The Collaboratory: Rich Soil for Social Change

by Robin Boland

 

John Collab
Co-Founder John Helmiere speaking to Collaboratory members.

The Collaboratory (http://hillmancitycollaboratory.org/ ), quietly blooming on the corner of Rainier Ave S. and S. Orcas Street, is, even in its infancy, an enormous idea. South Seattle is indeed fertile ground for the seeds of change being sown by founders John Helmiere and Ben Hunter.

Open for only 6 months and already achieving its intended goals of building community and equipping change makers, the Collaboratory was originally envisioned as an “Incubator for Social Change”. Composed of co-work office spaces, the Mixing Chamber (a large, open, multi-purpose area), a learning kitchen, backyard community garden and drop-in center the Collaboratory is serving the community’s needs in a variety of ways. Perhaps the rarest aspect of the endeavor lies in its self-defining nature.

Non-profit organizations, start-ups and individuals join the Collaboratory as co-work partners, utilizing the essential office resources of a mailing address, conference room & office equipment. Additionally this space serves as a gallery for artists to display their available work. The Learning Kitchen, currently under construction, will offer cooking classes and other educational resources devoted to feeding a diverse community, focusing on healthy, local food fit for many palates. The backyard garden, which is open to all, hosts a community BBQ every Sunday.

The Mixing Chamber area, available both for one time or ongoing events, hosts a monthly featured artist’s exhibit as well as a variety of social justice organizations, neighborhood groups and community gatherings. Continuing use of the space or close proximity to the Collaboratory earns partners a special rate for use of this resource. Drop-in hours in the Mixing Chamber are from 10-2 on weekdays. This is a time when all are welcome and invited to have a hot meal (offered daily), peruse the free library, or obtain toiletries and household goods as needed. This is also an ideal time to meet with Collaboratory staff, discuss opportunities and get a feel for the environment of community connection.

Overall, the Collaboratory is the very embodiment of partnership. It is an environment built of our community’s experiences, goals and best intentions. One hopes that it continues to flourish, blossoming in the rich soil our area provides.

Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and often is referred to as “little bird” by her friends who have heights over 5 ft 7