Hatch Ptbo is a COIN social enterprise that builds a more vibrant and inclusive local economy by providing workspace, community, and resources to social purpose business and enterprising non-profits.
Hatch Ptbo was built by and with the community! A group of impassioned community leaders wanted to create a space in Peterborough that would attract ambitious entrepreneurial spirits to work on social and environmental issues. In partnership with St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church we have improved one of their spaces to house our pilot, starting in spring 2013. We work with local economic development agencies, business organizations and incubators, and, of course, a wide array of community groups. Peterborough is a small city with one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada. Social issues arose from employment issues in Peterborough and the need for social innovation was evident.
Hatch Ptbo found its home with parent organization COIN, an economic development charitable agency that runs social enterprises to create training opportunities. In 2010 COIN organized a meeting with Eli Malinsky, Director of Programs and Partnerships at Toronto CSI. After the meeting the project moved forward and in 2011 grants from CFGP and CFDC produced a strong Steering Committee as well as PCSI Needs Assessment and Concept Paper. In November of 2012 a 2 year OTF grant began. May 1st of 2013, COIN officially moved to the apse of St. Paul’s Presbyterian and the work began! On May 31st, the pilot co-working space was launched with a party and the first Peterborough Innovation Talk (PITS). Starting with its own advisory committee, Hatch Ptbo is now governed by the COIN board, which receives recommendations from a small coordinating committee. In the future, we would like to grow our partnerships and service offerings to support more business development and make “social entrepreneurship” a more transparent and measurable practice.
Hatch Ptbo is wholly owned by COIN, which is incorporated as a non-profit charity. Hatch is governed as one of their social enterprises. We have one general manager for Hatch whom reports to the general manager of COIN who in turn addresses the Board of Governors. Currently, salaries and physical infrastructure are our greatest costs. Our main service offerings are memberships to our work space and meeting room rentals.
Partnerships with business support organizations are key because we don’t want to duplicate services. Our relationship to COIN has given us all important access to a network of local non-profits and social enterprises. With COIN and the Rural Social Enterprise Constellation, we play an active role in building capacity for social enterprise development in rural and small city settings.
Hatch was able to come to fruition with a start-up Trillium Grant. We currently generate enough revenue from memberships and space rentals to cover costs of operating the space however this revenue does not cover the cost of staff time to cover events. At present, sales are between $30,000-50,000 per year.
Impacts & Outcomes Objectives
Our members are start-ups, and small (1-2 person) businesses and non-profits, who need access to a flexible work and meeting space downtown. The pilot began in May of 2013 testing the co-working model. Hatch provides space rental services as well as event hosting space and necessities as a means of generating conditions for a socially innovative community. We found that “hot-desking” was not in such a high demand in our small city as it was in a larger metropolis. We have celebrated great turn outs for our social events. We are still developing the correct formula to be able to achieve our goals and still tweaking our approach.
Attracting potential social innovators and social entrepreneurs using trendy, unclear, and often alienating language and it’s a challenge finding alternatives to that language. We’re coming to the realization that we are looking to attract not social innovators but individuals and groups who can see where a system isn’t working optimally for people and want to engage with that situation, rather than ignoring it.
Learning the skills to support paths to social innovation ourselves! These are pretty uncharted waters. We don’t believe anyone is really an expert in innovation – but we do believe there are approaches to, and practices for defining problems, engaging community, collaboration, and testing solutions, that are more likely to produce great outcomes for those who are currently benefitting least from our broken systems. This year we are learning and practicing and reflecting on approaches we want to share in our community.
Adapting big city models to small city circumstances: while a lot of Peterborough-based non-profits have low-quality office space, there isn’t the same premium on space you’d find in the Big Smoke. Many homes here have office space and there’s plenty of empty spaces in downtown Peterborough. However, the cost to turn lower quality space into high quality space is difficult to recoup through a coworking office model without exceeding market rates in our area. Most of our members couldn’t afford for membership costs to increase.
Spend a lot of time thinking about who you want to engage. Coworking spaces often attract freelancers; whereas incubators attract startups that want to scale. Non-profits tend to have different space needs than freelancers and startups.
Not every valuable offering is best structured as a social enterprise. Put your outcomes first and then find the best tool for the job: are you a program? A non-profit/charity? Fee for service supplemented by funding? For-profit? Co-op? etc.
Keep reflecting: some things are best learned by experiencing them and we learn faster if we have a space where we can really discuss what is working and what isn’t without fear of being labeled a failure. How will you foster honest reflection?
Vision for the Future
We are shifting our focus to programming that engages students, community groups, organizations, and their partners from across our community – not as members of the space but as co-developers of better solutions to persistent problems. We are developing a programming approach that is about learning and practicing problem-solving, reflection, community engagement, and collaboration skills in-context, not in a conference-like setting away from one’s everyday work. This programming will take us outside our shared office and board room spaces and into a variety of community spaces to work with our fellow community members who are experiencing the worst aspects of systemic failures.
We are still learning and experimenting to find the best ways to realize Hatch’s mission of building capacity and resource support for social enterprise and innovation strategies in our community.