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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Hub leaders connect in Southern Africa

More than 40 creative and social impact hubs from Southern Africa recently took part in our pilot learning programme designed specifically for hub leaders. Here, they share their experiences on what they learned and how the workshops strengthened their knowledge, skills and professional networks.

Three workshop participants smiling and laughing

Participants at the Creative Hubs Academy pilot workshop in Cape Town

Currently, there are very few learning offers that cater directly to the needs of creative hub leaders and their teams.

To address this and help hubs thrive, we’ve been developing Creative Hubs Academy; a new learning programme to support the personal and professional growth of creative and social impact hub leaders across the globe, as part of an ongoing partnership with the British Council and Hivos.

As part of our piloting phase, two workshops recently took place in Cape Town and Harare with a diverse group of more than 40 hub leaders from Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Creative Hubs Academy workshops were supported by Electric South and Youngblood in Cape Town, and Enthuse Afrika in Harare. The trainings were open to aspiring or established hub leaders, influencers and decision-makers, aged 18–35 years, looking to grow or diversify their hub. The trainings were delivered as part of Connect.Hubs, a British Council and Hivos initiative to support the social and creative hubs in Southern Africa that drive the creative economies and create social impact in the region.

What did the participants say?

The workshops explored how hub leaders and their teams can practically support their communities and communicate the value of what they do, whilst staying on top of their internal operations. The hub leaders offered some inspirational feedback which will help us shape the final Creative Hubs Academy product.

On defining the hub’s purpose and vision

"The workshop really helped me deepen my knowledge, organise my thoughts and projects, and gain confidence in what I am doing and the way I see things going for my hub.”

“I loved how [the workshop] helped to really refine everything and to get to the essence of what it is that we do.”

On sharing challenges and ideas as hub leaders

“I really enjoyed how interactive the space was and how much we could interact with other hub leaders. I also appreciated how it was not just a series of presentations but we were able to apply what we were learning to our real life hubs.”

“I learnt to not be scared to ask for help as a hub leader. I also learnt that there is always a better way to do something.”

On planning for action

"I learnt that there are tools and ways to bring my dreams and plans to life. I will sit down with my team and have them review the activities we did ... I will ensure that we are all on the same page and will make sure to track our progress as a hub from now on.”

“Workshopping ideas with people who are not within your field gives a whole new perspective on the way you engage with your own work.”

On measuring the hub’s impact

“Impact in general was a big thing I took away from this course and the need for you to think about the change you want to create first. I learnt how to map our path to creating change in our community, from problem, through to impact. I learnt how to plan for the next three years well.”

“I realised how important monitoring and evaluation was, and how much we had to catch up on this aspect, not only to be able to better respond to our audience and beneficiaries' needs, but also when looking for funding and partners.”

On understanding hub communities and audiences

“Learning about persona development was a definite high note for me. It’s a very powerful tool that has the potential to properly streamline our activities if implemented properly.”

“I loved the diversity and inclusion session because the group discussions at the table really got us thinking about what it means to be inclusive and how inclusivity manifests in different settings.”

Room for improvement

We also received feedback on things to improve, and we’ll be making these iterations as we continue to develop the programme. These include:

  • Adding more case studies: to bring some of the concepts and ideas to life and make them more tangible
  • Considering where the participants’ hubs are in their life cycles: so that hubs at similar - or different - stages can be paired for some exercises to reinforce peer learning and share experiences
  • Playing with the length: we packed a lot of content into the two days so we’ll be exploring different timings and rhythms for the workshop
  • Utilising trainers from the local region: the pilots were run by our UK-based workshop facilitators but as we move forward we’ll be engaging local facilitators.

Next steps

By getting first hand insights into the needs, challenges and skills gaps among the hub communities, the pilot workshops in southern Africa (along with other pilots in Vietnam and the Philippines) helped identify the common and shared problems facing hub leaders.

Our new workshop offer, built upon the pilot programme and the feedback from participants, will be launched in April 2019.

This blog was updated in June 2019 to refer to the programme's name "Creative Hubs Academy", rather than its working title.


Matt Payne

Matt Payne

Matt Payne

Learning Services Manager

Matt was a Learning Services Manager in the Innovation Skills team, he also led on the Creative Hubs programme.

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