Designing A More Inclusive And Equitable Coworking Future

The London Coworking Assembly hosts a monthly breakfast where they make use of different locations. This creates an opportunity for independent coworking space owners in London, as well as for anyone who owns or works in a coworking space, and even community space managers. 

To help us understand what it is like to build a coworking space in London, Gerald Vanderpuye, startup founder of Impact Brixton, the only known large-scale black owned coworking space. 

He talks about how it grew to be a diverse community of dreamers, freelancers, creators, entrepreneurs, and social change-makers in the heart of Brixton, South London. There are 260 members that use this space, of which they have at least forty to 45% male, and more than 60% female.

Coworking spaces should be inclusive

It is important to ensure that there is inclusivity and diversity in a coworking space. One way to go about ensuring this is for it to be represented in the ownership level. This way there can be an influence on how it’s designed and how to attract similar people to the space. 

For instance, the reason they chose Brixton is because it is up and coming and most people in London know the area. Brixton has the largest nightlife and the second busiest tube station in the whole of the UK. There was a famous location right where the fighting for the rights of black people that have moved into the country in the eighties. 

Brixton a hub for entrepreneurs 

Brixton is reminiscent of Brooklyn or Harlem back then, but it is different now. It has so many investments and has become a food haven. 

Entrepreneurs and creators always tend to try and think about what can be controlled and what can be changed. This helps with the positive aspects of gentrification and how to lean more into that and ensure that this makes a difference to the community. The point is to really inspire creatives, entrepreneurs and freelancers to start businesses and then leverage off of the opportunities of gentrification.

One of the largest black-owned spaces

One of the largest coworking spaces that is black owned is eight thousand square feet, but to operate on the scale and thrive you would need around twenty thousand square feet. 

So, Impact Brixton is looking for more space and to just secure that kind of space is a feat. Funding for leasing such a space is also a challenge and often you’re dealing with people that don’t look like you and don’t feel they resonate with your story. 

It’s so much easier when you walk into a space and the person resonates with your background with your culture. Focusing on the positive and what we can do when it comes to diversity and inclusivity is that we’ve done it and that means it is easier for the next minority to think, I can do that! And I can do it bigger. 

How community is created at Impact Brixton

At Impact Brixton they created a community not just offline or for people that come and use the space, but a community online to inspire more creators. 

What do they mean by creators? There are creators and there are creatives, right? The creator economy is the biggest and fastest growing economy right now. This can be seen as them monetising their individuality. 

No one can essentially create this coworking space that they have right now. It is unique to them in their community. They try to bring all these creators together. That way they address unemployment through the idea that people are finding ways to monetise themselves and therefore creating jobs.

The last Friday of every month they take on a different level. From 6pm to 11pm they host a networking night where they have a ton of games. Sometimes it is karaoke or there is comedy. 

They have about 120 creators networking and having fun! Imagine board games, retro video games, VR games and ping pong. Whether it’s Cards Against Humanity, pub quizzes, all sorts of locally sourced dinner, free Rum Punch which is made in house in their building and courtesy of shout out to Brixton distillery market ramp. 

Essentially, imagine a space where you’re playing games with people that think like you, that get you and you’re going to walk away, visually making some real meaningful interactions.

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