Activating vacant & unused spaces PROTOTYPE 1B

Context & Rationale

Innovate Dublin looks at problems within its Dublin communities and, with local stakeholders comes up with new and innovative ways of working through those problems to create new solutions.

To do this, Innovate Dublin is developing several ‘Innovate’ programmes for Dublin city. Each programme will focus on creating commercial and non-commercial projects to facilitate sustainable job creation and employment, to meet the needs of each community it is serving. Each project developed under the localised programmes will ultimately be handed over to the community, once projects have been successfully established and solid frameworks have been put in place.

The first programme is Innovate Ballymun. In the spirit of social innovation - new ideas to meet unmet social needs in the public good – the Innovate Ballymun programme was developed to drive a new phase of sustainable social regeneration. This is being achieved through an active and integrated programme of:-

Research & insights:  Extensive research in the Ballymun area on various themes that impact on the lives of the local community. This was followed by several in-depth consultations with local businesses, community organisations and residents during the period August to September 2015, regarding the most pressing issues the community is facing. 

Awareness & engagement:  The issues highlighted in the research informed the Engagement Session Themes, one theme was Activating Vacant & Unused Spaces. Defining the themes from the research and further engaging stakeholders- individuals, organisations, business and others enabled us to shape the commercial and non-commercial projects to be delivered under the theme.

The creation of new solutions to address the unmet needs of the community via commercial and non commercial projects is based upon the engagement workshops; one of these commercial projects deemed to be appropriate and defined through engagement was a local café employing hard to reach citizens in one of the vacant retail spaces available within Ballymun (a retail study of Ballymun has been conducted by consultants and will be released April 2016) or a location closeby.


The Directors of the Book Reserve Cafe in Belfast are currently scoping the option of scaling the successful business venture in Dublin within the next 12-18 months. 

'The Book Reserve Cafe’ in Belfast, Northern Ireland was launched in 2015, to offer opportunities and training for young people between the ages of 18-24 who are leaving the justice system, and in many cases have recently become parents. The young people work in a paid job placement for 12 months in an industry which offers potential for ongoing employment and growth. The Book Reserve Cafe has three main income streams; the book reserve, catering and hospitality and recycling.

The Belfast model was built upon the original Book Reserve Cafe, developed for youth development and job training in Boston called More Than Words (MTW).  MTW believes that the best job training must include an actual paid job, one which provides developmentally appropriate feedback and hands-on, real world training for youth to equip themselves with marketable skills critical for the workforce, college and life. MTW’s mission states: “More Than Words is a non-profit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.”  MTW provides clear steps for youth to gain increasing responsibilities, skills and leadership roles as they earn promotions for their performance by providing them with two aims their “business job” and the “you job”.

Next Steps - Feasbility Study

Aim: Determine the viability of scaling the existing ‘Book Reserve Café’ business model in Dublin, namely in Dublin North West, Dublin Central and Dublin North Central.


  1. Develop, cost, assess funding options and stress test a number of operational models for the three chosen communities.
  2. Produce forecasted financial models for each operational model proposed, to include profit and loss, cash flow & break-even over a 5 year period.
  3. Identify the most financial and economically viable model for implementation.