One of the participants of Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program, Ignas Kazlauskas, has just finished his exchange at Wayward’s company in London. During his stay, Ignas had a chance to learn from his host entrepreneurs Heather Ring and Thomas Kendall.
Soon afterwards, the young entrepreneur agreed to share his thoughts and answer some questions about working at the well-known company, which is a London-based landscape, art and architecture practice — an award-winning collective of designers, artists and urban growers. So get ready for a funny and interesting interview about work, challenges, cultural differences, and crazy coincidences that happened in the hectic city.
When passion has grown into the work you love
Before the Erasmus project, I was studying documentary film making for my bachelor. However, my studies turned out differently than expected and the film became a device to explore my passions, rather than an activity which I identified my future with. Yet exactly through the film, I was able to recognize my love for design and development of urban space. From then I shifted my interest toward urbanism and variety of interesting fields within it. I got interested in adaptive reuse of urban spaces, participation in city making, regeneration and cultural infrastructure. I started dreaming about a practice operating on various platforms in a mix of art, design, architecture and city planning. Providing space and facilities to enable communities to transform their urban environment, it would also produce interesting events, campaigns, urban strategies and participatory art across various scales. Problem was that I had little understanding of how these processes actually work. Therefore this chance to participate in the Erasmus program will help me to put theory into practice and teach me a huge variety of skills to actually make a difference in the world.
Finding the right people
When I finally came to London, we’ve met with Tom and Heather, to get to know each other and discuss the various projects that Wayward runs. These amazingly open and warm people introduced me to a great collaborative and creative co-production project which reveals the currently under-utilised potential opportunities of a landscaped in the heart of Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter. They even invited me to collaborate on a design brief. I was asked to go through the documents, advising on the commissioning of additional research and collating information into a written report which can be used to lobby founders and stakeholders.
Speaking about my business…
CoArch is an urban design and research consultancy focusing on small scale projects in public space. By forming interdisciplinary teams, this organization would initiate temporary architectural workshops that would involve local community, solve various spatial issues and employ people to make places more sustainable, social and economically viable. During the exchange the biggest impact was made on the structure of workshops. At Wayward I learned about the logistics, materials and costs behind their projects. This knowledge was transferred into my business plan.
Let’s do some work!
I was also introduced to the community engagement project in Barking, where huge development is taking place and Wayward is working with local people through the inclusive urban process. This includes various action research methods like modelling, surveys, education about urban gardening. I joined Thomas on their community engagement workshop in Barking. We spent a day co-working and creating with the kids and adults of the neighborhood. Using various means such as modelling, surveying and drawing we tried to find out what kind of public spaces and infrastructure local people hopes for.
And yes, they opened up to these projects completely and involved me from the start. Not to mention the whole bit of other crazy activities they do. For example, they also run Plants exchange, during which they collect various plants and flowers from horticulture shows and give them away to different schools and communities. A wonderful initiative, to provide people with greenery, that otherwise would be thrown away.
Big city life
Of course, I had some time to experience the culturally diverse and interesting environment in London. My favourite, of course, well-known brutalist heaven, the Barbican art centre. Not to mention the amazing cultural scene of Camden, which I’m living at. All in all, London is a hectic city with crazy amount of culture happening all at once. To be fair, I would often get paranoid with all the possible activities around the city so I wouldn’t get out at all. It is also really easy to meet very different people with whom you can collaborate. The working culture is very non-hierarchical, thus you feel on the same level as everyone else. There is a lot of caring for one’s mental well-being and general health. Although sometimes it feels that everything happens slower than it would be in Lithuania.
Facing challenges and improving self-development
What were the biggest challenges? Understanding how government and policy in the UK works. It was also hard to shift to full English environment, especially because the places we would work were very different from one another. However, I am happy that I had improved time management. Also pro-activeness, because the relationship with people I worked was very equal, thus there were no commands or orders. I therefore got a boost in my confidence and learned to initiate things myself.
To conclude, I would call this project a highway towards your dreams. Despite such challenge might look daunting at first, the rewards are priceless. You might not get a lifetime partnership or launch your dream enterprise straight off, but your own personal development and amazing time is guaranteed. This is surely one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I had.
by Gintare Jasiunskaite, European Social Entrepreneurship and Innovative Studies Institute