In complex systems, it has never been true that we first know and then act. We begin by experimenting, tentatively, until we understand a bit more about the context in order to further adapt the course of action, quickly following up with the next move. However, we know that places, cities, systems are never static. Just when you think you have an understanding, a map, a plan, it changes again, meaning it can never be the responsibility of a single organisation, a single approach, a single sector, a single way of doing or thinking alone in order to understand, nor to act. We know that in a time of fundamental uncertainty about our urban futures, creating the capacity for experimentation is crucial in order to design for a multi-stage, multi-level, large scale transition of how we live together. Our experience shows us that the only way to go about this is by moving forward step-by-step, whilst engaging multiple levels of government, different sectors, communities and a range of partners.
As the Compendium of the Civic Economy showed, this has been the essence of civic entrepreneurship for some time now: an agile approach based on strong core values with an open-endedness in planning that starts from a strong entrepreneurial core and business model, which we talk about in more detail in our previous blog. We must have the flexibility to anticipate and respond to emerging opportunities in a locality. Such opportunities are often hard to predict, but they emerge through deep embeddedness in context and in networks both locally and further afield which enable civic ventures to create remarkably diverse, layered and ever-evolving business models. This is much of what we have experimented with over the last 9 years through evolving movements such as TEDxBrum, and as partners of 00, Open Desk, WikiHouse, and more, gathering understanding of how we pursue our own missions and work together. How we overcome challenges of scarcity or of independence has been part of the fabric of what we’ve learnt from successes, as well failures and mistakes, through our work up until now. It’s never been more important to understand how to work in groups, in groups of groups; what good one-to-one collaborations look like, as well as large networks functioning well in working towards similar missions.
There are so many questions here: who has the right to experiment in such a formal way? Which experiments should we focus on? Who has legitimacy? Who are the partners? Are things too local, too global? Are people working pragmatically enough now and are they looking into the future enough? We exist in many many paradoxes which we don’t have simple answers to. But what we know is that you have to discover these together with a range of partners, at a range of scales, and never become static. This is how we have approached both formalising and creating polycentric governance around partners that we both trust and have worked with for a long time, as well as the new emerging future in the neighbourhood that exists around CIVIC SQUARE, thus the team(s) behind, in, around, with and through CIVIC SQUARE can only wholly be considered through the multi-facted lens of a transition co-operative, that will continue to develop and grow throughout and beyond the lifespan of this work.
We’ll share more about the strategic thinking behind this in the coming year and more from our partners, but in the meantime here is an update around our team and partners.
The transition of Impact Hub Birmingham to CIVIC SQUARE has meant some key organistional changes. At a Director level, we share deep thanks to Founding Directors Daniel Zastawny and Joyjit Sarkar who were pivotal in the set up and growth of Impact Hub Birmingham. Whilst TEDx volunteering and spontaneously meeting on a train to London made us colleagues, we are lucky to have developed deep life-long friendships. We wish Joy all the best as he grows his company JJD Innovations, and Dan great success in his growing role as Head of Charitable Funding Partners at the University of Birmingham.
The transition of Impact Hub Birmingham to CIVIC SQUARE has meant some key team changes. At a Director level, we share deep thanks to founding directors Daniel Zastawny and Joyjit Sarkar who were pivotal in the set up and growth of the Hub. Whilst TEDx volunteering and spontaneously meeting on a train to London made us colleagues, we are lucky to have developed deep life long friendships. We wish Joy all the best as he grows his foward-looking company JJD Innovations, and Dan great success in his growing role as Head of Charitable Funding Partners at the University of Birmingham.
“I got roped into helping to start up Impact Hub Birmingham after my first TEDxBrum in 2013. Since then I’ve seen it do some amazing things. I feel privileged to have played a small part in this important work alongside a great team of passionate individuals. Unfortunately my work within assistive technology increased and I was unable to dedicate the time I wanted to Impact Hub Birmingham. So, with great difficulty, I decided to step down as a Director. I look forward to seeing the transition to CIVIC SQUARE and am excited to see the things this incredible team is going to achieve.” —Joyjit Sarkar, Outgoing Director
“To this day I remain constantly wowed by the ideas, people and energy that have emerged out of the Impact Hub Birmingham journey. It has been inspirational and educational to be a part of it, and I will be forever grateful for the learnings, allies and friendships it has offered to me and others in the city and beyond. I am beyond excited for what the team and community are going to do with CIVIC SQUARE and look forward to continuing to be an advocate and friend to all that this entails.”
—Dan Zastawny, Outgoing Director
We are also very excited to see team members Louise Byng and Daniel Blyden step up as Directors at CIVIC SQUARE. This a special development in the leadership of the organisation as both joined us early in their careers and have navigated the last five years with us deeply as part of their individual and our collective journey(s).
