Hello, is there anybody here?

Before we opened our coworking space here at Boulder Digital Arts, I headed out of state to check on some other coworking spaces to see how they do it.  Overall, I was highly impressed, but I definitely noticed some things that I quickly made note of, to be sure our members didn’t have a similar experience.  I’d like to focus on just one in this post.

The single biggest thing I encountered that bothered me was walking into a space where there wasn’t a person to greet me, or even acknowledge my presence. Though most places had a front-counter person who greeted me with an enthusiastic smile, and was ready to show me around; there were several spaces where I walked in and: nothing.

I never knew what to do:  is it okay to just walk around? Is it okay to walk through and ask someone I see at a desk way in the back some questions, even though they appear to be a paying coworker and hard at work?  I found it very disconcerting. I imagined that if I was a possible paying client, I wouldn’t be very excited about this place.  For me, it set a precedent for how the place must be overall:  not attentive to their users’ needs, coworkers will probably be interrupted by people walking in asking questions, etc.

Inevitably-I’d walk around, in the hope that someone might notice me and start talking to me, but no–nothing.  Not even the coworkers, who were busy working (and I don’t blame them – it’s not their job!). At many places I encountered the owners acting as front-counter people, which seemed to make sense.  They were the first line of contact to a potential customer, and they were the most appropriate people to talk to.  A perfect place for their “office” was right at the entrance. However, if your budget does not allow for a dedicated front-counter person, there are many other ways to make it happen:  an intern from a local college, a coworker who would be interested in trading out for a space, etc.

Please consider how important a front-counter person is to your coworking space’s success.  In one sense, it’s just great customer service.  In another sense, it’s a great sales tool.  Last, it assures current and potential coworkers that they will not be constantly bothered by inquisitive guests.

image credit (of no particular coworking space): drewnoakes

Bruce Borowsky, Co-Founder

Boulder Digital Arts

Boulder, Colorado

Coworking as a Business: Which Model Is Best?

Coworking is part of a collaborative reorganization of the global workforce, but does that mean a traditional business model is out of the question?

(The below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Shareable.net. I would encourage you to read the full version and let me know your thoughts! Like so many issues in the coworking community, it has to be decided on a space-by-space basis. I’d love to hear from space owners using these and other models to achieve a cohesive, sustainable community!)

…Most coworking advocates fall into one of two schools of thought on this topic: those that believe coworking is best when it exists as a non-profit, and those who believe coworking can (and should be) a profitable business. The coworking community demonstrates that both (and many hybrids in between) are possible.

Coworking As A Non-Profit

The thing that sets coworking apart from all other styles of working is that it has the welfare, success, and ultimately happiness of the members as its most lofty goal. The community is the most important asset, and everything else–the space, location and amenities–are meaningless if the community is absent. One of the most attractive reasons to choose the non-profit model is the ability to let the community evolve naturally…

Coworking As A For-Profit

What troubles some in the coworking community is that creating a coworking space with the sole purpose of making profit can drive the focus away from the coworking values of collaboration, community, openness, accessibility, and sustainability. “Coworking spaces that fully embrace the value of community are not owned by anyone,” writes the founder of C4 Workspace in San Antonio, Texas. “They may be funded by individuals and other sources but they are “owned” by the community.” One can’t just offer desks and Wifi, call it coworking, and wait for the money to roll in…

Coworking As A Not-Just-For-Profit

While it might be easy to equate “profit” with the cut-throat individualism that typifies the corporate world, space owners shouldn’t be afraid to make money from a business that requires hard work. Instead, many look for ways to provide additional, valuable services to both the freelancers in their coworking community as well as the telecommuters, small business owners, and creatives of the community at large. Workshops, camps, classes, and mixers bring people together and make them better at what they do. Better yet, all of these things can exist within the community without defining it…

Read the full version on Shareable.net…

The Inception of Coworking: a short story by the intern

Angel assigned the Cohere Coworking Community’s intern Ryan the task of writing a <500 word blog post about what he thinks is valuable about coworking. His imagination ran amok and what she got is this 2,700 word sci-fi short story based on the movie Inception. Rather than send him back to the drawing board, his story will replace regularly scheduled blog posts this week. The cast of characters is interns Ryan & Betsy, Madame Angel and cameos by Cohere members Lindsay, Skippy and Matt.


