Sustaining Dunbar

The founders of Sustaining Dunbar have so far received over 12 months of ongoing support and capacity building of their staff team through our EXPLORE Scoping Support. They have been provided with guidance, knowledge and experience, and support in shaping their future opportunities.


"The Coworking Accelerator Network has been invaluable to the ongoing development of our project. Their specialist knowledge and real expertise has enabled us to progress faster and with significantly greater confidence than if we had been working alone. Claire’s incisive, 'no nonsense' approach has focused us again and again on what really matters if the venture is to succeed."

–Osbert Lancaster, Development Manager, Sustaining Dunbar


The town of Dunbar has a population of around 8,500 people, growing rapidly with a number of housing developments in the area. Many people work in Edinburgh, 28 miles to the west. Historically a fishing port, the town retains some tourism activity and larger local employers include Tarmac, a cement works; and Torness, a nuclear power station.


The Opportunity

The town is mixed in terms of demographics with is a particularly wide range of people, housing and activities. There is a mix of professional and non-professional jobs, and part-time and self-employment are both important for a significant proportion of residents. Dunbar retains a clear and proud identity as an independent Scottish town, with a wide range of community groups.

The Local Leaders

Sustaining Dunbar is a Community Development Trust serving Dunbar, East Linton and several villages in the surrounding area. Since 2008 Sustaining Dunbar has been bringing people together to support new initiatives which create local jobs, help people cut their fuel bills and grow more food. Sustaining Dunbar also helps to get independent local projects up and running, and has helped establish Dunbar’s community bakery, East Lothian’s car club, and Miixer, a social enterprise diverting waste from landfill.

Drawing on a survey of 1,500 residents, in 2011 Sustaining Dunbar published a Local Resilience Action Plan, a draft vision and action plan for starting to build a resilient, low carbon community in Dunbar and the district up to 2025. Among other priorities, this identified the importance of creating workspace and developing the local economy. A part of this vision, Sustaining Dunbar is now undertaking market research and a feasibility study to explore the potential of a quality coworking space in Dunbar.

Why Quality Coworking is Needed Locally

  • To provide much needed workspace for new and existing small-to-medium enterprises, remote workers, social enterprises, artists and artisans

  • To connect and inspire users, so they can get to know interesting and useful people; discover local groups and activities; and be more involved locally

  • To enable users to develop their business or organisation: learn from those around them; find others to collaborate with; and get advice and support from specialist agencies

  • To help create a more vibrant High Street for the benefit of all local businesses and residents

  • To reduce the need to commute into Edinburgh, with benefits of personal wellbeing, family life and the environment.


Imagine a place in Dunbar or nearby, where startups, businesses, artists, social enterprises, artisans, community groups and others can work, connect and develop. We believe a place like this will help make Dunbar and the area a better place for everyone to live and work. It will help the people and organisations using the space to thrive. It will bring more life to the town, supporting other local businesses, and enabling more people to be involved in local groups and activities.


  • The objective is to create a mix of hot desking, private offices, meeting rooms and artists’ studios over three floors in the heart of Dunbar.

  • The aim is to be open by 2020 or 2021

Progress made to date

  • The search and identification of suitable premises

  • Visits to other coworking spaces

  • Key stakeholder engagement and buy-in

  • Initial results of market research and feasibility study showing interest and demand

  • Attendance at Coworking Europe conference to learn from international experience

Key stumbling blocks

  • Finding suitable premises and gathering required information in a timely manner

How their vision has been ACCELERATED

EXPLORE Scoping Support has supported Sustaining Dunbar from late 2017, bringing specialist knowledge and insight to the project. 

We have supported staff through the business exploration process: market research, feasibility study, business modelling, action planning, including:

  • Engagement with their critical stakeholders to bring them on board

  • Informing market research activities and feasibility study assessment

  • Site visits of potential buildings and advice on suitability

  • Space and service design for maximising yield

  • Outlining key elements for success in the business model

  • Defining core products and services

  • Planning the critical stages, activities and processes needed to develop a viable business


  • Confidence and motivation to the Sustaining Dunbar board as they start on this project which is fundamentally different from previous projects

  • Clarity of opportunity, risks and rewards for their organisation

  • Prioritisation plan of approach

  • Expedited appropriate market research

  • Enabled understanding of global trends in coworking

  • Connection with other Scottish-based emerging leaders and place-makers

Next Steps

  • Negotiating terms with the owner of the proposed property, including potentially undertaking a Community Asset Transfer

  • Completing the feasibility study and assessing the projects viability

  • Developing a detailed business plan

  • Raising grant and loan funding

  • Building wider support for the project in the area, within the general community as well as with potential users


Learn more...