Phase 3a. Somewhereto


Somewhereto_ is a non profit association that helps young people between 16-25 to find a free suitable space, in the UK, to develope their projects and passions.


Somewhereto_ is a non profit association that helps young people between 16-25 to find a free suitable space, in the UK, to develope their projects and passions.Born as a project after the London 2012 Olympic Legacy and trying to solve the high rates of youth unemployment in all the UK and their difficulties to start a creative project .

It totally bets by giving the youth the enquiries they request. It works simple, a space-holder who has empty properties allow somewhereto_ to set them up and let  them temporally to youth ( always with a legal contract) in order to practise the things they love or “kick-starting” a new project. Furthermore the owners can avoid paying empty rates for the space they normally wouldn’t use.

Propierties can be varied, from an old small retail shop, to a huge  warehouse or just empty lots. Somewhereto_ will find ambitious youth people to fill them with life.


The government of the UK has a major youth unemployment problem. The rates of youth unemployment (16-24 years old)  were even high before 2008 and of course the have been considerable rising with the  worldwide economical recession , reaching the high peak in 2012 with more than 1.000.000 of youth were unemployed. That means a grow of a 4% since 2008 and a 7% since 2004, rising a total of 13% of unemployment. In addition the long term unemployment has been affected too, growing at the same time  reaching almost 300.000 cases.


 UK Youth Unemployment over time , 2002-2012. (The Work Fundation- Lancaster University)


Comparasion of youth unemployment in Europe , 2002-2012. (The Work Fundation- Lancaster University)

According to the causes that the UK government detractors gave,  can be summarized on  three mainly:

A lack of an apprenticeship system which facilities the  transitions between  school and works. There are no interaction or integration programmes that help the youth to undertake a project in collaboration with consolidated companies.

A lack of investments in new projects of youth people . Despite , the  UKCES ( UK Commision of Employment and Skills) allegates that more than £ 32m were given for boosting opportunities to youth people.

The recess of opportunities in jobs on the private sector and the absence  of training young people while they are unemployed. A reduction of 5.4% of investments in this training of young people has been produced in just ten years. In spite of this fact, the training in older people hardly has been affected ,less than a 1%.


  Investment in training unemployed people , 2002-2012. (The Work Fundation- Lancaster University)

According to surveys made in the UK-wide, a 15% hasn’t ever recieved usefull feedback from an unsuccesful application and a 65% would like more support in starting new jobs and projects. This resumes in more than a 58% that consider the Government isn’t helping at all. All of this turns out to be in a lack of aspirations and a disspointing experience of work in people between 16-24. A 23% think they don’t have any chance of finding the work they would like and a 48% feel poorly prepared to do it.

ImprimirYouth unemployed  survey (The Work Fundation- Lancaster University 2011)

Another external cause is the migrational movements from all the EU to the UK, where they find job opportunities they don’t have in their countries, converting the UK the main destination of EU migrants in 2012 with the 37% of Europe movement. Than means 1.4 million who accepts low salaries , being the cheap workforce, undermining british people and creating bigger problems for the youth people who stay in UK.

Not to mention all this data caused controversial between the Youth collective and the Government.  In 2010 a series of demonstrations took part in several areas of UK with the central protest in London. Organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) 50.000 students claimed for better opportunities and investments with a motto “Fund our Future”. Several demonstrations with the same organization were in the following years ( Demo 2011 and  2012 “Educate, employ, empower”).


Youth demonstration in 2011 (London)

On the other hand, the problem that also involves our consideration, are the elevated cases of emptylands and abandoned ground commercial places that have been showing up last years.

The low economy has made to the owners to put their properties into administration or back onto market. Some of them just closed their bussiness waiting for good new times to come. Nevertheless, this has opened up chances for buyers with better financial state, which takes advantages of this situation. Anyway there are a lot of spaces which are totally unused but with huge opportunities behind them.

When we consult for data, we realised that only in the last year the percentage of units in vacancy has grown more than a 4% of the total. That means that , in 2006 only a 7,3% where closed or unused and nowadays is a 16,3 %, more than double . That is a really huge number of closed propierties.

