Written by Creative Dundee’s Claire Dufour.
On 20th April 2016, I went to An Enterprise Mash Up event organised by Can Do Places in Drygate Glasgow. This event brought together people who are passionate about their place because of what it means to them – their community, passion, business, heritage, safety. What makes an enterprising place was the topic and people came to share stories and experiences and start answering some questions.
Our world is changing dramatically and swiftly, vacant buildings are multiplying, more people are working for themselves than before and with tighter budgets each year. A sentiment of chaos is emerging in our ‘hearts and minds’ and we all know that isolation and loneliness are the best killers of enterprise. As freelancers, we too often have a bitter experience of it, that’s probably why a market for co-working and collaboration is equally growing, because we love where we stay, work and socialise. Places matter for us, community groups and organisations who start taking over buildings with the aim to create opportunities and wealth in our local area.
The reality of making it happen remains tough, so here’s a few important lessons I took from this enterprise mash up event. I hope they’ll help you get started!
First, have a clear and simple idea, a project that corresponds to a market opportunity, that will make things better! To spark or make changes starts by focusing on the impacts that you will create. This is not about the final product or service but, even more today, it’s about the experiences we’re creating. It’s ‘not-just-the-coffee’… it’s the cup, the smell, the view, the smile and all the values that comes with the things we do.
Young entrepreneur Joe Barrat shared info about The Teenage Market, which aims to bring back energy, vibrancy and diversity of the young people to our local markets, those places where we used to meet and socialise within our communities. The vision is not to simply provide an offer (which corresponds to a demand) but instead, to make the people an active part of it.
Second, be a story-teller (or paint the picture), use figurative language to be more effective, persuasive and impactful. What will more likely open a landlord’s or developer’s mind to unlock a town-centre building for the local community benefit or invest in a bright new community owned enterprise hub? We have the opportunity to do things differently, we have then the responsibility to make our stories easy to grasp and seductive for our public and private partners.
A Can Do Places Fable is one of my favourite examples.
Third, come up with a solid plan, assess the market for it, measure the impacts and evaluate the risks. No-one will follow an idea (as enthusiastic and seductive as this idea seems) without a constructive strategy behind. Lets not forget that we are creating businesses, we are putting effort, time and money into enterprising ventures with the expectation of achieving a local community profit. We are building not only local enterprises but also innovative ways of navigating in a new economy where micro-businesses can trump multinationals.
Chief Executive of William Grant Foundation, Nick Addington, explained why place matters to philanthropists and giving. In contrary of what we might think, that philanthropic monies are for the most part directed towards poor countries, 80% of the donations stays in the UK. In fact, the focus is local and those private investments take the form of micro financial injections into places. It seems that philanthropists are more interested in investing in grass-root initiatives which aim at nurturing an environment (as long as we can prove the benefits to them), than some very specific stuff.
Fourth, build it brick by brick, do what’s easy and makes you feel good first, then score the big tasks. Think big, but start small – draft a long term strategy which will be adaptable and responsive to our constantly evolving (economic, social, cultural and environmental) contexts. Target micro-finance, fast and light to act quickly and keep the pot boiling. Work, review and celebrate each achievement.
Fifth, form a team, find the people that share your energy and values, people that have the matching attitude and skills, and then find the catalyst.
Founder of Fumbally Exchange and architect Georges Boyle shared about her journey and believes that we are the new generation of people that will makes those positive impacts because our innovative enterprise starts in our hearts. Fumbally Exchange are a not-for-profit movement of creative and innovative professionals (a community of mainly design-focused small businesses, sole traders and start-ups) who share co-working spaces, which are operating in three refurbished buildings, each one contributing to innovation, urban renewal and economic resurgence. Their aim is to cultivate an open, professional atmosphere for creative and regenerative growth.
Finally, have a go, experiment, do something and see what happens, and most importantly make your own fun!
I’m really excited about former DC Thomson print factory opening soon to the public for the inaugural Dundee Design Festival. West Ward Works is the perfect venue for connecting the city’s industrial past with its creative present. If you’re interesting in building creative clusters and enterprising places, join us on 26th May during the Festival, at Mass Assembly, a one day forum exploring the future of collective working for creatives and the places they are based. (Book now, tickets are going fast!)