Spaces4Change – Explore: Inspired by transformation and social change

Spaces4Change – Explore: Inspired by transformation and social change

How are social entrepreneurs transforming unused places? UnLtd led the #Spaces4Change Explore walking tour around East London to learn from the inspiring people behind incredible social change. What’s the story behind the story of transforming a place? And what do young social entrepreneurs need to learn to transform their own communities?

#Spaces4Change Explore began at the UnLtd office on Whitecross Steet, Islington. A part of the capital with a remarkable history, and now home to UnLtd’s London office.

The first venue was called Soapbox Youth Centre, a brand new youth centre for Islington’s young people to try new things, create, showcase their talents, and have fun. Based in Old Street, this bright, colourful place has been transformed into a coworking space with a difference. It is genuinely affordable, and aimed at local young people from BAME background.

Perhaps most importantly, it offers outstanding media, tech and digital facilities – including audio & video suites, virtual & augmented reality, access to coding experts, 3D printing, and more.

The tour then moved on through the streets of East London, the group learning snippets of London history as they explored Old Street, Liverpool Street and around Spitalfields.

Ministry of Start-ups was the next stop on the tour to visit Spaces4Change backed social entrepreneur, Joshua Uwadiae from WeGym. This co-working space is in a transformed building on Elder St, in Spitalfields. From the space we learned about the importance of creating the right “atmosphere” as part of changing it.

The tour learned how Joshua and his team transformed the unused and unloved rooftop space at Ministry of Start-ups into a remarkable outdoor gym. The social venture hope to build community cohesion through its affordable fitness classes and transform more underused spaces to hold their activities.

Josh said: “It’s so important that you add personality to a space. Location is only one part of it. We deliberately kept the rough and ready vibe up here on the roof – you’ve got to create a space that has the right personality for your customers.”

The tour then headed further out of town, to the NuDawn café in Hackney for lunch provided by local young social entrepreneurs including CallyMunchy, a social venture we’ve supported.

Here the tour learned about the importance of building a network around a space. NuDawn is on the doorstep of London’s diverse technology and creative sectors, with the capital’s new fashion hub just around the corner.

UrbanMBA, one of our partners, helped facilitate, support and champion creatives and entrepreneurs by providing a space at NuDawn café. Young people have an opportunity to exhibit, experiment and develop their work. The team from UrbanMBA also leads additional workshops to facilitate and cultivate priceless industry relationships.

The time spent at NuDawn was packed full of learning and insights on transforming spaces. Social entrepreneur Jessica Ryan-Ndegwa told the tour about her mission to bring inclusive design to the masses. Creating products to help disabled people on a day-to-day basis, while having fun too.

She said access to space is always an important part of growing a venture: “As part of growing an idea, it’s a good idea to use space as a way to bridge the gap between people and professionals.”

The tour then moved on to visit 1 Love Community, near Canary Wharf. A partner on Spaces4Change, they have meanwhile use to a number of multi-level and multi-purpose units on Pepper Street.

They sell upcycled furniture and present an eclectic mix of community activities – including tea mornings, children’s activities, dance workshops and much more.

When this space is transformed it demonstrates the power of thinking broadly around programming and content – and reaching out to work with a wide range of local community groups to deliver real engagement.

A selection of the Spaces4Change social entrepreneurs have been invited to test out some of their activities at 1Love Community. Co-founder Junior, a member of the Spaces4Change expert panel group, also offered to mentor the young social entrepreneurs.

The tour’s final stop was The Good Hotel in Royal Docks. This venue has a social mission at its heart, offering long-term unemployed local people from around Newham unique hospitality training and a chance to re-integrate into the economy. After completing training, there are opportunities for full-time jobs at the hotel or support towards employment in the local economy.

What’s really remarkable about The Good Hotel is not just its social impact. It’s the journey.

The story goes back to 2016, when the hulking ex-prison vessel was moved from its initial Amsterdam location on a submersible barge over the North Sea Canal, up the River Thames and through the King George Dock to its brilliant location in the Royal Docks.

A vast logistical effort from experts in the field – proving that when it comes to amazing spaces, nothing is impossible.

Ahmed Al-aagam, UnLtd Award Manager and co-ordinator of the Spaces4Change Explore tour said: “We wanted to inspire young people with this tour. Prove to them that nothing is impossible. This tour showcased some of London’s most unusual social impact spaces, delivering entrepreneurial solutions to some of our most challenging problems.”

“It was brilliant to see so many different approaches, and learn what it takes to transform a space. We’re hoping this tour will encourage further young social entrepreneurs to apply for funding and support through our #Spaces4Change programme.”

Got an idea to transform a space in your community?

Spaces 4 Change (S4C) is a UK wide programme that will find, fund, support and connect young people aged 16-24 to start and run social ventures that unlock the potential of unused or under-utilised spaces for the benefit of the local community, especially other young people.




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