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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sophia Hubs: wisdom-based incubators for social enterprises

Sophia Hubs are a network of local, wisdom-based incubators for new businesses and social enterprises, harnessing the wisdom and resources of the faith traditions, leading to sustainable social and economic development and change.

Sophia Hubs aim to enable people of all faiths and none to participate in economic and social regeneration, inspired by shared values of justice, collaboration and sustainability.

Funding is being sought to begin a pilot Sophia Hub in Seven Kings and Newbury Park which will aim to deliver:

  • entrepreneurial skills programme, offering a challenging but supportive and safe environment and testing social enterprise ideas, with active training by successful entrepreneurs, wisdom mentors, and faith leaders.
  • connecting investors with new enterprises by setting up “pitch sessions” where new enterprises pitch their needs to prospective investors, or by arranging one-to-one meetings between enterprises and investors.
  • people with specific forms of wisdom useful to the development of social enterprises (often from faith communities) offering their time to ground enterprise ideas in a wider context of social change, work-life balance, and community enhancement.
  • ideas exchange through organising seminars and workshops exploring the connections between wisdom and work: invited speakers will come from various belief systems and a range of entrepreneurial approaches.
  • reflective and applied developmental course exploring wisdom perspectives which help form the conditions for developing new projects.

The Sophia Hub will be embedded in local faith communities by use of faith buildings; entrepreneur and mentor recruitment via faith networks; and creating enterprises which meet the expressed needs of faith communities locally.

Using local business, community, faith and individual networks we will identify local business people from the faith communities in Seven Kings and Newbury Park and train them to act as mentors to new entrepreneurs. Those who train as mentors will be people of different faiths drawn together for their training and, as entrepreneurs using the Sophia Hub will be recruited via local faith communities, when these entrepreneurs are matched with their mentors we will again be bringing people of different faiths together.

We will launch this process later in 2013 with a public event at which identification of potential mentors will begin but which will also involve information about Sophia Hubs, discussion of the wisdom of the different faith traditions as it relates to work, and will enable networking to occur across members of different faiths present. Additionally, the Sophia Hub will on an on-going basis organise further events where dialogue between the wisdom of the different faith traditions can develop in the context of live projects. These events will also bring people of different faiths together for first encounters which through the development of business and networking relationships will become everyday interactions.

To date funding has been committed by Area Committees 5 & 7, the Mission Opportunities Fund in the Diocese of Chelmsford, London Over the Border and Near Neighbours. The aim, as further funding is obtained, is to begin the pilot Sophia Hub during 2013 with the aim of delivering on an annual basis: 3 developmental Sophia courses; delivery of business start-up training and mentoring plus investor connections and incubation space to 8 local people intending to set up a social enterprise/small business; and 4 new social enterprises/businesses set up, sustained and developing.

The initiative will cover Newbury and Seven Kings Wards. It will be based initially at St John’s Seven Kings but will seek to utilise faith and community facilities and networks throughout its catchment area.

A local pilot management group has been set up. Involvement is sought from all the faith and community groups in the area. For more information, contact me on 020 8599 2170 or


Peter Tosh - Fools Die aka Wisdom.

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