S2, Ep. 9 - Third Places and Creative Spaces

June 26, 2024

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Welcome to Responsible Disruption. I'm your host, James Gamage, Director of Innovation and the Social Impact Lab. Today we have two remarkable guests who are at the forefront of vibe, shaping, vibrant community spaces and fostering innovation. Joining us are Ken Bautista, co-founder at Makespace and Flight Path Ventures, and Maria Topolynski, Manager of Community Hubs at the United Way of Calgarian area. Ken is a driving force in activating startup communities and innovation spaces. As the co-founder of Makerspace and Flight Path Ventures. He brings a wealth of experience in creating dynamic environments that propel collaboration and creativity. His commitment to community driven change extends to various roles, making him a notable figure in the landscape of innovation and entrepreneurship. Maria, on the other hand, leads the charge in managing community hubs at United Way of Calgarian area. Her dedication to fostering thirds places spaces outside of home and work where community members come together has a profound impact on social cohesion and community identity. Through her work, she explores the diverse roles community hubs play becoming catalysts for civic engagement and grassroots initiatives. Both contribute significantly to the landscape of community development, each bringing a unique perspective to the discussion on the power of community spaces. So welcome to the show Maria and Ken.


Thanks for having me.


Thanks for having us.

01:41 JAMES: So this podcast is about designing spaces for connection and innovation, and we're really interested to explore how that plays out in slightly different context. So just to kick us off, Maria can you tell us a little bit about United way’s Community Hubs?

01:58 MARIA: Yeah, absolutely. So the Community hubs initiative at United Way Calgary and Area is a partnership between United Way and the City of Calgary started off in 2017 and it's about creating welcoming spaces for residents to be leaders, to access services, to participate in the economy and most importantly, to have community connections. So we have six community hubs in five priority neighborhoods in Calgary. They all look totally different. They operate really differently. We have subject community centers, some in rec centers, some in other non for profit spaces. But it's the physical space that's accessible for residents to have programming, to access services. That's what kind of connects them all and it's really an outcome of the Enough for all initiative and the strategy that was first put forward in 2013. That really said that one of the ways to bring about stronger and more resilient neighborhoods is to have these community hubs. And now that we're coming through  5-6, seven years into this program, we're really seeing that happen.

03:03 JAMES: And are you seeing expansion in the community hubs? How does that play out?

03:08 MARIA: We only started with one back in 2017 and now, like I said, we have six in five communities across Calgary and they really have changed and developed a lot. One of the things I think is most interesting is the way that our Co located partnerships have changed. So we started with just sort of picking spaces that already existed and we're already sort of acting as community hubs naturally and then really become the booster pack, we become the booster pack for them but we've seen a lot of involvement from other partners that are either physically located in those spaces or are located in the communities who have really seen the value in hubs and started bringing their own sort of services and participation into those spaces. And residents have responded really well to that. And I think a lot of it is definitely some of the post COVID situation as well, but participation rates like demand for services, desire to use the spaces has just grown exponentially, especially over the last two years. So it's always something we're thinking about and we even think about what have we learned and what can we share with other initiatives, whether within United Way or within the City of Calgary that are also thinking about doing the same thing right? What have we learned about what works and what doesn't work for community hubs and how can other initiatives learn from us, partner with us so that we can keep pulling those ideas elsewhere.

04:26 JAMES: Cool. Good. Thank you. And Ken, can you talk about Makespace and your other initiatives?

04:31 KEN: For sure, I have a really interesting journey that started as a teacher and led through entrepreneurship and now is focused a lot on innovation, community building through physical spaces, and the idea of how do you use physical place and this infrastructure to gather what we call talent communities in cities. The interesting thing now is having been a founder and a creator and having worked with all sorts of different people over the years. One of the biggest things is people are picking cities and neighborhoods to be based in, and a lot of that is driven by the other people there and the people that they're around because we don't have the physical local limitations that we once had before, pre-Internet and things like that. I think in not just virtual space, but people really desire that in-person community connection. One of the reasons why we created make space and also with flight path is how do you start to scale up some of this infrastructure? Having done it as a grassroots founder and entrepreneur and organizing things like startup Edmonton, and selfishly, those were, can we get other people, I just want to be around other people in my own backyard. And it turns out there's a whole bunch of other people that also want that too. And then how do you start to move that from it just being a grassroots volunteer-based kind of community building, but to be like how do we actually start to really invest in building capacity and some of the infrastructure in our city? Where you have to then start bringing together public and private partners, different from real estate partners to investors to cities, to universities. And there's all sorts of complexities around that. But I think one of the things that we are really finding our niche is how to not only bring some of those different players together, that the days of the super hubs or the all-in-one hub where everything has to be there and everything has to happen within those walls versus a more kind of hub-connected hubs across the city and across a country. Where you have different operators and different programs that are really tuned to more of these micro-communities that are starting to exist out there.

