On July 5-6 in Seattle, Washington, Impact Hub hosted Unlikely Allies 2016.
Our annual flagship event convened a diverse mix of global and local thought leaders, changemakers, inspired citizens, artists, policy makers, activists, corporate innovators, and designers around the launch of a special two-year theme: Future of Cities. The UN estimates that by 2050, 65% of the world’s population will reside in urban areas. This means that now is more critical than ever to build the cities we all want to live in—and we are working on it.
“We are the impartial territory where legislators, counselors, the police,
and communities can come together to co-create a better future
and find a sense of common ground. And that’s really inspiring to me.”
- Danielle Steer; Manager, Operations & Member Experience Design;
Impact Hub Minneapolis - St. Paul
Every day, Impact Hubs around the world host conversations and provide meaningful experiences where people can find the common values, shared purpose, and collaboration needed to make real change happen on key issues of our time. Through the Unlikely Allies festival, we aim to scale our entrepreneurial action both to collectively shape the future of our cities as well as to realize our vision of becoming town halls for civic engagement and social change in the world. The numbers say we are off to a good start.
“I love the international flavor of it. On the Creative City Learning Expedition,
of the 20 people on it, I am one of two from Seattle and one of four from the States.
Everybody else is from all over the world.”
- Andy Jensen, Seattle Public Theater, Civic Engagement Manager
At Unlikely Allies 2016, Impact Hub welcomed 478 people (including 82 speakers) representing 76 cities and 40 countries from all six habitable continents.
The event boasted a City Solutions Laboratory: a broad spectrum of over 50 keynotes, think tanks, case study and open space sessions, pitches, and master classes focused on sharing insights, ideas, and best practices from across Seattle, the U.S., and dozens of global cities (see the full program here).
“We operate in Ghana, very far from a lot of Impact Hubs across the world,
so it’s always really exciting to see other builders in cities that are very much unlike us,
hear their stories, and learn from what they’re doing.”
- William Edem Senyo, Co-Founder, Impact Hub Accra
Konda Mason, Co-Director/CEO of Impact Hub Oakland, and Imandeep Kaur,
Co-founder of Impact Hub Birmingham, host an an exchange session (Photo credit: Lydia Yekalam)
There were 12 enlightening documentary and educational film screenings featuring the best in contemporary impact cinema from the Social Media Impact Awards (SIMA). And we took 80 participants out into Seattle on four different full-day Learning Expeditions. Breaking away from the traditional conference structure allowed us to offer a more hands-on approach to exploring important topics such as homelessness, climate justice, the arts, and civic engagement.
“I was on the Learning Expedition around homelessness with a whole bunch
of interesting people and experts. We actually went and visited some of the parks
and the centers where this problem is manifested and talked to people to understand
why and how they are living and what are potential ways to tackle the problem.”
- Vladimir Olarte, Growth Manager, Impact Hub Global
Our 30 wonderful partners made sure we were supported from every angle, from supplying the festival with Seattle’s favorite food and drinks to throwing us a surprise ice cream party in the street (Ben & Jerry’s, you rock!). The Vancouver Economic Commission even hosted an “Allies Auction,” a last-chance networking opportunity to pitch for unlikely like-minded partners.
Ben & Jerry's ice cream party
Two radio stations covered the event. National Public Radio (NPR) came to interview several keynote speakers, while The Launch Pad broadcast live interviews (listen here!) with Gabriela Gandel, our Global Managing Director; Steve Johnson, the CEO of Impact Hub Seattle; Nele Kapretz, Co-founder of Impact Hub Berlin; and William Edem Senyo of Impact Hub Accra.
The buzz around the festival was palpable and contagious. At one point, our official hashtag, #UA2016 was trending number one on Twitter in the United States!
We were honored to have the Mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray stop by to kick off Unlikely Allies 2016. He is the city’s first openly gay mayor, and one of few openly gay public officials in the nation, currently nearing his 25th anniversary with his husband and his third anniversary legally married. Under his leadership, Washington became one of the first states to legalize gay marriage, and Seattle became the first city in the country to guarantee a $15 minimum wage.
Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray kicks off Unlikely Allies 2016 (Photo credit: Lydia Yekalam)
Speaking to a full house, Mayor Murray reminded us that the U.S. is a country of immigrants, and that “a key ingredient to what makes a[n American] city work is diversity.” Diversity of thought, the challenge of having to get along with those different than oneself, and knowledge from different places is what interacts with each other to create something new. He encouraged us to not be afraid to fail, challenged us to help the government figure out how to address the income inequality crisis, and proposed that the government is not the problem but a partner in the solution.
We had an exclusive interview with the Mayor minutes before he walked on stage. Watch the video here!
Unlikely Allies 2016 featured seven other keynote speakers in addition to Mayor Murray. We attended each of their sessions in order to share the festival-insight love with those who couldn’t be in Seattle. Be sure to check back for links to behind-the-scenes video interviews below!
We are currently compiling outcomes and next steps and will release a mini-report and festival summary in September. This year's solutions from our sessions and learning expeditions will be integrated into changes, programs, and activities in Seattle. Knowledge and ideas will also be carried back across the globe and adapted to bring change in other cities.
“The best solution I heard was utilizing people as resources
and recognizing that community doesn’t just mean community of need …
We think of the homeless community as a big problem, but we should
be thinking of them as people and how they can make a contribution.”
- Claire Devaney, Co-founder, Citizen-i
(Photo credit: Itai Boublil)
We would like to express an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for all of you who who joined us at Unlikely Allies 2016. Each one of you played a role in the event’s success, and it wouldn’t have been the same without you.
“I’m not part of Impact Hub, but now I feel that I want to be. It feels like a family.”
- Laura Vega, Co-Founder, Hot Desk International
Impact Hub Seattle’s Susan Lloyd, Operations & Finance Manager, and Sarah Studer,
Community Partnerships & Sales Manager (Photo credit: Susana Musi)
And, of course, enormous appreciation goes out to our hosts, Impact Hub Seattle for opening their beautiful space to us all and perfectly curating every last detail. Without the dedication of their super team, this festival would not have been possible. As Imandeep Kaur, Co-Founder of Impact Hub Birmingham said during her session, “No one in the Impact Hub network is individually brilliant, it is an iterative process of building on the shoulders of giants.” Thank you for being such a solid foundation.
In 2017, Unlikely Allies will travel to Berlin, taking the Future of Cities theme along with it. Our 2016 learnings will be incorporated into next year's programming to compile a more robust set of recommendations from the overall two-year festival, and you won’t want to miss it! So please save the month of July; exact dates will be posted here are soon as they are released.
“Once a year you spend all your time getting inspired by others
when your day job at an Impact Hub is to inspire everybody else.
Being able to be at a place that fills you up with new energy so that
you can go and do it again for a year is what’s so important.”
- Terri Barreiro; Co-founder & Board of Directors, Chair;
Impact Hub Minneapolis - St. Paul
Until next year, share your voice! You have the power to shape the future of cities by participating in the conversation.