Innovation Works was born in a living room amid a small gathering of great minds. Together they imagined London’s very own co-working space, where change-makers and innovators could intersect and cross-pollinate. A space dedicated to social innovation.
London had been experiencing significant growth and change and was yearning for a space designed to explore solutions to the accompanying economic, environmental, social and cultural challenges. This small living room gathering had hatched an idea that would soon be embraced by a community of champions eager to make it happen.
Pillar Nonprofit Network was one such champion. Asked early on to step up as the backbone of the project, we were excited to bring our work in community impact and cross-sector collaboration to the next level.
Working together with Emerging Leaders, London Arts Council, London Heritage Council and a number of community groups, Pillar engaged The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) to support the development of a coworking space for London. CSI was Canada’s first coworking space and has been a globally recognized leader in the field of collaborative communities and innovation since its inception in Toronto in 2004. Working from CSI's models and best practices, the project was propelled forward.
In 2013, Pillar and Emerging Leaders conducted a detailed feasibility study and created a business plan thanks to a grant from the London Community Foundation. The grant also allowed London to bring in social innovation experts, Purpose Capital and CSI Toronto, to share significant real life experience that helped the partners hone the financial plans and operating model.
Then, at long last, in August 2014 Pillar announced its purchase of the Garvey Building at 201 King Street in the heart of Downtown London. Innovation Works had a home.
Before you could say "innovation", committees were formed, a project team was in place and support from the community started coming in. Pillar worked with VERGE Capital to offer London's first ever community bond which was sold out well ahead of schedule. Innovators across all sectors were rallying behind the project and it wasn't long before co-tenants were signing on the dotted line.
As Innovation Works blossomed, so too did the relationship with CSI. Today Innovation Works and CSI have establish a more formal affiliation intended to strengthen each organization’s offerings to their respective communities and create a bridge for new collaborations between social innovators in Toronto and London. Innovation Works co-tenants and 1800 CSI members are connected over shared technology platforms and can make use of each organization's lounges and facilities.
Pillar programing, staff and resources support the space but at its heart, Innovation Works is a community-driven initiative, made by and for London. Together with its partners and the countless entrepreneurs, individuals, organizations and businesses who make up Innovation Works, we are turning social challenge into social opportunity - together.