06:59 JAMES: That's interesting. So just to clarify, I know you've been involved in Platform Calgary as well, the development of Platform Calgary and Makespace is Edmonton based. Do you see any differences in the local context between and Edmonton hub and a Calgary hub?

07:18 KEN: Yeah, it was really interesting because there's this thing that happens in local communities where you have local leaders who are fiercely championing stuff in their own backyard, which is awesome. But then they start to run into these, sometimes it's political, sometimes it's, you know, they're kind of in the echo chamber of just the local dialogue, and having outside allies really helps to cut through some of that as well. For example, coming into Calgary, it was really twofold. One was like the building, in that sense, that has a specific process for how buildings come together. But I think of that as the hardware. But really, the key is actually the software, which is like the community, the organizations, and then you sort of think about how does it run, who's going to do that. So a lot of projects start to become very vision-oriented or very aspirational without answering the question of like, well, who's going to actually do that and how do you build capacity so then they can really add the value that they need to. Being an outsider in these communities, we kind of come in as an ally for those leaders, and then we act from a sometimes it's like a strategic advisory sort of perspective. Other times it's actually helping start-up operations and building some of that initial capacity. And then third, what we're start to do more of which is how to build bringing more capital at scale to these projects, how to actually think about connecting projects across cities? Because I think that's also what people want to be connected to other cities as well.

09:02 JAMES: OK. I mean, you talked a little about the operation and you know how to build these spaces as gathering places to connect people and can you give examples of what that means in the context of Makespace and innovation spaces?

09:20 KEN:  Yeah, for sure. So, and I think this is one of the perspectives of being a teacher in terms of when you think about meetups, for example, and I think meetups are the simplest way to build community, connect people. They're really low barriers to entry. But before, to organize, you would have to create an industry organization or an industry association. You'd have to create all of this added complexity to just connect with the people, and then it starts to just add all these other layers. Versus, hey, I want to do a meetup, you know, about robotics, for example. And so we used to be those organizers and we used to have to go find places to go and organize, whether it was at bars or at other people's companies or other spaces. And then as we start to get some momentum around that, we start to say, hey, well, if we could actually build more turnkey spaces where you can quickly plug in. For the next generation of organizers out there, that makes it really simple because, like, they'll know who their audiences are, too. So I think a big part of the, you know, we take a platform perspective, which is, how do you build that capacity? And sometimes it needs a starting point. So sometimes the starting point is space. Sometimes the starting point is like a collaborative framework like here's how to do a meetup, or here's how to do a fellowship program. And so we're always finding ways to say, you know, what are those starting points to get going sooner. So you can really prove it out instead of waiting too long. And this is where, I think across Canada we have a lot of ideas for our cities and our communities, but we don't have a lot of how do we take action and to take action. It's not just up to government and just up to cities or big players. You actually need to arm the people who really care about those different pieces, and sometimes they could be really small or sometimes it could be pretty massive.

11:16 JAMES: OK. And Maria, is there a formula fostering that connection within United ways hubs in in Calgary.

