Learning Lessons from Hypercube

As some of you will know, Zimbabwe’s innovation space – Hypercube – shut its doors for the last time at the end of 2015. When things like this happen, it’s unfortunate, but also part and parcel of life in the charity and philanthropic world. Initiatives fail, organisations close down or scale back – it’s a risk that you have to accept and handle, but when things do go wrong it’s important to recognise why and what lessons can be learned. Hypercube’s founding members have done just that and shared some of those lessons at a recent event. Here are some of their top lessons and below you can find further links to stories about the closure of the hub:

  • Prototype first, *then* seek funding: Trying things out first, before going in for the big funding pitch gives organisations time to try and fail at a small level, thereby managing risk sensibly.
  • Have a dedicated, functional board: A diverse, committed board able to invest time and experience in a new venture is crucial. In their infancy, organisations may need more guiding and advice to get on the right path.
  • Income: Getting the maths right is crucial for any new group. Work out where your money is coming from, how much of it you can realistically raise by yourself and coming up with a plan B for when you see a gap opening up in those accounts.
  • Financial management: A key aspect of good financial management is looking ahead. Review your finances, identify problems before they become major headaches and ensure you have the necessary skills and talent to be able to handle it.
  • Running costs: How much do you need to pay the bills, keep the lights on and retain your staff? A realistic appreciation of your running costs – and identification of ways you could reduce them if necessary – is a critical aspect of any business, especially one dependent upon philanthropic or charitable funding, which may not always be there.
  •  Admit when things are not working: It’s vital to identify when things aren’t going wrong and to come up with contingency plans. While shutting down is the last resort, it may sometimes be the only viable option left. Recognising that and facing up to it is something that all organisations need to do. After all, you never know what’s around the corner.

This post is based upon a write up of the event from the US Embassy in Harare. Other pieces appeared on the Yali Creatives site and TechnoMag.