Growing Communities – transforming the food industry through local projects

I discovered this inspiring project last year when I was looking for voluntary work. I started volunteering at their gardens at Springfield Park in Hackney and really loved the experience of meeting people in my local area over a shared activity and learning new things!

What do they do?
main_column_float_mednopotsveg1. Organic Box Scheme: choose what type of organic fruit and veg bags you want in your box and choose a pick-up point local to you from which to collect it. All food is grown as close to Hackney as possible; either in their local urban market gardens, patchwork farm or their new starter farm. All food is sourced from small-scale, local, organic and bio-dynamic growers. The prices are here, and there is a discount for pensioners.

2. Urban food growing: volunteers grow food (specializing in salad leaves) in market gardens in Hackney: Clissold Park, Springfield Park and Allens Gardens. They also have farms: Patchwork (a collection of plots in Hackney) and Startup in Dagenham. Anyone is welcome to visit and check it out.

Growing Communities: growing a network

Growing Communities has been doing amazing work empowering people to create their own suchlike projects through their Start-up Programme.

So far, nine community-led box schemes have emerged: Burnley Crop Share, Let’s Eat Local, Moffat, Local Greens, Herne Hill, London, the Windmill Community Box scheme, Margate, Vegbox, Kentish Town, London,  Field to Fork, Kensal Rise, London Cropdrop in Haringey, Enfield Veg Co, London and Organic Ilford, London.

Why do they do it?

Issues of rapid urbanisation and climate change present challenges of sustainability in cities. Growing Communities believe we need to localise. They want to encourage people to reconnect to the source of their nourishment by growing and delivering good quality, organic vegetables and fruits that have all been locally grown with care and consideration of the ecosystems in place (bio-dynamic approach).
They have a manifesto where they discuss the problem and how we can change things. They set out the vision of what is meant by sustainable and resilient in their key principles. They do this work because they care about the future of people in cities adapting to challenges and re-connecting to the source of our food.

Find out more, hear stories and get involved

You can find out more on their website, by following their blog and twitter. To get involved you can volunteer or even become an urban apprentice.

Paper and Cup – a non-for-profit community cafe helping struggling individuals get back on track

Around a year ago a good friend wanted to surprise me. I remember him saying, “you’ll love this place, I know it.” Even simply walking down the street I felt something different. I felt like I was entering a community. There was a sense of togetherness. As soon as we arrived I remember thinking: what a great space for people.

77aa77c810c5e1814e6b8cbb421fd379What is it?
Paper and Cup is a not-for-profit social enterprise: a café and bookshop which serves a variety of hot and cold foods and drinks. It was founded by a local charity called SCT which helps homeless, marginalized and addicted people on their journey of recovery; so every item purchased at Paper and Cup helps change people’s lives.

What do they do?
Currently they have two cafés, one in Shoreditch and the other near Mile End. The one in Shoreditch is smaller and more intimate with a cosy vibe. The varied book collection is impressive and so are all the herbal teas!  Every Wednesday (7pm-9pm) the Shoreditch cafe transforms into a ‘choices’ cafe where people in recovery can meet, form friendships and support one another. These evenings are open to anyone who has not used alcohol or drugs in the last 24hrs. The branch in Mile End is much bigger and is partnered with St Paul’s Way Centre, which provides different spaces, classes and resources for a range of needs and means. There are indoor, outdoor and bookable spaces. There are computers for anyone to use. There are indoor and outdoor play areas for children. I really enjoy spending time there and anyone I take there loves it.

Why do they do it?
To help people improve their lives of course! The team is made up of people who care about doing important social work and believe that social enterprises can play a role as responsible service providers. At Paper and Cup you are firstly a person and your custom is appreciated because it goes towards good causes. A few people who work at the two cafes have told me it’s the best job they have ever had. They do meaningful work and can support themselves. The cafe helps those who need it most.

paperandcup4-385x250Find out more, hear stories and get involved
The best way to find out more is to go and visit next time you’re in Shoreditch or Mile End! You can also visit their website and join the facebook group for contact info or testimonials/stories showing how they help change people’s lives. You can also check out reviews.