By average this vacancies has a surface of 211.5 m2, that indicates that most of the closing spaces are retails shops, and larger shop units are coming up a little.


Number of vacant units and vacan floorspace as % of total number of units. (Colliers International Report 2012)

The average lenght of vacancy has significally increased up to 12 months.  But while it has been a decreasement on the vacancies unused for more than a year, they normally find a new use or buyer. That gives us a clue that there might be a lot number of spaces which are “usable” in short-term.

In specific ways, the cities which have been more affected with this popping-up of closed spaces are the cities on North of Ireland with the highest vacancy rate of 28.4% in Lisburn , on the south of Belfast. Followed by others like Rotherham (27.3%) or the coastal Bournemouth (22.3%).

But not only small cities have been affected , important neuralgic centers and famous streets in London had been increased like Kensington High St. (4.1%) or the powerful Oxford St. (3.2%).

 In summary, we can say that the youth unemployment has been highly increased last years, and the Government investments are not enough to solve it, what makes the youth feel a low self confidence. Also the vacancies unused are growing up exponentially and nobody can give them new uses, just to wait to the end of this economical crisis, who nobody knows when will end.

Anyway, these big problems need big solutions and of course they would appear from the one who suffer, the own nation. Here appears new associations like the subject to study, somewhereto_ ,  which treat to involve this two problems and get huge beneficts for everyone.


Legacy Trust UK funded somewhereto_ as a programme of the London Olympic 2012 Legacy, which is a long-term project, seen as a legacy that the Games must give to the UK. Has four main focuses : econonomical ( supporting new jobs and skills ),  sporting ( developing facilities ) , social and volunteering (encouring social change) and regeneration ( improving venues, transportation and new homes).

The Legacy Trust is the independent charity that fight for making all that possible. It has founded over 100 arts , sports and educational projects, and his legacy still continues.

A youth engagement multidisciplinary agency, Livity, took also part as co-founder, developing together the idea. Their purpose is to make measurable , positive impact on the lives of young people. Described by a client at Coca-Cola as “a marketing agency with a youth club in the middle of it”.

The Cabinet Office for the UK Government, takes part in all the administration issues, like reducing or quitting empty rates for those who let their spaces to the new youth projects

The main agent as investor was the Big Lottery Fund UK, which injected £ 7 million (€ 83 m)  in 2012. Big Lottery Fund is the largest of the National Lottery and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its fundation in June 2004.  His Board Member said : ” Today, more than ever, it is crucial that young people have access to free space and resources which feed creativity and stimulate entrepreneurialism“.

There were another economical agents as Nesta, an independent charity which helps people and organisations to bring brilliant ideas to life.  By its office, “Inovation in Giving Fund” they helped with  £ 50.000 (60.000€) to develope the project’s website and the functionallity matching youth and the space-holders.

Youtube also takes part in the project giving publicity and spreading the the youth achievements over the world, creating indirectly, relations between the projects developed by young people to possible interested investors.

Channel 4 Education has also took part in the project.  As media they promote this kind of interventions  with a nationwide marketing campaign , showing some incredible stories the project has created.


The 18 regional delivery teams (regional coordinators)  with more than 30 members working inside somewhereto_, who are the intermediary between the youth and the owners of these empty spaces, and are the responsibles to make the agreement and manage all the actions to make real the projects.

Obviously, the youth people and the “space-holders” are the ones who makes all this possible. The first with their creative activities and projects ideas, and the second giving temporally their empty spaces in order to develope all of them.



Five years before the London Olympics Games, in 2007  , Legacy Trust UK, was set up to support communities and to create projects as a legacy of that huge investment the Olympic Games would be for the country.

The first phase of the projects was made all along 2009 , when the project was in development phase, and only putting the idea  in the hands of young people and exploring two questions :

-Is somewhereto a good idea that young people want and has a place in the world?

-Is it feasible to deliver across the UK?

Only in three regions of UK they achieved more than 302 people actively campaigning to get access to a space to do the thing they love, 568 signed up to the cause and nearly 2000 people heard about somewhere to between January and September 2009.

