Social enterprise launches London co-working space, Canvas.
At first glance, Canvas in Brixton looks like any other co-working space. However, it’s one of the most noteworthy new additions to Central London’s flexible workspace market of late.
That’s because Canvas is run by Connection Crew, a social enterprise that’s working to help people out of homelessness and into training and employment. A crewing company for the events industry, Connection Crew started in 2005 as part of the homelessness charity, The Connection at St Martin’s.
“When we moved to 215 Lyham Road in February we thought we’d let our additional space to one commercial tenant,” said Charlie Dorman, Director of Connection Crew. “We thought, no fuss. Any profit would be used to maintain our training facilities.
“But then we realised we could make a more inspiring contribution to the local economy by accommodating a range of ambitious, creative and socially responsible businesses instead.
“It’s more fitting with the culture of diversity and collaboration that thrives here in Lambeth, London.”
Set to launch in Spring 2018, Canvas is based on the first floor of Connection Crew’s three-storey head office in Brixton. Any profit generated by Canvas goes directly back into supporting Connection Crew’s campaign to help people out of homelessness.
The key members of the Connection Crew team involved with the co-working space are co-Directors Charlie Dorman and Warren Rogers, and Marketing Manager, Margarita Ktoris.
The space will be open to anyone, but the Canvas team is particularly keen to encourage members of the local creative community to join the space.
“In order to foster a sense of family in the space, we’re targeting like-minded talented people to join Canvas. It’s ideal for small creative businesses and social ventures that might be looking for part of a coworking space to make their own for a while.
“We also hope that our triple bottom line approach will resonate with these kinds of businesses, especially those in the local area.”
Canvas’s ethos and community-focused vision is found not just in its people, but also in its infrastructure — in its bricks and mortar, its furniture, even its refurbished floorboards and beams. The building, a former Victorian print works factory, has been carefully restored using locally reclaimed materials and sustainable methods.
“As a social enterprise, sustainability is most definitely important to us. Sustainability is about longevity and it’s only truly achieved when all three of its pillars are addressed in conjunction — environmental, social and economic. That’s why we’ve built Canvas around these principles.”
Since becoming a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2010, Connection Crew has focused on developing and expanding its social impact mission.
“Since our beginnings , we’ve grown eightfold,” Dorman added. “In 12 years we’ve employed 180 ex-homeless people to complete 96,828 hours of work.”
Currently, around 25% of Connection Crew’s workforce are from a homeless background, and the company is now planning to switch things up with the help of Canvas.
“Moving to our new premises in Brixton Hill marks a new era of growth for us. It gives us the space to expand our impact even further. We’re really excited about sharing it with the Canvas community.”
Canvas has been renovated with the support of Big Issue Invest — a social investment and funding organisation that’s part of the Big Issue family.
Alan Tudhope, Regional Investment Manager at Big Issue Invest, said: “A lot of great organisations struggle to access small and medium-sized loans, so we want to provide support for those exciting social enterprises and charities.
“We are so pleased that we have been able to provide support to Connection Crew in order for them to continue to keep doing the incredible work they do.”
Prior to its launch in Spring 2018, Canvas will be opening its doors to local artists and business who want to use the space to run a showcase or product launch ahead of its official opening.
The above article by Jo Meunier first published on allwork.space in Jan, 2018.