There is another way: POP Brixton is proving it

POP Brixton is fulfilling its promise of creating a sustainable and community minded business park, and in the process helping Lambeth move community benefit from Corporate social responsibility to core business. 

At the heart of the POP Brixton experiment is our desire to create and encourage a socially driven business community which sees itself as part of the wider Brixton community. Onsite the more commercial operators subsidise rents for the 13 start up and social enterprise tenants who pay between 20% and 50% of full rent; all tenants were chosen on the basis of being local (over 70% are from Lambeth), diverse (over 50% are from BAME backgrounds) and whether they paid the London living wage (over 70%).

The event space is offered to local community groups and voluntary sector organisations at a discounted rate or free for at least 25% of the time and has already been delivering some fantastic opportunities for local groups. Inspiring butterflies have delivered personal development and wellbeing support for local young women, Bounceback did a work day for ex-offenders and tedxbrixton hosted a discussion day on Brixton, as well as work experience events and school trips starting with 350 young people from Sudbourne Primary school doing the 1st school art installation. There are more examples here.

Indeed this activity has gone someway in satisfying sceptics to the extent that “‘Another Lambeth is possible”, a collection of anti gentrification groups (some of whom have been highly critical of POP Brixton as a symbol of gentrification) will be enjoying the space for a discussion and debate about The topic on November 28th.

Every business at POP Brixton has to volunteer time as part of their lease

If those things have been about how we can shape a supportive business community on site, the next stage will see POP Brixton really start to deliver out in the community. We are partnering with Brixton£ to deliver the ongoing community give back from businesses which was an original expectation of POP. All tenants signed up to giving an hour per week to support this and I am hugely excited about how we can encourage a cultural shift amongst the business community, that being involved in the community is not just an add on or a good corporate PR story, but that being part of a healthy community is also good for business. Enlightened self interest if you will.

I meet businesses all the time across the borough who want to be able to give back to their communities or be more involved. There are barriers like time, capacity and organisation but the appetite to deliver work experience, training, provide for local jobs or partner will local community groups is huge. It is a massive resource we can tap into.

So POP as an experiment for us in the Council is key to practicing and testing the things that we want to see done in a small way, so we can learn the lessons to do it bigger and better across the borough. The jobs and social value that a postage stamp of land is delivering on POP Brixton is already surpassing some of our expectations but the potential for embedding business in the heart of the community is huge.

If every business community in the borough were engaged to deliver social value in the same way then many of the challenges our residents face could be tackled much more effectively. We need all hands on deck as the Tories seek to divide and destroy our communities and local businesses must play their part. I am confident they will with a little help from their friends in the public and community sectors.

Notes on the project

A three month timeframe is anticipated to get the project up and running with a steering group being formed to determine which applications get to use of the free space at POP. A public workshop to help shape the project will be held on the 3rd of December from 6pm to 8pm at POP Brixton. Applications for involvement should be submitted to by the 11th of December with the final group being confirmed just before Christmas.