What if local people had the power to respond to the challenges most important in their communities? 

We worked with Eastlight Community Homes over the course of 12 months to design and deliver All In – the UK’s first community incubator. We helped 21 residents imagine, build, test and embed new solutions to the problems faced in their local areas.

The work we did


Eastlight recruited 21 community entrepreneurs across four areas for 12 months on a full time paid salary. They took an inclusive approach to recruitment. Hundreds of local residents applied without the need for formal qualifications or CVs – the only requirement being a genuine drive to make change in their community. 


With 21 community entrepreneurs assembled, we worked with them to tackle four local challenges – cost of living, mental health, social isolation and opportunities for young people. 

We provided training, mentoring and hands-on support in community research, insight-building and co-creation – helping community entrepreneurs to connect with their communities, truly understand their experiences and come up with ideas for community-driven social change.


With each of the four team’s having solid ideas in mind for their community, we guided them through experimentation sprints – mapping the assumptions in their ideas and going back out the test and refine them until the community entrepreneurs felt they had something that was truly in demand by their communities.

We created proto-brands with them so every idea had a name, identity and felt real. They built:

  • Trusted – peer to peer money confidence programme in Colchester
  • Grow with the Flow – a period empowerment programme in Halstead
  • Popcorn – a social space for socially isolated young people in Witham
  • Kinder Minds – a wellbeing hub in the heart of Braintree

We helped the community entrepreneurs take their ideas into the real world by mapping out the end-to-end experience design, creating the brand materials, working out what needs to happen behind the scenes and running a series of ‘dress rehearsals’ to iron out any kinks and get real for real-world delivery and testing.


Every team setup and ran a 5 week pilot for real in their communities – advertising their new projects, delivering their ideas with real people and capturing data to show whether they were achieving the experience and outcomes they wanted. 

The results were astounding. Trusted’s money confidence pilot group saved £31,376 in outgoings between them. Every other team saw full participation and positive outcomes around wellbeing, confidence and community connectedness.


All four team’s finished the community incubator with seed funding from Eastlight to set up as their own independent entities – bringing four new community enterprises into Essex. We at Shift will continue to work hands-on with the community entrepreneurs to generate income further their reach and deepen their impact.

We believe strongly that more investment should go towards individuals who are most impacted by the social issues they want to tackle. If you want to invest in community-led social change – get in touch. 





Eastlight Community Homes | Eastlight Community Homes   Our University logo | University of Essex

Do you want to get involved? We'd love to hear from you
Email me - louise.cooper@shiftdesign.org