For those of us running a nonprofit center, the myriad daily decisions -- troubleshooting HVAC issues, managing tenant improvement projects, determining where to store all that hand sanitizer -- can seemingly occupy our whole brains. It’s easy to forget that we’re part of a movement: a movement of social purpose real estate. Social purpose real estate, or SPRE, is broadly defined as spaces that serve the common good such as public parks, affordable housing, libraries, museums, and, of course, community-serving workspaces, i.e., nonprofit centers. At NCN we’ve recently been refocusing ourselves on this movement.
Moving forward with planning or developing a shared space during a pandemic is not as risky as it sounds. Shared space projects on average can take 3-5 years to come together, and it may also be a prime time for nonprofits to put down roots– literally, concrete foundations – to keep you grounded in your community for long term sustainability and impact. NCN is currently working with a repeat client on just that. Multiple organizations have been co-locating under 2 different roofs through leases supported by a foundation. After living and breathing shared space, and with demand from other nonprofits in the area, they are putting all options on the table for permanent space that encompasses a larger pool of nonprofits in one or more of the 3 main counties served. We are just entering the demand phase of our feasibility study, but the energy about being together (in pre-COVID times) from current tenants in our opening Visioning Session was palpable, even over Zoom. Personally, one of my biggest takeaways was from an Executive Director who adamantly believes that nonprofits belong and should be treated equally to that of the local business community. They provide jobs and benefits and provide services that otherwise would be unmet. They deserve the same visibility.
Giving ourselves permission to be rooted in quality workspace can sometimes go against our scarcity mentality. But the time is ripe to claim our work that often meets and lifts up the marginalized peoples of our communities. Put a value on that and take up the space you (and your partners) are meant for.
Need help planning or developing your shared space? Contact Leena Waite, Consulting Coordinator for support at firstname.lastname@example.org.