It’s a biting cold November morning. A hardy group of designers, design enthusiasts and enthusiastic amateurs are hauling 6 foot wooden panels up a narrow staircase into a former bedsit in Bethnal Green.
Today this group and I have swapped the usual lie-in and fry up for a day of disruptive DIY. We’ll be converting a long empty room above a parade of shops into a bright, clean, fresh and inspiring work space.
I would class myself very much in the enthusiastic amateur role; awash with ideas of what this could and should look like, but possessing very little understanding of how to do it.
These ideas began to bubble about my brain back in late 2012 while researching the world of social venture support for our Accelerator programme. As we looked in-depth at the key factors in developing high potential ventures we found that many incubator and development programmes around the world (especially the burgeoning tech accelerator scene in the USA) agreed on what is necessary to allow ventures to grow. One key factor was space.
On a basic level, having the right place to meet and talk or just think (fancy that!) is vital for making good progress. We’ve all been in certain meeting rooms and office spaces which feel lively, bright, inspiring and positive, perfect for creating ideas and coming up with the best answers. We’ve also been in ones which are quite the opposite.
As part of our offer to our “Acceleratees”, we provide a working space for them to think, plan and grow during their time on the programme. Our ethos is very much one of collaboration. Our space (known as The Nest) has been built in cooperation with St Margaret’s House settlement, Studio Polpo architects and no small amount of elbow grease from Young Foundation staff. It’s been built with materials begged, borrowed and bartered from hardware stores, big suppliers and friendly locals (Huge thanks to B&Q, Travis Perkins and the fabulous Roman Road market in Bethnal Green). Through this coming together of minds, bodies and building supplies we’ve created a space that is cosy, quirky and comfortable. It’s fun, it’s creative and it challenges people to shift their environment around- a mindset we want to encourage. It cries out for the user to manipulate their space, write stuff on walls (ideally on the bits of wall with whiteboards on) and quite simply innovate as best they can, just as we preach in our daily advocacy of disruptive social innovation.
If you’re a social entrepreneur at the early stages of developing your idea and are in need of a creative space in East London, we want to help you with the perennial quest for a place to sit. We’re offering a half day slot in The Nest absolutely free of charge. This could be to bring your volunteers together for a strategy session, it could be to show a film to prospective supporters or you might just want a change of scenery from the local café or your kitchen table. If you fancy it, get in touch. Let’s collaborate.