Going beyond the finish line to regenerate local high streets

Beyond the Finish line ExteriorBeyond the Finish Line is a vibrant project based in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. The project challenges creative young people to come up with innovative responses to issues identified by local residents, giving new life to empty high street spaces around Glasgow

Launched in February 2014, the project received a huge number of applications from young (16 – 30) social entrepreneurs and after a demanding review process, selected 15 of them who have gone on to receive funding, mentorship and business support with the aim of helping them start up sustainable social businesses.

Developed by Firstport, Scotland’s agency for start-up social enterprises, in partnership with Icecream Architecture, the project is using the momentum of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games to kickstart the young entrepreneurs’ businesses.

The Big Lottery-funded programme was developed in response to baseline research conducted in 2013 by Firstport. Their report, entitled ‘Save our Streets’, investigated the potential role and avenues in which social enterprises could develop innovative responses to regenerate or improve local high streets. From the research, Firstport also recognised that Glasgow is a thriving hub for social enterprises, with over 500 social enterprises based in the city, 42% of which are based in deprived areas.

It has been easy to see the decline in Glasgow’s high streets in recent years. This decline can be attributed to a range of factors: the negative impact of the recession, the rise of online shopping and out-of-town shopping centres, amongst other things.

Scotland, despite the high street’s decline, has many examples of public, private and community sectors working together to regenerate local areas, harnessing their creativity and sense of community thus providing both social and economic benefits.

Firstport has a track record of supporting a vast amount of young entrepreneurs, helping them to develop their ideas into sustainable businesses. They understand the potential role that social enterprise can have (or already has) in delivering successful interventions that regenerate or improve our local high streets; for example, in driving footfall and increasing economic activity, improving access to or preserving local services, increasing the social function of the high street and helping to reduce anti-social behaviour and/or crime.

Firstport’s challenge was to integrate and channel this knowledge and community spirit into high street regeneration. Teaming up with Icecream Architecture, the two companies realised that the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 created a unique opportunity to harness the creativity and energy of young social entrepreneurs, to come up with new ways to regenerate their local areas and high streets.

The programme is supporting 15 ‘challengers’ to develop their social enterprise ideas into fully sustainable business, ready to launch in conjunction with the Games. These ideas will be bringing local Glasgow communities together, giving new life to empty or underused spaces across the city.

The spaces will be used in a variety of ways, from sensory immersion rooms designed to engage those without access to the arts, to galleries providing platforms for local community artists.

Other initiatives include Sinéad Fortune’s enterprise ‘Urban Catch’. This start up social enterprise highlights urban food production and sustainability education, mainly through the use of aquaponics – the fusion of ancient farming methods and modern technology which allows plants to grow up to 3 times faster while using 90% less water without chemicals.

Other examples are Sophie Steele and Shauna Gray, whose social enterprise ‘Treemendus Glasgow’ specialises in furniture upcycling. As well as selling their furniture, they aim to run classes in the community to teach the skills required to rejuvenate and breathe new life into recycled furniture, as well as creating volunteering opportunities for unemployed people.

There are many more inspiring young entrepreneurs involved in the programme, and as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games begin in July 2014, the project aims to have these challengers established in a property and trading. The benefits of increased footfall and community spirit provide an excellent platform for new social business to get the best start they can, allowing them to go on to make a real community-driven difference to Glasgow’s high streets.



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