Taking Impact Hub Fellowship to the next level

Rahel Aschwanden · 11 min · 04.03.2017

If you have been around Impact Hub Zurich long enough, you will certainly remember the time a big container marked the entrance of the Viadukt. UrbanFarmers had won the first Impact Hub Fellowship and put up its first prototype right at their workplace.

Little did we know, back then in 2011, about what was to come for the Impact Hub Fellowship program. After more than five years, we can look back at a successful scaling story. Here’s what happened:

Prototyping

The first Impact Hub Fellowship was implemented in partnership with WWF Switzerland and started when Impact Hub Zurich had only just opened its doors to its space in the Viadukt. At the time around 100 entrepreneurs applied to participate in the Fellowship and besides UrbanFarmers, the program awarded ElectricFeel and PolyPort. Today, UrbanFarmers is an incorporated successful company that is changing the way food is produced and has managed to scale to the Netherlands, where it opened the largest urban farm ever built in Europe.

Replicating

After its first success, the second Impact Hub Fellowship was launched in the same year with a thematic focus opening a whole new area for Impact Hub Zurich: children and youth empowerment. Together with Mercator Foundation Switzerland, the second Fellowship awarded Impact Hub Fellows Superar Suisse and Zwischenräume. Both startups grew into healthy organizations still active today.

Scaling

The success of Impact Hub Fellowship as an early-stage incubation program gained a lot of interest from Impact Hubs around the world. As a response, the Impact Hub Fellowship Association was founded in 2012 in Zurich. Its mission: to promote social innovation through start-up incubation programs in the Impact Hub Network. To date, 31 Impact Hub Fellowships have been implemented in 15 Impact Hubs all around the world. We have found that the global Impact Hub network lies an ideal foundation for scaling startup programs such as the Fellowship. All of these Fellowships were joint initiatives supported by globally active organisations like AXA, Cordaid, IDB, Munich Re,Swisscom, Swiss Re Foundation and WWF . We just released our 5 Years Impact Report that takes a closer look at what we have achieved together during that time.

The next level

How to take the scaling efforts of the Impact Hub Fellowship program to the next level? That’s the question that guided the Association’s efforts throughout 2016. Looking at the gathered data and working on a global collaboration with WWF, the goal became clear: making this incubation program even more accessible for Impact Hubs and partners around the world and speeding up the scaling process. To do so, the Fellowship Blueprint was developed, a recipe book full of accumulated wisdom from the Impact Hub Fellowship managers from all 15 locations. This resource is now available to all Impact Hubs in the network.

With this exciting new chapter of the Impact Hub Fellowship, we are now looking forward to all the stories that still lie ahead of us.

Rahel joined Impact Hub Fellowship in Spring 2016. Before that she worked on the program side with Impact Hub Zürich, implementing and running Fellowships locally. She has an interdisciplinary background with degrees in communication, global studies and education for social change. Besides working for the Fellowship Associatio...

Rahel Aschwanden, Managing director of NOW,

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