11:25 MARIA: I don't know if there's a formula per se. I think Ken kind of hit the nail on the head with this sort of initial portion of it for us. You know, so many of the really coolest like the coolest ideas, the most interesting and innovative ideas that we've seen in community hubs, the things that have had real sustainability factor for any of our residents has been resident led and sort of resident concepts that they've brought to us, but in order to get to that point to have  the relationship of trust between staff that are at those sites that we're sort of helping boost and the residents are actually coming into those spaces, that trust has to start with an initial reason to be there in the 1st place. So we kind of think about, you know, why? Why would a resident come here for the first time? What is the reason that they're coming in and then how do we engage them from there? I think a lot of that comes down to through physical space like things that are accessible in the space, recreational spaces, rec centers, places that have maybe programming that's targeted at a specific audience, like newcomers or something like that. Libraries. That's a big one. Those are all sort of really good initial reasons that a resident might come to that space. And then you kind of have that opportunity to build relationships with them and create sort of a safe space to build connection between residents, between residents and staff and volunteers that then get some kind of coming back time and time again, feeling comfortable, feeling like they can be leaders feeling like they can start their own programs, seeing how the space is used, that's a process. It's like an iterative process. And it starts by first getting residents to feel like they're welcome and want to come to that space for whatever reason. So I think for all of our community hubs, that looks really different, right? It looks really different depending on what residents need in that space, but one of the spaces that we have the Genesis center up in the northeast of Calgary, we hear time and time again that there will be residents in the community that will come there and we'll come to the sort of community wing front desk and say I arrived yesterday in Calgary. I'm a newcomer, I arrived yesterday and this is where they told me to come. This is where people recommended we come and that tells us that that's working right, that that is the space that people feel comfortable in, that they found that they got really good resources in and then whatever they need can kind of come from there and whether that's access to really sort of like economic participation type based things, right, newcomer services or just community connection. It starts with first feeling like they know where they need to go. Yeah. And so I don't know if a formula is, but it's the case. But it's definitely the initial idea, right, that brings people in.

14:10 JAMES: Yeah, that's a great testament to the success of the hubs initiatives that you know people on their second day in the country are coming to their services. Yeah. Go on, Ken.

14:21 KEN:  And picking up on Maria's point, this idea of touch points across a city is becoming more prominent. I went through various incubator spaces, and one challenge around company building and investment is creating the space where it all originates. If you think about developing people, you never know where entrepreneurs come from. Oftentimes, economic development priorities in cities don't fully reflect the people living there. Additionally, there's a lot of hierarchy to navigate. When we built our first space in the Mercer Warehouse in downtown Edmonton, it was very clubhouse-like because I wanted it to be accessible, like a place where I, as a student, could go. I believe more of these accessible spaces will become the norm, closer to where people are. So, the value of these initial touch points is crucial in figuring out who else is there.

15:42 MARIA: Another part that I've been thinking about a lot lately is who are the connectors or what are the connectors? I think, Ken, from your perspective, that idea, like you don't know who's going to be an entrepreneur. And sometimes the actual missing link is not so much necessarily having a group of people in front of you and getting everyone to pitch an idea or something like that. But it's building out relationships through trust where you have people who are the connectors who can feel comfortable going out into the community or into their spaces. They're not so interested in being the leader, the person standing on the stage, but they really like to know, you know? "Oh, I know so and so who knows how to do this. And I know so and so who worked on this." It's sort of the community version of networking, I guess, if you will, that I think really strengthens anyone's accessibility and connection within the community and really those opportunities because you need people who can say, "I know who to ask. I know who to bring into this conversation. I don't really care about being at the forefront of this conversation. I care more about bringing more people together to strengthen it." So we're thinking more and more about how do we build capacity and amplify those actors in the community, or even, like, I think sometimes this space can be the connector, right? That sort of allows people to feel like they can come in and make conversation and connect with one another because the space facilitates that.

17:15 JAMES: Yeah. And just Ken, just for my own curiosity, obviously we're talking here about  the continuum almost from connection to engagement and sort of a broader engagement and initiatives within the hub. How does that work within the innovation hub? So clearly, individuals and small organizations, startups are coming in there to build their own initiatives and presumably through the hubs, they'll access mentorship and advice and help to be able to do that but does that ever foster a collaboration with another startup and that something bigger that the engagement leads to?

