Reflecting On 2020 – A Message From The CEO
18 December 2020 - Imran Ali

Reflections On 2020

20:20 has long been our shorthand for “clarity of vision” and with that in mind, it’s timely for Impact Hub Bradford and I to look back at the year 2020 and how it’s been more than the year of COVID-19, but also the opening of new perspectives and pathways for our city.

Though conceived years ago, Impact Hub Bradford was born in the midst of a pandemic and has thus been shaped by these new circumstances. We always intended for our work to be of service to our city, to provide a platform for better futures and for new ideas… maybe even a little hope.

Bradford was already on the cusp of change and like many places, COVID-19 has reminded us of social and economic inequalities as well as accelerating new patterns of work and prosperity. The pandemic hasn’t altered our vision as impact Hub, or our values; indeed they became reminders of the role we could play, and guided us with urgency but certainty through a turbulent time.

What 2020 revealed to us is that the importance of community has never been more vital or urgent. We’ve sought to be “curators of community” here at Impact Hub Bradford; working collaboratively and with empathy across many sectors and communities. It’s been wonderful to see other organisations and communities practice this and we’re proud to have served as a good community member too.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on Impact Hub Bradford’s year – I want to share with you, our achievements, our challenges and our thoughts for the future, as we hope to emerge from COVID-19 with renewed purpose and focussed impact.

After our digital launch in October we experienced a surge in interest from people wishing to join our membership plans; access support; partner with us and engage us as trustees, directors and contributors to various boards. We chose to focus on strengthening our capacity and making our processes resilient and scalable, so that in 2021, we’re ready to meet the challenge of new opportunities.

Our Achievements In 2020

Though the pandemic curtailed our planned events programme for the year and the opening of our new space, we didn’t scale back our mission and continued to adapt to changing circumstances.

A Royal Engagement – I was invited to join the welcoming delegation for the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge’s first official engagement of 2020, here in Bradford, and had the honour of spending time with the Royal couple.

Local Access Programme – Along with our partners in the Bradford Social Innovation Lab consortium, early in the new year we successfully secured a £6.6m investment programme from Local Access and Big Society Capital. (More)

A Roundtable with Claire Dove OBE – In February, we hosted Claire Dove, the Crown representative for the Voluntary Community & Social Enterprise sector, for a roundtable discussion on procurement practices with partners from our city. (More)

LEP – In February, I was invited to join the board of the Leeds City Region Economic Partnership (LEP), in turn joining the LEP’s Inclusive Growth committee..

Lockdown Lunch
During lockdown, we launched a weekly support call with our members, bringing everyone together, every Friday lunchtime over Zoom, to share their achievements, advice and anxieties as they tackled social isolation.

Launching Impact Hub – The Summer saw our acceptance into the global Impact Hub network, relaunching 30 Chapel Street as Impact Hub Bradford, complete with a board of trustees, CIC status, a new website, an evocative short film of our work and an innovative live digital launch. (More)

Phoenix Fund – In September, we took part in the selection panels for The Phoenix Fund, which saw the National Lottery provide £1m in emergency grants to minority communities across England, including helping secure funds for many organisations from our local communities. (More)

The Law Family Commission On Civil Society
We contributed to the recent launch of the Commission on Civil Society and its publications on the future of civil society, through my participation in the commission’s technical panel. (More)

GROW – We closed the year with a 7-week impact leadership programme, bringing together a cohort of nine entrepreneurs from around Bradford (as well as two from Paris and Denver) for group coaching to design their purpose-driven ventures. (More)

Our Challenges In 2020

Impact Hub is here for the long term and this means building our organisation the right way and in a sustainable and ethically sound way. This has meant our achievements have often been met with an equal number of challenges.

  • Like many others, we were compelled to delay opening our new physical space due to COVID-19. Impact Hub Bradford’s business model depends on our space and so being unable to offer our core product was frustrating, but essential.

