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The Melting Pot: Collaboration, innovation, enterprise and community

The Melting Pot is Scotland’s centre for social innovation. The building itself – on Calton Road in the heart of Edinburgh – is one that embodies a sense of place, fostering an environment where collaboration is at the heart of everything.

But what is social innovation? How does The Melting Pot embody it? And in what way can communities across the country be inspired by all that goes on there?

Social innovation is the creative process of addressing societal challenges, fostering positive and sustainable change both in communities as a whole and peoples’ lives.

It does that through coworking, collaboration and learning – creating a community where people support each others’ businesses and, in turn, amplify their social impact.

The work that goes on there is a powerful statement about the influence that coworking can have.

This is not just simply about renting desk space. It’s about making connections; working with, and learning from, the people around you – perhaps even helping to take your own enterprise or ambitions to the next level.

Supporting people and places

Importantly, it is a place which brings people into the city centre – an ethos which can be replicated in communities of all sizes across the UK.

People, of course, bring vibrancy. But they also bring spending power with them, supporting the businesses that surround coworking hubs.

Helen Denny, an entrepreneurial leader in her own right with more than 20 years’ experience working in a variety of sectors, is The Melting Pot’s Chief Executive.

She says: “Coworking can make a huge difference to people and places.

“It impacts positively on peoples’ wellbeing, it gives people really clear boundaries between their work and personal lives because not everyone is privileged enough to have a spare room at home which can be set up as an office. But it also gives you an office with an address and a community of other professionals around you. That’s really important if you’re growing a business or are a start-up.”

And it’s the impact of that community which is at the core of what The Melting Pot helps people achieve – and what its leaders are sure other communities could achieve by having their own coworking hubs.

Embracing a spirit of localism

“We have hosts here who are a really important part of what we do because they foster those connections, collaborations and get to know our members really well. We also offer professional development events, which really help people,” explains Helen.

“We know through the coworking movement that independent spaces such as our support other local businesses too. Everything we do is about connecting with other local businesses, so it’s a very localised approach.”

There is also the physical transformation impact on communities of potentially bringing buildings back into use as coworking hubs.

The shift to hybrid or remote working of course stepped up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns which forced people to work from homes.

Many of those who made the permanent shift to remote working have, in the time since, sought to strike a balance between home and “office” working. For many, that office environment has become a coworking hub such as The Melting Pot, supported by the professional facilities it offers.

 

It’s this where other communities may be able to tap into the potential that The Melting Pot champions.

Helen continues: “If we use the model we have and adapt it to a place-based approach, it can have a real positive impact for communities where people are often leaving to work in cities, for example. This can generate a real sense of pride in a place.”

Among the central ambitions of The Melting Pot is embracing community-driven innovation by harnessing “the collective wisdom of our community to drive innovation, address complex social challenges and strengthen the social innovation community as a whole”.

Its Strategic Framework for 2023 – 2028 can be read here.

For more information, go to www.themeltingpotedinburgh.org.

 Co-working is worth millions to Scotland’s town and city centres

A growing network of coworking hubs across Scotland hold the key to unlocking millions of pounds worth of spending in town and city centres, experts believe.

Research shared as part of European Coworking Day in 2023 highlighted how even the smallest of communities can encourage collaboration – unlocking innovation and investment – by creating coworking spaces, where all kinds of people come together to work in a shared space.

The study was carried out by The Melting Pot.

Claire Carpenter, founder of The Melting Pot, led the research and spokewith the people behind coworking hubs across the country – many of them not-for-profit organisations – to learn more about the opportunities and challenges they face.

She said: “Coworking hubs in their own community provide the best of both worlds – somewhere close to home where they can work, but enjoy the huge benefits of being part of a workplace community. The demand for spaces is rising. They could be created in currently empty buildings in the centre of communities.

“For the places these are located, the ripple effects can be great. Not only do the hubs themselves take space in a town – or even a village – but we know that people who visit them spend with other local businesses. And we need that footfall in our town centres. A growing coworking network does exactly that.

“Spending alone has the potential to be worth millions of pounds across the country. Yet that really is just the beginning because you cannot put a price on the worth of the ideas and investment that being around others can unlock.”

It is widely accepted across Europe that coworkers spend about £9 a day with other businesses in their local economy when at their coworking hub.

The Melting Pot mapped the locations of more than 30 coworking hubs across Scotland which responded to a survey about their futures, though the number of places offering such spaces is thought to be about three-times higher.

Each provides desk spaces for hire, complete with the likes of wifi, coffee and spaces to meet.

Listen to Claire Carpenter in conversation about all things coworking – and its benefits to the Scottish economy – in the Talking EDAS podcast brought to listeners by our friends at the Economic Development Association Scotland.