NS Stories

Hubs as a Way to Collaboration and Innovation

People working on common challenges in close proximity to each other is a classic recipe for fostering new and broader thinking. Recent articles detail two such initiatives in Halifax—one that’s been around for five years, and one in the musing stage

Volta Labs, a “tech incubator” and “innovation hub,” has been working with start-up companies in Halifax since 2013 (fifty to date), offering working space, some early seed financing, training and common resources to help get ideas off the ground. The idea, pioneered in other cities, was an attempt to replicate on a small scale the dense interlocking networks of companies, funders and consultants that have helped propel so many Silicon Valley startups to major success.

Tech hubs also draw from the worldwide Hub co-working space movement, started in London two decades ago. Hubs are large open spaces with individual working areas and shared office amenities geared to professionals, freelancers, and small business entrepreneurs and innovators; some hubs are focused on those with a social mission. Members have access to the collective talents and knowledge of others who work there. There was a Halifax Hub on Barrington Street for several years but it was early days and hard to get the business model to work.

Now, people at the Dalhousie faculty of architecture and planning are looking at an idea to turn the old Halifax Public library on Spring Garden into “a hub for the built environment, providing a platform for the exchange and development of knowledge.” The early stage idea envisions the building expanded and shared by HRM’s planning department; Dalhousie’s faculty of architecture and planning; some public interest groups with a focus on Halifax’s future —such as heritage organizations and transportation coalitions; and a public space, where all aspects of planning for the city’s future could be hashed out.

This kind of human contact and exchange of ideas among people who have to work next to each other would seem to create a stronger chance for good, if not innovative, planning. Are there other obvious places where this approach could be applied?

All Conversations Hubs as a way to collaboration and innovation


3 replies, 3 voices Last updated by  Laurie Cook 1 year, 3 months ago
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  • Laurie Cook @lcook

    Yup – hubs are an awesome way to support all those things; connection, collaboration, support.

    Work we did on hubs while I was at United Way included developing a diagram to try to articulate the value of hubs.  Tried to attach / insert here but can’t figure out how to do so.

    However, funding for hubs is very difficult to find.  A lot of capital funding can be found in NS through Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage and HRM – but operational funding as far as I know was only available from UWH which may be changing its support for hubs though as they try to drill down on poverty solutions with less money than they are used to.  If this source of funding is lost, it could be the end of many hubs, or certainly a major reduction in their efforts.

    It is sad because I believe hubs could be one of the key cornerstones of community and social innovation in the future.  The problem is they are not a ‘project’ or a ‘program’ though – they don’t fit the current mold.  Their contributions are harder to measure because they are longer-term and more indirect.

    How we support such initiatives is – I think – a key question though for the future of solving the kind of very complex issues we now face.



  • Tony Lamport @tonylamport

    I’d like to see a general hub for every community even the well off ones, so that every member knows where help and opportunity is, where a contribution can be made, and where to find human contact when it’s needed.

  • Laurie Cook @lcook

    There are a lot more hubs around than just in Halifax or those related to tech.  There are 12 ‘hubs’ that are / were supported by United Way Halifax focused on various social issues.  Interestingly, only one of them self-identified as a hub.  The one I’m most familiar with is the Old School Community Gathering Place (https://www.theoldschool.ca/) in Musquodoboit Harbour.

    United Way Halifax has also done significant research on ‘community hubs’ in Halifax.  More info at:  https://www.halifaxhubs.com/

    This website was set up to help support and network hubs in Halifax.  Unfortunately, the work was cut short after two years.  I was involved as a consultant.  As such, I wrote two reports on hubs in Halifax including rural, suburban and urban.  Would love to find a way for that work to continue in some way.

    Also think very important to look to identify and collect stories of hubs outside Halifax that are very important;  like The Port Grocer (http://www.theportgrocer.ca/) in Port Medway.

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