Unlikely Allies 2016: The Future of Cities

In  July, Simanye travelled as part of our involvement with Impact Hub Joburg to the Unlikely Allies Conference in Seattle, USA.  The conference was organised by the Impact Hub global network and involved two days of multi-stakeholder conference sessions on the Future of Cities, followed by 3 days of strategy and team building retreat for the Impact Hub Makers.

With approximately 500 global and local participants coming from a wide range of sectors and backgrounds, but united in the desire to learn and contribute to the future of cities, the UA conference was highly thought-provoking and energising. It showed us just what the future could look like if we are bold enough to take the first steps.

The central theme examined how cities are evolving from both social and environmental perspectives, and the content highlighted the amazing possibilities. Some of our favourite takeaways include:

  •  Diversity in all its forms is really a key to success and we need to celebrate and embrace it in order to truly move forward as humanity.
  •  It was a truly wonderful experience to hear Majora Carter speak as she highlighted various grass-roots based social enterprise models. So much alignment to the Asset-Based Community Development model – change has to happen from the bottom up but partnerships and bridging those divides are also key. A good example is her idea of the community as corporation, and a business model that started with it.
  •  There was particular inspiration in hearing just how far sustainable building has come – not only are some buildings not reliant on the grid for either electricity or water, they are giving these back into the system. Jason McLennan talked about the concept of regenerative design and invited us to take a look at the Living Building Challenge.
  •  We need to take a look at what a basic living wage is and discuss the implications and potential benefits more.
  •  Social entrepreneurs all around the world are struggling to balance profits and social impacts but many are succeeding in achieving amazing things either way.

In terms of the more strategically focused internal Impact Hub sessions we learned:

  •  Many of us social entrepreneurs feel that the challenges we have are unique to us, however, in many cases there are overlaps even despite the unique contexts we all come from and we can learn from each other
  •  To ensure that you appeal to diverse markets you need to cater for diversity – this also speaks to the makeup of your own team as well as consulting a diverse base of people
  •  Networks and connections can be more important to an entrepreneur than knowledge / incubation

With the Impact Hub network having grown exponentially in the last few years, it is clear that the number of people who believe we should be focusing on addressing key social and environmental issues through for-profit businesses that prioritise stakeholder value, rather than just financial shareholder value, is growing exponentially around the world. The Impact Hub can be an exciting and inspiring platform to convene the ecosystem and aggregate and amplify change in cities across South Africa, starting with Impact Hub Johannesburg which we are hoping to launch before the end of 2016.

Read more about Impact Hub’s recap of 2016’s Unlikely Allies here.

And find out more about the Unlikely Allies Conference follow this link.  To learn more about Impact Hub, click here.

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