Walking into Cohere that day started seemingly like any other. After settling in I began to start in on my daily checklist hoping to get it done as quickly as possible because I had a few coworkers I wanted to speak to about getting together for some coffee and talking a little shop. The coffee was already brewing and the dishes were clean. Strange, I thought to myself as I walked into the conference room, bathroom, and around the main space collecting the trash to take out back. I grabbed a big mug of coffee to brave the weather outside, and downed nearly the whole cup in one gulp.

I looked up and for the first time saw Angel standing right behind me in the doorway to the kitchen. I jumped a little because I hadn’t heard anyone while I had been walking around.

“This coffee tastes rather… exotic,” I said, trying to make conversation but also choking up a little bit from some strange feeling in my stomach swirling around with the coffee.

“Hmmm… tasted normal to me,” Angel replied with what appeared to be a deviant smile on her face for just a moment. “After you take that trash out meet me in the conference room so that we can talk about your blog post. I want to hear what your idea is.”

I grabbed the trash bags, swinging the back door open exposing myself to the cold and an intense light reflecting off the fresh snow from the sun. My eyes winced in pain and the queasy feeling in my stomach seemed to move up my spine causing my head to spin.

“One more thing,” Angel shouted from behind me. I wheeled around unsteady on my feet to see several other members not sitting but standing inside the collaborative workspace all looking at me. “Hurry!” said Angel with what seemed like a sly smile on her face again, but I was unable to tell as my vision began to blur, “and be careful on those steps, it’s really icy outside.”

The coffee seemed to have spread throughout my body now making my skin warm and making me weak in the knees. I wheeled back around to head down the stairs and as I faced outside the brightness of the morning went *FLASH* in my eyes with a piercing bright light completely blinding me for a moment…

When I opened my eyes again I was in a classroom on campus, unfamiliar to me. The room was full of students some of whom I recognized from my classes, but I was sure I had never been in this particular class before. The teacher and writings on the board appeared completely unfamiliar to me. On second glance I squinted at the professor way at the front of the room whose face suddenly became recognizable. It was Angel. Or was it? The woman looked identical to her but had black glasses and long gray streaks in her hair; almost as if it were Angel’s mom.

I looked at what was written on the board:

in your coworking blog, you must find what is valuable in coworking.

I believe I must have gasped out loud because once I removed my eyes from the board I noticed that everyone in the room was staring in my direction. I turned my head quickly back to the front of the room and saw that the teacher had completely stopped talking and was looking at me as well, seemingly smiling at me in the same way that Angel had back at Cohere what seemed like moments ago.

“You know that you’re dreaming,” I heard Betsy’s voice from behind me, “you never even came into Cohere today, you’re late right now still asleep in your bed at home.”

It suddenly made sense and I quickly flipped around in my chair, surprised to see a number of coworkers from Cohere sitting behind me in class. I got up to pinch myself but the floor was lined with a thin layer of water that had been melting off my boots that were still wet and covered in snow. I thought this to be very strange to be dreaming about but only for a fleeting moment as the soles of my shoes slipped out from under me causing me to go parallel to the ground for a second before hitting my head on my desk.

Everything was black; although I felt no pain in the back of my head where it struck the desk. My face felt like it was pressed against the cold floor and I opened my eyes expecting the cold linoleum of the classroom. Instead my eyes opened up to smooth cement like the kind that you would find in a basement or possibly a roller rink. I looked around, my eyes adjusting to a room much darker than the classroom I had just been in.

