We met with Melissa Hope, the director of operations at HiVE, a non-profit co-working and event space in Gastown, Vancouver.
HiVE is a co-working space, focused on social impact. Can you explain to us what you do exactly?
Our purpose is to support and amplify the social impact sector in Vancouver by providing a shared work space and event space to give people a way to meet and collaborate. It was a group of entrepreneurs who started it six years ago. They just wanted a space for their own companies.
Most of our original clients were involved in green building: architects, green-building consulting firms, etc. I think it’s something like 20 or 30 per cent that were in that area, but we’ve diversified since then. For the last two years, we’ve had approximately 480 members representing about 380 organizations. And that doesn’t include all the people using our services as non-members: people renting meeting rooms and event space, digital nomads using our hot desk area on an as-needed basis, organizations with mail service only with us, etc. First Nation Tech Council, which supports technologies in First Nations communities, and Peace Geeks, a charity that recently got some media attention for winning the Google Prize, are in our space. What ties them all together is the goal of trying to make the world a better place.
How does it work?
We have some members who come and go very quickly, only here for a month or two, but there are other full-time ones who have been here since the beginning. Some people have been with us for four or five years straight.
There are various ways people can be members. We have hot desk memberships, month-to-month, no commitment, people who don’t need any storage. Then we also have permanent desks with a three-month minimum.
What role do these sorts of spaces play in Vancouver?
It’s that thing when you’re just isolated all day. I’ve got an injury, so I’ve been working from home a lot and I’m going nuts – I just can’t talk to my cat anymore! Having other humans around is just healthier. There are psycho-social benefits of going out to a work space. People tell me they get more done because they’ve left home, so they might as well get things done. But there’s also collaboration. For example, some people from First Nations Tech Council were hanging out in the kitchen and started talking to people from Camp Tech, a Toronto-based, for-profit technology training group, which is also a member. They all just started talking over lunch one day and what came out of it? A scholarship program for people called the First Nations Tech fund!
What’s next for HiVE?
We just expanded in January. We had just one 9,000 square foot space, and then the suite across the hall became available: an additional 3,000 square feet. The new suite allowed us to add 4 private offices (the first ones we’ve ever had), and 24 more permanent desks. It’s in an old building in Gastown, on the second floor. As there’s no elevator, though, we’re fundraising to put in a wheelchair lift, making our community hub for social impact inclusive for folks of all abilities!