Talk to Me, I’ll Talk to You –providing the tools and spaces for strangers to come together to talk

badge-to-buttonMy adventure with this project started one rainy London day in Springtime. I was taking a walk down Kingsland High Street when I noticed some people giving ‘free hugs’. I very rarely say no to a hug so I went over, arms open. The huggers then invited me to a free community meal at a local live music venue (Passing Clouds). I had plans so couldn’t go… but I was curious. So I asked the strangers who hugged me: Where does the food come from? Who cooks it? Is this regular? They told me it was on every Sunday and that people just like me cook and donate the food. Then they told me about the project: I talk to Strangers - and that they collaborate with The People’s Kitchen. So I joined the facebook group and since then I have been a huge fan of this fast growing movement: Talk to Me, I’ll Talk to You

What is it?

A not-for-profit social movement which tries to get people in London talking by creating open social spaces with welcoming atmospheres to remind people howgood a conversation with a total stranger can be; on an every day to day basis.

What do they do?

They find and collaborate with certain cafés which are open spaces that help culture grow; with people that care about you and treat you like a person not just a customer. Through events in the cafés they encourage strangers to talk authentically to one another about anything! They also provide tools such as badges with simp600_374259512le statements that you are open to conversation. The badges can be a great way to connect with strangers on the streets, underground, bus stops…anywhere. The big ‘Talk to Me Day’ in August had a variety of events all over London: picnics in parks, interactive theatre, panel debates on talking to strangers, ‘talk street’ and socials in cafés. Being a big fan, I helped out on ‘talk street’ in Neal’s Yard. I had a truly amazing day.

Why do they do it?

icon1Because they believe that having a conversation with a stranger should be ‘a simple choice, not a huge cultural challenge’. Often people in London don’t speak to each other simply because they think it is not the ‘norm’ and they don’t know how the other person would respond: it can seem scary. But spontaneously meeting a stranger can lead to a great friendship or simply put a smile on your face. Another aim is to overcome hesitation around interacting with different kinds of people, regardless of age, gender, culture, or ‘types’ of people. Conversations with people we don’t know can be very interesting. Unlike friends, families and partners there is no attachment to a stranger. You can tell them anything and they can give you their unique and impartial perspective. You can share moments of connection without expecting to ever see them again. Often you do see them again; after all, every friend you have was once a stranger.

Find out more, hear stories and get involved

The best way to find out more, hear stories and get involved is to come to one of the next events. Visit the websites. To keep up to date with events join the facebook, meetup or streetlife groups.

Does Poynt have potential to bring local communities together?


If you are fan of all those location-based technologies services trying to make our lives easier you might know about Poynt (app).

Poynt is a local search facility on your mobile. The app has no niche; you can search for almost anything.

It’s very useful if you are looking for the nearest gas station or restaurant etc… but to be honest it’s  not extraordinary as there are many services offering those features nowadays.

What we find quite interesting about this product: 

- They have added great messaging options including contacts

- Real-time search & answer.

- Great design (great user interface/experience)

- Smart weather icon (it is a utility app!)

- A very small move in getting a partnership with Nimbuzz ( a mobile messaging app). Perhaps this might be a good step forward in resolving their critical mass issue.

Small businesses should consider ReachLocal

A few months ago, I came across an interesting company which has been around for a while but not well known in the UK.

ReachLocal is a provider of online marketing solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises. Basically they help Local businesses gain more customers through their online exposure platforms.

They specialise in offering Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tools for small businesses; but also offer many more things. Check them out here:

- J

Look at your local noticeboards for opportunities!


A few weeks ago, I was taking a walk in my local area and came across those big local notice boards you see pretty much everywhere if you’re not buried in your smartphone or your thoughts.

In fact, if you have a closer look, you can notice that we are surrounded by them; in most of local shops, libraries, schools, colleges, local coffee shops, local supermarkets etc…

Whilst exploring modern tech initiatives to improve the old school notice board, I randomly thought of a french startup called Geokiwi (Unfortunately, it clearly looks like the startup isn’t running any longer).

A few years ago, when I came across Geokiwi through the famous Leweb conference, I can clearly remember thinking what a great idea.

Here is a video of Geokiwi presentation at Leweb in 2011.

Until now , I haven’t really seen( If you do, don’t hesitate to share) a product with a great solution but I definitely believe the opportunity is still there for innovative creation.

