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12 April 2017

Guest Blog: Exploring ethical supply chains and sustainable connections

Hello Shenzhen UK host, Camilla James from Impact Hub Westminster, shares the ideas and collaborations developed during the 3 week residency with two makers from Shenzhen

The first thing that struck us when arriving in Edinburgh to meet our residents was the huge amount of talent, knowledge and creativity under one roof. There was a fantastic energy, the air buzzing with ideas and excitement. Despite the many miles and cultural differences between us, our passion for innovation, creativity and change leaped across borders.

During our three weeks together, our aim was to build on this feeling. After all, collaboration, co-creation and innovation are what we’re all about at Impact Hub Westminster. 

As hosts, this was a valuable opportunity to help our members build connections with China, learn more about the incredible maker culture in Shenzhen and to support British makers who are looking to manufacture in China. We also wanted to examine the value of sustainability and social innovation in Shenzhen, and explore strategies for creating more ethical supply chains between the UK and China. A big task for a three-week residency!

The problem and opportunity

Our residents were invited to explore the challenges makers in the UK face when looking to manufacture in China. They were to focus particularly on ethical, circular and sustainable supply chains.

Our residents, Savio and Solo, were the perfect candidates for this challenge. Savio is an experienced product designer and developer at Artop Group, a one stop company to help designers take their products to market. Solo is a talented designer who founded XIVO design, a product design company that values simplicity.

Impact Hub Westminster

Solo and Savio, the Shenzhen makers in residence at Impact Hub Westminster

To create something of value during their time in the UK, our residents needed to spend time with makers in the UK. This process involved one-to-one meetings, networking events, focus groups and larger workshops.

After meeting with our members and local makers at King’s College, our residents decided that an app would be the best solution for connecting makers in the UK with Shenzhen. The app would give British makers advice and transparency about the manufacturing process.


Using the Social Business Canvas framework and information gathered during their first two weeks, the residents mapped out their idea. They considered the value proposition, key stakeholders, activities, customers and revenue streams. 

Upstart Photography

Mapping the supply chain

They then created a paper prototype of their app, before meeting with a developer who mentored them through the process of producing a digital prototype.

The app asks the user questions about the product they are looking to manufacture. It will then offer them a range of solutions, comparing the prices and ethics of the process. The user gains the necessary information to make an informed decision.

Upstart Photography

Savio, Solo and Mia presenting the prototype at the Hello Shenzhen closing event

The Future

Although the residency is over, it is not the end of the journey. Savio and Solo are working on a pitch deck to gain funding for their app and we have also connected them with Impact Hub Hong Kong, so they can continue their journey with our global community.

As hosts, we gained valuable connections with makers, designers, entrepreneurs, and educators, forming an international community around our shared values and goals. We look forward to continuing the conversation and seeing the results of the exchange become a tangible reality.