Coworking in Edinburgh: The Melting Pot

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What should you expect?

Georgian-era mansions, moustaches, the Spice Girls, bathroom questions, an ancient castle and pathbreaking social innovation.

The Big Picture

The tagline of The Melting Pot is surprisingly frank: “Bringing together interesting people doing amazing things” – but even upon the first visit, you’ll see it’s also surprisingly accurate.

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Let’s face it: spaces that tout themselves a little too highly are a dime a dozen. From the “private workspace collective” to the “space for free radicals” – one often encounters a level of jargon and haughtiness that makes the brevity in the slogan above refreshing.

“The community is always the essential ingredient in a coworking space, because at the end of the day, it’s all about what the community is doing.” -Claire Carpenter, Space Founder

When you get to the Melting Pot, what you see is really what you get. A committed group of social entrepreneurs each doing their own thing together, to collectively make the world a better place, bit by bit. With a tailored, in-house incubator for their coworkers – this isn’t just a place to work, it’s a place to “do amazing things” with the support of a great community of likeminded workers.

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A reflection of the Scottish spirit, you’ll encounter a proud, determined ethic with an incessant will to have some fun at the same time (proof: the moustaches). Welcome to coworking in Edinburgh, welcome to the Melting Pot.

What You’ll Learn from the Space

Here, you’re gonna learn two things: first, how a coworking space connects with surrounding communities to affect real social change – and second, how startups are doing social innovation across the spectrum. Many spaces are simply about providing workspace, or offering networking opportunities, or helping build your business for business’ sake. Not that any of these motives are bad, but here is where The Melting Pot goes a step further.

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You’ll meet people who work for startups that The Melting Pot also consults and supports. They run an in-house incubator for their startups, to help them in their diverse missions. By providing business support and consulting in their incubation programmes, meeting rooms and events spaces, events and speakers with external guests and the regular facilities of your mom-and-pop coworking space, they aim to provide a one-stop ecosystem for coworkers.

Claire Carpenter, the founder and managing director of The Melting Pot, was for many years involved with charity work and self-employment. Creating the space back in 2007 (!) was, in her view, a necessity to assist with the trials and tribulations of self-guided careers in social innovation.

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Housing coworkers helping provide first-aid training to communities in Africa, sponsoring cultural change to create better fathers in Scotland, reducing the impacts of large infrastructure projects on biodiversity and creating exhibitions for British science centres – you’re bound to meet a huge variety of inspiring people and strong social visions in this space.

With this, then, you’ll learn a lot about these initiatives, and just maybe you’ll be inspired to do some social innovation of your own afterwards!

Where You’ll Find the Space

Kirsty McWhirter / Golden Edinburgh

You’ll find the Melting Pot at the heart everything that makes Edinburgh lovely. Situated on the quaint cobblestone pedestrian alley of Rose Street, here’s what’s at your doorstep by foot:

-Ten minutes to the Edinburgh castle
-Five minutes from Waverley train station
-Four minutes from one of Britain’s finest public parks
-Three minutes from the Scott Monument
-Two minutes from the quality shops and restaurants of Queen Street
-One minute from the top-notch bars just in the alley.

This is at the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town – although not so new considering it was designed in 1766. Composed of three long boulevards and two parks, it was built for the rich of the city, proposed to prevent them from fleeing to London from the overcrowded Old Town stuffed inside the city’s medieval walls.

Luca Moglia / Edinburgh  New photos gallery! MORE photos HERE (click here)!! Edinburgh, Scotland. Canon 5d + Canon 50mm f/1.2 L USM ______________ www.lucamoglia.it ------------------------

Your workspace is a luminous, comfortable open-plan lofty room on the top floor of an ancient Scottish mansion.

Today it is the epitome of Edinburgh’s stark, regal architecture. Huge Georgian urban mansions loom over long streets with impressive statues – and the Melting Pot is based in one of the attics of these old houses, accessible from Rose Street, which used to be the service entrance to these grand residences.

Dave Morris / New Town 02  I've never been much of a fan of Edinburgh's New Town. I guess really it's that I'm not much of a fan of Georgian architecture. (so why did you live in Bath and then Edinburgh, huh? HUH?!) It's always seemed so cold and inhumane - all about showing off how many chimneys you've got, how rich you are, how distanced from those nasty poor people in the Old Town. I know architecture's used as a status symbol all the time, but I always felt it was taken to extremes during this period.   ...That said, though, it's hard to make a case against the buildings in the evening sun here in Edinburgh. I know almost anything looks good in this light, but dang: just check out the colour of that stone. Incredible.

No longer homes, they’ve all since been bought out by stores, markets, bars, restaurants, and businesses. You’ll feel right at home as soon as you step into the Melting Pot, but you’ll want to stay wandering these beautiful streets on a sunny day (yes it’s rare, but possible).

Where You’ll Be Working

Your workspace is a luminous, comfortable open-plan lofty shared room on the top floor of an ancient Scottish mansion. At the heart of one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe. Still not convinced? (honestly how could you not be..)

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Well, they’ve also got an awesome fish tank right in the centre of the space to keep you company, they’ve got a kitchen with coffee and treats right in the corner – and in the bathroom they have not one, but two whiteboards where you can write your responses to burning questions.

There are two conference rooms you can use, a teleconference & phone booth and a larger separate kitchen where you can actually cook stuff (and have room to cook stuff, oftentimes missing in coworking spaces) and can cater for larger events or workshops that you might host or partake in.

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On top of that, they have a huge other half of the space that’s a dedicated events room. Here, you’ll often find external presentations, conferences or workshops being hosted, and of course you’ll find more home-grown stuff too (from the social innovators who are based there).

