We believe that bringing together people, places and ideas creates a positive impact for communities.
For us, social spaces for social change can be physical, virtual or entirely imaginary: they all have the capacity to support big dreams for big impact.
We want to see people pursuing positive change and making good stuff happen at the heart of their communities.
The opportunity to innovate is right at our fingertips.
Our ventures are diverse but they share one common goal: we create the space for people to thrive and ideas to come alive.
It all started with a group of students who wanted to change the world.
In 2007, four students were confused by the lack of cohesion between social action societies at Oxford University. They were all working towards the same aim: social and environmental change. They were all trying to engage their fellow students with their causes. So why weren’t they coordinating their activities to achieve the highest possible impact?
These four students started Oxford Hub: a focal point for all the social action activities going on at the university, through which like-minded students could meet, share ideas, skill up, hatch plans and increase the impact of their work. Soon, the Hub wasn’t just supporting other societies; it was hosting it’s own conferences and coordinating its own community volunteering projects to connect more students with the world outside of the university bubble.
Word quickly spread to other universities and, within a few years, students had set up their own Hubs in Bristol, Cambridge and Warwick. With more and more students queuing up for some of the social action, the founders of Oxford Hub decided it was time to go big or go home. With the support of some generous start-up funders, Student Hubs was established in 2008 as a national infrastructure and registered charity to support the local, student-led delivery of university Hubs.
The Student Hubs blueprint is simple: empower students with the knowledge, skills and passion to shape a better world so that they can take action now and continue to do so in the future.
Having taken a year out of his degree to set up Student Hubs, co-founder Adam O’Boyle realised that, for the charity to have a chance of survival in the long run, we would have to get entrepreneurial. Generosity from donors comes and goes, but we needed to secure the future of our work by taking control of our income. It was also becoming clear that the Hub needed a physical presence to maximize its impact in the Oxford community: a social space for social change, if you will.
We combed the high streets of Oxford for a property where we could build our dreams: and we found our perfect home at 16-17 Turl Street. With a £1m loan and a lick of paint, in 2011 it became the first building in the UK dedicated to student social action. It has meeting space for student and community groups and events space which can be hired for events. However, the coup de grace is our very own award-winning café-bar-restaurant on the ground floor: the Turl Street Kitchen.
TSK, as it is affectionately known, is a social enterprise which supports the work of Student Hubs. But it’s also a top-notch eatery in heart of the city of dreaming spires. With a menu that changes every meal time depending what’s in season, what’s available locally, and what we’ve got in the cupboard, our head chef Owen creates delicious dishes which pack a serious punch.
Emboldened by the commercial success of TSK, we’ve started to expand the hospitality arm of our work: taking on the Tower House, a 17th Century guest house on neighboring Ship Street, and Oxfork, a brunch favourite with trendy east Oxford-types. With all of our hospitality ventures our aim is to offer customers a different perspective on the consumer experience: more local, more sustainable, more social.
We may have been branching out into brunches, but we haven’t forgotten our roots. Since 2011, Student Hubs had been running a graduate scheme to bring more talent into the charity and ensure that we continue to innovate and grow. After three successful years, we realised that other small and medium sized social impact organisations could benefit from the amazing work of passionate, engaged, and energetic grads.
We established Worthwhile as the network for graduates who wanted to create social impact in their careers. Worthwhile brings together the graduate scheme which we’d honed at Student Hubs, a fortnightly newsletter with social impact news and opportunities, a menu of training for those just starting in the sector and a headhunting service for partners.
We love to grow. As our commercial arms have grown, so have our Hubs. In autumn 2014, we set up our tenth Hub at Kingston University.
In the Spring of 2016, we handed the reins of Oxfork back to Drew Brammer, who started Oxfork back in the day (2011?). Drew created the lovely little Magdalen Road cafe with business partners Chloe and Jess, making it what it is today. While Chloe and Jess were starting families in 2014, we took on Oxfork and we’re happy to have been able to continue serving, making, pouring, eating and drinking great food and drink in their absence. Handing Oxfork back to Drew seems like a good full circle, and we're excited to see what he will do with it.
And that’s about where we are at the moment. We’re Hub Ventures and we love growing people and places through better ventures. Ventures where people matter. Real places. Real people. Better ideas.