Learnings from Bee Space & Beyond
Amelia Huang, a LEDlab Project Coordinator with Hives for Humanity, born and raised in East Van, reflects on her experience at Hives for Humanity and the questions it has raised for her. Amelia is a Master’s in Urban Studies student at SFU.
I look forward to most Mondays. At Bee Space, the brick and mortar home for Hives for Humanity – it’s a day where we come together to work, cook, eat and reconnect. One particular Monday in late January stands out in my memory and it began like many of our Mondays. The space bustled with work, aromas of food and laughter. Everything shifted afterward when Sarah, our chief community officer, came in to gather everyone together to make an announcement. A long standing member of our community had passed away the night before. His passing unforeseen and unnatural. A heaviness immediately overcame the room and as I looked into the other’s shocked and saddened faces, I suddenly found myself in a corner silently sobbing and questioning. Why are we doing this work?… Why am I here?… What is all this for?
Trying to build a space where the community could convene and connect with each other – it seemed futile as friends were dying around us.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Monday began to redeem itself again. One morning, a member of our community approached me on the verge of tears and clearly shaken by a series of events that beset her building. I convinced her to stay and stick to our weekly community workshop as a way to redirect her attention and step away, at least momentarily. At the end of the workshop, before she left – she turned to me and told me that this space and the work gave her momentary respite – a shelter from the storm.
So, why are we, especially at the LEDlab, involved in social innovation and change?
Is it because our public agencies have failed us?
Is it because we’re attempting to push the boundaries of doing ‘good business’?
Or have we somehow failed each other as neighbours, friends and humans?
I believe these questions all weigh equally heavily. I also believe that we will move toward solutions when we can unite the rich diversity of lived experiences, expertise and resources of the community together. To connect horizontally, forming a network instead of towers and silos and to create spaces and places where people can work, eat, collaborate, heal and celebrate.
So, how do we better prioritise these human(e) necessities with our current market systems or public policies? Do we need to reframe our value proposition or build stronger business cases? We could also adopt better management or accounting software, but these are only temporary remedies – band-aid solutions when people are bleeding internally. I see there is an amazing capacity for innovation, resourcefulness and empathy at the ground level – but it becomes gradually paralysed and clumsy when we go farther up the funding and policy system. I believe there is a lot of learning that funding organisations and public institutions can learn from projects and initiatives on the ground.
On one of my favourite Monday mornings, the Rolling Stone’s Time is On My Side came up on the record player and the entire crew at Bee Space broke into chorus alongside each other while they worked. That moment right there is why I do this work. I believe our work at the LEDlab involves exploring and facilitating a bridge between that need for responsiveness from the top and unity from the ground. We do this through prototyping, assessing our findings, adjusting and then trying again. We also try to find the common thread between our community members where we can gather strength and utilise as a unified platform for change. Yet the LEDlab initiative is a time-bound project, who or what will carry this work onwards? Should we facilitate the creation of an intermediary/translator/advocate? Or perhaps, build capacity from within and with others?
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