Introducing Unible

A new platform to help people find collaborative work they care about

Posted on 23rd November 2016

Written by Matt Woodham

Over the last year, we have been supporting our Near Now Studio members to research and develop ambitious new projects that create meaning and value for people’s everyday lives.

As the outcomes of each project emerge from the Studio, we’re asking the cohort to share stories of how their ideas have progressed and their plans for the future.

Studio member Matthew Woodham and Digital Product Designer Georgia Cavanagh have been developing a simple service and mobile app that helps people find collaborative work they care about.  Here’s the story behind the project.

Is self-employment working?

For more than 800,000 self-employed people in the UK's creative economy, finding project-based work can be a pain. For anyone with a great idea looking for collaborators, options are diverse but not fit for purpose.

Existing solutions: are siloed by industry, outsource to the lowest bidder; force users to project a 'corporate' persona; are limited by immediate networks; or focus on full-time employment.

For self-employed workers looking for diverse projects, current options are restrictive. Their skills and personas are not accurately reflected in options available on existing recruitment services, talent platforms, or in agency databases.

With self-employment a growing trend across industries, but with almost 80% of self-employed workers living in poverty, there is an urgent need to help people earn a secure living from their skills and find meaningful work.

"Research by the Resolution Foundation has highlighted that the median annual income of the self-employed plummeted from £15,000 in 2008 to £10,400 in 2013."

Stir Magazine, Issue 14, Summer 2016

This year has seen an increasing amount of articles in the press criticising the "gig economy", government inquiries into exploitative working conditions and calls for intervention to ensure fairer pay and treatment of self-employed workers.

Unible sets out to address issues facing freelance and independent workers at a time when their employment is being devalued and destabilised. Through the promotion and support of local ideas and networks, our aim is to make Unible an indispensable tool for people looking to collaborate on projects that interest and excite them.

​When you have a great idea, where do you find talented collaborators who can help bring it to life?

Unible emerged from observing the internal economies of artists' studios in Nottingham, where multi-skilled artists share their talents and labour to help peers make their work. People trade odd jobs like woodworking and fabrication, often in exchange for money, but at other times relying on alternative forms of compensation, like exchanging skills.

Rather than flippantly seeking to disrupt or monetise that grassroots activity, Unible seeks to facilitate and nurture it.

Although a relatively small city, Nottingham has a reputation for its active creative and digital economy. There are a growing number of self-employed workers, tight knit communities and exciting projects launching all the time. It's a great place to explore technology-driven ways to promote fair and meaningful collaborative work.

How can Unible help?

With Unible you can:

  • Create a profile based on your skills, interests and portfolio.
  • Discover new people and projects based on your location, skills and relationships.
  • Turn your ideas into projects and attract collaborators.
  • Follow companies, people and projects you love.
  • Get notifications about new opportunities and interactions from people you follow or when your skills are needed.
  • Recommend and invite your network.

Unible is designed for skilled professionals working across the creative and digital economy. The ambition is more widely to offer a platform for people with under-utilised skills an opportunity to develop a new passion, income and career. It allows those frustrated with a lack of freedom from their restrictive job titles a place to discover peers and exciting project-based work.

Great collaborations rely on people from all backgrounds. Whether you are a professional or hobbyist, Unible is designed to be an inclusive community - celebrating diversity and progression in the creative and digital economy.

From idea to prototype

Through the Near Now Studio, Unible has developed from an idea into a shareable experience prototype and proof of concept.

As part of an intensive discovery phase, we spent time testing the model for the service and researching the different ways people advertise and find project-based collaborative work.

We interviewed peers participating in the Arts and Technology Pilot at Makerversity and Madlab about how they describe their skills, and their experiences finding work and collaborators.

Designer Georgia Cavanagh joined the team to develop Unible's style, interface and user experience as a prototype. Georgia had previously worked at e-commerce startup Kong, and currently works as a Senior Designer at digital agency Kind.

Over the next six months we're going to be building and beta launching Unible as a responsive web app. We are starting out on our journey towards raising money for new exciting features that help grow Unible into a trusted and fair community.

Keep in the Loop - Get first dibs on our beta.  Sign up over at

Stories from the Studio

Find out more about the projects developed through the Near Now Studio over on the Stories page.


Matt Woodham