Technology in the community

With Wi-Fi taken for granted, an unreliable service can have significant adverse impact. The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust needed to put its community space to work and did so with a networking upgrade from Zyxel

Inspiring disadvantaged young people to reach their full potential and make informed choices about their education and careers is a challenging task, especially without a reliable internet service. The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust encountered this challenge in 2017 when its iconic building in Deptford, London - The Stephen Lawrence Centre - was redesigned by world-famous architects, Gensler.

As part of the renovation a new coworking hub, Your Space, was conceived and created. Your Space offers flexible desk space over two floors. Hot desking is available for short or long-term rent, while a designated resident space offers capacity for 12 members requiring a more permanent business home. The venue also has two integrated event spaces for networking events, away days, or project launches and they are open to both members and non-members.

For Your Space to work at its best, it needed reliable, fast Wi-Fi throughout the whole building to support multiple users and enterprises, but there were some challenges to overcome.

As a non-profit organisation, the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust doesn't have a dedicated IT support service, relying instead on one part-time IT volunteer to help troubleshoot devices and reset routers. Originally, the centre was fitted with just one router and a Wi-Fi extender to boost the signal in the more distant parts of the building, which often failed.

With such a poor signal network transparency was limited, and the Trust had no central bandwidth control. As the trust grew it wanted to include separate businesses on its Wi-Fi network, and so was faced with a growing challenge: the need for faster, wider and more secure network coverage throughout.

The trust approached IT support provider Vibrant Networks, initially looking for new routers or Wi-Fi boosters. After assessing the centre's needs, Vibrant advised the deployment of the Zyxel Nebula system, along with access points and a switch to provision a fast and secure network. As the centre redevelopment was a pro bono project, Zyxel donated equipment to help the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust achieve its growth without having to use funding that could otherwise be used to deliver its main objectives.

Everyone at the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust now has quick, stable network across the entire facility. In the 12 months since the Zyxel system was installed, Vibrant Networks, which monitors the new network, hasn't received any calls for support, or been asked to resolve any issues. The trust can now work more efficiently without having to worry about the Wi-Fi or IT systems. Importantly, it has also been able to expand the number of users on the network, now up to 70 a week including tenants, with no downtime or connection loss.

Chelsea Way, Programmes Manager at the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust commented that, "Previously, we only had Wi-Fi for staff, which constantly broke down and only had coverage in certain areas of the building. So, we knew that to transform our new centre into a coworking space, we needed a faster, more stable network. Since installing the Zyxel Nebula system our Wi-Fi is stronger and faster and we have taken on tenants who use our centre as their office.

Operationally, coworking is now fundamental to what we do here. Thanks to that extra revenue, the trust broke even on our building costs this year for the first time, meaning that we're able to put more money back into the work we do with disadvantaged young people, and we haven't had to pick up the phone for IT support once."

All funds raised from Your Space are reinvested into the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, helping it continue its work building stronger and safer communities. NC