Alright my hubber?
by Melissa Mean
Demos talks a lot about user-led design. The Bristol Hub feels a bit like user-led design as an extreme sport. Spread across three floors the hub is growing, molding and adapting round around people as they move in and start working there. You need a table? OK, Simon the on-site designer/carpenter will design and build one of the spot. All the materials being used are deliberating easy to chop up and reformat as something else.
For any fan of open source, the whole design process is a dream. You can look at the designs on-line here, but they are being changed and added to on an almost daily basis as users and visitors input their thoughts and ideas about how to improve the space so it gets better and better at supporting the Hub’s core purpose- to support social innovation.
Before it had even opened the Hub had 18 members. At the opening I met some of them- the man behind Frank Water (bottled water with a moral conscious), Owen who builds exercise bikes that generate electricity, a textile designer, and a natural swimming pool maker. All well beyond the creative class usual suspects. As well as being a platform to support these enterprises, the Hub is about encouraging collaboration between the different organisations and individuals. So lots of thought is going into how to help people connect and share.
There are two Hub Hosts, a ‘pollination room’, and a strict no nesting rule so people have to work in different parts of the building. Social engineering? Maybe, but people who are signing up for the Hub are looking for more than just a crèche for bored homeworkers- they want to make and do things. From Demos’ work on public space, a bit of gentle choreography really helps people open up and share.
I am going to working in the Hub a couple of days a week and will be sharing my experiences on this blog. Demos is developing a project investigating the conditions for social innovation. It’s ten years since we published Charlie Leadbeater’s pioneering The Independents. And so, with Charlie, we are returning to the social enterprise theme to see what’s really been achieved and what the next ten years might hold. There is sure to be plenty of things to learn from and experiment with at the Hub.