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A Space for Change

It was an evening of discussions, new learning and finding a sense of community. That night, a thought was born. What if this were not a one-off thing? Could we build something more lasting?

Note of Gratitude

The community built by Mehar at Tinkerspace, for the inspiration. Frappe Framework, for the open source low code framework that helped FOSS United create this platform which we were able to adapt. The changemakers, for their thoughts and enthusiasm about the space: Anthrapper, Aysha, Hridya, Ijas, Kshema, Naji, Nidhi, Ramya, Rohit, Shradha, Kailash, Swati, and many more. The aikyam space facilitators and our friends & family.

It all started one January evening, when aikyam fellows hosted a workshop on making benefits of human centered design more accessible to change makers. Researcher Kshema Varghese was one of the participants. She was good friends with Mehar, and he had suggested that the workshop would be of use to her.

In that small group of 12 participants, Kshema ran into her old friends Chithira and Shradha. Both of them are development professionals based in Thiruvananthapuram. Both had their larger teams scattered across the globe and they mostly saw their teammates on screens. They were looking for like-minded individuals and a sense of community. And it was a pleasant surprise for them to catch up with Kshema. For Kshema, the experience was also about thinking through a problem and learning as part of a group. These were things not easily accessible in her line of work as an artist and curator. As the evening drew to a close, strangers turned into friends. And almost all the participants ended up going out for dinner together.

For a change maker, the journey can be quite lonely. There is a scarcity of spaces for them to connect with other change makers, ask for help or just have like minded people to talk to. For some time, a few us at aikyam fellows had been thinking about creating a psychologically safe space for changemakers.

It was the sense of bonding, learning and collaboration at this workshop that convinced us to take a leap of faith. It would be a space for people to come together, have conversations, create and collaborate on urgent and important issues that affect our planet and people.

And so the process began. The work of anchoring the idea of aikyam space in the building that was already a workspace to most of us. It was also the process of figuring out the hows of translating our values of supporting small & grassroots NGOs, early change makers with ideas, volunteers, inclusion, compassion, listening and sharing of resources into a physical space. Over a few weeks, what had seemed unwieldy and difficult slowly began taking shape. We started looking at spaces and seeing them, not as they were then, but as they could be. A reading nook here, a discussion room there... the world was full of possibility.

Unpacking the first lot of books for the library; books sourced from Bookworm, Bangalore

Over dozens of conversations with changemakers, our ideas began getting better direction and focus. All the changemakers we spoke to about the concept were excited. They were eager to not only visit the space, but also to see how they could leverage the resources (both physical and other change makers) and build a community around it. They pitched in with thoughtful ideas to make the experience of the space better. All of this has resulted in the facilities we have at aikyam space now. This is the broad outline of free resources that will be available to change makers at the space.

  1. Workspaces, complete with work stations, WiFi connectivity, meeting rooms and more
  2. Co-creating spaces, including spaces for interactions, workshops with up to 15 people, a library and a recording suite for podcasts, video interviews (work in progress)
  3. Living spaces suited for up to 3-4 day stays for changemakers who want to work

One of our favourite work spots on the second floor

As we worked on the physical space, we also wanted aikyam space to be discoverable and visible online. We are happy to be launching this platform with the participation of the changemakers we have had initial conversations with. We cannot be grateful enough for their patience and their time. Do check out the changemakers, the communities they are building, and the meetups they plan to hold, and have held in the past.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas to nurture this space and make it more useful for changemakers. Especially volunteers who want to give their time to changemaker projects, new ideas/projects with a non profit model to positively impact society, early founders of NGOs, cooperatives, and small grassroots NGOs with less than ₹25 lakh of budget per year.

We are so grateful and excited to hold this space.