How Bootstrap amps its social impact

As you climb the stairs of The Print House to get to Dalston Roof Park you are accompanied by a mural, created by Bootstrap tenant Roger Mason. The vibrant animation is designed to communicate the breadth of the organisation’s work and their social mission to both the tenants and visitors to the building.

As the mural says ‘Bootstrap is where community works’. With a thriving population of businesses and entrepreneurs the building is a unique space that aims to amplify the creative and social impact of tenants businesses. It does this by creating a supportive community, providing tenant training events and enterprise support.

Matt Tull, a member of the Bootstrap team said: “The whole purpose of the mural was to touch on the social mission as well as trying to capture the breadth of the work that we do.”

Bootstrap operates in four different areas providing workspace, enterprise support, training and networking as well as hosting events across number of event spaces. The mural is about trying to get people to understand that it all comes under one organisation – Bootstrap Company.

Bootstrap manages three buildings on Ashwin Street. They own the leasehold on the Print House whilst renting Colourworks from the Council and Fitzroy House from a private landlord. These last two buildings are subject to rent review and recently Colourworks’ rent was reviewed, increasing the amount Bootstrap pays significantly.

As a business their primary source of income is generated by letting workspace, and although Dalston Roof Park does generate some income it is nowhere near enough to bridge the gap between outgoings following such a stark increase in rent.

For Bootstrap, the only way it could continue operating in it’s current form was to increase tenants rent. This move had the potential to force out some of the businesses that add the most social value to the community and to end Bootstrap as the place it has been for years. A radical solution was needed and the Bootstrap Fund was born.

Matt explains: “The Bootstrap Fund is a subsidy we offer to tenants to reduce their rent. It is awarded to tenants who can best demonstrate their social or cultural impact. In light of the recent rent review we’ve changed our business model to charging market rates for workspace, and as a charity we commit a set percentage of our surplus into the Bootstrap Fund which tenants are then eligible to apply for. Year on year we’re hoping to boost the fund, enabling us to provide more support to our tenant body.”

Criteria for fund applications are divided into four different areas: community and diversity, training, employability and education and the cultural economy. With the first round of Bootstrap Fund supporting 42 businesses, 151 jobs and 26,000 beneficiaries the impact of the programme is evident.  

The Bootstrap Fund gives them a framework, and metrics, for the support they have already been providing to their tenant body for decades and it allows Bootstrap to accurately communicate, and define, their social impact.

Matt said: “The rent review has been a very turbulent time for both Bootstrap, and ultimately our tenant body. The Bootstrap Fund is a flagship model we have developed that is scalable and could go some way to being a potential solution to London’s workspace crisis as we work towards providing organisations with a social or cultural focus workspace that’s accessible. It also allows us to clearly measure and communicate the support we’ve been giving our tenant body over the years”

The new Bootstrap Fund business model has been born out of necessity in the context of London’s current property climate. But out of adversity a system has been developed that allows Bootstrap to clearly focus and measure its social impact.

This article was written by Mat Amp, with additional reporting by Holly Dovey-Hudson, while volunteering for Poached Creative – a social enterprise communications agency and Bootstrap tenant.

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