At the end of the year the presented a Highlight Report  and finally  they got the approval to make it real.  In 2010 , in collaboration with Livity, they start working. In 2011 they recieved first investments from Nesta and the UK Government and its Cabinet Office. In december of 2012 the Big Lottery Fund invest £ 7 million to  support its UK wide expansion over the following four years.


The management is clearly separated in two cases to treat. The one with the “space-holders” , who give their properties in short-term, and the one with the youth and his requeriments.

There are some tangible benefits the space-holders get. Apart of avoiding the empty rates , they have the opportunity of promote themselves , acting like a direct sponsor, and having their contribution recognised with the achievements the youth could get. They might be part of great stories. Besides with the development of the project,  a strong motivation of getting involved is the passion the young put in similar activities or interest, the space-holder had when they were the same age.

These are the steps they have to follow:

1. Contact with the somewhereto_ team. It can be via website, or social media (youtube, facebook, twitter) or just talking to them at an event.

2. Provide details of the space you want to share by talking with one of the coordinators in your area.

3. The regional coordinator will contact them, and talk through the documentation needed, and the agreement of  a Code of Standars for space-holders. A sheet would be filled, with all the details of the space.

4. Any refurbishment or reconditioning will be made in order to set out the space for further activities

5. The pictures of the space, as the activities it can be done in it, would be uploaded  to the website.

—————————space available on——————————-

6. Young people (16-25) who would like to use an space nearby will contact somewhereto_

7. The space-holder and young person will discuss use ( with a regional coordinator if necessary).

8. They complete the somewhereto_ Licence Agreement. ( risk assessment, checklist, emergency procedures, behaving on that space…)


10. Giving a feedback on the website , with all the work, photos or videos in order to publish via website or even Youtube channel.

space-holder_pack__jan_2012Ways to procedure for getting a free space.


Somewhereto_ has unlocked over 35.300 m2 with a rent value that will exceed £ 2 million   (€ 2,3 m.) That it traduces in over 4.000 direct matches between young people and spaces where develope their  activities.

But it is not the number of empty spaces they might unlocked or even the number of young people participating. The project has shown that young people can gain self confidence to encourage them to get their ambitions by only believing in them and giving them a chance. Besides somewhereto_ is changing attitudes towards young people and creating strong new relationships between different communities.  Several deteriorated areas have been reactivated with different  activites and population groups, mixing youth and old people who interests by their projects nearby.


Not to mention the exponentially impact most of their projects can have , now they have a site to publish their stories and show the rest of the world.

According to reports of Livity, the co-founder,  at beggining of 2011 “only” 488 matches were made, and from November 2011 to April 2012 , 1328 . On the other hand 3931 took part indirectly as a member managed by somewhereto_ young person. That means an increase of 172%  for the previous six month.

7Evaluation Report by Livity made with 43 interviewee , both young people and space holder (Feb.2012)

Nowadays the website count with a huge catalogue of different spaces . There are more than 700  free spaces available in the UK waiting for young people. You can apply one of them or consult in the website, searching by the activity you want to do, or the region you live, or just consult one by one with a filtered search, checking the people it fits on that space, the surface you can use, the extras it has like sanitary facilities , light, water…. apply one of them and the coordinator will contact you in a few  hours.

There also have been several success stories, as the website call them. From rehearsal spacies to dance or theater companies, to crafts department store, filming sets, cooking classes, graffiti art expositions…. Most of them are on the website, so you can read the complete story and by this , getting motivated , in starting your new project on a similar space. That strategy, in addition with the media and the social platforms like their facebook site, made grow exponentially the success cases that more and more young people last years, started using this service.

Why it has been a success the somewhereto_project?  It’s simple. First of all because the principles they have and promote. It is all about life. Being alived , moving, activating locked spaces, beating new challenges, meeting new people who love what they were doing and sharing experiences, fighting for their rights , getting opportunities they had’t before… Increasing positively the social relations without any barrier and making benefits for the main two parts involved.  As it has been promoted by public companies and associations it makes the project clear from outside, it is totally clear and transparent, and they show their success to everybody, advirtising themselves and creating a self image of success. They have created a brand. ( In addition i’d say that all the content of publicty and self-promotion is downlable on its website, so they can spread by other people or collectives).

