"We very much appreciate being able to ‘hit the ground running’ leveraging the years of experience of the Coworking Accelerator Network team. We have created a real collaborative buzz in Linlithgow around the EH49 Hub, and we’re excited for the year ahead."
– Rebecca Holmes, LCDT Development Worker, EH49 Hub
Linlithgow is roughly 20 miles west of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city. It has a population of circa 13,500. The town is most famous as the site of Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.
Linlithgow has benefitted from a long history of community engagement and involvement. More recently, as more commuters move to the town, it has lost some of its social identity. People who have lived in Linlithgow for many years, even for generations, are now living alongside people who have moved to the town to take advantage of its easy commuting links and excellent schools, changing the town’s social identity.
Linlithgow currently has:
- An increasing number of empty retail units and struggling local businesses
- A loss of knowledge and experience to Edinburgh and Glasgow as the majority of skilled workers commute out of town
- An increasing number of home-workers, solo-entrepreneurs and new business start-ups
- A wealth of knowledge and experience amongst its retired community
- Over 150 active community groups full of socially conscious volunteers, all eager to help others
There is currently no central way of connecting all of the skills and knowledge above. Individuals are shouldering the burden of amenities and resources on their own whilst missing out on the benefits of interaction with others. Opportunities for support, for cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas, for collaboration and innovation are missed because there is no way of centrally connecting people.
The Local Leaders
The aim of Linlithgow Community Development Trust is ‘to make Linlithgow a better place to live and work, through a community led plan of action which provides services, amenities and/or financial support to local initiatives.’
The EH49 Hub project is key to the objectives of the Trust, and to outcomes of the Strengthening Communities Grant which currently employs two Development Workers for the Trust.
Why Quality Coworking is Needed Locally
- To create opportunities for knowledge and skills transfer between community members
- To support solo entrepreneurs and businesses to enable them to start and grow their enterprises
- To foster youth by connecting them with local knowledge, experience and opportunities
- To engage the retired community, using their knowledge and expertise
- To reduce carbon footprint by reducing the number of commuters
- To increase social cohesion in the local community by encouraging people to collaborate with, share and support each other, creating a new community identity
EH49 Hub aims to create an online and physical resource that connects local community and business people in order to bolster each other and create social change. To blur the lines between business and community, focussing instead on encouraging people to work smarter, together, supporting each other to mutually achieve. Their objective is to create space for:
- Developing community and business connections
- Growing local resilience and sustainability
- Sharing resources and knowledge
- Supporting enterprise and innovation
- An initial ‘pop-up’ coworking venue, reusing an empty café unit close to the train station. This is now open and operating two days per week
- Once funding secured, open a larger, more permanent space on the High Street which will boast forty desks (some permanent desks, some hot-desks), at least three meeting rooms and one boardroom, a café, child-care facility, copy/print services, virtual office services, breakout areas and much more
- Full facility to be open by August 2018, subject to funding
Progress made to date
- Key business development and project management resource secured through Strengthening Communities Grant
- Community consultation exercise establishing need, interest and demand
- Online networks setup for both business and community groups
- Initial ‘pop-up’ coworking events held in local community venue
- Staff training on essential elements needed for delivery of the business model (through EXPLORE Quality Coworking Learning Event)
- Space secured for regular, twice-weekly coworking sessions which started 8th January 2018 and is generating enough income to be self-sustaining
- Marketing established – website, social media, magazine articles, etc.
- Key stakeholder engagement and buy-in
- ‘Community Cake’ events held for local community groups to collaborate and learn from each other
- First business learning event held ‘Demystifying Finance for Small Business’
- Search and identification of suitable premises for full-scale coworking space
- Funding applications ongoing
- Crowd funder set up and making good progress. This is to show community buy-in and generate funds
- Site visits to other small coworking spaces
Key stumbling blocks
- Accessing suitable start-up funding
- Progressing at such a pace with minimal resource
- Having to rebrand from "Space4" to "EH49 Hub"
How their vision has been ACCELERATED
The Coworking Accelerator Network's EXPLORE Scoping Support and 2-day Learning Event has provided Linlithgow Community Development Trust with ongoing capacity-building consultancy from early 2017 onwards, leveraging our knowledge and experience in the development of their own quality coworking business.
Our team has supported their staff through the business exploration process: market research, feasibility study, business modelling and action planning including:
- Engagement with their critical stakeholders to bring them on board
- Informing market research activities and feasibility study assessment
- Outlining key elements for success in the business model
- Defining core products/services
- Planning the critical stages, activities and processes needed to open
"The Coworking Accelerator Network has helped to clarify our vision, focus on key steps to success, build a viable business model, choose a suitable building and engage with local stakeholders."
– Rebecca Holmes, EH49 Hub
- Motivation of the team through their start-up stage
- Clarity of opportunity, risks and rewards for their organisation
- Prioritisation plan of approach
- Generation of a common language and understanding within the team, to better describe their core activities to stakeholders and potential customers
- Expediting appropriate market research
- Understanding of global trends in coworking
- Connection with other Scottish-based emerging leaders and place-makers
- Identified other local social enterprises keen to partner with them – to open both the café element and the child-care facility
- Continue twice-weekly pop-up venue, learning events and collaboration opportunities
- Secure start-up funding to open full-scale EH49 Hub
- Implement ACCELERATE System to service our network and accelerate building the new coworking business
- Employ marketing expertise to ‘shift gear’ for full-scale venture
- Ongoing work with other social enterprises to include café and child care facilities in the space