- J

Streethub – nearby item finder startup


A few months ago, I came across a pretty ambitious startup in London, called Streethub. It is a ‘find a product near you’ service for consumers.

Streethub reminds me of a startup called Milo (which was bought by ebay in 2010) . For those of you who don’t know Milo, it was quite a popular silicon valley startup in 2010 with a big goal of building a bridge between online and offline commerce. Pretty quickly the young startup discovered that the vision was too ambitious and ended up by selling to the famous online auction site, Ebay.

So far, Streethub look like they are doing well by making deals with important strategic retailers and getting investment funds. Both crucial for any business start-up’s success.

The major weakness I see is their lack of a mobile application. In my humble opinion, there is no way to solve the local commerce holy grail without a first class mobile strategy. I have recently been made aware that they are working on their iPhone application.

Until they launch in more London areas and offer a great mobile experience, it will be hard to really see what Streethub can offer in their consumer market.

- J

Foursquare is getting interesting!


I have been following Foursquare probably from around 2009/10

For the first couple of years , It was just a check in app. You give your location so you can connect with friends in the area or get info.

Nowadays, the startup has another dimension. Foursquare has moved from a checkin feature to a great location focused recommendation tool .

I never used it much personally. I guess the main reasons are because I never really understood why should I share my location and what I was really getting from it

But recently, I was at Southbank and I got a notification from a random person on Foursquare giving me info about the best places to visit in that area.

An other great experience was at the gym, I got a notification from the gym manager to remind me to put the weights back after I’d finished with them. Isn’t this great ?

Here are a few examples why I think Foursquare recommendation tool has a massive potential:

- Imagine being in a restaurant  and getting other people’s recommendations of what to/not to order. Good for consumers and for restaurants it can be a great marketing tool as well.

- Imagine going to a park you are unfamiliar with and getting feedback from people familiar with the park who share their favourite parts; where to get the best view, where is good for children, where to avoid going if you have a run, where regular music jams happen or sharing where the ice cream van is.

Anyway, you can let your imagination go and explore different directions that foursquare could go. There is a lot of potential. But at the moment the focus is still on connecting people as consumers to what local services are around.

We want to focus on community…

Locappy – a new way to discover offers in your neighbourhood

A couple of months ago I discovered a new product called Locappy through an event I was randomly invited to attend at the campus.

It was brilliantly organised event and interesting one for someone passionate about glocalising like myself.

What’s cool about Locappy? 

The service is a local marketing platform for small businesses. Basically this a tool for “small” local businesses to advertise and attract local people through mainly social media websites like Facebook, twitter… At the same time users will be able to receive nearby offers in real-time. In a way, it’s a much better version of Groupon too.

At the moment, It looks like they are at a very early stage of their adventure but I have to say, they are making lots of progress. Their strategy seems to conquer London from area to area. For now, the lucky areas available are Soho, Shoreditch and Marylebone (if you live in one of these area, give it a try and share your feedback).

But what do they do exactly ?

They offer to small businesses a tool to attract more customers through a targeted mobile advertising, social networks, hyperlocal blog adverts and a location based app. Recently they launched their android and as far as I know I don’t think their iPhone app is running yet. Also the web based product is only available in Soho and Shoreditch. I guess scalability is the real issue that they will have to figure out if they want even a glimpse of success.

So I can’t wait for the iPhone app and mainly for more places in South London to get online.

I sincerely hope Locappy takes off because it’s a good glocalisation tool. However, the focus is still on consuming rather than community.

Is hyperlocal “daily deals” business dead?

This might be quite an old videos but I think the subject of the debate is still quite relevant.

Nowadays , it seems like most of people have made they mind in admitting that the daily deals business is definitely dead.

The main arguments of users fatigue or seeing those deals as spams and mainly how irrelevant they are …. – those arguments are still strong reasons to think that the daily deal business was never a sustainable business.

But a new rebirth of this daily deal business seems to appear. This is what I personally call “a hyperlocal daily deal”!

How about if Groupon , LivingSocial and all those other look alike companies got it completely wrong?

How about if you could get relevant deals at a time you need it and mainly from where you really are?

Startups like Locappy ( seems to have a go at this and I am sure that we will see a crowd of companies jumping into this field again.


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