Launch of Islington's Better Space affordable workspace (L-R) - Catherine McClen (BuddyHub); Prof Anthony Finklestein (City, University of London); Cllr Asima Shaikh (Islington Council) and Joel Davis (Tutors United)

Better Space affordable workspace opens for business in major boost for Islington’s inclusive economy

Better Space - a new affordable workspace in Islington that supports local social enterprises and small businesses, and helps residents gain vital skills and experience - is open and thriving.

The affordable workspace at The Ray Farringdon, created by Islington Council in partnership with City, University of London, is home to a diverse community of local businesses and start-ups.

It will act as a social enterprise hub in the borough; providing specialist support to social enterprises and strengthening the wider business community, developing business networks and promote businesses working for social good.

Better Space is Islington’s first affordable workspace secured by Islington Council through the planning process, where the council negotiates with developers to secure new office spaces at a “peppercorn” rent - so the spaces can be let at a lower rate to benefit local organisations, social enterprises and start-ups.

The prime office space, with 6,000 sq ft on the ground and lower ground floors of The Ray Farringdon, is run by City, University of London in a 10-year collaboration with the council, which will see City share its knowledge and expertise with the wider Islington community, bringing benefits directly to the local area and residents.

Better Space had its official launch event on 21 October, with a celebration including networking, local food and music, and speeches. The Better Space Team have been working hard to build relationships with the local area and develop capacity to deliver a range of social value initiatives to benefit local people, businesses and communities.

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs, said: “Better Space and Islington’s other affordable workspaces are a key part of the council’s Community Wealth Building programme, bringing local jobs and businesses in a thriving local economy for Islington.

“We’ve created Better Space, in partnership with City University, to provide specialist support to social enterprises and social impact businesses – businesses that have communities at their heart.  This will help drive forward our work to create a more equal Islington.

“By creating a social enterprise hub, the council is delivering on its commitment to support alternative models of enterprise ownership, helping to create a more democratic economy.

“The pandemic caused major challenges for Islington’s communities.  Better Space is a shining example of how we can adapt and rebuild a locally inclusive economy, so wealth is more equally shared across our communities.”

Professor Anthony Finkelstein, President of City, University of London, said:

“Our partnership with Islington Council allows us to play a major role in strengthening and creating opportunities for local people in our home borough of Islington.

“City was first established to serve Islington’s communities in craft, trade and entrepreneurship, so it is fitting that so many years later we are continuing to do this important work through Better Space.

“Better Space is a collaboration of education, social purpose and creativity which supports real people in the borough. This is only just the start, and we will continue to work with Islington Council to help build and develop our great community”

Start-up social enterprise BuddyHub, which offers a ground-breaking approach to tackling loneliness, particularly among older people, is one of the eight teams and organisations already working from Better Space.

Catherine McClen, founder of BuddyHub, said: “It’s still early days but a really great community is developing here and it’s leading to great things.

“I’ve worked in several co-working spaces to date but so many factors make this one the best. The space has all the facilities you need. It’s very well situated with great transport links which is important for us as we do in-person meetings with many of our members here.

“It’s affordable which is vital for social businesses in the early years. I’ve been delighted by the diversity of people I’ve seen coming into the space already: it feels inclusive, it feels like Islington. It’s a great place to be.”

Tutors United, a social enterprise which works with housing associations and local schools to provide literacy and numeracy support for primary school children and their families, was founded by Islington native, Joel Davis. Now having supported over 2,000 families across the UK since 2012, including 70 families in Islington, they also work from Better Space.

Alina Monaghan-Gibson, Head of Programmes, said: "After a year of remote working, Better Space has been perfect for us as we've looked to adopt a more hybrid working environment. The packages are really flexible and easy to distribute amongst the team to suit meetings and working preferences."

For more information and updates about Better Space:

Islington now has four operational affordable workspaces, delivered either through the planning process or by converting under-utilised buildings using external funding. Others include tech-space SPACE4 (operated by Outlandish) and the FC Designer Collective and FC Designer Workspace; a fashion retail affordable workspace linked to a garment maker space (both operated by Fashion Enter). On the horizon, the council has a further three affordable workspaces situated in Old Street, to be launched in the new year.

Media contact information

If you are a member of the media and would like more information please contact:

Islington Council media team – media@islington.gov.uk or 020 7527 2307.  Out of hours: 07769 163303

If you are a member of the public with a general question about the council please contact:

Access Islington – www.islington.gov.uk/contact-us or 020 7527 2000