Calum Green

"You can always return to architecture… keep trying new things, testing different interests, and you’ll get an increasingly better understanding of what you enjoy, and what you’re best at"

CompanyLondon Community Land Trust + Citizens UKLocationLondonCourse BA ArchitecturePositionCo-Director (London CLT) + Senior Organiser (Citizens UK)

About London Community Land Trust + Citizens UK

I have two places of work – London Community Land Trust (London CLT) and Citizens UK

London CLT was set up by Citizens UK in 2007 and is the capital’s first Community Land Trust. We work with communities to create permanently affordable homes and transform neighbourhoods. Our first site is St Clement’s in Mile End, where 23 CLT residents are moving in in 2017, and are actively working on 3 further sites and 6 further campaigns. It is a small organisation with 4 members of staff that rents co-work space in Limehouse.

Citizens UK is an alliance of over 350 community institutions (e.g. faith groups, education groups, charities and trade unions) that act together for justice and the common good. The organisation has approximately 80 members of staff across the country, and the London office is based in Whitechapel. It is best known for setting up the London Living Wage campaign, working Safe Passage as part of Refugees Welcome, and for local campaigns across England and Wales.

What are your main roles and responsibilities?

At London CLT, I am Communities and Campaigns Director (Co-Director). It is my responsibility to help lead the organisation, and to ensure new sites are delivered through local organising campaigns. Since becoming Co-Director in 2015, London CLT has grown from the equivalent of one full-time member of staff to 4 members of staff. It has also moved from having its first site identified, to active conversations in over 9 neighbourhoods across London for further sites for CLT homes. There are currently commitments from local authorities to help deliver over 440 homes across London, secured through local organising campaigns.

As a Senior Organiser at Citizens UK, I am part responsible for leading the housing campaign work and have set up Peckham Citizens, a neighbourhood organisation in South London, that acts to tackle injustice in our community on issues ranging from housing to youth safety; regeneration to personal debt.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Firstly, I like seeing change happen due to my hard work and the hard work of those I work with. Through both organisations, the difference we make is real and tangible, whether it’s making a local park safer for young people who’ve found weapons there in the past, to building homes that are affordable to those on average incomes, I get to see the difference the work we do makes to people.

Secondly, most of my time is spent meeting with other people. This means I rarely spend more than 2-3 hours at a time in front of a computer, and I get to work with people across London to help them develop their capacity to play a role in public life.

How did you get from your architecture degree to where you are now?

One week after graduating, I met my predecessor after a Citizens UK action. I persuaded him to employ me for a month in exchange for building a 1:200 scale model of London CLT’s first site, St Clement’s, for much less than a professional model-maker would charge for materials.

We then hosted various workshops across Whitechapel, Stepney, Mile End and Bow in Mosques, Churches, Schools and Tenants and Residents Association Halls to find out what people thought should happen on site.

Since then, I’ve developed my understanding of CLTs, community organising and housing policy, raised money to start Peckham Citizens and been promoted to Senior Organiser and Co-Director. During those past 6 years, I did work part-time in order to do my DipArch (Part II) at Cass School of Architecture, but concluded that, particularly in light of the added responsibility I was given, these organisations were where I wanted to spend my time for the foreseeable future.

How has your architecture degree shaped your career, and what knowledge, skills or values developed at SSoA have you found relevant in your progression?

There are a series of hard skills around graphic design, modelmaking etc. that were useful at first. Also, a working knowledge of how Architects think is useful as we begin to commission Architects on CLT projects.

However, the most useful skill learnt during my time at Sheffield was what lots of people on the course called the ‘positive grey space’. This was the fact that you cannot know the outcome of a design process until it’s concluded, the answer is not ‘black’ or ‘white’, you have to embrace the ‘greyness’ of the process in order to move forward through the design process. You have to be confident in the process itself, allowing you to work well and effectively without knowing the eventual outcome. This is a rare and hard to develop mindset that is incredibly useful when leading a project or organisation.

What top tips would you offer architecture students who are considering alternative careers to architecture?

If you’re thinking about it, try it. You can always return to Architecture. Also, it’s a lot more about luck than most people care to admit! Sometimes you find the right path or organisation for you, and sometimes you don’t. Keep trying new things, testing different interests, and you’ll get an increasingly better understanding of what you enjoy, and what you’re best at.

Where do you see yourself in future?

For the coming few years at least, it is to remain in London CLT & Citizens UK. I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to continue to play a senior role in building the concept of community organising to tackle injustice across the country, and about taking London CLT from a single-site organisation with 2 part-time staff to multi-site organisation with nearer 10 members of staff and campaigns for CLT homes across London.

Beyond that, who knows…