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Impact Hub boosts Waikato’s social enterprise scene

17 Jun 2019
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Waikato’s social enterprise sector now has a place to congregate and meet other entrepreneurs, community, business and government.

This month Impact Hub Waikato opened in Cambridge. The hub aims to support and expand the region’s social enterprise sector.

Impact Hub Waikato is Australiasia’s sole Impact Hub. The local hub was cofounded by entrepreneur Jessie Liu, rural lead Mariana van der Walt, impact investment and corporate engagement lead Tony O’Brien, with support from programme development advisor Paul Kerssens.

“The Waikato region is well placed to deliver new social enterprises as there is great connectivity between key stakeholders, an entrepreneurial spirit and it is a more affordable place to pilot innovative social enterprise projects”, says O’Brien.

The Impact Hub focuses on three elements: community, inspiration, and physical spaces.

1. Community - a vibrant community of passionate and entrepreneurial people who share an underlying intention to bring about positive change.

2. Inspiration - a source of inspiration that provides meaningful content through thought-provoking events, innovation labs, learning spaces, programs and facilitated conversations. 

3. Space - an Impact Hub is a physical space that offers a flexible and highly functional infrastructure to work, meet, learn and connect. The magic happens where these three elements connect and are brought to life.

Liu adds that Impact Hub is now active in 100 cities around the world, creating a network that builds entrepreneurial communities at scale.

“This network creates a powerful resource for our community of entrepreneurs here in the Waikato,” she says.

Trust Waikato, which supported Impact Hub’s development, recognises the alignment between the two agencies’ missions to strengthen communities, particularly in smaller and rural communities.

“Supporting community stakeholders to strategically increase their capacity and capability is a key focus for Trust Waikato, and social enterprises improve lives and offer alternatives that have a positive effect on society”, comments Trust Waikato chief executive Dennis Turton. 

“The Waikato region is already home to many cutting-edge social enterprises, like Ngaati Hauaa Mahi Trust, Yalla Yalla café and Xtreme Zero Waste in Raglan and we are well placed to lead in this area.”

Mariana van der Walt is presenting Impact Hub Waikato’s #ImpactTowns initiative in rural centres.

“Rural entrepreneurs face unique challenges in social business, and Impact Hub Waikato seeks to help communities identify key local issues, assist collaboration across all sectors toward prototyping and mobilise innovation for impact at scale,” comments van der Welt.

Impact Hub has a co-leadership structure and Impact Hub members share experiences and mentor others in the network on how to structure, fund, scale and manage social enterprises. 

Impact Hub's Impact Report 2018 found that more than 6000 startups were founded at hubs over a four year period, and over 200 programmes to support entrepreneurs were delivered.