East London Social Hack 2018

The qEnterprise team recently held our second East London Social Hack at Stour Space, in Hackney Wick. It was a roaring success, and we’re keen to tell you why and to encourage you to get involved next time. To start with, check out the video below.

What is it!?

The East London Social Hack is an intensive weekend bootcamp that gives 60 Queen Mary students and alumni the chance to create social enterprises – commercial businesses that exist primarily to address social problems, not make profit – in just 48 hours!


Because it shows what a fantastic vehicle (social) entrepreneurship can be for learning a huge array of skills, personal development and positive social change. It also demonstrates the phenomenal amount students can achieve in a short space of time given the right environment.

We’re especially pleased to use the East London Social Hack as a platform to engage with social issues local to East London. The weekend focused particularly on four broad categories: Health, Housing, Community Cohesion and Environment. Stour Space was the ideal space for this: it’s a thriving hub not only for local social enterprises, but also artists, activists and community members fighting for a fairer society. We can’t thank them enough for hosting us.

ELSHSo how does it work?

On Friday evening attendees arrived equipped with potential social-enterprise ideas. The first task was to pitch, debate and then vote on these ideas, before forming teams around the most popular. A challenging process, particularly when nobody knows one another! Nevertheless, we emerged with eight fantastic ideas: a fund and community projects to help people out of debt; a community hub for young people; smart bins for boosting recycling; leveraging corporate sponsorship to reduce plastic waste; an artist-led marketing agency for social organisations; healthy food boxes made from local market produce; accessible outdoor exercise facilities; and a programme to improve STEM access.

Teams formed, we launched straight into workshops on the Lean Business Model Canvas, a tool for quickly visualising business models, and Theory of Change, for mapping how a social enterprise will make a positive impact. These provided the foundation for further sessions through the weekend on customer research (including teams hitting the streets to speak with potential customers); marketing and branding, with Thomas Scovell, our lead InQUBEate mentor; pitching, with Alborz, co-founder of Twipes, 2017 winners of the London Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition; on life as a social entrepreneur, with The Hard Yard founder Frankie Bennett; and on different funding mechanisms.

QM_Hack_(28_of_120)Another invaluable dimension of the weekend is time teams spent in mentoring sessions and on-to-one appointments with a whole host of industry experts, from entrepreneurs through marketers, designers, researchers and corporate professionals. As well as the opportunity to refine their business models, this gives students the chance to network with people who offer different types of career blueprints from which to take inspiration, advice and confidence.

Sunday evening culminated in a pitch competition, with two Try It Awards and a host of other awards up for grabs. The teams did a superb job, under the friendly but expert gaze of four judges: Gary McPherson, CTO of Pixeloute; Catherine Tollington, COO at the Bromley by Bow Centre; Carl Konadu, CEO of 2-3 Degrees; and Neil McDonald, a Founding Director of Stour Space.

The awards went to:

  • Overall Winner: Seeds2Stem: workshops to encourage young people, especially young women, into STEM subjects.
  • Best Pitch: Market Box, healthy food boxes made from local market produce.
  • Most Commitment to Social Issue: Acrala, leveraging corporate sponsorship to reduce plastic waste.
  • Best Teamwork: Recycolution, smart bins for boosting recycling.
  • Star of the Weekend: Jess Garnham, ROAR.

QM Hack (55 of 120)Can I get involved?

Absolutely! The next East London Social Hack will be next year, but fear not: we have similar bootcamps throughout the year. The next will be in June. We recommend you sign up to our newsletter to stay tuned. Applications will be open to all students, regardless of background, subject or anything else. And given 100% of students who attended the weekend would recommend it to their friends, it’s a no-brainer for anybody who rightly thinks they could benefit from entrepreneurial skills, experience building a business and hanging out with smart, motivated students who think likewise.

We can also support you in all sorts of other ways, through advice appointments, events, signposting resources, supporting funding applications and more. If you’d like to have a chat about any of the above, please do get in touch at enterprise@qmul.ac.uk

It remains to say a massive thank you to all our amazing mentors and judges, both of whom dedicate their voluntary time; everybody at Stour Space, who bent over backwards to accommodate us; Richard Cooke of QMUL startup Super Kitchen, for providing the tunes; everybody else who helped bring the East London Social Hack together; and, most importantly, the attendees for their relentless energy, enthusiasm and skills – the most important but difficult ingredient!

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