We are in Cape Town for a few weeks and just got back from a meeting with Nathan Heller at The Hub, a co-working space for social innovators. Although The Hub Cape Town only recently opened its doors, the model has been around for a while and there are over two dozen Hubs worldwide in cities from London to Bombay to Sao Paolo.
Nathan talked about a simple practice that caught our attention. At the grand opening event, rather than having a bunch of prepared speeches and presentations, he merely asked people to describe their social innovation idea in less than a minute. Some 40 people did this, and as they spoke, the spirit of The Hub became palpable in the room. That spirit wasn’t just being described. It was being experienced. People could immediately get in touch with the essential meaning of the organization. All of the possibilities for transformation, for collaboration, for social impact, were hanging in the air.
In just a few weeks since then, The Hub Cape Town has generated a great deal of interest and participation – in no small part because of the energy that was created in the room that night.
I wonder where else we might use this simple practice of bringing an organization’s purpose to light through all the voices in a room. Call it a 45-minute retreat. What if a social service organization asked everyone to talk about how they planned to impact the world this year? What if an advocacy organization asked people to share briefly the aspect of their work they were most passionate about? What if a hospital asked doctors, nurses, and support staff to describe what they found most powerful about being a health worker?
The sorts of questions we might ask are varied, but the general practice of putting us back in visceral touch with the deep meaning of what we are doing – and in such a short, elegant, impromptu, multi-voiced way – seems like something all social purpose organizations could use.