Hillman City Collaboratory
Q & A with John Helmiere, our Co-Executive Director
Q: What is this place? What do you do?
A: The Collaboratory provides an inspirational, inclusive, affordable space where many groups and
individuals can build community and work for social change. It is…
…a shared office for non-profits to do social change work in a communal and collaborative
…a spacious common room used during evenings and weekends by many organizations for their
activities, and used during daytimes as a drop-in center for people to relax and enjoy a free hot meal,
clothes, and toiletries.
…a learning kitchen for cooking classes and healthy eating programs
…an urban park and farm for connecting with nature and neighbors!
Q: Why are you here? What’s the vision?
A: The Collab was founded by organizations and individuals who live in and love this neighborhood.
We are grateful for all those whose work has made Hillman City such a wonderful place to be, and our
goal is to integrate and add to the wonderful things already happening here. The purpose of the
Collab is to provide space and opportunities for change-makers to build capacity and for residents to
build community. We are:
…a neighborhood hub where community thrives,
…a breeding ground where collaborations are born,
…a compost bucket where social movements blossom.
Q: What’s the backstory? Who started this and when?
A: In late 2012, a congregation and an arts collective (Valley & Mountain Fellowship and Community
Arts Create) began dreaming together about a community space, owned and led by the neighborhood,
which would bring people together to discover common ground, build community, and collaborate for
social change. In June 2013 they leased the property and an adjacent vacant lot, gutted the space,
and rallied individuals and organizations who have since poured their energy, talents, time, and
money into the Collab. The doors opened in early 2014 and we’ve been evolving and growing rapidly
Q: Can I rent space here? How much does it cost and how do I reserve it?
A: As long as your activities in the space are aligned with the Collaboratory’s mission, you are
welcome to use it for programs, gatherings, meetings, and workspace. We do not operate as a space
rental venue — we operate as a co-op: instead of charging rent, we request donations to contribute to
your use of the space. For one-time uses by bigger groups in the main common area (“The Mixing
Chamber”) we request $50-75/hour and for small groups in the conference room (“The Fishbowl”) we
ask $10-20/hour. Recurring use of the space is different; email us at: email@example.com for more information. For coworking see the next question.
Q: What is coworking? Can I have my own office/desk? How much is it to join?
A: Coworking is based on a core set of values: Community, Openness, Collaboration, Accessibility,
and Sustainability. Our coworking space is a shared, open-seat office that is great for people who
have been working from homes, cars, or coffee shops and want a more focused and communityoriented
place to work. We provide private lockers, but everything else is shared—the desks, office
supplies and equipment, and meeting spaces. Requested rates are $30-$275 per month, based on your
usage. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Q: What is your organizational structure? How are you funded?
A: The Collaboratory was founded as joint venture of Community Arts Create (CAC) and Valley &
Mountain (V&M) and operates under the fiscal sponsorship of Valley & Mountain. We have many
volunteers who oversee different aspects of the Collab, and we pay the rent, utilities, and other costs
through a combination of contributions from the anchor communities (CAC and V&M), coworkers,
partner organizations, and grassroots fundraising from individuals who support our mission. We
value transparency in our finances and decision making and are happy to share more details with
anyone who is inspired or interested for any reason.
Q: How can I help? Who should I talk to?
A: The Collaboratory provides an inspiring environment to donate and sharpen your skills, cultivate
community, and contribute to social justice in our neighborhood and beyond. Organizations have
invested their resources, contractors have given their services, and hundreds of community members
have invested their labor, money, and skills to make this happen. We need help with: running
community programs, administration, marketing, fundraising, interior design, gardening, hospitality,
accounting, cleaning, maintenance, legal counsel, library development and upkeep, photography, A/V,
web development, meal prep. Email email@example.com with what you’re
interested in and we’ll connect you with the Collab leader who oversees that area of our work.