The superpower of a co-working space is its ability to fuel innovation through on-the-spot collaboration. So how does this business model survive in the era of social distancing? Alisha Harrington, Business Development and Communications Lead at Impact Hub Boston, met with B Local Boston to describe how the organization pivoted with the onset of COVID-19.
Impact Hub Boston is “a community and co-working space for those who want to join together to make a difference,” said Harrington. This Boston-based B Corp is a part of a larger global network of Impact Hubs that look to “empower people to realize enterprising ideas for sustainable impact” through providing collaborative workspaces, meeting rooms and hosting member-driven events. When Impact Hub Boston closed its physical doors to all non-essential businesses, they were also forced to reassess their entire service offering.
“We wanted to show members we are here for them in a virtual way,” explains Harrington. “We wanted to reimagine how to transfer the community to a virtual setting.” Harrington notes the development of these programs was intentional, focusing on what members value and what would encourage them to participate. This led to implementing purpose-driven initiatives such as an open Zoom room lunch time for members to still feel part of a community, tapping members to run skills-based workshops, and group problem solving sessions to provide collaborative business support.
In becoming more comfortable with online operations, Harrington describes how Impact Hub Boston’s virtual presence has uncovered new ways to service the entrepreneurial community. Historically acting as an “intentional convener” for local impact focused individuals and organizations, Impact Hub Boston can now increase that collaboration and convening more broadly as members have the opportunity to collaborate online with other U.S. Impact Hubs to advance projects with essential social focuses, such as racial equity. Further, in building more of an active virtual space, Impact Hub Boston hopes to increase accessibility for folks who may not have been able to become cowork members or physically attend meetings or events. Noting one of the areas of growth for the Hub due to the pandemic, Harrington states, “If COVID-19 hadn’t happened, I’m not sure we would have spent the time and energy on this right now.”
Looking beyond the pandemic, Harrington discussed how the market for co-working space will change as a result of the success in working from home. “I do think in the long term these kinds of spaces will be super important as bigger companies realize their employees can, and want, to work remotely”, said Harrington. A space like Impact Hub Boston provides flexibility for workers who either can’t work from home or occasionally want access to a professional environment as well as other people to network with and share ideas.
Impact Hub Boston has adopted COVID-19 precautions and is now open and operating according to City and State guidelines. . In the hopes of inviting more members to collaborate virtually, they are creating a virtual membership option. As a B Corp themselves, the organization sees a lot of overlap with the B Community and invites them to consider joining an Impact Hub community where they can collaborate and connect with other like-minded organizations.