Camille Goetz
Programmes Coordinator
Impact Hub King’s Cross
Moving your programs online - Impact Hub King’s Cross
United Kingdom
Business support for social entrepreneurship

Moving a previously established program online, could be seen as a daunting task, but the facilitators behind the Feeding the City Start-Up have successively translated their material to a virtual form. From ensuring a mixed pedagogical approach, to providing informal Zoom time for participants, they highlight the importance of recreating the different engagement phases that would be present in an in-person process, to ensure maximum participation. 

Feeding the City Start-Up is a 12-month incubation program run by Impact Hub Kings Cross in London. The program is focused on supporting entrepreneurs to start sustainable community-orientated food businesses and it is in its third year of running. 

Impact Hub is one of the world’s largest communities (16,000+ members) and accelerators for positive change with 100+ locations across five continents, in more than 50 countries, we have the local startup communities needed to fuel and mobilise amplified innovation. Impact Hub builds community for impact at scale.

What do your online programs to support entrepreneurs look like?

Feeding the City Start Up (FtC SU) supports entrepreneurs to start sustainable community-oriented food businesses. As we move our programmes online, our main priorities are to keep the workshops as engaging and interactive as possible. 

FtC SU consists of 4  2-day weekend workshops delivered via Zoom from 9-4pm (9-5pm when delivered physically). Workshops are delivered by both the IHKX team (2-3) and external facilitators and are attended by 14-25 participants. 

While there are many powerful tools for online delivery, we opted to use Zoom, for its useful and relevant features. To unlock it’s more advanced functions, we upgraded our account to zoom pro.

At the beginning of the first workshop, participants were introduced and familiarised with Zoom and its functions through fun exercises (e.g. use the chat function to share your favorite quarantine food or use the ‘raise your hand’ function if you have started a business before).

To introduce all the participants to one another and generally promote peer interaction, we use the ‘break out room’ function offered by Zoom. With this function, the host is able to divide the group into smaller teams that can separate themselves from the main call to a separate call. For FtC, people are for example asked to introduce themselves and their business in their team; after ten minutes the host shuffles people around into new teams and asks them to do the same exercise. Break out rooms are also used to allow individuals from the same team to work together during exercises or for participants to practice their business pitches. Additionally, break out rooms are used by the IHKX team when they want to help with individuals/teams for specific queries that are not relevant for the whole cohort. 

 Presentations are delivered through the ‘share screen’ function- this allows everyone on the call to view the host’s screen. This has also been a useful way to help individuals see the thought process behind an exercise: at the end of an exercise, the workshop facilitator will share the exercise on their screen ( and therefore everyone else’s) and ask a participant to walk them through how they completed the exercise, annotating the exercise as they go.  All exercises are provided as online branded worksheets (word docs, excel sheets, diagrams in pdf forms) and when this is not possible participants are asked to draw them out on a piece of paper.  

To minimize screen time, participants are given homework to complete based on what was discussed during the workshop. IHKX hosts 1-2 Q&A sessions between workshops to give participants the opportunity to ask questions and socialise with their peers. 

Participants are encouraged to use Slack to chat to their peers between the workshops, with specific channels allocated to different interests. This is also where all resources are published for the cohort to access.

How did you transition from in-person to virtual? What did that take in practice (financially, skills, structure, etc.)?

The transition from in-person to virtual while smoother than expected required a lot of extra hours of work. Our team spent a lot of time updating and restructuring original content and creating new content for online delivery. We had to look at what we could cut or give as homework (to reduce screen time), how we could change the format of workshops so that they never required people to listen to the same person speaking for more than 30 min and allow participants to work together and bounce ideas of one another. 

We all had to familiarise ourselves with our video conference platform so we could benefit from all its tools and functions. This allowed our team to use it as an interactive teaching tool rather than just a way to project ourselves into people’s homes. 

Some important questions to think about when designing online content (and examples of how we addressed this): 

How will the cohort be able to interact with each other and the facilitator in a structured yet informal way?

    • Ice breakers
    • Use break out rooms
    • Keep zoom on during breaks for informal chats 
    • Use a communication platform (Slack, podio, community app etc) for in between workshops and encourage the use, by using it to share valuable resources)
    • When you ask a question to each individual in the group, ask them to choose a person to pass the question on to. 
    • video?
    • Encouraging the participants to use a ‘gallery view’, wherever possible, so they can physically see the individuals in the group

How do you keep up energy and concentration levels? 

    • Frequent and long breaks 
    • Change the delivery format frequently (presentations, team work, annotating examples, quizzes, feedback from group etc) 
    • Make sure every participant gets a chance to speak. 

How will you provide access to materials?

    • Create online branded versions of worksheets, diagrams and homework
    • Publish material on a communication platform (we’ve opted for Slack and Podio)
    • Send materials ahead of workshops
    • Ask participants to copy the exercise/diagram on paper
What challenges did you face and what tips do you have for others on this journey?

The main challenges faced when migrating content online and delivering workshops online has been finding ways to maintain a cohort feel and getting to know the programme participants. It is much easier to facilitate cohort bonding through informal discussions, which take place in person over coffee and lunch breaks, or in the moments before workshops.. Make sure to pay extra attention to this and incorporate ways to get to know your participants and for them to get to know each other. One way that we have done this is by organising optional informal check ins (over zoom), where they can chat about non-programme/business related topics. Given the high attendance rate, we know this to be important to the programme participants.

Another challenge has been making sure that everyone follows and understands what is discussed in workshops. In normal circumstances, the workshop provider can check in with participants individually when the participants are working away on exercises but this is not always possible online. Make sure to run workshops with 2 or more members of your team so that one can stay with the main group and the other can check in with individual participants or teams. Depending on the platform used, participants should be encouraged to use the chat function to message the facilitator privately if they are confused about any of the content. This allows the provider to discreetly answer their questions without placing the participant in the spotlight.

Feedback from our programme participants:

“It was really enjoyable and worked seamlessly, which is amazing given the circumstances. I still felt like I had the chance to talk to the other organisations and get to know their projects. The workshop leaders were so knowledgeable and approachable and gave really helpful advice on how to improve and move our ideas forward.”
– Feeding the City Start Up Participant (from anonymous feedback survey) 

“Was as very impressed with how well you digitalised the content, adapted to the situation, and kept things engaging in spite of the fact we weren’t meeting face-to-face. I was worried before today that I would start to lag in the afternoon staring at the screen all day, but kept engaged throughout, so well done to you!”
– Feeding the City Start Up Participant ( from anonymous feedback survey)