18:01 KEN: So, I think this is a big reason. Makespace for me right now is about developing the real estate aspect of how do you get these things built and then how do you get them set up, like flight path, it's a leadership network. The way that I built it out because I have, you know, I always start with go find the people who are those community organizers, those leaders and make whatever we're building their platform to go and do what they do. And I think then you start to have this intersection of, okay. How do you get that though what they're doing as what's driving the space instead of, you know, somebody else's mandate for the physical space. So, that could be a city-based organization or a university or fully private, like a big landlord. And I've been using this analogy lately, which is, innovation hubs shouldn't be like malls and department stores. You know, like you need like one gigantic operator. And if you think about what people want, they want specialty experiences. So it's I want to find this. I want to find this. And then the role in between has to be, how do you own and operate a space versus how do you curate a space with the right operators? And I think that's what's starting to change how these things are getting built, right and how also how they get funded, how you can make sure that they are also aligned to the right metrics because sometimes if it's city-based ones versus market-based ones on a financial side like oftentimes those things are connected. And then they're also disconnected from what the entrepreneur needs, which is, you know, sometimes you have a whole bunch that are learning how to use a space to learn. And then there's other ones who just actually want to grow in that sort of thing. So you have a lot of, they're not competing factors, but that's just the complexity of it, too. But, you know, we see a lot of hubs that start up and then they die off or they become unsustainable because they're initially started by grant funding or something that has limited actions on it and then other ones who struggle because the real estate owner, there's math there too. And I think that's when you start to just understand whose metrics? Not that one matters more, but when you start to understand how these things should work, you then have to figure out what's the best way to structure how these hubs operate. Who owns them? How do you form them? You know, how do they evolve over time, etcetera. And just so you know, what happens often is a lead organization tries to do all of it themselves. And you know, they now not only have to be a landlord, they're running programs. They're trying to like, you know, investors, there's just so many things that are served there. And so it's kind of trying to uncouple a lot of those things around these projects.

21:21 JAMES: So just to shift gears a little bit. Obviously, in the research for this podcast that I came across, the concept of third places so Maria, could you just clarify what the third spaces or the third places are and how you might build that into design the design of a hub?

21:40 MARIA: Yeah, absolutely. So, third place is a term coined by the sociologist Ray Oldenburg, focusing on building community connection out of neighborhood level and making neighborhoods resilient and why they're important so we can contextualize it within thinking about all the places that you might go in your day-to-day. So the first place would be your home. It would be the place where you would sleep and eat, maybe other family connections. Those kinds of things. Second place is the place that you're you go to to help us as part of your survival, part of your participation in society. So work and school are typically your second places, especially if you're leaving your house for work. And these days you may have to create your own workspace if you're working from home to be your second place. And then your third place is somewhere you go voluntarily, regularly, and you're building connection there through familiarity. It doesn't necessarily have to be the place where you are friends with and know everyone. The more that you are familiar with and you're feeling like you're comfortable and welcome there regularly. So, I think historical or traditional examples are really helpful to contextualize. Historically, this would have been like a Main Street or a market space or a religious space. So like a church, mosque, a town square. Those would have been spaces where people would go at least once a week. They would know the people that are there. They would often know a lot of people by name. They would interact with a lot of different generations, even different lived experiences. And an important factor in this is that people would notice if they didn't show up. Once they didn't show up, that's fine. But if it's a regular occurrence, there might be the suggestion of what's going on with that person. Is that person sick? Something happened. Where are they? And it creates this connectivity and this sort of responsibility for the community within that space. So, third place is today the big design factors are accessibility, low barrier? Can you kind of mentioned that both physical accessibility like are they near transportation, are they near places where people would sort of go already as part of their their sort of routine and physically accessible for different abilities, different languages. It feels comfortable for people of different lived experiences to go in and out of, and also it's low cost so it can have some costs like cafes fine or a, you know, the local pub or those kind of spaces. But often it should be quite low cost like you shouldn't have to buy a coffee every hour to stay there or something like that, and then it should also feel like a space that someone would think to go frequently enough. Right. Like again, it's at a sort of initial draw. And then why are you coming back?

