{discovery} Spaces that Inspire #1


A few days ago I visited the Center for Social Innovation in Chelsea, NYC.

The idea is that it’s a home and a launch pad for small start-ups. Whether you are an indie who needs a community and a chair, or a small organization that wants a private office, you can get a ‘package’ of space and meeting rooms.

Since the project I volunteer for, the Kota Project, is looking to become a founder and provider of a incubator space and services, I kept my ears and eyes open. Here are some key take-aways:

  • Start lean (haven’t we heard this one before): CSI started in Toronto with a small space. Now it has several centers in that city and the new space in NYC.
  • Have fun: Open spaces enhance collaboration; FUN design enhances collaboration and serves as a ‘business card’.
  • Keep the mix: CSI hosts a mix of non-profit start-ups of different sizes and in different stages of their beginning life cycles. Often the organizations ‘graduate’ to bigger spaces. They are also about to offer membership that would offer access to the event/meeting facilities and the community, but wouldn’t require renting an office space.
  • Collaboration: CSI has designated staff whose job is to screen tenants (= so that they really are either social businesses or non-profits), know all the ‘tenants’, help them in networking, event organizing, and all the rest!
  • Win-wins: Servicing non-profits. Some of the tenants are actually accountants and lawyers who work in the non-profit sector.
  • Win-wins: Office work. Those who want to bring down their monthly rent (which is VERY affordable as is) work the front desk or the coffee lounge or evening events.
  • Win-wins: CSI organizes its own events, helps its members to organizes events, and offers event space for rent to appropriate non-members too, but partners with tenants and offers the space for free if the event if for free (e.g., trainings).
  • Virtual application: CSI is developing a  data base through which members can connect with each other not only in NYC but also in Toronto.

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