We have thousands of incredible offices on HubbleHQ; from the quirky to the stylish, the high-value to the high-end, there’s something to suit every team’s needs and preferences.
What you may not know is that we also have a number of workspaces on our platform that are social enterprises, striving to do great things both within their workspaces, but also in the wider community.
One such workspace is Canvas Coworking, where any profits generated go to helping people out of homelessness. This is an issue that’s really close to our hearts at Hubble – back in December, we ran a campaign with crowdfunding platform Beam to help homeless people into stable work and off the streets for good.
We spoke to Margarita Ktoris, Senior Communications Manager at Connection Crew, the organisation behind Canvas, to find out more about this unique space.
Hey Margarita! Can you tell us a bit about the organisation behind Canvas Coworking?
Margarita: Connection Crew, the organisation behind Canvas, is an award-winning event crewing company and social enterprise. We provide manpower to the events industry and we work with a network of charities to recruit 25% of our workforce from a homeless background.
We started out based in the homelessness charity Connection at St Martin’s in 2005. We have moved around south London three times since then to accommodate a growing team. During this time we’ve provided jobs for 248 people with a history of homelessness.
Canvas is based on the whole first floor of our three-storey HQ and training centre in Brixton Hill. We moved to these premises in February 2017 and we plan to stay for the foreseeable future. The move marked a new era of growth for us. It’s given us the space to expand our operations and impact even further. Upon joining Canvas, each member becomes a part of that social impact because any profit generated from desk-hire goes toward helping people out of homelessness.
So, how does a social enterprise operating in the events industry come to open a coworking space?
Margarita: When we moved to 215 Lyham Road, we thought we’d just let our additional space to one commercial tenant. No fuss. Any profit would be used to maintain our training facilities.
But as we met more and more of our neighbours we realised we could make a more inspiring contribution to the local economy by accommodating a range of ambitious, creative, and socially responsible businesses and freelancers instead. It’s more fitting with the culture of diversity and collaboration that thrives here in Lambeth, London. We were in a position to help build on that so we did. We approached Big Issue Invest to finance the renovation of the 1st floor and in March 2018 we opened Canvas.
How did you approach the renovation and design of the space?
Margarita: Starting out in business is not too distant a memory for Connection Crew, so we know that a lot of deep thought and hard work is required. We wanted to create a space where people could come to work and think clearly. There were three elements that we felt were conducive to that – space, style and sustainability.
Canvas is spacious. We were conscious not to cram too many desks in and to build in plenty of breakout areas, as well as a private meeting space while keeping an open plan feel to make the most of the natural light we’re lucky to have.
We’ve made an effort to ensure that the space is stylish too, focusing on exposing original industrial features to do so. It’s pretty cool – our building used to be a print factory for globally renowned fashion print design company Eley Kishimoto. We’ve celebrated that heritage by featuring original artworks from the designers and preserving ink-splats on the floor!
And finally, sustainability – we used a range of reclaimed materials for some of the new elements. Because we worked with our crew members to do a lot of the work, the renovation generated work for people who’ve been homeless. And, by omitting unnecessary perks, we’ve kept the price low to make Canvas a sustainable option for our members.
How did you go about building a community from scratch?
Margarita: We’ve been working with the lovely people at HubbleHQ since before we opened to reach the local people with our offer. It’s the only platform that we’ve found to be successful at matching the right people to us. The level of care and attention from the support team has been incomparable too.
We opened with 6 members and within a few months, we were almost full. We’ve been hovering between full and almost full ever since.
Aside from working with Hubble to get the message out there, we’ve teamed up with organisations with values that align with our own, such as Social Enterprise UK and Brixton Design Trail. We’ve been mindful of the fact certain like-mindedness is helpful in building a congruent community – being honest and targeted with our comms has been instrumental in creating a harmonious vibe.
And then we let the members take charge! They’re all busy people running businesses – Canvas is very deliberately workspace only, 24/7. We don’t want to intrude on that by facilitating networking activities or running events…apart from when the Connection Crew team rock up with beers for the odd social, that is! This approach seems to work well. Most of our members stay for more than a few months, so we’ve seen some lovely friendships form and that’s been very gratifying.
What do the members do?
Margarita: It’s quite a creative group: film-makers, designers, digital marketers, content producers, writers, academics and more. There’s an ethical slant to each member too. I guess they’ve all made a choice to join a space that uses profits for good.
Sounds good, so what’s next for Canvas?
Margarita: More of the same! We regularly ask for feedback and talk to the members about what’s working and what we could improve on. Currently, it’s working well for them so we’re sticking with this formula.