Eric Klinenberg, who wrote "Palaces for the People," which is about social infrastructure, has really great examples of this. I highly recommend that read. And it talks a lot about places like a library, a recreation center, and why it matters and what comes down to is you've created a space where people can go and they know that they can get community connection that will allow them to be resilient through crisis, right? Whether it's the librarian that can give them access to services if they're experiencing domestic violence at home or it's the newcomer service desk that's within a recreational facility that can give you access to English language classes. And then you meet other people through that class. And now you have a community. So it's all the building and stacking on top of each other through these third places and community hubs are kind of acting like that, right. And I think these days the world has changed a lot and a lot of how people orient their life is really different, right? Your workspace wouldn't also be your third place as it might have been in the past. So now we are sort of having to intentionally build those spaces out again, right, and invest in them can really you. You kind of nailed it a little bit with one organization doing all of the work is really difficult because you're trying to meet so many different needs at once, whereas having a lot of different investors investing in the space makes it a lot easier to manage, but it also means that there's a lot of different priorities that people can put forward without them being competing with other things. So we talk a lot about how third places they're not just I think people can write off a public library, maybe, for example, as being like a public service, that is maybe outdated. But public libraries are so much more than that now, and they become such a foundation to accessing the economy and being participants in new spaces and new places where you want to be that you can't access just from your home. Yeah. So I, that's kind of the gist of it. Is there anything you feel like I didn't cover or do you have questions to that?

26:42 JAMES: No, no. I mean that was a great run through of it. Yeah, I'd just as an aside, you mentioned a book there or some resources and some authors we usually put those in the show notes so listeners look out for that. I'm interested in what Maria said, Ken, in the context of second places and third places because obviously if second place is a workspaces. Your work and third places. How does it because obviously you know your startups that might be coming into an environment and they're coming to work there. I guess how, how do you foster both those designs in an innovation space?

27:30 KEN: Yeah, it's interesting because I think the lines are so blurred now between how anyone uses spaces. So I often start talking about talent communities because there's three things that we're really trying to achieve. So one is just greater density, you know, just higher concentrations of your brains and your creators and entrepreneurs. Some are entrepreneurs, some don't want to be entrepreneurs, but they like to build stuff, right? And so you need this interesting mix. The second one is the diversity aspect, which is, you know, these communities just get richer when you have different perspectives, different experiences. And if it's just this kind of startup space or it's this kind of one or you have to be a researcher, the culture just it's just different, right? And so that diversity and how do you really start to again be able to add new people into that, right? So that's that higher hierarchy thing and ultimately you start to lead to more depth in communities. And you know, this is the thing that I feel like in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, we're not that big in the grand scheme of things, so we're very spread out. There's not that many people. And so the ability for these hubs wherever they are, so they could be a library, like I love libraries, right? In fact, when I go to cities, I go find the library so I can go work there or like, you know, just because then you're just around or a coffee shop or a coworking space or an incubator. And I think having these different options, like you never know where again innovation and connections come from. To Maria's point, I think the thing that we're seeing in cities now coming out of the pandemic is people are very deliberate when they leave home. Where they go and what, you know, how much time they're gonna spend there, etcetera. So it's really hard to just say, like, hey, I'm gonna be in and around and something's gonna happen. So the consistency of programming and action, you know, when it happens, it's happening often. So it's not such a risk to somebody if they go there and then nothing is happening there or it's the wrong kind of thing for them too. And this is where you need the programmers and the curating organizations to really be able to build enough capacity to sort of tune what those consistent offerings are. But if you take like a rec center and saying hey, like they have drop in night, you know when it's like that kind of thing, but for innovation communities.

30:09 JAMES: Yeah, yeah, OK, cool. I wanna talk a little bit about impact and evaluation. It's funny, cause a lot of these conversations that we're having in this podcast end up talking about evaluation in social impact. And it's a hot topic that I think the sector is still struggling with, to be frank, when you think about community hubs, Maria, and we're reporting back to our funders, how do we report about things like, well-being of residents?

