A year almost to the day, we blogged on how AirBnB call themselves a 'community powered brand'. A key aspect of the way we do things at STEAM Co. is working with businesses like this that are keen to play a part in the communities in which they operate beyond brandwash and going into primary schools to inspire our children or helping us do so.

We're now looking for a handful of sponsors and funding bodies to help us roll STEAM Co. out across the UK.

We've had fantastic support to date on a project by project basis from a range of organisations from BMW, Cass Art and Dell through to BT, National Grid and Google 

Indeed the ’Co’  in STEAM Co could be seen to stand for ‘collaborate’ or ‘community’, 'connection' or ‘co-create’ or all of these. 

So what better than to work with a company that actually lives, breathes, and totally embraces all of these? Well, we’ve been working with one of the most unlikely organisations that does just that, in Barclays bank.

“Bankers have traditionally been at the heart of the community, supporting people with their finances, and helping local businesses to grow.

Ashok Vaswani
CEO of Barclays UK 

It's all about connections

We first came across the work that Barclays are doing in a talk at the Internet Week conference by Mel Exon from their advertising agency BBH. She was presenting alongside Steve Hatch, the Managing Director of Facebook UK. 

They showed the work of Barclays’ Code Playground initiative, where the bank has trained over 15,000 Digital Eagles - members of their staff around the UK to run coding workshops and digital awareness courses for their customers and children in schools across the UK.

Then a short while later, I was running a workshop at an event with Nesta to co-create ideas to encourage social enterprise, where a Barclays Marketing Director presented the Digital Eagles work again.

So when we were looking for organisations to support our feature area ‘INSPIRANATION’ at the Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College, Barclays were one of the first people we wrote to, and certainly the first people to respond, biting our hand off to be involved and help us out.

Click here to see the short film of INSPIRANATION  which saw Barclays and a number of other organisations come together to work with us.

Together with Barclays we made a world record at our INVENTORS! STEAM CO. launch event in Sunderland in January where one of their Newcastle based team, Dave Gowans gave a talk on their work and a team of Digital Eagles taught around 200 primary children to code the not yet released Micro:bit computer that the BBC will soon be giving to every Year 7 child in schools across the UK.  

(Read more about our thoughts on sharing Micro:bit with primary here)


We were really quite taken by a display we saw on a visit to the HQ building in the city of London which spoke about the banks heritage and values.

The business was founded on a strong sense of purpose and a role in community, driven by deeply held Quaker values of its founders.

While we're always wary of dodgy STEAM puns and train spotter associations, we were particularly touched by the seeming serendipity of the fact that Barclays not only funded the world's first STEAM railway: The Stockton Darlington but that it was in the North East of England where we launched STEAM Co. recently

We're therefore particularly chuffed to be working with Barclays steam powering the UK again, but this time with STEAM in capitals, for the next industrial revolution, for our connection economy.

Taking making and doing one step further.

You might think that running coding classes in branches of a bank across the UK was enough, but not for Barclays.

We were really excited to hear of the next stage of their plans, to roll out a UK wide network of making spaces, called Barclays Eagle Labs to be housed in disused bank premises across the UK. 

"We want people back in this branch... as part of the maker community. Children, adults, companies"   Steven Roberts Director Strategic Transformation, Barclays PLC

"We want people back in this branch... as part of the maker community. Children, adults, companies"

Steven Roberts
Director Strategic Transformation, Barclays PLC

Positioned as a ‘space to create and innovate’ this is part of how Barclays is evolving and transforming its business to ‘give customers and others in local businesses and communities the opportunity to learn about new technologies and techniques that will be critical to helping the UK to thrive in the digital age’.

We were delighted to be invited to the opening of the first pilot Eagle Lab by HRH The Duke of York, Prince Andrew, in Cherry Hinton in Cambridge. 

Being just down the road from the fabulous Spinney School, who had recently held a pop-up STEAM Co. Day the coincidence seemed too good to be true so we connected Barclays and the Spinney so that some of the children could be there for the opening.

Eagle Labs or Seagull labs

After the openings of pilot Eagle Labs in Cambridge and Bournemouth, the official launch of the nationwide roll out of Eagle Labs took place in Brighton and we jumped on the train south for a pop up STEAM Co. session!

Across 3 floors, Barclays Brighton Eagle Lab has a range of affordable spaces for community meetings, coding sessions and talks as well as a workshop equipped with a wide range of 3D printers, CNC laser cutters and tools that anyone can use for very reasonable rates.

Watch the film at the top of this blog post to get a feel for the energy and enthusiasm in the room that evening.

And the film below of an evening of short talks on #BlueSKyDOING and creativity that Barclays subsequently hosted at the top of their HQ in Canary Wharf, London with an amazing line up of speakers.

Brands and businesses like Barclays SIGN HERE:

Hot on the heels of our Sunderland INVENTORS! Event, we’re now working packaging up STEAM Co’s experience in a set of resources for communities to use and a programme of inspiring nationwide regional launch events are planned for Cornwall and Bristol to Cambridge and London.

We now need to recruit five more launch sponsors to join Barclays as well as seven supporter sponsors.

As Barclays are demonstrating, working with STEAM Co. works on brand, CSR and employee engagement objectives.

As Dame Julia Cleverdon of Prince Charles' Business in the Community has said "STEAM Co. is building bridges between art, academia and business to education. This is to everyone’s benefit - young people as well as the community around them." 

Download this one page sponsorship overview and, if you'd like to work with us too, get in touch to find out more.


Talk about connections.... my trip to Brighton last week was made particularly special when I bumped into someone I hadn't seen for about 20 years, not since we'd both been in the same edition of one of the first UK editions of Wired magazine back in 1996.

Front cover and Arawak ad in Wired magazine from 1995 in a talk by Nick on 'responsible marketing' at the DAU2015 event in London, November 2015

Front cover and Arawak ad in Wired magazine from 1995 in a talk by Nick on 'responsible marketing' at the DAU2015 event in London, November 2015

Published then by The Guardian Media Group, it featured some of the UK's earliest digital pioneers on the cover including a chap called Ivan Pope who had started one of the UK's first web agencies Webmedia and built the first web sites for the UK's biggest companies. He went on to start Nominet and is now actively involved in the 3D printing and maker scene across the UK, based in Brighton.  

"In this digital world... it's all about people"   Dave Shepherd Barclays

"In this digital world... it's all about people"

Dave Shepherd

A digital agency called Arawak that I'd started the year before was featured in that same issue of Wired magazine and we had been given a full page ad - which featured a photo of a red rose, primarily as it was the only usable image in a suitcase of CD ROM royalty free images we'd been given, but the caption (inspired by an anti gun bumper sticker we'd seen on a car on a trip to the launch event for MSN in LA) ran 'Computers Suck, People are Cool'.

Some things never change, however the computer tech or code gets, as Dave Shepherd of Barclays says in the above film, whether it computers, businesses, education, banking, government...  "It's all about people"


We're really grateful to CPC - UK distributors and resellers of all the Little Bits, Raspberry Pi and Lego WeDo Robocrocs you see in the film above and as used on our STEAM Co. Days. They even do the Little Bits 'Internet of Things' kits that let you code electronics inside Minecraft.

You don't have to join their club for a year to get FREE postage - everyone gets it so no excuse to buy from a GREAT British company.

They also sell an amazing range of electronics, gadgets, books, science kits, tools and other STEAM powered bits and pieces - and have the BEST catalogue which is a maker present in itself!!!

They've supported us, so please support them.