Year in Review 2021

SoFar Sounds Concert

To our Impact Hub community:

This year has been a time of deep restructuring and refocusing. Our team has built new partnerships; welcomed new team members; built new systems; designed new programs; and influenced significant policy and systems-level initiatives directing millions of dollars into equitable economic development.

This will lead to a 2022 that looks different than anything Impact Hub Baltimore has tackled yet.

We wanted to share some of the big wins of the year with you, and bring you up to speed on what we see coming on the horizon. Please read on to learn more.

Before you dive in! Our team would like to thank you for being on this journey with us. Impact Hub began with community and we remain rooted in community. To every single person reading this letter whose heart beats for Baltimore, we see you, we love you, and we believe in you.

It’s no small feat for a coworking space to survive a global pandemic. We know we are still standing today because we are SO much more than a space. We are a community of committed practitioners, determined to move the city forward, change systems, and invest in the people, places, and issues that need it most.

As we approach the end of this year, we want to remind you that you are not alone in this work, you are so much more than what you produce, and you are entitled to rest, recover, and reflect.

Here’s to you and all that is around the corner in 2022.

What’s Been Happening

Civic Wealth — Since our founding, a core focus of our work has been to build connections across stakeholders and leaders from different sectors to build economic opportunity in Baltimore. Our Director of Acceleration. Q Ragsdale brought us this article on Civic Wealth Creation that resonates deeply with our values and has been the organizing framework for all of our strategy efforts this year. We love that it delineates how enterprises, communities, and institutions each drive value in a system, and we encourage you to give it a read. Where do you see yourself and your work? How do you build civic wealth?

Ecosystem Building — The urgency and complexity of this pandemic has led to strengthened networks and coalitions across the city working to address systems-wide challenges. We have seen the importance of trusted relationships to get work done quickly and varied perspectives to get it done right. Our team has helped to shape some key efforts for equitable economic development and ecosystem strengthening. We informed equity, small business, and social innovation priorities for Baltimore Together — the city’s 5-year strategy for inclusive prosperity. We co-designed a pivot of the city’s small business technical assistance network from a focus on COVID-19 relief to longer-term small business support as part of the Bloomberg Global Cities Mayor’s Challenge with significant contributions by myself and Managing Director, Eric Lin. And we recently renamed this network! Keep an eye out for opportunities from the Baltimore BASE Network in 2022, as partners direct millions of ARPA dollars to small businesses.

Yes, We ARE Open — As people begin to re-emerge, one question we get A LOT is, “Are you all open?”. Thanks for asking. We sure are. After suspending operations during the lockdown, our space re-opened in July 2020 with all the necessary modifications in place to keep our community safe. As vaccination rates increased and restrictions eased, we re-introduced event bookings, drop-in passes, and coffee service. We still rely on masks, distancing, guest lists, and capacity limits to keep risk to a minimum. Over the past three months, visitations have been picking up and we see glimpses of the Hub buzz returning to our space. Our offices are fully leased. Our coworking community is 170 strong and we are welcoming new members every month. Our event spaces have hosted film crews, volunteer events, strategy sessions, board meetings, accelerators, photo shoots, and panels with members and partners doing groundbreaking work. Impact Hub remains an affordable, accessible, flexible, and inspiring place to gather, meet, and build.

Programming — Our small business development programming has grown in a big way. Under the leadership of Q Ragsdale, Strategy School served as the backbone for the Home Run Accelerator program organized by Made in Baltimore, with glowing reviews. Other members of our team designed the program’s opening weekend and metrics framework. We also forged a new and ambitious partnership with GoDaddy’s Empower Program, which aims to expand the digital presence of 500+ local businesses in 2022. Our team conducted a pre-launch pilot with 12 businesses in November, and participants have already created beautiful websites! Stay tuned for our official launch in February!

Team — Over the summer, we bid a bittersweet farewell to team members Alanah Nichole Davis, Irene Bantigue, and Sam Novak who collectively contributed nine years of brilliant, inspired efforts to build and support the Impact Hub community. In 2021, this team brought us pop-up jazz concerts, cicada art, inspiring stories, and opportunities to connect in nature — among so many other contributions. During the transition, we leaned into restructuring, recruitment, and systems improvements to meet the evolving needs of our organization. This fall, we welcomed Bakari Jones as our Empower Program Manager, Genae Butler as our Business Development Programs Manager, and Saba Saunders as our Community Manager. All this adjustment has been no small feat, but we are excited to have fresh energy and new skills on the team. It’s a stellar crew.

Community — The state of social innovation in Baltimore is strong. This year, we have celebrated inspiring community development projects break ground; new funding mechanisms to build community healing; expansion of mutual aid, cooperatives, and solidarity initiatives; strengthening of networks and coalitions around common goals; and a deepening understanding of the intersections between trusted relationships, equity, and systems change. Many of our long-term members and closest partners have been at the table or at the helm of initiatives that are poised to change the game. We are immensely proud of their progress, tenacity, and vision. And we are grateful to have been part of these leadership journeys.

What’s On the Horizon

Empower Baltimore — Our team will run five Empower Program cohorts next year starting in late February. Cohorts will provide direct support to 150 small businesses led by BIPOC, women, and immigrant-owners to build websites and expand their digital presence. Virtual learning will be available to an additional 500+ businesses, while Learning Summits aim to engage an even wider audience. We will be leveraging our partner network and a series of outreach events to refer businesses on a rolling basis. And please save the date for Feb 17 for our Empower program launch at Center Stage.

Baltimore BASE Network — The group of organizations convened in the Baltimore Small Business Support Fund cohort will continue its work as the Baltimore BASE Network in collaboration with the BDC. BASE stands for Business Advice & Support for Equity and its aim is to build civic wealth by helping Black and brown-led businesses grow revenue, jobs, and neighborhood assets. As part of our participation in this network, we will be expanding Strategy School workshops, building case management systems, and hiring additional small business support for resource navigation, coaching, and outreach. Our team will also help to build a directory of small business Service Providers and distribute over $8M in small business grants.

Governance — We’ve been working with the brilliant folks at the Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (BRED) to help us envision a pathway to greater community-leadership and ownership for Impact Hub over the long term. We have been mapping out our existing decision-making structures, and identifying opportunities for greater collective decision-making. Governance factors into our long-term commitment to broaden strategic accountability and engagement with our membership community — particularly grassroots leaders who have helped to build our community of practice.

Thanks for reading. Stay in touch. And stay tuned.

We hope to see more of you in 2022!

❤️

Michelle & the IHB team

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Elevating the voices of thought leaders and social changemakers in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Impact Hub Baltimore

Impact Hub Baltimore

Impact Hub Baltimore is a community and coworking space for the city’s social entrepreneurs.

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