30:40 MARIA: It's a challenge, that's for sure. Yeah, I know it. It's sort of an iterative learning process. We do a lot of the classic quantitative stuff that we started right away with, which is, you know, how many participants, what programs, how many programs are targeted at specific offerings? Because we have these outcomes we want to see like access to services, economic participation, community connection. But one of the things we've evolved to see differently depending on what we've been asked by our owners and funders to provide and also what we think we really want to know more about. It's also a lot of it is trying to figure out, okay, success stories, gathering that kind of information. And we are really lucky because we are partnered with the City of Calgary. They have community social workers which work in our community, have spaces, they have a robust data gathering process and evaluation team that also we work with and share information with. So we kind of get it at a couple different angles. The thing that we're more recently starting to talk about, and this has taken a couple of years to build out because of the nature of hubs and some of the things we've gone through, but also because it takes years to measure this or to show this, which is that idea of stacking, right? What does an initial interaction or initial participation in a program lead to and what does that build on top of? So we have a match savings program is originally just for youth. It's now going to be for all residents, and it initially started out as a traditional match savings program that was just advertised and run inside the hub. And then it became really apparent that a next step to that would be graduates of that program can now host and facilitate the next set of cohorts, get that experience that gives them an additional level of skills and then brings them up to a new level of employability. And that's sort of a really structured linear stacking, but a lot of stacking is outward. It's up. It's out. It's deep. And it is really hard to measure. And we're sort of grappling with that. I would say the stories are a big part of it.

I think part of it, too, is storytelling to our donors and our funders and people who are investing in this in a way that shows not only individual progress but the growth of the hub overall and what that has evolved in Community, and why that matters and why telling that story matters. And that takes a lot of practice and I think it also takes a lot of energy and investment from the site staff themselves to be on the lookout for those things. So sometimes it's even just like having regular tokens and some training points around what does it mean to gather their stories or to see the value in the stories that you kind of just think of as pretty run-of-the-mill for you at this point, right, like so many success stories happen to you so often that you've stopped seeing them as individual or as community level success. So, really bringing that back around. Yeah. But I mean, how do you measure something like trust? That's a big one. We're still figuring it out. And it is really nice. One of the things I think that we're most grateful for in Community hubs and we've been really fortunate to have is the support of a lot of leaders from our own organization and other organizations we work with that are really into this idea of flexibility, adaptability, about failing and learning and sort of these iterative processes that because we document them and we talked about our learnings and we talked about why this totally went sideways and it didn't work. And that doesn't mean, "Okay, now you don't get funding and now you don't get to like put stuff into that again or try again." It means great. We learned something. That's awesome. That's what this is all about. And that's a lot of trust too, right? And I think that we've really gotten that from United Way and we're seeing that more and more in a lot of other organizations we work with too and that storytelling and documenting of that process is really how we measure the impact.

34:52 JAMES: Yeah, I love that concept of stacking. Yeah. I really like the storytelling learning is this is where I'm gonna jump off onto Ken because I obviously knowing the innovation space really the process is all about learning what will and won't work. And I'm interested in presumably you have investors in the hubs that you create and how you tell that story of success for the hubs investors. How does that play out in your world?

35:24 KEN: Yeah. So they love the world of startups because startups are built to deal with uncertainty, and they're interesting because we talk about entrepreneurs as risk-takers. But when I think about startup founders, it's about de-risking faster. It's, "Hey, I can't solve that five-year thing. I could solve this thing in 90 days and then have enough courage to just try it." This whole thing around return on investment and the thinking around these projects or city building involves social impact drivers and financial ones. It's not an either-or anymore. What I feel is now, this is why we need new leaders. We have leaders inside organizations that understand the worlds they're in. I think it's now about right-sizing expectations. When investments are made, people need to understand the horizon for that return. So often it's, fund a program and then expect results in the next year because there's a political election happening. This is why leaders in communities need to think and be committed for a 20-year horizon. We have so much uncertainty in the world, political market forces, and other factors. So when a founder talks to an investor, investor dollars aren't the same. Family investors versus VCs expect different return drivers. There's often a disconnect. Founders need to understand that not all investor funding is the same. When working with funders or donors, it's not just about checks for our project.

Yeah. It's really about deploying non-dilutive or taxpayer dollars to move these needles within a specific time horizon. This involves right-sizing existing funding programs because there's a lot of outdated stuff out there. I don't look at the program first; I look at what the project needs to do, then find funding for it somewhere. You start to find allies there. We need to adopt more of that mentality to help optimize funding programs. Some programs just don't work or have bad constraints. Some projects should be designed for pilot testing, fast-moving funding, rather than long-term investments. Maybe long-term investments shouldn't be purely public. You can leverage private capital for city building because people care about solving big problems. How can you use those pools of capital instead of relying solely on public dollars? You can efficiently use public-private dollars for de-risking pilots, and then co-invest with others for bigger projects.

