At the turn of the millennium, a young and idealistic group of young people secured London’s Royal Festival Hall for a 2-day event and engaged prominent world leaders to debate the connections between global environmental, social, and political issues. Due to their courage and creativity, they received an invitation from UN World Summit on Sustainable Development organisers asking the group to replicate the event for their 2002 Johannesburg summit. However, they rejected the impersonal conference venue and created instead an alternative people’s summit, joining with local activists in Soweto that were transforming a township wasteland into the Soweto Mountain of Hope, aka ‘Somoho’, which became an icon for community regeneration and sustainable development at a local scale.
Inspired by Somoho and back in the UK witnessing more and more people who want to make a difference through their work, the early Hubmakers opened a space to bring these entrepreneurs and innovators together: a run-down London loft that would house the forerunner of Impact Hub.
Familiar with The Hub in London and the co-creation process that led to it, a small group of locals started incubating the idea of a Hub in the Netherlands. After a year and a half of community-building, Hub Amsterdam opened its doors in November 2008 in a heritage trade school building on the Westerstraat thereby inaugurating the first space for social innovation and entrepreneurship in the city.
The concept of “social entrepreneurship” was new and not necessarily an embraced career. Many people courageously stepped out of their family or professional expectations, trying to start something forward-thinking and not always succeeding. With the generosity of peer support and a growing local and global community that can help access resources, we saw ideas turn into viable ventures. And so the Hub Amsterdam grew, the only dedicated organisation for impact by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs – soon inspiring the take up of impact entrepreneurship and the wider movement both at home and abroad.
In 2013, we moved to the Westerpark; a former district office (stadsdeelkantoor), signifying our widening reach outside our walls and in the city and reflecting the global network’s transition from The Hub to Impact Hub. We evolved our programs and peer-to-peer support, welcoming more mentors, experts, and partners as they stepped in to help create a solid field for impact entrepreneurship.
In 2016, Impact Hub Amsterdam moved to its current location at the KIT Royal Tropical Institute located in the Oosterpark. This starting cluster of SDG-focused organisations paved the way for our next chapter with a confident community contributing to the healthy transition of society and a new economy through entrepreneurship.
The making of Impact Hub is an ongoing journey constantly responding to external trends and the drive of its community. As we see impact entrepreneurship become more mainstream and the COVID-19 pandemic spurring attention to green recovery and social cohesion, we are now being called on to amplify our work and share our proven experience to support advancing business, policy and multi-stakeholder efforts toward a just and sustainable world. Impact Hub Amsterdam has contributed to shaping society and has acted as a catalyst for impact work in the Netherlands and beyond, supporting an entire generation of impact entrepreneurs who are setting the stage for impact to be the norm… yet there’s still a lot of work to do… and you are invited!