not the only way to interact with the community. When we believe that there could be other ways to engage applicants rather than membership, we try to handle the process carefully by communicating the fact that this process is not like deciding what is black or what is white for us. Instead, it is like the shades of gray as there are many other collaboration opportunities like projects, events and workshops. For the ones that cannot be part of the community because of the discipliner quotas, we offer them to be in the waitlist and inform them when there is a seat available in the concerning discipliner quota.
Final Remarks & Learnings
Throughout our journey, our approach to the community and the criteria that we apply for curation have been evolved in accordance with our strategy and also been shaped step by step with the contribution of the community members. Each community has its own characteristic and they are all dynamic entities as each new comer has the potential of changing many aspects of the community.
For example, our model provoked more freelancers to be in the community compared to the corporates, since our purpose demands to be flexible in terms of project collaborations and community engagement.
We believe there needs to be certain curation criteria and purposes regardless of which kind of community we are working together with. We would then be able to measure and assess if we are on the right track for our purpose or not. Otherwise, it might be a bit pointless to talk about communities.
Our approach to the terms space , purpose and diversity has seriously affected the way we curate the community and the community has responded to it in a fruitful way in return. People have collaborated and made referrals to each other on 110 different projects under ATÖLYE roof so far. Having a curated community has fostered learning and collaboration on multiple levels.
Clearly, these principles are not set in stone. Our approach is likely to be further refined in coming years, given the incredible pace of 21st century. We hope to loop you in via new posts as we encounter new revelations.
Any feedback welcome.
17 x 7 months - that is the target of imece, a platform to contribute to the 17 Sustainable Development goals with innovative business cases. Grants for solutions for the first three goals are funded by founding partner Zorlu - one of Turkey’s biggest companies.
The SDGs are trendy for creative hubs in Istanbul: Impact Hub Istanbul is part of Accelerate2030 with the same goals as a guiding frame. ATÖLYE, Zorlu and S360 founded imece, convening a range of partners and Turkish teams around the goals.
More than an incubator
Duygy Kambur is the coordinator of imece and team member of ATÖLYE. imece is designed to be ‘more than an incubator’. “Incubation is just one part of the programme with open calls for ideas and 7-month support cycles to turn them into sustainable and scalable businesses. In addition, we build capacity and a community around the SDG’s in Turkey. We target social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and enterprising spirits from universities too.”
The first round was completed in 2017, focusing on quality eduction. The next round, about gender equality, kick-started this year and got a total of 80 applications. “More than the first call and it is a more complex issue, crosscutting through a range of social issues in Turkey.”
Duygu reflects on the first phase of imece, with lessons learned especially on the outreach of the programme: “What we learned from the first batch is that it is not a good idea to start your programme through an online platform in Turkey.”
“Eventually online elements can be part of it, but we are focusing much more on offline outreaching at the very start now. We hit the road with workshops, presentations and talk to people face to face. It is part of Turkish culture to need a real community first, that is why build in offline touch points and one-on-one mentoring throughout the sessions.”
Working with Zorlu
Zorlu Holding Group is a Turkish founding partner of imece. Collaborating with a big company starts with recognising a shared vision, Duygu says: “We both want the same thing, to find solutions for all these complex problems in our society. And we all feel that there is no way to fix these if we don’t collaborate. Every big corporate is made up of people that live in the same society as we do.”
“We look out for the champions in a company that can activate others, which can turn into a real transformation that can start at any level in a company. With imece, the collaboration started with a head of a department, but now the programme also lives on c-levels.”
“The SDGs are helping us as a frame in this collaboration. Different than the previous Millennium Development goals, the SDGS allow space for everybody to plug in. So there are roles defined for companies and the private sector too. The goals are our compass and was guiding for the design of imece.”
The number of creative hubs leaders is growing rapidly. Feeling a bit overwhelmed in this fantastic frenzy of experiences and expertise? Some conversation starters for the next time you meet these leaders on Slack or (even better) in IRL.
Hi, Ayse Sabuncu, Luka Piskoric and Alesia Bolot: what is on your mind?
Ayse Sabuncu / Turkey / Impact Hub Istanbul
Impact Hub Istanbul is part of Accelerate2030, a 9-month programme co-initiated by Impact Hub Geneva and the UNDP, with a mission to scale the impact of ventures that contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals internationally. We do so by selecting the best ventures from 17 countries, across 4 continents and connecting them to our wide network of expert partners that work with us on delivering a tailored, needs-based scaling support to the finalists.
“Social enterprises working from our hub are often not aware to what goal they are contributing. We are trying to set up a tagging system, so that we can communicate what goals our members have an impact on.”
Talk to me about: linking your members’ activities to the SDGS’s.
Luka Piskoric // Slovenia // Poligon Creative Centre
“Poligon Creative Centre is the first creative hub in Slovenia. We are based in an old tobacco factory in the city centre of Ljubljana since 2011.
We are working hard to tackle the consequences of the economic crisis that hit our country hard. The crisis came with a rise of freelancers, but very little support. We are trying to fill that gap.
PCC does not get any government support - we have been trying and promised. Moreover: the government is constantly praising us, but not living up to their promises. The good thing is that without any support we are completely independent, we can have a critical voice and advocate for issues that matter to freelancers. We notice now that our community is trusting us to voice their needs.
Talk to me about: crowdfunding. Five years ago there was no money for young creatives to launch their projects. Banks were not giving loans, investors neither. Crowdfunding really changed the game in Slovenia. It helped generating awareness and tell a different story about entrepreneurs. With zero budgets, huge capital was generated, social capital through storytelling.”