39:30 JAMES:

Cool. Good. Thank you. Thank you. Just moving on, I think, Ken, you I think both of you mentioned about the importance of diversity and inclusion within both of your environment. How do you create the right kind of places or spaces to actually promote that? Is that about the physical space? Is that about the communities that you reach out to develop your community members for the spaces? Can you talk about that?

39:59 MARIA: There are a lot of different ways to approach that. The first and foremost thing for us with community hubs is because they're intended to be resident-centered and led by the nature of that principle, they tend to reflect the communities that they're in, which are diverse communities because a lot of Calgary communities type first already so that it is some physical aspects of the space for sure it's having things that are available in different languages, it's having art on the walls that reflects the community flex who's living in the community, what kind of cultural practices are happening in the community, and then it's really boosting it and building the trust between residents and between staff and volunteers to feel like they can bring Of diversity practices and life experiences to the hub sites, offer programs, activities, disengagement opportunities and have those be well received. And they so often are. There's like a sort of foundational belief that every community member and resident. As skills and knowledge that they Have to bring to community and they want to bring to community and on the other side of that most residents and community members want to engage in that and want to learn and want to be part of interesting conversations and interesting and new experiences and sort of if you begin with that, then that gives you a really sort of positive Starting point and then there is definitely also having the capacity to do that right, whatever that looks like. A lot of that is even just the capacity in terms of hosting something in a space, there's so little space and space. Is that such a Premium and having sort of these spaces that are low cost or no cost for different organizations and different resident groups to come in and do a workshop, you a tour of a space because they have just that little bit of Funding and people power to bring that into community, bring that into fruition Those that is a lot of that is just it's not even that much in terms of dollars, but it makes such a big difference in terms of getting over that first barrier and then you got the engagement and so much enthusiasm from community that helps perpetuate that. So I'd say that It's really not hard as long as you start from A place of being, you know, wanting to build relationships at the speed of trust and showing up for residence when they show up with their ideas and with their enthusiasm for something instead of just sort of hearing all those ideas and saying yes, yes. And then never really sort of acting On them it's being reciprocal with the trust and making sure that those things happen in whatever form that they might take, and they take a lot of different really cool forms.

43:08 JAMES: Yeah, yeah. And in the context of the innovation space, I mean, we all know that the value of diversity of thought and diversity and how do you promote that in the spaces that you work in?

43:24 KEN: Yeah. So my favorite role that I always have on my teams or in projects is a community manager or the community manager role. And I think that a lot of times in these innovation spaces we always talk about programs, programs for the entrepreneur, programs for this, even mentorship is very transactional now, right. And when you think about to me like the role of a community manager is because you need to have enough empathy for the people and understand what they're trying to do, or what they're doing right now. So you can then start to again make those connections or also just, use some of that data and what we're hearing to actually inform like, hey, we need more of this kind of program than this kind of program. And as a community manager like, the job isn't to deliver a program in that sense, but it is to engage, be out there in the field and then and then I think like what happens is like community managers and start to have also just community builders and leaders that are out there too. I'm really interested right now around neighborhood investment and this is this capital piece which is how do communities build equity in their own backyard because one of the problems is like, everyone is sort of detached from the thing that is giving them the service. But if you can make it their platform to build their community, to do their things well, that just starts to go a lot farther in terms of the value of that hub or space. I think real estate space is a commodity and it's only a matter of time until the next brand new space comes with the newest amenities and all these pieces. But the competitive advantage for any space is first the initial circle of community members who actually make that their space.

