One of our core interests is to have Impact Hub be a home for student changemakers. This largely stems from our initial engagement with college and university students as well as some faculty during Impact Hub’s launch in Ottawa. There was an expressed interest in belonging to a changemaker community that wasn’t segregated by faculty, or only consisted of students. We also heard from students that there wasn’t a place for students across different post-secondary institutions to connect, learn and collaborate. So we felt that it would add tremendous value to connect students with more established and experienced changemakers from public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors, and have them build relationships and apply their learning while studying. Through engaging international and out-of-town students early on, we felt an increasing need and desire for this group in particular to better connect with the Ottawa community.
We decided to launch a “student membership.” We kept things simple and recasted our Connect membership at a lower price point, to ensure that it was affordable for students and offer a further discount to incentivize purchasing it for a full semester.
With posters on campuses, connections with student associations, and connections with faculty, we expected students to become student Hubbers and take advantage of this cross-sector and global community of changemakers. We expected close to 100 students, with an intention to grow from there. We thought that Impact Hub would play a key role is enabling student changemakers. The idea being we could demonstrate student interest in social innovation and that these connections, mindset, networks, and involvement would grow after their studies.
Five students signed up. We went further with “summer discounts”, “holiday promotions”, and talking to students in class, but it yielded no additional results. We were puzzled as it didn’t match what we heard on campuses and what we heard during meetups. After a final push with promotions, we paused our efforts with student membership. We were excited to have students like Christian Robillard become a Hubber, but we wanted a far greater mass of students to generate the type of transformation we were seeking.
Learning and Path Forward
There are layers of learnings in this experiment. We concluded that our hypothesis that post-secondary students seek a community, connections and experiences with changemakers beyond the campus wasn’t necessarily false. However, there were a few flaws in our plan. Firstly, Impact Hub is a young organization and it is one of those communities and environments that can’t be explained well, one must experience it and feel it. It wasn’t the right timing. We needed to build awareness with students about Impact Hub first, by working with them and being in their student lives and experiences. Secondly, the membership was not as optimized for students as it could be. While in theory, it made sense to enrich their journeys, students couldn’t see themselves in it in a practical way Finally, we learned that if such experiences are part of their classes, work, and their programs, they are more likely be engaged and involved. Since this experiment, we have developed relationships with post-secondary students through programs and on-campus entities such as: Enactus, uOttawa ehub, 1125 @ Carleton, and as well as Carleton University’s Masters in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program, among others. We have hosted receptions for students, involved students in Launch Some Good (our social enterprise startup weekend), and delivered classes at Impact Hub. Our intention is to continue to support social innovation journeys for students and institutions.