The Hub

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Social entrepreneurs building a common space, Hub Seattle | 

Wikipedia

Wei-Chi, aka Crisi-tunity

It is often said that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two characters which mean “danger” and “opportunity.”

I guess that’s not quite right. But then neither is the word “irregardless” (which, technically, means the opposite of how people use it).

So, irregardless of the true meaning of the Chinese word for crisis, I propose to apply the popular understanding of “wei-chi” to Seattle’s burgeoning scene of humanitarians and social entrepreneurs.

Clearly, the explosion of do-gooders here represents a great opportunity — an opportunity to do more good, to maybe even “do well by doing good” or at least find a job in one of the few sectors of the economy lately that appears to have some growth potential.

Global health, for example, is often referred to these days as an industry as much as it is a cause.

But our region’s emerging humanitarian “sector” also poses some dangers, or risks — of a plethora of good (and maybe not-so-good) causes competing for funding, of redundancy, lack of clarity as to what really constitutes a “social enterprise,” lack of criteria for measuring success (or failure) and, overall, of not making the most of this opportunity due to lack of collaboration, of community.

Tom Paulson

Hub Seattle's Brian Howe explains the concept

That’s where Hub Seattle (when it is finally launched) hopes to play a role.

“We want to create a hosted work space where unreasonable people can get things done,” said Brian Howe, who with colleagues Jon White, Jay Standish and others intend to launch here a branch of a global initiative (started first in Britain and Europe) known as The Hub.

There are so far only three U.S. branches of The Hub, two of them in San Francisco and one in Atlanta. Here’s a good story about SF’s Hub by Fast Company. Other cities are looking to connect.

“In Seattle, we are already the Silicon Valley of sustainable, social and innovative development,” said Howe, who then immediately apologized for using these buzzwords (“I’m trying to stop doing that,” he said). “But we are still very fragmented, many of us working inefficiently in isolation.”

This is the third in a series of recent stories I’ve done examining how, and why, local do-gooders are trying to create more of a community. Continue reading