Impact Hub Amsterdam proposed a ‘diversity challenge’ to newcomers who joined the Makers Unite program. For six weeks, the participants used design thinking creative methods to come up with solutions. During this period, newcomers were able to interact with the local community and exchange knowledge for ideas that were proposed on a Pitch Evening Event, which took place last January 2018 in Amsterdam.

Creative Challenge and Innovative Ideas

As a pioneer for a just and sustainable world where business and profit are used in service of people and planet, Impact Hub aims to grow a locally rooted, globally connected community for measurable positive impact.

In its formula for sustainable impact, entrepreneurial ideas must be combined with collaborative practices that include inspiring spaces, vibrant community, and meaningful content. To put this into practice, Impact Hub came up with the challenge: “How can Impact Hub welcome more impact entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds?”

Rising to the challenge is the social enterprise Makers Unite whose DNA is made up of the same elements as Impact Hub — social inclusion, diversity, and enabling growth. To answer the challenge, Makers Unite used its own 6-week course program MUP designed for creative newcomers who often have refugee background.

“We have designed an effective social inclusion program based on collaboratively creating sustainable products. Making together leads to dialogue and trust. While stories are being shared and participants get to know each other, they discover their talents and ambitions. In six weeks, we connect newcomers to new opportunities in the creative industry. Through our program, we are paving the way towards social inclusion,” says Thami Schweichler, Makers Unite director.

Design Thinking Applied To Diversity: Newcomers working on challenge

The 6-week program is divided into six parts: Inspire, Explore, Discover, Realise, Share, and Present. Makers Unite has been conducting this program for the past two years and on its fifth run, MUP5 participants headed to KIT building where Impact Hub is located to come up with solutions for the creative challenge. In order to do this, the participants need to think of what interventions, content, outreach, and other activities can be made to achieve this goal.

The initial step was for participants to research the problem. They interviewed people in the neighbourhood whether they are familiar with Impact Hub or not, and what do they think about the concept of Impact Hub. From this, the participants were able to gather insights and ideas to help them in understanding and answering the challenge of Impact Hub.

Being newcomers, the MUP5 participants had a fresh perspective on the situation of Impact Hub. They saw the challenge as an opportunity to provide a solution. With their skills and talents, they were able to show the Impact Hub community that there are innovative ideas to welcome more impact entrepreneurs with diverse background. This project also gave Impact Hub the opportunity to know about its neighbourhood and how the community can collaborate to achieve its goals.

Time to present: Pitch Evening!

On the 17th of January this year, the Makers Unite Creative Challenge — Pitch Evening Event was held at Impact Hub Amsterdam. Everyone was eager to hear what solutions the participants came up with. It was interesting to see how tables have turned. This time, it was the newcomers who were providing answers. With the program, they were given the opportunity to be empowered and to be heard.

The first presentation was by Maria from Estonia and Mohamad Abuzena from Syria. In their quest for finding a solution for the challenge, Maria and Mohamad realized that nobody knows who is present at te Impact Hub in a given time. The photo wall, which was supposed to show who are all the member of Impact Hub, is far away from the entrance, is not updated, and has a messy layout. Their solution: The Check-in Tree. This is a message board showing who is present at the Impact Hub. An apple wherein he or she can write his or her information, schedule, and availability represents each member. With this, anyone can know in an instant who is present at the building, allowing better interaction and more collaboration.

Next to present were Ahmad, Maison, and Saad who are all from Syria. They observed that there are a lot of small shops in the neighbourhood. The Impact Hub houses companies as well. But their products are not visible. Their solution: Exhibition of Cooperation. A showcase of products inside and outside Impact Hub, this cross network marketing aims to reach out to a wider network and create awareness of what products are being made within the walls of Impact Hub.

The last presentation was by Mohamad Alaraj and Moutasem, both from Syria. They saw that Impact Hub provides a lot of workspace. But sometimes, they chairs stay empty. Their two main goals are economic and social. Their solution: Vrije Stoel voor U. A word play and a visual representation on the letter U that equates to You, Magnet, and Design of a Chair, their solution is to offer a free chair for a month to someone from the neighbourhood who can test out Impact Hub.

Through the course of the 6-week program, the participants were able to explore their skills and talents. In further developing their talents, they were also able to create concrete solutions that they presented on the last week of the program. As with all the MUP, the program is concluded by a celebratory final event where participants connect with partners and present themselves.