  • Building on the success of our 2019 events programme, including TEDxBradford, our plans for 2020 have been curtailed. We’ve moved much online to digital distribution, but there’s nothing like a community that can be together in the real world. We miss that.

  • All of our founding teams sit as trustees and legal directors on the boards of various organisations. Contributing value and being present in each has been an ongoing challenge.

  • Dialling back our public delivery to focus on the foundations of the organisation has been necessary and valuable, but developing the company means our return to external delivery will be more robust.

  • Though we’ve been ambitious, it’s been difficult to serving demands which sometimes exceeds our capacity. We’re getting better at managing our resources responsibly.

  • Delayed programme starts – not getting sign-off to launch core programmes. Everything has just taken longer.

  • Working collaboratively has its own challenges: building new partnerships and working across sectors has been demanding. Indeed, understanding the nature of civic power and how to wield it for change has been instructive.

Looking Ahead To 2021

In 2021, as the world returns to the workplace, we’ll be very much focussed on opening our space in Little Germany, growing our membership and tripling the size of our team. We want to be of service to so many of us who have been isolated, in reconnecting with each other in-person and continue creating purposeful impact. Our goals for the coming year will be to…

Building Back Better – My roles as a board member of the LEP and City of Culture 2025 and within the Bradford Economic Recovery Board and the Phoenix Fund afford me a certain perspective and privilege. In 2021, I intend to do more to ensure this translates into more value for Bradford, notably enduring the promotion of inclusive growth and to champion the VCSE sector as equal to the public and private sectors.

Reopen Impact Hub Bradford – In mid-January, Impact Hub Bradford will re-open to members, subject to government guidelines and the completion of vital renovation work which has kept us closed since November.

Launch our membership plans – January will see the launch of our membership plans, capitalising on people pivoting to new career directions in the New Year and to address the pent up demand for our services. (More)

SUSTAIN – our collaboration with PwC – We’ll be working with PricewaterhouseCoopers on an innovative new support programme for establishedsocial enterprises to work through the challenges of a post covid recovery..

BUILD – We will be contributing to the Leeds City Region’s REAP initiative, with the launch of BUILD, a unique 3-month programme for entrepreneurs creating innovative purpose-driven businesses. We will be contributing our expertise on impact driven enterprises (More)

CLLD Programme Launch – We will be appointing three enterprise support Community Led Local Development roles, each focussing on particular sectors and themes.

Business Engagement programme with Skills House – We will be appointing someone to support businesses in Bradford to become more conscious of how they work with local communities and how we support them recruit from marginalised communities.

Inward Investment – We will be leading a pioneering programme to help raise investment for the VCSE sector in Bradford, working  collaboratively across the whole sector to ensure we are investment ready for new opportunities in the post covid world.

British Council’s DICE – As part of the British Council’s Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies programme, we will be working with partners in Brazil to develop an online platform on supporting women into STEM careers. We’ll also be developing partnerships with Pakistani groups to connect diasporas here in Bradford with collaborators in Pakistan. (More)

30 Chapel Street Development – Impact Hub Bradford has always seen Little Germany as our home here in the city. We’re looking ahead to where we might need to grow our physical presence and – building on our work with the Architectural Heritage Fund – will return to development of 30 Chapel Street. (More)


Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to those who have supported me and our our work throughout this year: first and foremost to the team at Impact Hub Bradford: Mandip Sahota and Imran Ali; our board of Directors and Advisors; our Members; our colleagues across the global Impact Hub Network (in particular Inverness’ Polly and Brian, who coached us throughout the process of becoming Impact Hub) and Gabiza who in leading the network, embodies a style of leadership we aspire to. Finally, thank you to our generous sponsors, funders and partners; my fellow board members in other organisations and to all of you whom subscribe to our newsletters and social media.

There are of course many more to thank – you’ve all played a part in the journey of Impact Hub Bradford and in my own journey too.

We look forward to launching with a huge impact in 2021 and do keep an eye out for the new roles we will shortly be recruiting for.

Thank you and festive wishes to everyone.