Sofia Bustamante

London Creative Labs

Sofia Bustamante

Sofia Bustmante was a Finalist Women's Social Leadership Awards | Category Social Business Leader - 2013 and the Winner of the People's Vote 2013.

Sofia, What's London Creative Labs?

Think of London Creative Labs as “Grameen meets The Wire”. It's about unleashing individual and collective economic potential in deprived urban areas. I saw a need to address *creation* of meaningful work, not just getting more people into work.

Work is linked to health and self-esteem. Poverty is a man-made creation. We can turn it around. We want to help the most disadvantaged become leaders in turning this around. We’ve seen evidence that they can.

The labs are helping communities and individuals to use what they *have* to address what they *need*. We start with most social excluded first to ensure an inclusive solution.


We have a 90% conversion rate of people who attended our information sessions, majority of whom were unemployed social tenants. This and a 80% retention rate evidences a clear demand.

Our initial target was to 60 unemployed tenants in career coaching skills (at Skills Camps) and 67 graduated!

They are now able to manage their own job search and career development; and support each other, their families, friends and neighbours.

What obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them to get where you are now, Sofia?

When initial career brought severe stress, I invested time to identify my purpose (nurture community wholeness) as my fundamental guidance system. Then hired a coach to confront excuses for not living that purpose, an accountant to become aware of financial self-sabotage in my language.

I systematically confronted my lack of confidence: rejected medication when clinically depressed; mediated neighbourhood conflicts in Feltham for 3 years; helped Amnesty with an internal human rights challenges (everyone having a voice); coached a murderer unprotected in a high security prison in Johannesburg; during 400-person event involving themes of genocide, undertook a difficult role to help the group address its shadow.

After facilitating dialogue between Grameen and BRAC in 2008, I decided to take my track record of meaningful work creation, overcoming confidence issues and living systems approach to disadvantaged urban communities.

My initial funding solution: I raised £8000 via peer to peer funding before the crowdfunding boom (2009).

Here is the amazing feedback we received so far.

More about London Creative Labs here

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