I.C.E. in the ‘burbs: Innovation, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship moves from the urban to the suburban context.

Collaboration: From ‘urbs to ‘burbs

Collaborate. It’s definitely become a buzz word recently.

To discover the meaning of words, I like to simply break them down by syllable and then put them back together again:

co (ko) — prefix — noun — joint; mutual; common

lab (lab) — noun — a laboratory; a science lab; a place to study and test theories; a place to test, build and create something

collaborate — verb — work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. synonyms:co-operate, join forces, team up, band together, work together, participate, combine, ally; pool resources, put — — heads together

Collaboration then is when people work together to create something. I think that the end result of collaboration is greater than the sum of the individual parts. In other words, when two people join forces to build something together, what they build together will be greater than what they could have built alone.

“…when two people join forces to build something together, what they build together will be greater than what they could have built alone.”

I know this from experience. I’m sure you do as well.


Unless you’ve been asleep the last five years, you know that collaboration has been on the move; and it’s growing in its momentum. Often times, collaboration is used in the context of the growing movement of coworking and innovation hubs. And, more often than not, those hubs are found in the context of a large urban city like Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Denver. However, unless you’ve really been asleep, you know that more recently, these hubs have begun to pop up beyond the urban context and moved out into the surrounding suburbs. It’s refreshing to see these hubs move from the ‘urbs to the ‘burbs with a more intentional hyper local focus on innovation and entrepreneurship to build the economy and strengthen community in their own neighborhood. And there is nothing “sub” about this new context.

“It’s refreshing to see these hubs move from the ‘urbs to the ‘burbs with a more intentional hyper local focus on innovation and entrepreneurship to build the economy and strengthen community in their own neighborhood.”

In addition to the increase in these suburban local hubs is the increase in innovative initiatives and strategic partnerships between local city and county governments, colleges and universities, chambers of commerce and local entrepreneurs and small business owners. It would seem that many established organizations both non-profit, government, education and even religious institutions alike are beginning to see the value of 21st century technology and methods of “doing business”. The trend is moving more towards “business as unusual” as these organizations embrace new technologies, new methodologies, new processes, new philosophies and even new leadership approaches to accomplish the same age-old goals.


I am witnessing this first-hand in my new position as Community Manager of Entrepreneurship for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. Our amazing team, led by Director Misti Martin, has strategically partnered with our local city’s economic development (Downtown Woodstock Office of Economic Development) and a technical college (Chattahoochee Technical College) to build a new concept in coworking innovation: a mixed use hub that will bring together college students, local area professionals and entrepreneurs into one collaborative space called The Circuit. Set to launch in Q1 of 2017, it’s a rare thing to combine a diverse group of people from multiple generations, seasons of life, education and industry and put them in the same collaborative space. But, with a focus on creating new career opportunities, launching new businesses, and igniting an entrepreneurial spirit across Cherokee County, The Circuit will no doubt become a prototype for the future of coworking and unify this diverse community.

More than just coworking (#morethancoworking), The Circuit is simply the first iteration of a larger vision throughout our county to encourage and equip entrepreneurs with tools and resources they need to help them launch and grow their business. The visionary program is called Fresh Start Cherokee and will cover a wide variety of styles and topics including but not limited to workshops, panels, lunch ‘n learns, TEDx style talks, classes, seminars, hackathons, code schools, internships, mentorships, networking events, meetups, conferences and unconferences, competitions, a makers lab and maybe even grow into a full-blown incubator.

Large cities and urban contexts can no longer corner the market on innovation and collaboration. Now, suburban contexts like Woodstock, Alpharetta, Marietta, Kennesaw, Asheville, Durham, Raleigh and more are building hubs to house their growing market of entrepreneurs. To give their local builders, makers and disruptors the space and spark to make something awesome in their own backyard. One of the challenges moving forward that I see will be for these ‘burb hubs to avoid becoming silos from other ‘burb hubs. One way to avoid this and to further the spirit of collaboration is for regional and local networks of partner hubs to launch so these hubs have a larger family to belong to. And, this collaboration cannot simply stop at east-to-west partnerships but also lend itself to north-and-south mentorship between urban hubs and suburban hubs; a kind of big brother/sister and little brother/sister type of friendship.

For now, I’m excited that the spirit of collaboration is growing and evolving to take on new shapes and forms. Even within a newer movement of collaboration like coworking, it’s refreshing to see that the spirit of innovation is still alive and well. I only hope that the ‘burbs and ‘urbs will relate to each other for the same reason they are building their own hubs: collaboration.

Like what you read? Give Jonathan Chambers a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.