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Radical new collaborations for local economies

We’ve been working on the Trading Spaces concept for about a year. It's exciting to be sharing a year's worth of thinking about innovative ways of increasing collaborative activity on high streets (primary business streets) that doesn't rely on local residents to be simply consumers --> but partners, makers and social investors as well.

It's an integration strategy that challenges the idea that commercial local retail businesses and social projects should continue to seek sustainability separately, but instead aims to find points of mutual benefit, engineering a creative form of ‘radical collaboration’.



From this perspective both business and innovative social projects view each other as mutually dependent rather than mutually exclusive or competitive. The primary proposition to businesses is that by giving priority to increasing the social aspects of their business, they will be transforming their relationships with customers and developing a genuine partnership for sustaining the economic and social infrastructure of their local community.

{By 'social' we don't mean charity projects - but rather projects which are more like the Creative Collaborative projects that are described in Hand MadeCompendium for the Civic Economy and the Community Lover's Guides)

A lovely idea in theory – but how do we put this concept into practice?

We have designed 6 primary strategies:


1. Connect innovative social projects with compatible businesses. {If you don’t have any innovative projects – you'll need to start some!}



Further examples might include:

  • Sports Shops connected to Good Gym
  • Box Shops like Hub Shop in Rotterdam connected to a maker network such as Makerhood
  • Clothing Shops connected with Swishing events
  • Fabric shops connected with making spaces with sewing machines e.g. Sweat Shop


2. Create opportunities for local residents to invest in new shops

Build the local community into your model – giving local residents the opportunity to invest in the high street they would like to support and use, creating new sustainable social and economic models. Example below: Loaf

3. Encourage retailers to invest in local residents

Put advertising aside, and start to create genuine bonds between your business and local residents. Build shared resources into your shop concept. Example below: Cook with Me



4. Social projects building in a retail model for sustainability

Consider retail as viable alternative to regular funding models for projects that connect with local residents. Example below: Pirate Supply Store model

5. Build shared resources into your shop concept

Delight customers with new ways of experiencing the high street, and create opportunities of customers to connect with each other. Example below: Laundromat Cafe




6. Develop collaborative platforms which encourage and incubate projects and ventures together

Spaces that increase coolocation promote collaboration. Put them in the heart of the high street - rather than at the edges - and intergrate thinking about social and business. Social projects often turn into mixed models for business. Examples below: Matthews Yard, PieLab and The Common Room.







We have recently had an opportunity through the high street regeneration project in Sidcup - An Outer London Fund project through Design for London and Bexley Council - to bring some of the ideas to life. In partnership with Zero Zero we are currently in the process of surfacing and developing new retail and social activity in Sidcup High Street in a Discovery Incubator - with a view to considering the best retail incubator models of Sidcup High Street later this year. With some interesting and exciting early results - we'll keep everyone posted through the Instore for Sidcup site as more activity starts to emerge! (more images)

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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