written by Aceil Haddad from MATT PR

To celebrate #EuropeanCoWorkingDay on 10th May 2023, our friends at technologywithin hosted our monthly panel at LentaSpace at Coppergate House in Spitalfields to explore ‘Why are coworking spaces the beating heart of your local economy?’.

We had an esteemed panel of experts – Karen West-Whylie (CEO of Barking Enterprise Centre – BEC), Vibushan Thirukumar (Co-Founder of Oru Space) and Dale Thomson (Consultant at The Granville – South Kilburn Trust and formerly of Islington Council) – hosted by Caterina Maiolini.

If you’re familiar with Coworking Spaces, you’ll of course know this – they aren’t just places to work, they are spaces to socialise and network whilst at the same time adding financial and social value to the communities they are in. They are tools to rejuvenate. 

In many towns and cities across Europe, there are single businesses that are employing much of the town. But with the breakdown of traditional industry and manufacturing, the make-up of employment has changed. Further still, the growth of the city has sucked talent from towns into the city. This change over the last 75 years has drastically changed both the employment market but also the make-up of our countries. 

Formerly a centre of UK car manufacturing, Barking and Dagenham had been in a state of decline – with huge efforts from the council, they have brought in new industries to replace it, the major three Markets are moving into the area alongside a film studio. In the mix, Co-Working hubs via the BEC, has been used as a tool to stimulate the local economy; supporting entrepreneurs to grow and develop their businesses to employ local people and work with the incoming more established businesses moving in.

“As an operation, we are providing business owners with the tools and skills to grow, we’re supporting our local people to take the step up to work with, inside and alongside global brands and businesses.”

Speaking with his former Council hat on, Dale explains “Councils naturally tend to work in silos, the property, planning and employment team all need to come together to find solutions”.

Co-Working offers such a domino effect for local communities, having a space on the high street, brings people to the high street where they will spend in local shops, creating an affordable space makes it easier for an entrepreneur to start, once they grow they can employ someone locally too. 

Oru Space which has a space in West Dulwich, and a second opening in Sutton have both been launched in conjunction with the respective councils.

Vibushan explains, “We’ve got a 40,000 sq ft space launching later this year, we’re on the high street so we bring a blend of coworking, hospitality and wellness. We’ve tattoo artists, psychotherapists, acupuncturists and yoga teachers offering classes using the space, they each have customers – some of whom join to use the coworking space. It’s its own ecosystem. We’re really excited to work outside of London because that’s where the opportunity to grow but also unlock local potential.”

The pandemic has fast forwarded the future of work; the flexible workspace and coworking offer has exploded. Enabling not just solopreneurs and small businesses, but corporations too to use spaces to offer a better workplace culture.

Jon Seal, MD of technologywithin explains “Employers are thinking differently, and technology is enabling businesses to thrive as you don’t need to be in a capital city to start or grow a business. Councils are shifting their thinking and using coworking as a tool to support the local economy, rejuvenate the high street and diversify employment opportunities. We can see the transformation impact already in places like Matlock and Margate, where people are working closer to home and using their local facilities and retailers much more.”

To watch the discussion, you can catch up here