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Coworking spaces reveal positive global impact

Four coworking spaces have opened their doors aiming to have a positive social impact.

Based on the experiences and model of The Melting Pot in Edinburgh, the four centres are among the first of an estimated 118 new social innovation coworking centres that will open in coming years.

The four centres, in Australia, Canada, England and Malaysia have all been set up outside of city centres to allow social enterprises to flourish.

Social enterprises are companies that generate income but use their work and profits to help local communities, such as by supporting those with disabilities, providing health services and employment to marginalised groups.

Speaking at an exclusive meeting with The Rooftop at the Social Enterprise World Forum late last year, David Upton from Common Good Solutions in Nova Scotia said:

All significant business and government is done in our largest city, Halifax, so if you’re from the outside and come to the city, the disadvantage is that you have no office to work from and you sit in coffee shops waiting for meetings. We’re looking to create a space where people from rural communities can access high level resources such as training, networks, access to government as well as meeting spaces so that we lower the barrier between urban and rural areas.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, will be the host city for the Social Enterprise World Forum in September 2020. However, the challenges faced for remote communities are not just being addressed by supporting businesses coming into the big cities.

Matt Pfahlert from the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship has launched a coworking centre in Beechworth, Victoria, to reverse rural decline:

We embed social enterprise education from eight years old to help kids put their ideas into action so that they don’t disengage or leave the community. With support from the Coworking Accelerator Network we have been repurposing an abandoned jail to benefit our region. We already have 35 entrepreneurs signed up who benefit from working from the space and in return, provide their expertise and time free of charge to a young person in the region to help them bring their ideas to life.

The founders in Beechworth hope that 1 in 16 people in the town will be directly connected to the coworking space in the future.

But social enterprises closer to big cities can also benefit as Kate Welch from The Old Rectory in County Durham, northern England, explained:

We’re in between two big cities which have coworking spaces, but not any that specialise in social enterprises. We draw from an area 30 miles around us and we’ve had people from local universities starting social enterprises through to people who started working from home, but crave a bit of company. We had to make the environment right for people so we have a network for members and stage a festival once a year.

In Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, a new coworking space will be established in the suburbs to boost the quality of life for residents. Juara Baharuddin from Setempat, explained:

We found that having a physical coworking space also becomes a showcase for what social entrepreneurs are. We have a market place on the first Sunday of every month that helps the local community understand what our social enterprises do.

The Founder of The Melting Pot, Claire Carpenter, which has provided support to the four centres, added:

We are able to share the knowledge and experience gained over the last 15 years pioneering the coworking movement to ensure people don’t have to start from scratch.

The full discussion between these five social innovators can be heard at https://anchor.fm/si_francis.

The Rooftop attended the Social Enterprise World Forum thanks to support from the British Council.

simon@simonfrancis.org

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise communications.

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