I've known Laura Billings since the early days of Snook when she joined forces with Tessy Britton as part of the Community Lovers Guide. I'm delighted to have finally met her in person now I'm in London. She is the founder of Ours Yours, social change manager at Edspace and a participant in Enrol Yourself.Here's what she has to say...
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?
To follow your gut, however, hard that is. And not to get too busy to listen to it. Once you’ve made a decision, move forward and learn along the way (apart from the times that you need to sit down and relax - everyone deserves a duvet day).
What’s your burning question of the moment?
I always have so many questions…! Currently, I have two big ones. I am working on a prototype local business - a micro-hotel designed to support local makers and neighbourhood projects. One way to do this is through channelling some revenue towards neighbourhood projects, and selling / using local goods in the hotel. But I am interested in finding ways to connect people beyond a commercial or transactional relationship. How can a space be used to bring neighbours together in new ways? How can we learn about different cultures from the people who visit? (and will they be willing to spend any of their holiday time on this?!) Can we host collaborative conversations, and eventually decision-making about the bigger process of development in the area, and discover new ways for it to benefit everyone, rather than be extractive? (See that’s a lot of questions right there!). I am exploring these questions as part of a peer learning cohort called Enrol Yourself.
The second big question is around Edspace, the education innovation focused co-working space that I run. We are currently asking ‘what is the best way we can have a positive impact on education in a mile radius?’. There are around 50 primary schools, 10 secondary schools, 100 education ventures, 30 or more other education organisations, charities, projects… What can we do to work together to create a density of activity and impact in our local area (and then beyond)?
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen/ heard/ read in the last year?
I find so many things inspirational. The development of The Participatory City and its potential impact at scale continues to excite and inspire me, since the pilot demonstration neighbourhood we built last year. Theaster Gates and his work in Chicago developing a new practice around community development is impressive. This week I was in Manchester and visited a local coffee shop that was collaborating with a bee cooperative to make soap with leftover coffee grounds. Last week I saw a news story about a barber who offers money off for children who read to him while he cuts their hair.
What would be your one piece of advice to students out there?
Have an expectation to learn throughout life, and to continue to be curious. And as best as possible, pair up any academic studies with real-world action.
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