They have also recovered many places and by refurbishing and giving new uses, old deteriorated spaces have found a new identity, being positive for the neighborhoods were they are, reactivating commercial retails next to them, and being sometimes the spark that area needed to raise again.

In addition the government is totally pleased, this project is helping youth to go on with their ideas and dreams. They trust on them,and they feel in that way. The youth motivation is rising again, and making them felling like this, benefits all the country, from the smallest shop next to an unlocked space, to the biggest city renovating their economy itself and getting a better image from outside.

Cultural sustainability: It is a project wich facilitate the social relations and the encounters with individuals on same interests.  They bet by activities unmistakably in relation with culture, like arts, music or sports (remember they indirectly are based on the Olympian Spirit ). It also have created new identities on degradated spaces and helped to raise again by giving activities to that spaces, reusing by young people, organizing events on them…

Economic sustainability: It has been an indirect injection to youth investments. The young people feel more confident and helped by the goverment, by letting use spaces where develope their passions. Treats to show people how to selfmanage , not using great investments, but using what they have. Spaces totally forgotten and full of resources that only need to be negotiated properly and administrated in a sustainably way, giving benefits for the two parts involved.

Social sutainability: Is based on a politic that gives priority to youth people and their aspirations. The owners and the future users of the spaces, in collaboration, are the one who makes their spaces availables for using. It works all together or it doesn’t work.

Enviromental sustainablity: The great success are the unlocked spaces. They have a new life again, and are not forgotten anymore. The revitalization of these spaces, refurbished almost completed, have given to their sourroundings an attrative they hadn’t before, a new identity and a device of attracting new people from outside.


There were reported at the development phase, and afterwards tried to be solved. Most of them were worries of the “space-holders” and trusting in letting their spaces to younger people.

With responsability, there was a concern that working with young people would involve an additional level of responsibility for the space owner. This was solved finally by the Liscence Agreement the youth would have to sign, accepting a Code of Standards were they agree with the conditions and behaviours inside that space.

The same happened with the damage and security concerns, all registered legally with that Agreement they had to sign.

The cost a refurbishment of a space would be, also was a problem they had to solve. With the new fundings in 2012 it was practically solved for a time, also with the help the Government made, by avoiding paying empty rates when their spaces were used on the programme.

Despite, there were some problems that neither money can solve. For example it is the managing demand. What would happen if there are a lot of young people asking for the same space at the same time? How they can made a equal decision?

There are some problems about the “space-holder” getting properly involved. Sometimes as the reports said , there are problems organazing with them all the neccessary issues to unlock their spaces. They ussually are busy, with a lack of free time,  and working with somewhereto_ is not a main part of their day activities or not a priority at least.

Motivation on the “space-holders” might be a barrier too. It can take too time and several tries before a space is totally opened.


At time of comparising this reference to our object of study San Antón, we can get some similarities. It is a great example of managing empty spaces, how shall be unlocked and how making the parts involved. The best point of somewhereto_ is that it has been able to start a collaboration between industries and individuals that would not usually come together. Finally they have created a huge feedback relation between them two, getting a catalogue with all the free spaces and their features.

In San Antón , the lack of commercial activity is asking for help, they need a response which activates all the life this neighborhood had some time ago. But they have enough resources to make it, empty lots managed by the City Hall and retails shop that has been closed but almost prepared for new uses with a small refurbishment. Letting new youth activities to come to these places, would reactivate for sure the movement on its surroundings. We can based on the youth and university students recently moved to this neighborhood , these new people  who nowadays don’t get involved with its own neighborhood, caused by they don’t find any opportunity to show and practice their skills. And again  i wouldn’t say that is not because the lack of spaces…

Furthermore there are some agents we must use for sure. The third age population in the neighborhood is one of the most important parts inside, they have a huge knowledge different trades or professions and  mantain the spirit and the identity of the real San Antón, and also all the associations settled up on their streets. All of them with varied themes and proposals, and which a correct management for all this parts, it would appear new organised activities and workshops it can be developed on the free spaces we must unlock.

Maybe the developing of a catalogue with all these spaces and opportunities inside of them, and showing to the youth public will help us to get the connections and manage the possibilities they want or have to these spaces.



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