A place for incubation
We are currently seeing a proliferation in online activity around social innovation through networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Delicious and Wordpress-style blogs, which put the power directly into the hands of everyday internet users in a way we couldn't have even dreamt about little under 5 years ago. These sites allow people to be vocal about causes they're passionate about, collaborate with like-minded others regardless of geographic location or other societal constraints, and also be exposed to an increasing amount of information through these networks. But it seems that in the face of the growth of the social technological community, there is a parallel need to maintain the physical connection that comes with collaborating on an idea with other people. The rise of incubation hubs globally is testament to the effect a physical environment has on creativity and innovation. These hubs are often found in converted warehouses, renovated with 'rough around the edges' features such as concrete floors or old wooden floorboards, exposed beams and brick walls, mirroring the spaces of creative and advertising agencies and giving the hubs a unique edge over typical office environments. Change.org blogger Nathaniel Whittemore has started identifying what he believes will be the top five trends that will shape Social Entrepreneurship in 2010. At number 4 on his list, he names Coworking and Startup Incubation. He says, 'Coworking makes even more practical business sense in the social entrepreneurship space than in other fields. Social entrepreneurs tend to need lots of diverse resources from a lot of different places to make their projects work. Shared work space is an incredible way to build that social capital.' While these spaces are still thin on the ground in an Australian context, initiatives such as ASIX, with its meetups and the Social Innovation Camp, are responding to this need to engage creatively and share not just ideas but passions and beliefs with those around you. Perhaps in 2010 we will see this landscape grow even further, with Australia learning from and adapting overseas models to grow the culture of social innovation in the country.