Im­pact Hub

A work­shop/com­mu­nity cen­tre bring­ing to­gether peo­ple and ideas to im­prove lives across Birm­ing­ham

The Observer - The New Review - - Cover story - birm­ing­ham.im­pacthub.net

Immy Kaur, a proud Brum­mie Sikh, had no idea of the im­pact of the brain drain on her home city – un­til she came back to it. She had left in 2004 to go to univer­sity in Cardiff be­fore mov­ing to London to work in in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment. Kaur came home soon af­ter, then only one of a hand­ful from her school year still liv­ing in the city. “At that time, you were raised to be­lieve Birm­ing­ham was a bit shit and you were em­bar­rassed to be from there,” she says, “but I wanted to ex­plore what it would look like to build some­thing in my own city.”

And so she got stuck in. It’s dif­fi­cult to over­es­ti­mate Kaur’s en­ergy and am­bi­tion: Im­pact Hub, which she co-founded, is part fu­tur­ist thinkspace and part com­mu­nity cen­tre. The idea was to cre­ate a place where en­trepreneurs, artists, ur­ban de­sign­ers, sci­en­tists and ac­tivists would work to­gether to make Birm­ing­ham a more equal and hap­pier place to live. The re­al­ity is tes­ta­ment to the power of that civic spirit: #rad­i­calchild­care and cre­ative re­sis­tance, for in­stance, are ac­tively im­prov­ing the lives of lo­cals, one by redesign­ing the sup­port sys­tem for work­ing fam­i­lies, the other by giv­ing cit­i­zens a voice.

“We brought to­gether peo­ple from a wide range of back­grounds who care about so­cial jus­tice,” says Kaur, “and we have been ex­per­i­ment­ing. It was never about co-work­ing – we’re not a cor­po­rate space – this is about the town hall for the 21st cen­tury.”

Perhaps the most im­pres­sive el­e­ment of Im­pact’s Mis­sion Birm­ing­ham is De­moDev, the plan for “more in­clu­sive, demo­cratic and cit­i­zen-cen­tred hous­ing across the city” that has seen Im­pact Hub’s mem­bers phys­i­cally de­sign­ing and build­ing new homes. Kaur is ca­su­ally, bril­liantly, un­fazed.

“We are now in con­ver­sa­tion about build­ing re­ally high-qual­ity, large-scale cit­i­zen hous­ing de­vel­op­ments, work­ing with Wik­iHouse on 3,000 homes’ worth of land owned by the coun­cil,” she ex­plains. If the idea of open-source house-build­ing where homes for ev­ery­one can lit­er­ally be built by ev­ery­one seems mind-bog­gling to most, Kaur takes it in her stride.

“Why can’t ev­ery­one have beau­ti­ful things? Things that they can be proud of? We have re­ally high-qual­ity de­sign and our build­ing is open to ev­ery­one and re­ally well looked af­ter.” Kaur won’t ac­cept a cul­ture of low as­pi­ra­tion. “There are loads of things like [Im­pact Hub] in London but we want to make sure it’s not just for those who can af­ford it.” NI

It’s not about co-work­ing, we’re not a cor­po­rate space – this is the town hall for the 21st cen­tury

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