After attending the first phase of the Creative Hubs Programme in the form of an intensive, stimulating and practical workshop in Abuja in November 2017 with 24 other hub managers from West Africa, some of the hub managers who met during the workshop are already working on amazing projects together in West Africa.
The second phase of the project was the study tour of UK hub facilitated by Many Studios in Scotland. The days leading up to the tour were filled with euphoria and anticipation as we looked forward to reconnecting with each other and some hub managers who just joined from Sub Saharan African countries.
I left Abuja with Philip from CAVIC and Uju from British Council and thanks to Uju, we had a stress free journey to Glasgow airport where Many Studio sent a taxi to come get us to the hotel. Soon we got settled and started to wait for the other hub managers to arrive.
The following day was relatively free as we had to wait for the other hub managers so it was an excellent opportunity to visit some of the hubs that was not on the program. I visited Tontine and had some interesting conversations with Pauline (the hub manager) about their business models and possible collaborations. Almost all the other hub managers came in the following day, Nathalia from Many studio was also at the hotel to welcome us and we all went out for dinner at St Lukes with the host organization which turned out to be an amazing experience as we got ready to start the tour the following morning.
Learning from other hub managers
The tour started with a train ride to Edinburgh for a tour and meeting with Hill Street Design House, Custom Lane, Creative Edinburgh and Code Base which featured tours of their spaces, conversations about their business model and questions from the participating hub members.
The third day featured a tour of Peckham Levels and a meeting with the team.
These meetings featured conversations and tours resulting in knowledge exchange between hubs in the UK and the visiting hubs from Africa and we learnt a lot. The makers’ spaces at Custom Lane and the Whisky Bond were really great and interactions with some of the businesses in Hill Street Design House will definitely go a long way to result in interesting collaborations between them and some startups in my hub.
Oliver from Code base went really detailed into startup profiling, space design and connecting startups with mentors and established organizations and Claire from Creative Edinburgh was kind enough to explain the operational processes involved in running their hub, sharing insights into how automation can help save cost in hubs and enhance efficiency. Abigale from TAKTAL also did really well to explain their space management and monetization.
Some of the very significant points noted from the tour include:
A lot can still be achieved with less man power. Most of the visiting hubs had a sizable staff member which translates to huge salary costs annually.
The diversity in the hubs is also a big take home for me. Some of the hubs had fashion designers, videographers, developers, jewelers, wood and metal workspaces (makerspace) etc. I’m already thinking of some great combinations to try out in my space.
Long Term Security was also common with most of the hubs. Custom lane had a lease of about 95 years or so on the table, Many studios had 25 years etc. Having that sort of arrangement takes some pressures off the hub managers and allows them to focus on what’s important.
A hub may not get funded but a well-designed program to help organizations with similar interests achieve their objectives can get funded and help make funds available to run the space.
From my interactions with the other participating hubs, there is a need to collaborate more with other African hubs to help expose members of our community to best practices and cultural diversity.
Collaborations with other hubs
One of the key objectives of the program was to foster collaborations between hubs in Africa and the UK and some of the participating hubs have already started discussing different forms of collaborations with the UK hubs. A good number of hub managers including myself had to extend our return dates to follow up on the conversations with the UK hubs and also visit and build relationships with some interesting places in the UK.
In summary, the bigger impact of the tour may not be immediate but the relationships that have been established as a result of this program both with hubs in Africa and in the UK will go on to result in a lot of amazing projects in the near future.
Thanks again to the British council for making this happen!