Three ways creative community spaces are transforming cities

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Start-ups are transforming cities. Entrepreneurs are inspiring creative communities and transforming the social and economic landscape of the neighborhoods where they cluster.
What drives entrepreneurs together and creates these communities? To answer this question, we looked at catalysts of entrepreneurial communities in cities around the world. The team found that a range of spaces — such as innovation hubs, incubators, maker spaces and fab labs — are at the core of these communities. They represent the main link between entrepreneurs and the broader economic and social fabric of the city. We call these “Creative Community Spaces” (CCS).
How are these CCS helping transform our cities? We compiled a set of case studies from around the world and analyzed their impact. There are more details in this report.


We found that these are the three main ways that CCS have an impact on cities:

  • CCS build communities of creative entrepreneurs and help regenerate urban areas. CCS serve as hubs for entrepreneurial communities to gather and connect with each other. They also provide knowledge and resources. Workshops, office hours with industry leaders, and competitive initial selection are some of the attributes of the spaces. iHub in Nairobi has created a diverse and skilled entrepreneurial community by identifying and harvesting local tech talent. Furthermore, many spaces serve as the trigger for a neighborhood’s transformation. NUMA, an innovation hub based in Paris, jump-started the “digitalization” of the declining garment district more than a decade ago by promoting the hub’s activities. Today, the Sentier neighborhood is already functioning as an independent urban tech ecosystem. In other cases, these spaces were launched specifically to facilitate this urban revitalization; an example is Fab Lab Lisbon, a fabrication laboratory connected to the local municipality that transformed an abandoned rabbit slaughterhouse into a community design environment with free access to fabrication tools.
  • CCS link startup innovation with local industries. CCS optimize the costs of doing business in a specific industry by providing entrepreneurs with access to the tools, space, and human capital that were otherwise too expensive for a single startup. For example, DC-based food accelerator Union Kitchen provides affordable kitchen space, supplies and discounted production material for its members. Some of the spaces are successfully capitalizing on regional or city-level advantages by tapping into their area’s leading industries. Steel House, a maker space based in Rockland, Maine, capitalizes on the region’s expertise in fishing by providing fishery-related training. Thanks to strong connections with the local private sector and academic institutions, these spaces have the potential for highly targeted disruption. 
  • CCS promote startup acceleration. CCSs can compress the timeframe for starting a new company by operating as a “one-stop shop” for a specific type of business. Through tailored consulting services and educational programs, these spaces reduce the time needed for a company to launch, lower the barriers to entry, and accelerate growth for businesses. For example, Málaga-based Promálaga Urban Incubators accelerate the development of basic-needs retail businesses in new development areas. The spaces also create strategic shortcuts for the general entrepreneurial community. This happens more often with spaces that focus on accelerating business in a specific industry. For example, BF+DA, a Brooklyn-based accelerator for fashion and design entrepreneurs, not only provides access to the latest technology at reduced costs, but also facilitates knowledge exchange among designers through a shared studio space.
To read more about creative community spaces, click here for the full study: “Creative Community Spaces: Spaces that are Transforming Cities into Innovation Hubs.”


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