Daniel hosted his first Global Design Jam in the Impact Hub Birmingham opening days of early 2015, and went on to join as a Hub Wizard, supporting us with design during the crucial opening months. Over the last five years Daniel’s skill, design leadership and convening power has grown from strength to strength, not only through his work at Hub but with his broad and wide ranging work across the country. Daniel steps up into a role of Director of Design, spanning systemic, participatory and visual design. We feel incredibly privileged to have Daniel’s thoughtful approach to design in its widest sense, beyond traditional boundaries, leading us through a bold next phase.
“Five years ago I came back to Birmingham after some time away completing my Masters degree. I was searching for a place not only to call home for my developing design practice and to apply my skills, but also to work alongside bold, inspiring, caring and creative people. I found all of these things in a profound and unimaginable way both in the community of Impact Hub Birmingham and as a team member, and so it is an honour to be able to take the awesome step into the leadership of the organisation to play a role in shaping the future of CIVIC SQUARE.” —Daniel Blyden, Incoming Director
Byng joined us at the end of 2015, initially taking on a storytelling role within the #RadicalChildcare project. She very quickly went on to make herself an indispensable character within the core team, helping Impact Hub Birmingham develop a distinctive voice and creating clarity in the complexities of both our work and team culture, transcending the multiple layers of work at Hub with diligence, creativity, and meticulous attention to detail. Byng steps up as Creative Director and we are thrilled to have been building alongside such a talented young artist in the region and have the privilege of her creative leadership and deep set range of skills at CIVIC SQUARE.
“Impact Hub Birmingham was the perfect playground for an artist come designer come writer on a mission, and it was one of the first places I felt seen and valued in my wholeness after graduating; that the breadth of what I had to offer was recognised. My multi-faceted and evolving-as-we-went role in the team moved my practice forward more deeply, intensely and in ways beyond which could ever have been predicted, yet I feel that somehow I’m in exactly the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time. Stepping into Directorship alongside Daniel is a proud moment for me, and feels like a natural next step for us both.” —Louise Byng, Incoming Director
We know so little of great work happens alone, and this combination of talented young directors join Andy, Immy and Indi who stay on after 6 years of leadership.
We’re also excited that Amy Martin will be building on over a decade of experience supporting the next generation of creative talent in the city by growing #RadicalChildcare beyond the prototypes, research, systems work and incredible programming started at Impact Hub Birmingham and around the city. This takes the form of an ambitious and multifaceted next step for children and families as Founder of BABHaus, which Amy will be sharing lots more about soon.
“I am really looking forward to meeting children and families in Ladywood and programming some creative learning workshops and play sessions over the coming months. To be continued…” —Amy Martin, Director of BABHaus
Nikki Bi and Danni Ebanks-Ingram step with us from legendary hosting and programming at Impact Hub Birmingham into the new reality of CIVIC SQUARE as both co-founders and leaders of our programming and creative engagement work, which is a really important transition and point of joy for all of us.
“CIVIC SQUARE is exciting as we have the opportunity to nobly work with and engage local people on issues that are pertinent to them. I’m looking forward to having the necessary conversations to host programming that offers alternative voices to the mainstream. For me, participation will be instrumental in helping to build confidence and trust in forging new relationships and amplifying voices in the neighbourhood.” —Nikki Bi, Programming + Participation Lead
“CIVIC SQUARE is a very important and exciting step for me. It’s a step into neighbourhood change as well as new ways of working and learning. I look forward to connecting with young people in Ladywood, as well as working closely on programming – creating and hosting events that connect people, places and self.”
—Danni Ebanks-Ingram, Creative Engagement
As a team we are deeply rooted in the city of Birmingham with a long-term commitment and vision for building here, and we are currently building an advisory board that will include local people and key local, national and international members.
We look forward to working even more closely with our 00 family, particularly Dark Matter, Open Systems Lab, and Architecture 00, as well as partnering with Doughnut Economics Action Lab this year. We also look forward to building on new emerging partnerships with the JV behind Port Loop and growing relationship with Urban Splash that has been slowly developing over the last 2 years.
We are currently utilising Elinor Ostrom’s design principles for Common Pool Resource (CPR) institution, Dark Matter’s Shared Mission Agreements and other tools in order to help us nurture this ecosystem of partners. We invite and welcome your thoughts on great practice you’ve seen around the world that tackles large scale collaboration.
Throughout the year we will recruiting for roles within development, communications, hosting, coffee and finance, with particular roles focused only for people in the local area, so watch this space. We are also open to bold partners on the same journey, who wish to co-invest in the future learning and experimentation so please get in touch.