Where does your average international social/digital/environmental entrepreneur hang out when they're in London? Cameron Sinclair, Piers Fawkes, and John Grant all come to Hub Culture - a shared workspace where, for a monthly or daily fee, you can work, have meetings, host events and generally tap into an amazing network of innovators and entrepreneurs. While the idea of shared workspace isn't new in this town the approach Hub Culture is taking to creating a conscious collaborative work environment is certainly attracting a powerful mixed bunch.Linear versus Circular Business
Hub Culture founder Stan Stalnaker is running circles around traditional business. While many companies are trying frantically to work out how to fit the digital communications revolution into their traditional business structure, Stan is moving fluidly from the digital space to the physical space and back again, or should I say round again? The premise of Hub Culture is to bypass the linear business model of monetary transactions and go for a circular model of sharing and building worth value.
Merging Digital and Physical Spaces
Seven years after writing a book called 'Hub Culture -The Next Wave of Urban Consumers' and creating a website around it Stalnaker is now moving his virtual network into a physical spaces around the globe to provide work environments for the contemporary worker/traveller who is often on the move and no longer has to go into the office everyday. The first Hub Culture Pavilion opened in London in March and the second in Cannes this week for the film festival. There are plans to open 100 pavilion spaces around the world in the next 5 to 7 years.
Mixing Big Business, Social Entrepreneurs + Start Ups
Having been part of the TreeHugger team for over four years now I am quite used to the combination of digital, social and environmental brands interacting online and in the blogosphere, but the intriguing thing is to find a physical space where this is also happening. In Hub Culture big business, (Goldman Sachs, BT, Apple, Cisco) is mixing with smaller green brands (Method, Korres) and new start ups which serves to create a vibrant atmosphere. Integrating all these business brains, small, medium and large, is surely the way ahead for mainstreaming sustainability.
An Innovation Factory
In the origin of the Hub Culture concept Stalnaker's question to himself was "how can we create an innovation factory for the 21st century?" The answer seems to be to create a centrally located, beautiful contemporary space with eco-friendly furnishings and welcoming staff, all done with, as Stan puts it, "a conscious intention."
Hub Culture's tag line is 'Illuminate, Integrate, Elevate' and Stalnaker argues that his mission is to "reveal and enhance the collective consciousness." Though he admits to sometimes keeping this kind of language to himself when hosting some larger corporate guests it is clear that Hub Culture is on to something pretty radical with the idea of pursuing a "positive value loop" where people contribute their knowledge and skills to the space and initiate collaborations based on worth value.
Developing a Social Currency
Hub Culture even has it's own currency called Ven which can be traded online. A pavilion member can offer his services to other members and be paid in Ven, they can also buy products and services from Hub Culture using Ven. In fact Hub Culture doesn't sell anything at all except for Ven. Stalnaker describes it a the first "social currency" - a way to "monetise the grey market for knowledge". By giving knowledge exchange a value in Ven he argues that people will take the request for that information more seriously.
Creating Sustainable Growth
Stalnaker says that a pavilion "should be radically more sustainable than a traditional office model", not only because the furniture is ethically sourced, or because the business is carbon neutral, or because people can reduce their commute time by travelling to a central space, but also because the circular model of sharing knowledge and networks and skills for worth is inherently more sustainable than the current linear economic growth model. The answer to the current question of how can we survive without continuing to grow exponentially? Try moving in Hub Culture's circles instead.
More on Social Business Models:
Social Entrepreneurs Mean Business
Defining Social Entrepreneurship
Using a Venture Capital Model to Fund "Conservation Entrepreneurs"
Green Spaces NY - where eco entrepreneurs get down to business
Schumacher College Connects Sustainability and Business Leadership