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unCon 2013 Session: District Hall Innovation Activities

Moderator: Kevin Wiant, Venture Cafe Foundation
How could we best use District Hall,
the public space in Boston’s seaport Innovation district?
Currently, groups approach the
Venture Café Foundation to book events, like the recent design event. Kevin is
looking for activities to host to spur collaborative innovation.
Ideas from our brainstorming
Venture café: make the networking more
inclusive, yet maintain the innovation focus. People should come not just for
free beer but to collaborate on ideas. We can also have lunches for
collaboration and networking.
Open sourcing: instead of mainly
tech-focused participants like at Microsoft’s Angel Hack, bring together people
from varied backgrounds (finance, education arts, tech, marketing,
students/interns etc.) for a weekend or day to go from pain points to a
business plan; have “all the right brains in the right place.”
Salon series: Host an hour-long
event including 3 or 4 TEDx videos, a formal talk or performance, and
dinner.  The talk would be well-rehearsed and could possibly be uploaded
Ted.com.  We could live stream the event. The hall could also serve as
open place to broadcast.
Interactive demos: something like
Science Galley Dublin that has highly-curated, interactive science demos and
displays. It’s a technology showcase with the pop-up model (like the pop-up
library in Chinatown)–installing permanent exhibition spaces in unexpected
Live video portal: Install a
large video screen and/or several smaller ones where you can bump into people
who are elsewhere. In a company, the live video can connect you to people at a
sister building or company. Here, on the main screen, we could see an event
broadcasted from, for example, San Francisco, and we could also broaden and
share the event experience from Boston.
Pop-up retail: something like the
pop-up space in San Francisco where companies can operate for free for six
months in a renovated, affordable building. By then, they’ve either dropped out
or have made enough returns to rent the space. The space’s success required
great ideas, charismatic leaders, and backing from real estate developers
willing to take the risks.  The same spaces are opening in Boston—looking
for dilapidated spaces to renovate for start-ups and pop-up retail. The Venture
Café could give the space for free to a funded project in its early stages; if
the project continued with backing and with a certain minimum number of people,
they could keep the space until moving to their own.
Hour-long artsy activities: learn
dancing, painting, cooking, etc., while also reaching out to the broader Boston
community. For example, we could spend time learning to paint with inner city
students—a valuable experience for the entrepreneurs and for the students who
meet the innovators and can see the opportunities the district offers.
Innovation tours: offer tours of the
innovation district, perhaps including a tour of collaborative workspaces and
innovative offices. They’re a great way to get local students excited about
Boston’s entrepreneurship scene and to show something cool and different to
international clients visiting Boston-based companies.
Broaden the audience: in addition
entrepreneurs, the Venture Café could hold events open to intrapraneurs or
those with more traditional jobs. They could target company teams for team
bonding activities. Some events, like the collaboration-focused ones, could be
open to students, too. We could also host sessions that target students, with a
focus on food, music, technology, networking, etc.
Office hours: offer coffee and lunch
during the day, so people working in the Seaport district can meet and
collaborate. We can also host sessions in the morning, e.i. every Thursday
morning for entrepreneurs to start their day with stimulating discussion and
Green week: with much enthusiasm
about green-tech in Boston, we could host a green week, supporting
participation in sponsorships (e.i. a no car sponsorship) and competitions—how
green can you be?
We look forward to seeing how the
Venture Café Foundation will take advantage of their chic space to feed
collaboration and innovation in Boston!

Written By: Ellen Askey

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