5 Things I Learned at MKS Room
27 September 2015 - Minh Nguyen

The London community of MakeSense organized a MKS Room on September, 5th at the Impact Hub King’s Cross. It was a first event kicking off a series of events on Female Homelessness running until mid-October.

MKS Room are recorded events blending live performance and talks connecting art and social entrepreneurship. Similar performances have been hosted in over 80 cities since it started in Paris around 2 years ago.


(Photo by Gianpietro Pucciariello)

With the support of the Impact Hub and Sound Advice UK, over 40 people gathered to meet Sharon Poon of the Marylebone Project, the Birmingham-based artist Allisha Kadir and Ben Tannahill, a London-based acoustic guitarist.


The 5 things I learned attending this event:


1. MKS Room is a unique and powerful format

It is the first time that an MKS Room has been hosted in London. The power of this unique format lies in 3 key factors: multidisciplinarity, interactivity and inclusiveness. All kind of events are organised in London. Yet, to raise awareness on particular issues, people in the charity and social business world often either organise talks and conferences to discuss on a topic; or social events and artistic performances aiming at raising funds. This event offered a blend of the two. Interactivity is the second key ingredient. Hosting at Impact Hub King’s Cross allowed MakeSense to facilitate a dialogue not only between the guest speakers and the attendees, but also with the artists, the volunteers of MakeSense etc… The third strength is the event’s inclusiveness. Connecting with participants during the event showed how diverse the crowd was, with people coming from NGOs, social business, large companies, government or tech startups.


(Photo by Gianpietro Pucciariello)


2. Female homelessness is an underrepresented issue

According to Alexia Murphy, director of St Mungo’s Broadway, women make up 24% of people who accessed homelessness services in 2013. In absolute figures, it equates to around 10,000 people. However, whilst 60% of the female homeless population have slept rough, only 12% have engaged with street outreach teams. Useful resources on homelessness have been curated by MakeSense member Lauren Pascu in 10 Articles Where We Can Learn More About Homelessness.


3. Social business vs. a charity

The event attracted a very diverse group of people, with some attendees coming from various backgrounds: social work, NGOs, social businesses, government, start-ups etc.. As a consequence, one of the core topics of the panel discussion was to discuss the stakes and challenges of operating as a social business in this field, as opposed to government or a charity. Sharon is working for a charity and ‘fell by chance’ in the social business field. It is the largest hostel in the UK designed specifically for female , with around 110 beds.

As the organization wanted to diversify its revenue stream, it bootstrapped 2 projects, Munch and Space. As part of the ‘social enterprise arm of the charity’, Munch’s value proposition has been refined over the past 2 years. It is now providing space and catering services provided by women in difficulty. While meeting London’s market for space hire and catering services, it is a way to train and socially reintegrate a marginalized part of our society. The second project, Space, is more profit driven and designed to achieve financial sustainability. As meeting rooms are available, the goal was to fill idle capacity and increase the occupancy rate. When Munch is operates more from a two-sided model, both meeting market needs and developing skills for women, Space is more driven by financial goals with facilities management as its core value proposition.

This discrepancy questions the fundamental difference between running a charity and a social enterprise, while at the same time stating that an organisation can operate with a hybrid model.


(Photo by Gianpietro Pucciariello)


4. Female vs. male homelessness

Answering to one the floor’s intervention, Sharen Poon reminded us of some of the differences between female and male homelessness. Female homelessness is much more hidden, both to our eyes and to statistical tools. Women in difficulty tend to stay at their relatives’ or friends’. The main reason is that this is very vulnerable population that could be exposed to sexual or verbal aggressions in the street.


5. What you can do next with the London MakeSense community


(Photo by Gianpietro Pucciariello)

This event was the kick-off of UK’s first SenseCause, a series of events powered by MakeSense. Coming up on the 23/24th of September are HoldUps, brainstorming workshops aiming at collectively designing solutions to concrete challenges social entrepreneurs are facing in this field. HoldUps are at the core of the global MakeSense community and mobilised over 30,000 people around the world. The finale of this journey to explore the topic of female homelessness will take place on the October 10th, with the World Homeless day wrap-up event.


– Minh