That was certainly the experience of Claire Carpenter, a committed social activist with a strong track record in local personal, organisational and professional development.
Based in Edinburgh, Claire worked from her housing co-op home on a variety of projects, but sometimes found her motivation sapped by the isolation of home working. Conscious that she was inspired by places as much as people she felt the need to create a space that would inspire experiences, create networks and stimulate individuals’ personal and business development.
“I’ve always believed that work is a very important vehicle for an individual’s personal growth,” says Claire, “and I wanted to create a place where people could fulfil themselves through their work, network with like-minded people and where ideas could grow.”
And that place is The Melting Pot, a social enterprise offering affordable, accessible and attractive work, meeting and events spaces in the very heart of Edinburgh.
Based in Rose Street, just behind Princes Street and no more than a five minute walk from Waverley Station, The Melting Pot opened its doors last October.
It is available for use by social innovators – anyone working to enhance social, environmental and economic wellbeing.
“I want The Melting Pot to break down silos,” says Claire. “It doesn’t matter whether people are in a social enterprise, part of a national charity or involved with grassroots volunteering – it’s where they’re driving not what vehicle they’re in that matters.”
Individuals and organisations can sign up as members and then use the facilities on terms that suit them – from hot desking for a few hours a month (just £20 for five hours) to basing their organisation there.
Finding the right property was crucial, says Claire. “It really is all about location, location, location. Too many activists or social entrepreneurs end up having to meet in community centres or church halls.
“We wanted a fully accessible, professional facility with good light and an ethical landlord in the centre of Edinburgh,” she says. With such tough criteria Claire admits to having been ‘optimistic but not totally confident’ of finding the right place.
Working in partnership with the Ethical Property Company, and having been inspired by a similar project in London, an overheard conversation in a pub led to the securing of part of the old Jenners store before it had even gone on the market.
The Ethical Property Company bought the building, with The Melting Pot taking the top floor. “They wanted us and we needed them,” Claire says of the link with The Ethical Property Company.
Claire had been able to sell her vision and inspire those around her. Participatory design workshops had helped shaped the look of the space and 10 days before opening a team of 120 willing helpers was assembled, ready to work round the clock on an eco-refit of the building, using 90% recycled materials and furnishings.
Now that the Melting Pot is open and recruiting members, Claire is eager that the business moves towards financial sustainability as soon as possible. Interest shown in replicating the idea in other Scottish cities is flattering but Claire is not going to be distracted: “We haven’t proven this yet. We need to make this sustainable and build the right culture here first.”
She is modest about her achievements: “I just had an idea and found people who could help me make it work,” she says.
To find out more about becoming a member of The Melting Pot, using its facilities or attending forthcoming open days and events, visit www.themeltingpotedinburgh.com