SPACE4 is a London coworking space dedicated to inspiring social change in its local community.
It’s operated leanly on a ‘pay-what-you-can’ model.
Allwork.Space visited the space to learn about its mission to support local projects, and to expand its network.
SPACE4 is the brainchild of Outlandish, a worker co-operative specialising in technologies that make the world a better place. Think campaign sites, data dashboards, monitoring tools, the works. Outlandish is owned by its members and profits go towards developing projects that inspire social change (like SPACE4).
Accelerating the creation of a new co-operative digital economy is what the SPACE4 project is all about. The kind of economy that benefits everyone in the community, from existing tech entrepreneurs who rent desk space, to ambitious young learners from local schools.
Earlier this month, we jumped on the Victoria line to Finsbury Park in London to see it for ourselves. During our visit we caught up with Polly Robbins, SPACE4’s manager and Maddy Neghabian who leads on marketing.
Robbins has always worked in events community building, so when her brother (who also works for Outlandish) called her to pitch the idea for a coworking space, she was 100% on board. Before moving into their existing office on Fonthill Road, SPACE4 set up in a vacant office downstairs from Outlandish’s main workspace.
In the beginning, most of SPACE4’s members were part of CoTech, a network of 40 co-operatives who all work in the digital sector developing various products and services.
“We realised quite quickly that we wouldn’t be able to fill the space with co-operatives alone, so we invited freelancers and other small businesses in,” says Robbins. “Nevertheless, almost all our members work in the tech for good sector.”
A year later, Founders and Coders CIC joined to become one of SPACE4’s anchor residents and partners. FAC is a non-profit code school that’s completely free for everyone. To keep it free, students return to teach the following cohort for a week after graduating.
Polly explains: “About a year ago Islington Council and the GLA had some funding available for long-term affordable workspace. We applied for it in partnership with Founders and Coders and were given the building for 10 years, which is really exciting.”
The rest of the workspace is currently filled with around 30 freelancers and small businesses, co-ops or charities who use the space on a regular basis. Events and workshops set out to raise awareness of social technology, and to create networking opportunities for people in the sector. The skills of everyone in the immediate and wider community are leveraged to deliver training.
SPACE4 is an inclusive environment and anyone is welcome to pop in. “On Wednesdays we organise a lunch for members and people who are just interested in finding out more. We chat about what each of us is doing, share knowledge and try to help each other out with any problems we’re encountering with our projects,” explains Neghabian.
The pair curate one event each month with inspiring speakers who share their values. “We ran an event last week that went really well, which was about the Power of Youth. The speakers were incredible; there were a few young activists as well as a couple of older ones.
“The passion was incredible,” adds Neghabian.
“It’s great to be able to bring young people into the space to collaborate with experienced adults who are part of an organisation that can fund, support, guide and mentor them. In doing this, we’re making our members’ movements more resilient,” says Robbins.
Making a profit
SPACE4 operates leanly. Robbins and Neghabian are currently the only people running it, which is why they’re keen to get like-minded organisations to facilitate some of the events.
“We want this space to be used every weekend and evening but we can’t do that by ourselves. So it’s important to have people with shared values on board,” explains Robbins.
Islington Council is covering the cost of the building’s 10-year lease, meaning that SPACE4 can now focus on developing long-term partnerships and projects, and refining its business model. They don’t receive any additional funding at the moment, however this is something Robbins is interested in establishing.
“We run a pay-what-you-can model and want to continue with that as well as growing the team, so we’re looking to bring some extra funders on board. The business model is quite limited if you just rely on desk sales.
“Outlandish and the other tech companies can only viably continue to support SPACE4 if it leads to new business, so having events that enable businesses to grow their network and meet potential new clients is very important.”
One of SPACE4’s goals for next year is to start running hackathons, where their talented developer and designer members work with bigger organisations who might be experiencing tech issues. From January 2020, they will also be teaming up with coworking CIC Creative Works to deliver adult learning courses in digital skills.