One of our missions for SPACE4 is to bring new work to digital coops. We’ve gradually been achieving this, by building a network of potential clients through our events, social media presence and general workspace community.

Thanks to people we’ve met through SPACE4, Outlandish has been introduced to a fair few clients and successfully won some great work. Every time that happens it demonstrates that the investment of time and money that we’ve put in over the last few years pays off. 

Image thanks to Cooperation Texas, via Prairie Food Coop

But SPACE4 isn’t all just about delivering value to Outlandish. We want to bring more work and connections to the whole coop movement. Over the last few months, we’ve brought a few commercial leads to coops. Not only that, but we’ve been doing this while delivering on our community wealth building mission by working with Islington Council. 

When we took over our new building, part of our promise to Islington Council, and Islington residents more generally, was that we would help them to deliver on their ‘Community Wealth Building’ and ‘Inclusive Economy’ agenda. This includes trying to develop hyper-local and ethical supply chains – in our case for technology services. 

Islington is shit hot on this, and has worked closely with CLES and places like Preston to find the best ways of boosting the local economy by procuring services through local SMEs, coops and social enterprises. So rather than spending money on companies who are outside the borough, or are themselves unethical (like not paying their workers or their tax properly), we’re working with them to build a network of skilled tech coops right here. 

Councillors and council staff from both Islington and Preston came to SPACE4’s pre-launch, discussing their shared passion for Community Wealth Building

At the beginning of lockdown Islington contacted us to see if we could support local businesses who weren’t selling or advertising online to get digitised. With the help of Jarrow Insights we created a series of videos and webinars to do just that and had great uptake. We’re hoping that we can work more closely with Jarrow to get better insights into the needs of Islington businesses in the future. 

Most recently we’ve been working with Good Praxis, another SPACE4 coop, to deliver digital skills training. Thanks to some funding from the GLA, via Islington, we’ll be helping around 25 local people to improve their tech skills. This won’t necessarily be people wanting a career as a developer (Founders and Coders are taking care of that), but rather people who want to improve their confidence with things like graphic design and UX, digital marketing and document management. Whilst these skills may lead someone to a career in tech, they may also improve their job prospects in their current industry or the resilience of their own business. 

Marketing materials for our latest GLA/Islington funded digital skills programme, designed in collaboration with Good Praxis

I think that this project is a great example of the Cooperative Principles in action. We’re cooperating with another coop, and learning from each other as we do so, meaning both coops benefit. Have a look at Abi’s blog from a few months ago about how we’ve actually seconded quite a few members of other coops recently, plugging a gap in our staffing and at the same time building skills and wealth across the network. Meanwhile, we give the council the reassurance of working with Outlandish, who they’ve worked with before, meaning that everything will be legally and quality assured by us. All this seems to me to be pretty amazing and unique things about working for a coop – I can’t imagine a lot of companies being so willing to share their clients, their brand and their processes so openly.

So far, these collaborative projects at SPACE4 have been quite small but hopefully it’s just the beginning. In the not too distant future I’m hoping to take on a dedicated Project Manager for SPACE4 so that we’re better able to deliver training, outreach and other digital services as a network. We’re also always thinking about how this can benefit CoTech more widely, so that SPACE4’s value isn’t constrained to its geography. Keep watching this space as this develops. 

To find out more about our current training opportunities, like the one we’re running with GoodPraxis, have a look at the SPACE4 website, and to speak to us about how we can collaborate to meet your needs, get in touch.