Peter Chipchase, chief communications and strategy officer, on how we’re doing good in our communities from reducing plastic to mentoring creatives
I created Soho Impact after spending lots of time talking to members and internal teams over the past few years. Two specific moments galvanised the idea. When we opened Ludlow House in the Lower East Side of New York, it became clear that people who had lived in the area for years had the sense that it was closed off to them. It made me see that we needed to ensure every House was properly integrated into its community.
The second moment was the Grenfell Tower disaster in London. Nick and I invited the survivors to the Electric for food on us, offered our bedrooms for people to stay in and told members we would co-ordinate the collection of anything they wanted to donate. Their response was overwhelming and we saw how we could play an important part in facilitating our community’s desire to help other people. Soho Impact was born.
It was important to me to do more than talk, so we created four distinct initiatives that fit under the Soho Impact umbrella: Open House, House Apprentice, House Help and Greenhouse.
Open House is our mentoring programme, with a mission to make the creative industries more diverse. For people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who don’t have a network that can unlock work experience or jobs, working in the creative fields can seem like a job someone else gets (a problem I experienced first hand as a working-class kid from the North of England). We pair mentees with a Soho House member from the field they’re trying to break into, to help them grow their network. And we give them membership for a year so they can use it as a workspace and meet other members. So far 100 mentees are signed up to Open House across London and Amsterdam, with New York and LA next up.
House Apprentice is a scheme to get more people in our local communities into careers with Soho House. It will create jobs and opportunities everywhere from gyms to kitchens and the support office, and funnel local people into our management training schemes too. The plan is to get ten people into the programme in White City by the end of 2018, then roll it out to other Houses.
House Help is about ways our team can help their local areas, with efforts like plastic bottle pick-ups on the beaches of Miami and Barcelona, chefs working in a soup kitchen in West London, and the team in LA helping to paint a community centre.
Finally, Greenhouse is our eco initiative, reducing our impact on the environment. We’ve removed plastic straws and bottles from our Houses and bedrooms and are close to making Little Beach House Barcelona our first one-use plastic-free site. Look out for Soho House reusable coffee cups and bottles very soon.
Soho Impact is a long-term project: we won’t solve everything in a couple of months, and we need everyone’s help to push it forward. But the reaction from our teams so far has been awesome – it is a constant reminder to me of how privileged I am to work with such a kind and considerate group of people. If you want to get involved or learn more about what we’re doing, please drop me an email.