A Snowball In Flight: November National Executive Blog

Posted by: Ben Phelps Innovation Hub National Executive Blog

This is the first in a monthly series of blog posts by National Executive members. This series aims to shed a spotlight on our work and the work of our teams, so that members of EWB-UK know better what is going on behind the scenes.

A Snowball In Flight: November Blog by Ben Phelps, Innovation Hub Coordinator

Hi all, I’m Ben Phelps, Innovation Hub Coordinator and I’m using this blog post to firstly give you an insight into what we’ve been doing with in the Innovation Hub , and secondly to cheekily promote some our activities.  I’m writing this on the train, on the way down to London from t’north on a Thursday evening, after finishing my day job, as an engineer at a well-known engineering company who specialise in designing and manufacturing jet engines, and whose name begins with R. 

I’m on my way down to London for a day of EWB-UK related work on Friday including interviewing a potential new Innovation Hub team member at 8.15am, having lunch with Andrew Lamb (the Chief Executive) to discuss the Innovation Hub, and ending with a National Executive meeting from 7-9pm.

The Innovation Hub, like me, is on a journey, but more akin to a snowball careering down a mountain than a serene and efficient train ride.  Chloe Underdown and I are National Exec members for the Innovation Hub and it is our job to try to keep the show on the road, as well as doing longer term strategy and operational plans for the Hub.  To be honest, these first few months since our launch at the Small is… Festival has been much more of the former than the latter; we’ve been really busy just trying to keep up with the day to day running to worry about anything more longer term, hence why we are recruiting some extra help.  So what is all this ‘work’ you’ve been doing then, I hear you ask (in my head) and what is this ‘Innovation Hub’ anyway?

The Innovation Hub’s mission is to ‘To create a community of engineers and entrepreneurs that alleviate poverty through and social enterprise.’   In simple terms, this means that we aim to support people who want to develop ideas which could aid development.  We do this in two ways: firstly (and this is my job) if someone comes to EWB-UK with an idea that they need help or support to develop, I am that point of contact: EWB-UK has a lot of people in it with a huge amount of knowledge which they are willing to share.  I am the middle man who puts people with ideas in contact with the right specialists for their particular need.  In the future we also hope to be able to support people financially, but we need to get some money (which we don’t currently have) before we can do this. 

The second way the Innovation Hub supports the development of ideas is to run competitions where people who may not have a great idea of their own they wish to develop, but are quite happy to work on someone else’s problem.  Chloe has been working hard on this side of things and has just launched our first competition, where teams are challenged to come up with a solution regarding a Pico Hydro system in Nepal and the winning team will be funded to go out to Nepal next summer and work with a local NGO to implement their designs! 

I said earlier, before launching into a couple of paragraphs of subtle but shameless self-promotion, that the Hub’s journey was like a snowball rolling down a mountain and would like to expand on this metaphor a little before finishing with a bit more self-promotion.  When we launched, we had a clear view of where we wanted to get to, but only vague plans on how to get there; just like someone standing at the top of mountain and making a little snowball, and working out which village they would like to aim for. (Safety Warning: Don’t do this, it’s really dangerous.)  Our plans were then to see which direction the Hub gets taken in, giving it a nudge from time to time to avoid obstacles or to give it a little more momentum, but to let it grow in the ways members wanted it to, rather than in our own prescribed way.  This has worked really well so far; our membership lists are growing rapidly and we’re getting new ideas into the Hub all the time. 

Getting the word out is the job of our publicity officer, Pooja Dileeban, who is doing a fantastic job, and this is one of the most important jobs at the moment, to make sure that everyone in EWB-UK(and beyond) knows about the Innovation Hub and how it can help them.  Last month we recruited Sean Murray to the Competitions Team to help run our Pico Hydro Competition, and we’re currently recruiting for people to run my side of the Hub, hence why I’m interviewing someone tomorrow.  We’re still recruiting more for more team members, particularly in IT, and if you are interested in joining us, let me know at ben.phelps@ewb-uk.org.  Also, if you have any questions or ideas that you would like see if we can support, please get in contact, or check out our webpages. 

Right, the train is just pulling into St. Pancras (no, really, this isn’t just artistic license, I’m just that good at timing my work) and I think I should stop before this ‘few hundred words’ breaks the 1000 word mark.  Please do get in contact and I hope to see you all at the National Conference next weekend!


16 November, 2012 - 13:50