Blog: Kamran Rashid

How Bradford is set to benefit from a new co-working space

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Although Impact Hub Bradford launched publicly in August 2020, the journey actually began back in 2014 when I was exploring a new career direction.

I’ve always been passionate about working with and mentoring young people, and I’m grateful that I’ve enjoyed a successful career out of it. In 2014, I was employed by Unltd – the foundation for social entrepreneurs – and supported young entrepreneurs to start and grow their ventures, with grants, coaching and mentoring. Following the birth of my daughter in 2014, I had even more good news as I was promoted to a national role. However, I soon found that I was spending nearly all of my working life in London, away from my Yorkshire home and missing vital time with my young family.

What I really needed to achieve the much-desired work-life balance was a workspace distinct from my home

In the same way that many people are now feeling now that they are starting to head back to the office after spending much of the pandemic working from home, when it got to the end of my contract with Unltd, I didn’t want to fall back into the same gruelling routine that kept me away from my family. After much consideration, I made the decision to work from home and start developing a new venture of my own. But despite now having a wonderful home environment to work from and more time with my family, the boundaries between work and home life began to blur and I really started to burn out, spending much more time working than I should have done – something that a huge amount of us can now relate to after the last six months. It dawned on me that what I really needed to achieve the much-desired work-life balance was a workspace distinct from my home, but with the flexibility I needed for family life.

I’d come across co-working after visiting Google Campus and also Impact Hub in Westminster, part of a global network of workspaces. It was then in November 2015 that I met one of the team at Impact Hub Kings Cross, Alberto Masetti-Zannini, and I started to see how this different way of working had been successful elsewhere and could be hugely beneficial for myself and for others in Bradford. It was then that I set my sights on launching an Impact Hub in Bradford, its first in the north of England.

Coincidentally, in early 2016 my youngest brother had invested in a Grade II listed building in Bradford’s historic Little Germany district. With the idea of a co-working space still at the forefront of my mind, but really impressed by Impact Hub’s global network, I suggested that the building could be put to use for the city’s benefit and so the notion of 30 Chapel Street as a home for the city’s entrepreneurs was born.

Another person who helped to move my vision forward was Imran Ali, who I met at the launch of the city’s Digital Health Enterprise Zone. Also a Bradford native, Imran ran an emerging technologies consultancy and had a background in innovation ecosystems. Most importantly, he was also part of the team that launched Leeds’ first co-working community, at Old Broadcasting House in Leeds. From 2007 to 2013, OBH was the heart of Leeds’ burgeoning digital communities.

It took a few months, but I managed to convince Imran to join me in developing 30 Chapel Street into Impact Hub Bradford. By spring 2017, we were joined by Bradford-based dramaturg Alex Chisholm and a strategy to bring together social enterprise, arts, culture and technology was formed. We took the decision to focus on developing a community around these themes and though a physical workspace was important to our plans, we knew that it was vital to develop the network of inventors, entrepreneurs and creatives that would use an Impact Hub in Bradford.

We incubated this community with a series of events, workshops and support programmes, using various venues around the city to remind everyone of the city’s potential, as well as to reach into different sectors.

By 2019, we were joined by Mandip Sahota, one of our guest speakers at TEDxBradford and another native of the city. Mandip brought expertise in policy, operations, communication and strategy, and she helped us to shape the company strategy so that we could become a Community Interest Company, with more robust governance, and become an ethical vehicle for external funding. After receiving the exciting news that Bradford is bidding to become the 2025 City of Culture, we decided to reshape our plans around a new set of themes which we feel are most important to the city – social innovation, arts and culture and diaspora, and the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals.

Alongside this our community evolved into a membership programme that represented the diversity of Bradford’s communities, ranging from artists, creatives and performers to technologists, academics and social innovators, all committed to bringing their practices and ventures to the hub and contributing to shaping its future. From our own perspective, we’re committed to focusing on helping the city’s underserved find a voice – women, young people and BAME communities.

I have always believed in Bradford and its potential to be a world changing city of social innovators. Now I’m excited that it feels like the rest of the world is finally catching up to that. I believe that Impact Hub’s combination of innovative and inspiring workspace, a team with diverse influences and networks, and partnerships that speak to our city’s people all provide a potent mix of ingredients for an experimental and risk-taking culture of innovation, rooted in real needs.

Kamran Rashid is co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Bradford

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