Helping Forres Grow

Forres Area Community Trust have benefited from Coworking Consultations and attendance on EXPLORE Quality Coworking – a specialist capacity building course providing structured guidance, knowledge and experience for leaders of emerging quality coworking businesses.

 
The support we have received from Claire and her team over the last two years has enabled us to develop and consolidate our ideas around coworking into our plans for our move into Forres Town Hall.

– Debbie Herron, Development Manager, Forres Area Community Trust (FACT)

 

Forres area is based within Moray on the northeast coast of Scotland. It has a population of c 15,000. This traditional Scottish rural town has a very diverse community with many people moving here to enjoy the mild climate, relaxed pace of life and opportunities for development.

The Opportunity

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There is a vibrant social enterprise scene, award winning locations, businesses and charities, with over 200 groups that range in size from small charities with one or two employees, scaling upwards to include the internationally renowned Findhorn Foundation which has over 100 employees servicing the spiritual community/ecovillage/learning centre.

The Local Leaders

Forres Area Community Trust is a Development Trust with long term plans to make the Forres area a better place to live, work and visit. Formed in September 2011 to benefit the community of the Forres Academy catchment area, the organisation is led and managed by a volunteer board of 9 local people. Started in 2011 they now have a thriving membership of over 280 local people.  They work in partnership with a range of local agencies and organisations to deliver projects and services to benefit the community. 

During a recent community consultation it was clearly identified that there was a need to increase the resilience of the town centre, improve services for social enterprise and increase accessibility to facilities such as meeting rooms, administration, venues and affordable work-based accommodation.

Why Quality Coworking is Needed Locally

  • For future activation of local entrepreneurs and small businesses (for and non-profit)
  • To provide practical support to enable people to start and grow their business
  • To attract foot-fall, spend and new business to the town and high street
  • To retain people (especially commuters to Inverness) in the region and improve their quality of life
  • To provide a diverse range of services that attract both existing and potential customers and further FACTs work in the area
  • To encourage people to work collaboratively for the benefit of themselves and the area

Vision

FACT’s mission is to “Create a better place to live, work and visit”. With this in mind, they are working to revitalise the local Town Hall to become a centre for social enterprise, creatively using the space available in the most practical way.

They envisage a shared office-type open plan space located on the High Street within the existing Victorian Town Hall, with an aim to be open by 2019. Core services will include:

  • hot-desks
  • fixed desks
  • virtual office services
  • venue hire
  • social enterprise business support and advice

Progress made to date

  • Search and identification of suitable premises
  • Key stakeholder engagement and buy-in
  • Market research and feasibility study showing interest and demand
  • Surveys, outline designs and business plan completed to enable funding to be sought
  • Identification and securing of some business development resource (3 years funding from the Big Lottery Scotland)
  • Staff training on essential elements needed for delivery of the business model (through the EXPLORE Quality Coworking Learning Event)
  • Site visits to other small coworking spaces  and social enterprise hubs across Scotland

Key stumbling blocks

  • The Community Asset Transfer system (designed to enable community organisations like theirs to acquire the building) is very lengthy and bureaucratic
  • Securing the necessary capital to refurbish the building and make it fit for purpose is complex. It involves an approach that includes a range of funding and investment sources, which will be a big step for their organisation

How their vision has been ACCELERATED

FACT has received a range of advice and 121 support since late 2015 through access to our EXPLORE Coworking Consultations and Two-day EXPLORE Quality Coworking Learning Event, specifically with regard to coworking and how this can be applied in a rural setting.  Although they are still in the process of forming a coworking hub, they have been able to undertake the following:

  • Market research activities and feasibility study assessment
  • Site visits of potential buildings and advice on suitability
  • Visits to other coworking business including The Melting Pot in Edinburgh
  • Attended essential training in developing the service, specifically to:
    • Outline key elements for success in the business model
    • Define our core products/services
    • Plan the critical stages, activities and processes needed to get open
 
The Explore Coworking Event in June last year [2017] was particularly useful as it enabled us to meet with other organisations that are following a similar path and learn from their experience too.

– Debbie Herron, Development Manager, Forres Area Community Trust (FACT)

 

Outcomes

  • Motivation of the team through the development of the idea
  • Clarity of opportunity, risks and rewards for their organisation
  • Prioritisation plan of approach
  • Generate common language and understanding within the team, to better describe their core activities to stakeholders and potential customers
  • Expedite appropriate market research
  • Connection with other Scottish-based emerging leaders / place-makers

Next steps

  • Business modelling and space design in proposed property
  • Planning for and securing resources for fit-out
  • Branding
  • Marketing strategy and plan
  • Plan and deliver a series of pop up events in the Town Hall to demonstrate the idea to potential clients
 

Learn more...