45:19 MARIA: Yeah, I think making it their space is a big part of that. When we talk with residents about their growth within a community hub and why they feel they can come back, why they feel they can bring their perspectives and experiences to the community hub space safely, it's because the space does feel theirs. And it feels both theirs and it feels like the community's, and it feels like there's this sort of ownership that everyone has in it. And you see that reflected back in how they treat the space. Spaces are treated well, there's a lot of social and civic discourse that happens safely, in a way that people feel welcome to engage in because there's this communal idea that this is all our space and we all have this respect, reciprocal responsibility in there. And that takes a lot of work. That's not something that happens in a vacuum, either. It definitely takes work from staff. It takes work from, like I said, that connector piece for us. One of the biggest growth points that we've seen in building out diversity and even knowing what people want to see in those spaces and what they feel is missing is having our community connector program, which is residents who are paid casual employees and they're residents of those communities.\

They already have relationships. They know exactly what it's like to live in that community, not just to work in it. So when they bring programs, activities, or concerns to staff or to people operating that physical space, they're coming from a place of having built relationships and feeling like this is their space where they want to see growth, prosperity, and resiliency. And that doesn't happen if you don't make space for that reciprocal ownership. You don't make space for people to have their input into how it's designed or even how to change its design. You start with one thing again. It's that flexibility. Then you say, "Hmm, it's not really working the way we thought it would, right?" It's not as accessible as we thought it would be, because it can be really small things like how chairs are placed or whatever. Someone can feel comfortable bringing that up and saying it's not accessible for me because I need a different kind of accessibility. I can't maneuver around this space in a wheelchair. Great. Then change it. Show up for the residents as they feel comfortable showing up to you.

48:02 JAMES: Lovely. Thank you. You two are clearly experts and very passionate advocates for the hub spaces and I could talk to you about this stuff for hours, but we're drawing to a close now and I always leave our guests whenever I do these podcasts with the opportunity to leave our listeners with one thing or if there's something I've missed in the question that you really have a learning desire to talk about this is sort of over to you really. So anything finally that you'd like to leave the listeners with

48:34 MARIA:  Yeah, I've been talking a bit about asset-based community development throughout, so ABCD, and we're thinking a lot about that at United Way Calgary area. I know the City of Calgary is also focusing on that. It's something that we really feel is the basis of our work, depending on our work in community hubs. So I'll leave you with the resource of Cormac Russell and the Connected Community. If people are interested in that work and learning how they can do that in their own communities to build community hub-like spaces and built-in infrastructure and community connection in their own communities, whether it's through their work or personal time, I highly recommend it. It's been a great resource for us, and we find that it's been more useful than anything else we've come across as we navigate through these things. It has brought passion and more perspective to my own work and also to my life, thinking about how I show up in my communities. So I'd really recommend that.

49:40 JAMES: Cool. Thank you. And we will make sure that in the show notes for listeners and Ken, any last thoughts?

49:48 KEN: Yeah. The big thing on my mind, we're exploring a lot right now, is there's a lot of talent and capital flowing into Canada because of opportunity and immigration policy. So those drivers are happening. One of the biggest things we see is our city being prepared for that and understanding what that means. This is where you come back down to not just what city I'm gonna live in, but what neighborhood. Where's that hub? How do we build some of that infrastructure? We're trying to rally more innovation, particularly in the private capital space, that we can then use to leverage some of the public investments being made to ensure we build the next wave of infrastructure for these talent communities for the next 10 to 20 years. I want to prove out some of those models in Edmonton and Calgary because it's our own backyard. I also think we're at an interesting time because we have multiple generations in our cities right now. There's the people who mentored us, and then I think of what we're doing is we're trying to set it up for the next generation that's already trying to do stuff as well. So I think getting those different brains together now is really the time to try to make some of this stuff happen. And then one last thing, I think Maria and I are going to work on this area of return on community metrics and really define that because I think that is something that's missing but is what's needed for us to try to put on the table.

51:26 JAMES: Brilliant. A lovely rallying call there and maybe a relationship around commonalities between the two environments that you work in that can bear fruit in the future. So it's time to wrap up now. And so Maria and Ken, first off, thank you for joining us and thanks for sharing your insights on community spaces. I mean, clearly you're incredibly passionate about it and you speak very knowledgeably and it's be very insightful the last hour or so thank you very much and to the listeners. If you've enjoyed this conversation, be sure to check out more episodes of Responsible Disruption. Subscribe on popular platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and follow us on your favorite social media platform so you don't miss an episode until next time, goodbye and thank you.

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