Empowering Growth and Building Community through Team Takeovers at the Innovation Hub

Innovation Hub Community Animation Team, Delphine, Rayna, Alan, Jenny, Anunita smiling with their hands in the shape of a heart

Community Animators, Alan and Anunita share the value of team takeovers in fostering a positive, empowering, and inclusive environment at the Innovation Hub and explain how these events fostered personal growth, skill development and team building. 

Written by Delphine Ji, Design Research Team Lead, Alan Sivabalan, Community Animator, Anunita Wazir, Community Animator

Fostering Community and Personal Growth at the Innovation Hub 

Innovation Hub Team smiling with their bridge design

At the Innovation Hub, we strive to foster an inclusive and supportive environment that promotes the personal and professional growth of each of our team members. Our Community Animation team exists to support building community within the Innovation Hub. This past year, the Community Animation team created a unique series of events that we call team takeovers. Team takeovers are immersive events that pre-empt our weekly meeting time a few times per term, challenging Innovation Hub team members to work together, learn new skills, and overcome obstacles while fostering collaboration, personal growth, and a sense of community. Some examples of past events include an escape room, a Shark Tank pitch session, and trivia. During these events we introduce facilitation tools to help individual team members learn skills and competencies to support their future careers. 

Gaining Valuable Skills 

The members of the Community Animation team are also learning while creating meaningful experiences for their colleagues at the Innovation Hub. Alan and Anunita share their thoughts:  

Group of students working to solve a puzzle

Alan: I learned how to work with a team, plan events, and facilitate those events. Initially, I didn’t know how I could support the team but, as the year progressed, I realized my strengths and where I can be an asset. Working with a team is to understand that you cannot do everything on your own and use your strengths to help others. 

Anunita: I developed my planning and organizational skills in an event-planning environment by being part of the community animation team. Most importantly, I learned good facilitation and presentation skills. I became more confident in facilitating the takeover activity. I am proud of this as I slowly developed one of my weaknesses into a strength. I am now more comfortable with public speaking and presentation. 

Over the years of working with students at the Innovation Hub, we’ve realized that hands-on experience out of one’s comfort zone is the best place for learning. Alan and Anunita’s experiences demonstrate that each of them went outside their comfort zone to learn new skills – and it worked for them! 

Cultivating Community Beyond Work 

Innovation Hub team collaborating together

Team takeovers allow Innovation Hub team members to build community within the workplace and create an environment for students from many different programs at U of T to connect in a space they otherwise wouldn’t.  The fun and friendly atmosphere created during team takeovers allows students to enjoy themselves and relax in an environment that strives for excellence. Alan and Anunita told us seeing the community-building aspect of the events come to life was rewarding for them in different ways: 

Alan: Planning events and finally seeing them come to fruition was the most resonating part of running takeovers. I think that every member of the Innovation Hub feels the same way. The most satisfying feeling is when you finally finish your hard work, and it becomes fully realized.” – Alan 

Anunita: I appreciated the enthusiasm and excitement of every iHub member when participating in the team takeovers. Everyone was motivated to win and would try to devise the most creative solutions to win the team takeovers. It was fulfilling and fun to see that all our planning and organization for the takeovers paying off. 

In designing and leading these takeovers, members of the Innovation Hub are not only contributing to our own personal successes and growth, but also nurturing a positive and empowering community. 

Many Approaches to Community Building 

2 people participating in spaghetti tower building

The team takeovers are just one way that we’re trying to build community at the Innovation Hub, but there are many approaches to community building, and we’re just starting to explore more of them. We’ve seen how events that create a positive and supportive atmosphere that allows people to learn and connect can be a meaningful catalyst for personal growth. We continue to ask ourselves new questions, and encourage our readers to do the same: how can we build community after a global pandemic? Where is the balance between being a productive organization and a fun community of learning? How can we be more equitable, inclusive and accessible in our approaches to community building? We hope we always continue to ask ourselves these questions, and welcome input from our university community and beyond.  

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