Those interests led me to set up Dot Dot Dot, a social enterprise which lets people who do brilliant voluntary work live cheaply in buildings that would otherwise be empty. I launched Dot Dot Dot in 2011, and today it houses hundreds of people across England, from Sheffield to the South Coast, for around a third of local market rent, working with some of the country’s biggest property owners. We employ a team of 15 in our office in Newham.
During 2016, Dot Dot Dot guardians gave almost 42,000 hours to more than 900 different charitable organisations – the equivalent of one person working full time for 23 years for good causes. The organisation has won a range of awards, including three Security Excellence awards, an industry prize for best practice in the sector, and recognition from The Observer and Nesta as one of Britain’s New Radicals – the organisations doing most to address the country’s most pressing issues. In 2014, I was named UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Ashoka and Ben and Jerry’s.
I set up Dot Dot Dot after writing a book, FREE: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society, about the scale of waste we produce in the UK and the squatters and scavengers who build their lives by using it. My book was published by Ebury Press in 2010, and left me with a strong urge to do something about the twin problems of wasted homes and unaffordable housing, and some ideas about how to make a difference.
I have talked about empty homes, wasted food and social enterprise in a wide range of contexts – on Newsnight, on BBC Radio 2 and 4, and at festivals including Latitude, Wilderness, No Direction Home and the Edinburgh Book Festival, and at conferences. I’ve spoken in and chaired debates organised by Intelligence Squared, and I was a consultant on The Great British Property Scandal, Channel 4’s primetime series about empty homes.
I was a founder of Londoners on Bikes, a campaign to get safer cycling on the agenda for the London Mayoral election in May 2012. Nearly 7,000 Londoners signed a pledge to “vote with their bikes” by casting our ballots on the basis of which mayoral candidate would do the most to improve safety for cyclists in London. We filmed video interviews with three of the four main candidates and received coverage in the Times, the Guardian and the Evening Standard.
I have also worked as a journalist, mainly at the Sunday Times. I have written cover stories for The Sunday Times Magazine and for the Guardian’s G2, and contributed to the Independent, the New Statesman, Time Out, Dazed and Confused and many others. I was shortlisted as the British Press Association’s Young Journalist of the Year in 2006.
I studied at Cambridge University, graduating with a first in Philosophy in 2003. I grew up in Oxford, and currently live in east London.