What we do
In 1999, a group of community centre managers in Islington agreed to collaborate with their local Enterprise Agency with the aim of becoming multi-funded, enterprising and sustainable. In 2002, Octopus Community Network (Octopus) established a transformative operational and governance model, which resulted in being formed as a Limited Company by Guarantee. Two years later in 2004, Octopus became a registered charity, so that the community centres could implement a unique five-year community-led Healthy Living Centre initiative, intensively supporting 9,000 residents to improve their health and wellbeing through 23 grass-roots projects. From then until now, Octopus continues to form many different types of cross-sector, place-based collaborations to improve employment potential of those facing barriers into sustainable employment; engage communities in identifying and improving places and spaces for community use; bringing diverse communities together to collectively improve their health and wellbeing, and supporting people to take a collective approach to neighbourhood improvement.
Recently, by working together, just short of 19,000 local people experiencing health inequalities have been enagaged in wide-ranging on-the-door-step provision of health and wellbeing activities. Collectively, we've created nine brand-new community growing spaces within the network. By engaging and facilitating community-based social action, we have facilitated the creation of five amazing new community food growing spaces, including the Community Plant Nursery. We've also been supported by Islington Council to engage local communities in the transformation of three Islington Parks and Open Spaces, bringing new life into spaces that were under used. Our commitment to increasing the environmental literacy within urban communities, facilitating the exchange of growing skills and knowledge across diverse communities continues.
Over the years we have consolidated our projects into major programmes or themes, these being health and wellbeing and community growing, and of course, sustaining community centres - we love community centres and are committed to ensuring that they not only survive for generations to come, but they thrive. Today, we are involved in Localities and Locality Working initiatives to ensure the role of communities is represented in transformation partnerships - cross-sector partnerships committed to shifting the focus on how local services are offered.
From the outset, our approach has been influenced by a deep desire to move forward together through a shared set of values and a collective objective. By enabling the network to grow organically and in taking time to co-create our clear sense of purpose and identity as a peer-led network, we can exchange resources, skills, knowledge and time, and take collective action.
We appreciate that we are all different - yes, we are all community centres, so there is a fundamental appeal and motivation to be involved, but what is important is that we are motivated by shared values.
We are focused on identifying, mobilising and strengthening 'community assets' - seeking out skills and knowledge in the local community and working collaboratively to explore how these can be maximized for community benefit.
Our projects are rooted in community-led development, which ensures that they are informed by local people, therefore needed in our communities, and encourage wider collaborations.
Find out more about each member of the network below.
In 2014 we launched Community Centre Week, initially to raise awareness of community centres in Islington. Six years on we have grown our community of collaborators and celebrators and now community centres from around the UK take part.
Caxton House Community Centre is a vibrant community hub based near Archway in the London Borough of Islington. It offers a number of education, fitness and arts projects; and provide a key link between like-minded organisations and the local community.
Elizabeth House Community Centre is a modern, warm, welcoming Community Centre in Highbury West Ward. It is open to the local community and is used for everything from leisure classes and education, to after school activities, holiday playscheme and youth groups.
Finsbury Park Community Hub is a multi-purpose facility managed by Finsbury Park Community Hub board of directors.
Throughout the week a number of projects take place including the following, Zumba, Bingo, Coffee Morning, IT mentoring, seminars, training meetings, youth space, youth construction training, and many more.
Hanley Crouch Community Association operates in the Tollington Ward in North Islington, London. The Association was setup originally in 1972 by a group of local parents who needed somewhere for their children to play, they are a multi-cultural organisation that celebrates diversity and inclusion. All are welcome to the centre.
Highbury Roundhouse was set up in 1974 to meet the needs of the young people in the area. Since then it has grown and developed into a thriving community centre, which provides facilities for people of all ages and backgrounds.
From pre-school to old age, there is always something for everyone.
Hilldrop Area Community Association (HACA) aims to enhance the wellbeing of our diverse local community with a focus on employment and health. We are the community hub for St George’s Ward, Islington and are based at the Hilldrop Community Centre: a large, multi-purpose facility offering a wide programme of activities and services. We are committed to involving the community in the shaping of our programme, and proudly work in partnership with many other local groups and organisations.
Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre is an estate-based Centre. By engaging and responding to the needs of local residents a programme of health and well-being activities for all ages is on offer, along with befriending activities to help tackle isolation and loneliness and provide home visits on welfare and housing issues. Ofsted have recognised their nursery provision as "Outstanding". The team also provide out of school and after school activities for children living on and around the estate. The Estate We Play project is community-led and benefits immensely from the input and participation of local residents.
In the early 1970’s a group of local people who were concerned about the lack of facilities and services for local families and people experiencing mental health issues got together to see what they could do to bring about change. As a result of their hard work and community activity, Holloway Neighbourhood Group was established.
Over the years we have worked with many different communities in the Holloway area, including pre-school children, parents, people with mental health problems, elders and unemployed people.
Light Project Pro International is an educational charity which runs a wide range of projects for people of all ages. Founded in 2004, Light Project Pro International now runs 14 educational projects in its education centre in Islington.
We bring together families and volunteers, originating from 35 countries, to improve the educational opportunities of local communities.
Mildmay Community Partnership is a registered charity working with and for the benefit of the community of Mildmay, a ward of Islington in north London. The Partnership manages the Mildmay Community Centre, an award-winning Passivhaus building available to hire for events, training and community action projects.
Muslim Welfare House works to provide best practice social, educational and training centres sensitive and complimentary to cultural diversity, geared to fulfilling the needs of marginalised and ethnic communities in line with our dedication to serving the community across the UK.
The Peel is a charity that's been building a connected community in Clerkenwell since 1898. Their values of learning, partnership, equality and diversity and being compassionate, is delivered through working with others to help children realise their full potential and improve their life chances; tackling isolation and especially helping older people overcome loneliness, and providing opportunities for all who live and work in Clerkenwell.
Our Community Centre is on the edge of the City of London, a diverse area containing extremes of wealth and poverty. It provides a space for local people to gather and socialise, and for us and other organisations to deliver services and activities for the local community at little or no cost. We have large and small rooms for getting people together, and facilities that enable us to have exercise classes, art studios, cookery classes, an online centre and much, much more. We have a fully-equipped Cookery School, which can be hired out, with all the income going back into classes to teach the local community about healthy home cooking and avoiding food waste.
Whittington Park Community Centre was established by local people in 1972, and has been used by generations of families and communities who live around the area of Whittington Park. The team have collaborated with local communities to design and offer a welcoming space for all ages to enjoy social events and health and well-being activities; provide early years services, a brand-new young people's programme, and a community-led garden in Whittington Park. They also have a fantastic cosy community cafe.