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RISE OF

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FEATURE RISE OF HOW THE IDEA OF CONNECTING LIKE- MINDED SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS WENT FROM CONCEPT TO GLOBAL NETWORK IN A DECADE. COWORKING And Its Influence on Social Innovation The first Impact Hub coworking space dedicated to social innovation opened in London in 2005 and still thrives today. Photo: Melissa North, 2013 Text: Katie Crepeau IN 1998, A GROUP OF STUDENTS from the progressive, internationally-focused Atlantic College in Wales were captivated by the significance of the millennium on the horizon. While on summer break, Jonathan Robinson, Mark Hodge, Katy Marks, Yuill Herbert and few other students were wandering along London ’ s South Bank and saw the imposing, Modernist Royal Festival Hall where thousands of events and exhibits take place each year. Coming from a progressive school where they were encouraged to act on ideas, the students wanted to put on an event to “ shake up lots of peoples ’ thinking ” and properly kick off the new millenia. They decided to speak with the Festival Hall event managers about an event for the millennium celebration and convinced them to take a booking for a 2-day event to take place the following year. One year and many phone calls and faxes later, the students had a fully-fledged conference featuring some of the most prominent world leaders and thinkers, including human rights activist and The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, English journalist and TV presenter Jon Snow and several Nobel Peace Laureates. “ I ’ m not entirely sure how a bunch of 19 years olds attracted such figures, ” recalled Jonathan Robinson. “ I guess it was our combination of being kind of cheeky and a bit humble all at the same time. ” The 2-day event on human rights, environmental and social issues went off without a hitch and lead to a flood of interest from more international organizations, the most interesting of which came from the United Nations. Organizers of the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development asked the group to replicate the Royal Festival Hall event for their 2002 summit taking place in Johannesburg. Although the students were now deep in the throes of university studies, they weren ’ t about to let the opportunity pass them by. They booked flights to Johannesburg during a week-long break and quickly realized that the convention center >> 36| Spring 2016 PUBLIC PUBLIC Spring 2016 |37

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