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Tip! Go to the bathroom in this space! They always have philosophical and profound questions written on the two whiteboards there, where you can give your answers in complete confidence (it is a private bathroom after all!)

Where You’ll Be Living

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Our recommendation, close to Rose Street, is The Baxter. Right off of Princes street, and a short walk to the workspace, we recommend it for the cool design, quality facilities, nice people and tasty breakfast (included, with scrambled eggs).

It’s an old renovated building inside, with wonderful wooden walls, tiled bathrooms and old fixtures. If you want more of that, you should also check out St Christopher’s Inn just across the train station. This is a hostel, yes, but some rooms are draped with red Victorian curtains, with stained oak wood panelling and white plastered ceilings from the 19th century. You know, it’s Edinburgh style.

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Finally, for a more middle-ground solution you might want to check out Royal Mile Backpackers. An institution amongst the city’s hostel scene, it’s been around for ages and has some nice staff, well-located on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This is the ancient quarter of the city, dating back to the creation of a market there in 1477 – at one end of the street is the high and mighty Edinburgh castle, and at the other end is the strikingly abstract Scottish Parliament.

The Events You Will Go To

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At the Melting Pot, you won’t just find the usual gamut of workshops you see in most coworking spaces. Here, you’ve got some really inspiring and innovative stuff happening. Check out the Chat Show they did for International Women’s Day: here, they invited three top female entrepreneurs from around Scotland to discuss their experiences and stories in innovation.

“Even though we put a man (and women) on the moon, there is still a shocking gap in gender inequality both in the UK and around the world.”

Themes focused on creating social good, female leadership, and many women’s empowerment issues on local, national and international levels. They also host the annual Social Entrepreneurs Chat Show for Scotland, highlighting the important work being done in social entrepreneurship, and marshalling ways for others to get involved in great causes.

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The Melting Pot differs from many spaces, in that it is really a social idea incubator for its surroundings. It takes peoples work and passions, and puts them together in a collaborative environment where they can be amplified to help generate greater change on a societal level.

Of course, there’s a whole range of events you’ll find besides these – including (my personal favourite) “What the Duracell Bunny, the Spice Girls and 50 Shades of Grey Can Teach Us About Negotiating.”

Changing the world through social innovation, and having fun while doing it.

What You Will Eat

Jeremy Lim / Chambar: Coquotte  Mussels cooked in a white wine cream. Smoked bacon lardons, spring onions.   $22

Okay, so maybe you’ve heard… the cuisine in the UK is not too highly-regarded in many world circles… or even British ones. BUT – don’t despair, because there are a ton of good options in Edinburgh. It’s quite amazing that in a city of 500,000 there is so much variety – here are some examples:

Great quality (pan-European and) Scottish cuisine? Try the locally-sourced mussels with cream and pine nuts at The Outsider.

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Great Indian food (a UK go-to)? Try Gurkha Cafe & Restaurant for some amazing spicy hot authentic Nepali curries.

Great street-style lunch food? Try Oink for some fresh and delicious Scottish hog roast, on a sandwich with homemade sage and onion sauce (yeah, this one is particularly amazing and a great price).

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That’s just the beginning. This city packs a seriously impressive culinary punch.

Your After-Hours

There are two amazing bars you have to visit in Edinburgh. The first of those is a Scottish classic, and one-of-a-kind: The Dome. Founded as the Bank of Scotland building in 1844, it has since passed on to become one of the UK’s coolest places to grab a classic cocktail.

With marble floors and huge bouquets of white flowers overflowing from stone vases on the bar, reflected under a gigantic class dome (that’s the one) with tons of mirrors – it’s a stunning place to experience, and actually not all that expensive for what it is.

byronv2 / The Dome at Christmas 01  The neo-classical grandeur of the Dome, previously a large banking establishment (built in 1844 for the Commercial Bank of Scotland), now a very fancy bar, club and restaurant, and always especially swish at Christmas

The second one – and it pains me to say this because, it’s literally a hole-in-the-ground and probably for me personally my favourite bar ever – is Bramble. With no street sign or indication from outside, you’ll find this after descending a short stone staircase into a den underneath a local tailor.

These cocktails are legendary in the city, serving gin cocktails in teacups with wine stems, and aging whiskey cocktails behind the bar in old oak barrels. This place is a winner, with dark ambiance and cool trip hop beats, it’ll leave an impression.

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Otherwise, there are a million things you should be doing outside. The first (and most obvious from the landscape) is the Edinburgh Castle. Inhabited since the 2nd century AD, the first royal settlement was created in the 12th century.

You can see the 13th century “Stone of Destiny,” the 16th century Great Hall, and the oldest crown jewels in the UK.

Hec Tate / 12-287 Edinburgh Castle seen from the Grassmarket  Taken 16/10/12: Without wishing to offend anyone from Edinburgh, I think I’d describe their castle as imposing rather than picturesque. Perched on a dormant volcano, it certainly dominates the City and according to Wikipedia: “ … was involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and has been besieged, both successfully and unsuccessfully, on several occasions.” I’m no medieval strategist, but although the approach from what is now The Royal Mile, is gentler than from the North, South or West, I think my plan would have been to starve the garrison into submission.

The second (and also obvious) is Arthur’s Seat. Described by the famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, it is “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” It’s a beautiful feature of the city that enables you to have perfect views of the entire metropolitan area, across the north bay and into Fife, the closest province.

It will leave you with an overwhelming big-picture view of this great city after your time doing social innovation at the Melting Pot, chowing down on a hog roast sandwich and seeing some crown jewels. Not a bad day, if you ask me!

The Practical Stuff

<<< Get all of the practical info for the Melting Pot right here! >>>

Happy coworking!
The Copass Crew

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