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Reporting on impact: Learning from failure

June 28, 2013

Note: This post originally appeared on the HUB Ottawa website. It has been reposted here with permission from the author. You can find the full Impact + Failure Report here.

The room was full and buzzing with energy. Social innovators from all sectors mingled among a backdrop of 3D cardboard numbers, painted red, challenging us to question their meaning.

Such was the scene for the one-year anniversary and launch of the first Impact Report of HUB Ottawa. The HUB is a “co-working community, learning academy and incubator designed and optimized for people, projects and organizations bettering the world.” There are 38 HUBS around the world with over 6,000 members and many more in development. This is a movement to watch, absolutely on trend within “the sharing economy” as a way to encourage innovation and create economic impact. In fact, global HUB members generated over $150 million in new revenue in 2012.

So what was the story behind the 3D numbers?

Seventy per cent of HUB Ottawa members have experience in for-profits, 50% in the public sector and 60% in nonprofits or social enterprises; 22 is the age of the youngest member and 65 the eldest; 48% are women and 52% men; and the current membership is at 200.

There is a predominant sentiment in the social innovation sector that measuring impact is almost impossible. But HUB Ottawa tackled this challenge head on.

Of course, the real impact comes to life in the stories told by the members—and the report is full of those—but the reported impact numbers are no less impressive: 80% of the members say the HUB has supported them to pursue new ideas and initiatives; 75% made 5 or more valuable connections; 88% say they have gained knowledge and skills; and no less than 95% have found that The HUB has been instrumental for them in expanding their personal and professional network.

But running a startup requires taking risks that will often result in failure. Acknowledging failure is important but even more impressive is learning from that failure and HUB Ottawa doesn’t let us down. Upon closer reflection we see this is their first Impact AND Failure Report – the first of its kind from the global HUB Network.

Following the path set by trailblazers like Engineers Without Borders (who wrote the forward to this report), HUB Ottawa outlines their plans to “contribute to a culture of failure reporting … so we can learn from each other and collectively accelerate better outcomes for the world.”

So what are some of those lessons?

By outlining their intended outcome, the actual outcome and the learning path forward, The HUB Ottawa learned they had to take better advantage of technology; employ a Community Catalyst to help with creative collisions; they learned not to put busy innovators into a box by being overly prescriptive; to take advantage of their global network and learn best practices from others; and that sometimes the ideas are great but the timing is wrong.

So congratulations HUB Ottawa. If year one impact is any indication, you are well positioned for long-term success, both in Ottawa and as global HUB leaders.

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Allyson Hewitt @ MaRS

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Allyson is the Senior Fellow, Social Innovation at MaRS, where she has been leading the SiG@MaRS program; advising social entrepreneurs; building the social innovation ecosystem; and incubating successful programs such as the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the MaRS Solutions Lab.

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