IGP Stories

Citizen Scientists lead research to inform design of UCL East 'Meanwhile Use Space'


Jose Izcue Gana

25 November 2022

A team of Citizen Social Scientists recently held an event to showcase the findings of the UCL East Meanwhile Use Research Project. This is an innovative initiative that aims to inform the design of an inclusive innovation hub at UCL East’s meanwhile use site by drawing on insights from interviews with local entrepreneurs in Carpenters Road, Chobham Manor and East Village, as well as ethnographic observations of local spaces.

In a nutshell

  • The meanwhile use space is a vacant plot located in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (Pool Street East). UCL East commissioned a project led by citizen social scientists in East London who received research training through the Institute of Global Prosperity – UCL’s Citizen Science Academy, to provide recommendations for the design of an inclusive innovation hub for entrepreneurs, creators, and artists.
  • The aspiration for the site is to use it for approximately 10 years, and the purpose is to create an affordable collective space for entrepreneurs; develop partnerships with local organisations to obtain funding sources; and develop the plot – community hall, workspaces, outdoor space, etc.
  • The project is a joint collaboration between UCL East, UCL’s Citizen Science Academy, Creative Wick (Hackney) and key stakeholders.
The 'meanwhile use space' location in Pool Street East (picture in the left – purple arrow), within the UCL East campus
Citizen Scientists Jasmine Joseph, Selene Petersen, and Twinkle John, alongside project manager at Creative Wick – Alexis Charles, lay out the event’s agenda.

The occasion brought together citizen scientists, academics, entrepreneurs, practitioners, and other representatives. Two panel discussions were held during the event, where entrepreneurs, citizen social scientists, and UCL representatives, including Professor of Anthropology Michael Stewart and Principal Partners Manager Andrew Huddart, talked about the meanwhile use space and drew upon the results of the research to share some exciting insights:

  • Artists and entrepreneurs need opportunities, mentorship, training, and the opportunity to network with a diversity of people of varied demographics.
  • They need affordable spaces to work, store equipment, and hold events.
  • They want a controllable environment with convertible areas equipped with soundproofing, secure locking systems, and yard space.
  • All of this requires administrative support, start-up support, technical support, accessibility, time/system flexibility, and appropriate security.
Panel 1, from left to right: Andrew Huddart (partnership manager at UCL), Lousie Power (I-Orbit Radio), Claudette Thornton (Ms. Ouch Radio – Artist Injection Media hub), Jack Fortescue (management ACME), Twinkle John (Citizen Social Scientist).

The project was led by seven citizen social scientists trained at UCL’s Citizen Science Academy (CSA) alongside partners at the Institute for Global Prosperity, Creative Wick (Hackney), and other key stakeholders. Several case studies informed the research and were presented during the event. Krishna Vytelingum, founder of the company ‘The Depressed Baker’, shared his entrepreneurial experience of utilising stand-up comedy and baking to destigmatise depression and raise awareness about mental illness. He reflected on how the meanwhile use space could contribute to supporting the needs of entrepreneurs like him, by ideally, providing a public space that is free of cost to budding entrepreneurs. Claudia Thornton, also known as ‘Miss Ouch’, founder of the Artist Injection Media Hub – a multifaceted platform for emerging artists – explained how the meanwhile use space could offer an affordable space that facilitates the needs and values of under-represented artists.

The citizen social scientists explained how other entrepreneurs – ranging from a London-based charity that provides affordable studios, work/live space and a programme of residencies and awards for local artists (ACME), to Obi Fitness, an inclusive personal fitness trainer– could make use of the meanwhile use space in a variety of ways that truly brings the initiative to its full potential and might provide important benefits to the surrounding communities in east London.

This project is part of the IGP’s continuing effort to make participation in research inclusive and accessible to people from diverse backgrounds. Involving communities in research that directly matters to them is key to understanding local realities and to translate findings into appropriate localised action. The citizen social scientists involved in this project are based in east London and received research training through UCL’s Citizen Science Academy.

About the Citizen Science Academy

The Citizen Science Academy is an innovative new initiative that delivers community-based, practice-led learning to equip people with the knowledge and practical skills to take part in research to shape place-based policy-making and social action.

Led by the Institute for Global Prosperity, the UCL Citizen Science Academy is designed in partnership with UCL Office for Open Science and UCL’s cross-faculty Citizen Science Working Group. Rigorous, high-quality education and training programmes are ‘applied’, meaning they are linked to active research projects and are delivered in non-academic, community-based settings. Academy researchers do not need any prior experience in research, work, or study in further or higher education.

Dr James Shraiky, Senior Research fellow at the Institute for Global Prosperity, shares his thoughts on the project and talks about the Citizen Science Academy.

About Creative Wick

Creative Wick was set up to facilitate a permanent, sustainable, creative economy in Hackney Wick and Fish Island. It seeks to benefit local residents, businesses and institutions with an interest in the permanence of grassroots art, culture and creativity.

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