Alesia Bolot // Ukraine // IZONE Creative Community // @Alesia Bolot
A familiar sight for creative hubs leaders: burned out members and high stress levels in your hub. Charles Armstrong of The Trampery shares his take and a new programme for solutions:
“People have been developing entrepreneurial support programmes for forty years now. There is a lot of experience and track record, the problem is that a lot of the programmes that are out there are very similar to each other and are not asking the right questions.”
Find out what Charles thinks the right questions are by listening to the audio story below:
Watch the clip below to find out how The Trampery designed their deceleration programme (password is ‘trampery’):
The Artist + the Others from Maastricht (the Netherlands) is a foundation and cultural connector. Founder Jessica Capra explains about a model to engage local municipalities in your work:
The Artist + the Others supports young artists and cultural professionals during their early career in the cultural field.
“We work with different stakeholders in the Euregion, including the arts academies and the university to include more entrepreneurial elements in their curricula. Our biggest programme is called Common Knowledge. The programme includes experts meetings and engages the artistic community with the local scene. Trainings are about writing subsidies applications, entering the design market and presenting a good portfolio.”
Small pieces of art
The Artist + the Others started to support artists in their network by commissioning small presents, pieces of art, for speakers and experts helping with workshops and presentations. The small pieces of art are called ‘Thank you cards’.
The municipality of Maastricht received a couple of Thank you Cards and contacted the Artist + the Others. “They asked if artists from their network could design the thank-you-cards and awards for the municipality. As small gifts for international delegations or guests visiting Maastricht.”
“We launched a call in late 2017 for artists in the Euregio for designs. It is a great way for a hub to engage with a local government and support local talents.”
One application that made Jesscia smile was from an artist that never been in Maastricht before. This was his pitch:
The winning design was from Iwona Lisiecka ( Hausnerstudio):
Creative hub leaders are everywhere - get to know the ArtLords of Afghanistan, a courageous creative community from Kabul. Kabir Mokamel and Omaid Sharifi introduce themselves and their growing hub.
ArtLords is everywhere in Kabul, just drive through the city centre and you see artistic traces around you. The movement started in 2015, as a small club of artists and volunteers wanting to change Afghanistan by using the soft power of art and culture: their ‘non-intrusive approach’ to turn Kabul into the street art capital of the world.
Street art in Kabul means painting giant security walls that the city is littered with. Ministries, embassies, schools, organisations: they protect their premises with concrete meter-long walls. Not a pretty sight and getting more now that security situation is ever deteriorating. In November 2017, terrorists managed to get through the fortified walls of the diplomatic areas in Kabul, killing 9.
ArtLords started by leaving powerful artistic and non-violence messages on these walls, this was one of their first paintings, it is called ‘I See You’, to fight rampant corruption in the country:
“This first painting was a turning point for me”, says Obaid, raised in Kabul and coming from a commercial background. “It was blistering hot, we were working for hours in the sun. But the relief and energy when we done was overwhelming: we did it.”
Many walls followed - ArtLords is now also working in assignments of INGOs and local authorities. With more requests than they can handle are now 30 artists employed - and hundreds of volunteers joined the movement.
A special painting followed in 2015. Farkhunda Malikzada was a young Afghan woman who was murdered by a mob in downtown Kabul by broad daylight on March 19, 2015. They claimed she had burned a Quran. Artists of ArtLords gathered to pay tribute to her. They made a painting with their own blood, writing Farkhunda’s name and a single line from a poem by Forugh Farrokhzad, a female Persian poet: ‘Remember to fly’.
The mission of ArtLords changed the past years and is reflected in moving into a new office. Late 2017, Artlords decided to open up their doors and change their small office for a bigger open space.
“It is more of a meeting place, for their artists and wider community. We now have a gallery and space for exhibitions too. We are opening our doors and hope receive artists, entrepreneurs, really anyone who feels this is their place. We hope for artist residencies from outside Afghanistan”, says Omaid.
And more changes are on the way: “We want to focus more on cultural and creative entrepreneurship. We work with an incredible Afghan fashion designer and know more creative entrepreneurial geniuses in this country.”
Set your mail and Slack on mute and deep dive in this reading list selected by fellow hub leaders. All articles were mentioned during the Sheffield gathering or posted by hub leaders on their social media channels.
(1) Seeing The Better City - Charles Wolfe
In order to understand and improve cities today, personal observation remains as important as ever. While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, using them without on-the-ground, human impressions risks creating places that do not reflect authentic local context. Seeing the Better City brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments.
(2) Why Many Artists Need Galleries Now More Than Ever - Surface
“Here’s what I think is going to happen: Artists are going to hear this new gospel of going rogue, of cutting out the middleman. And it will seem great—until it’s not. Most of these artists will not be prepared for what that idea actually means. Their work will suffer. They won’t understand the many nuances of operating a business. They will face cash-flow and legal issues. Some may go bankrupt. Others may crawl over to the competitor of the gallery they left.”
(3) Is there a holy grail of a single impact metric? - Nesta
“At the same time, we have investors who want to understand the overall impact of our portfolio. How has their investment changed the lives of people for the better”
(4)Taking the future into their own hands - EU
The report delivers concrete recommendations for policymakers, as well as for the formal education sector and for youth work organisations, on how to increase the impact of young people’s entrepreneurial learning.
(5) (Podcast) Curating Communities with Victoria Stoyanova - Overtime
After building communities for ten years, she started researching how communities interact and how information and energy flows between them. What if, instead of thinking of communities as small clusters, we started looking at the creative and tech world as a big, super-connected system, a macro-community?
(6) Social Innovation Generation 10 years - SIG
From coast to coast to coast, passionate people driven by necessity, human ingenuity, and care innovate to collaboratively transform the very way society works and make it more inclusive, sustainable, just and well. Social Innovation Generation (SiG) in Canada came together to serve these people and communities. Sharing our decade-long journey is our final step.
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