Spaces for Change

by Angel Flores

“I need space.”

The last time you probably heard or said this was when you had relationship problems and you just wanted some space to breathe. But today, these words have become even more common as real estate property has increasingly become scarce and as a result, prices have risen. This is an unavoidable trend particularly in urban communities. Such is the case in London.

In a recent visit to the UK, I had the chance to visit CAN who was our partner in the Business and Investment Readiness Programme. I sat down with Rohan Martyres, the Head of Impact and Strategy of CAN. He took me around their premises at Great Dover Street, which is only one of five locations of their CAN Mezzanine service. It is a six-storey building opposite the Borough tube station, 10 minutes away from London Bridge and it now houses more than 300 people from about 30 organisations from the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector 

It is amazing how CAN has been able to create a business model through property management and how it has assisted the third sector and social enterprises in maximising their impact through these spaces.

CAN Mezzanine rental spaces and arrangements are flexible and prices are estimated to be at half or third the price of normal commercial rental rates. Clients have the option to rent short or long term. They can add or reduce desk spaces depending on the nature of their growth. What CAN Mezzanine offers is not just space but the right space at the right time that is beneficial to their growth and sustainability.

“We offer affordable office space to charities and social enterprises, creating a unique opportunity for collaboration and networking for the sector,” Rohan shares. “Here, organisations are clustered together for cost efficiencies where they all have access to a receptionist, meeting and conference facilities, photocopiers and other office facilities. Plus they also get access to CAN expertise to support them to scale if and when they need it.”

It is amazing how CAN has been able to create a business model through property management and how it has assisted the third sector and social enterprises in maximising their impact through these spaces. I saw it for myself that these are spaces for change. Let me feature three social enterprises that are in the Borough premises:


Change Please is tackling homelessness by tapping into our growing coffee culture. They have empowered homeless people with the skills, equipment and specialty beans they need to become fully-fledged baristas. To this end, Change Please has coffee vans in six premium sites in London, using these to train and employ on average four homeless people a month. After six months, those who were once homeless people are are moved on to employment with one of Change Please’s partners.


techfortrade is the leading UK charity specifically focused on bridging the divide between emerging technology and international trade and economic development. They work with local entrepreneurs to test innovative approaches for building sustainable and replicable businesses that use the power of technology to facilitate trade and alleviate poverty. 


CDS co-operatives is the largest co-operative housing service agency in England dedicated to promoting, developing, and servicing housing co-operatives controlled by the people who live in them. They manage around 3,500 units in over 50 independent client housing co-operatives with reserves in excess of £5.5 million. 

Also within the CAN Borough premises is CAN³, an accelerator programme that combines the expertise of CAN Mezzanine and CAN Invest in one dedicated space. CAN³ helps organisations to implement impact-led strategies that increase their sustainability, impact and growth over a 1-3 year period. 

Soon, CAN will launch a 40 million GBP investment fund that will take their model to a higher level where social enterprises can replicate what they have done or access investment to get property to support their growing enterprise. “Who gets the value of land rising? We want it to be social enterprises,” ends Rohan.

Do you need a space for change?

About CAN

CAN is a registered charity trading as a social enterprise and is committed to helping other charities and social ventures thrive, grow and maximize their impact. We strive to achieve that by offering business support, capital and flexible, affordable office space and a lot more besides.

CAN’s vision is of a social economy buoyed by a thriving social enterprise market. Our mission is to help social entrepreneurs achieve it.