Impact places are big news for civil society. The term can cover everything from co-working spaces with a social focus to youth centres, these ‘third places’ that can play a huge role in shaping their surroundings and communities. But the question that faces many of the people behind these spaces is how to make the impact their places have sustainable? Together with our Ukrainian partners, Insha Osvita, WECHANGE wanted to dive into this question.
Hence the name Beyond Spaces. The aim was to look beyond the physical four walls of an impact place and to explore what sustainability looks like in our teams, hub communities, cities and on an international level. We took (and indeed take) a holistic approach to sustainability, understanding the term not only in an ecological sense, but also using it as a lens through which to consider finances, communication, networks and topics such as burnout within teams.
The forum brought together participants from all across Ukraine, from Ternopil in the west of the country to Kramatorsk in the east, via Kyiv, as well as from Berlin and Hamburg in Germany. Whilst coming from different country contexts, the fact that all participants were active in social impact spaces facilitated many enriching exchanges of best practice and chances to share different approaches to common challenges in the two countries.
Ivano-Frankivsk was the perfect location for this event as it is home to some very exciting social impact places, which we’ve written about here on the blog before. Beyond Spaces was hosted at Promprylad.Renovation, a large-scale project to turn a gas meter factory into a complex of offices and co-working spaces, cultural venues, green public spaces and much more. WECHANGE had already been at the space in 2017, at an earlier stage in its development and it was great to see how the renovation had progressed in the past year.
Even more exciting was hearing all the plans that are still in the pipeline for Promprylad.Renovation. These were shared with the group by Yuriy Fylyuk, founder of the NGO Teple Misto (Warm City) and CEO of Promprylad.Renovation. His presentation formed part of an inspiring session on cooperation with city administration and the wider community, together with input from the MetaLab team, who engage in urban research and strengthening a bottom-up approach to city development initiatives.
The forum also had chance to visit other social impact spaces in the city, such as Paragraph Student Space, a self-organised event space for students at Ivano-Frankivsk’s National Technical University of Oil and Gas University. Some of the team members were participants at the Beyond Spaces forum and we were delighted to accept their invitation to host a session in their space.
Urban Space 100, where Beyond Spaces hosted an evening of talks on the theme “Trust as a Pillar of Sustainable Development”. WECHANGE gave a talk on “Trust in Digital Communication” and Daria Korba, an architect and ‘urban diver’ who shared her experiences of building trust with local communities when carrying out field research for urban space interventions. Both talks sparked a lively debate!
As the forum drew to a close with the customary group hug, the participants were making plans to continue to stay in touch, not least via the WECHANGE Platform, as an online space to securely share resources and to collaborate on potential new projects. The WECHANGE team certainly hopes this is the first step to developing an international network of social impact places that are working towards ever greater sustainability. We hope to organise further Beyond Spaces events in the future, so *ahem* watch this space…!