There was a small safe sitting on the floor right next to me and a table in the middle of the room, and I noticed it only had a key on it as I began to lift myself from the floor. I grabbed it and just as I was about to put it inside the opening of the safe I heard a voice from the doorway which I hadn’t recognized when I’d been looking around the room. Things had been very strange the last few minutes and I thought little of it when a plate was pushed under the door, baby blue, identical to the ones that I’d seen neatly stacked at Cohere that morning. But I hadn’t been to Cohere at all this morning I was still in bed, and probably an hour late by now.

There was no window on the door but there was a small opening which a black gloved hand shoved through a mug of coffee, also seemingly from Cohere, “drink. It will wake you up,” a voice strangely like Angel’s said sending an echo of affirmation bouncing around the room.

I sipped the coffee and shoved a cookie into my mouth from the plate. I returned my attention back to the safe, forgetting that it had surely been Angel’s voice on the other side of the locked door. I twisted the key and pulled the cold steel open with an unexpected smoothness for as old as the safe appeared. I reached for a torn piece of parchment inside. The first few words of a single sentence were visible.

“Coworking is all about…”

I rubbed my eyes feeling the same strange feeling I had felt from drinking the coffee earlier before this strange trip began. I leaned backwards staring at the single flickering light above me, the statement from the paper racing in my head over and over again. Suddenly the light above me went out and the room turned pitch black. I sat in silence for a few moments then felt around for the table, moving it to the center of the room. In the absolute blackness I fumbled around climbing onto the table and reaching up to adjust the light.

Suddenly it flashed back on. Somehow it seemed to be in front of me now instead of above my head. It was so intense I could not see anything else in the room except for the warm light blinding. I moved my head to the side and my heart jumped with amazement. I was gone from the dingy room with the key, and the flannel and jeans I’d been wearing had been replaced by a suit and tie. I was on a stage in front of all the Cohere members and they were clapping. I put my hand up to block my eyes from the spotlight on my face but it fumbled into a microphone causing it to wobble and nearly fall. I peered around seeing Angel coming to the stage and pushing me to the side.

“I can’t believe that it has been over a year since we started, and I can’t believe how far that Cohere has come and how far that I have come from not knowing what coworking was at all to becoming the Madame of such a successful space with such amazing members,” she said into the mic, becoming more emotional than I’d ever seen her. “It really is all about the members though, it always has been. You are ones who made Cohere what it is, the members are the ones who have given it meaning!”

Each time Angel said ‘members’ she seemed to articulate it more, strangely emphasizing the word. It seemed to draw the audience nearer, until the fervor in her speech had brought them all into a half circle surrounding the front of the stage. They all began to roar with applause  after the last part of the statement.

Suddenly I heard Betsy’s voice again from behind me, “get in the picture!”

Skippy had appeared on the stage with his camera and I felt myself sandwiched between Angel and Betsy smiling with our backs to all the members below the four of us up on the stage. I took a half step back to get even with the other two in the frame, but the edge of the stage had as if by magic moved more than a foot closer to where we were standing. My heel slipped and I felt myself falling backwards off the stage my face turning to pure panic as the bulb of Skippy’s camera exploded blinding my eyes.

As it went dark again I found myself no longer falling off the stage but back in the dark room, the table slipping out from beneath my feet. I was nearly half way to the ground as I turned to look at the ground seeing only the piece of paper fluttering to the ground along with me.

“Coworking is all about…”

I was back on the ground again with the cold floor on my face. I opened my eyes for just a moment, realizing I was back in the classroom where I had slipped getting up from my desk, not the locked room.

I could hear Betsy talking to me again. “This is not real, you’re at home dreaming in bed,” she said shaking me hard on the back of my shoulders. She raised her voice, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”

I woke up, hoping to wake up from the dream and see my alarm clock reading that I could still make it to Cohere at a reasonable time. I rose from my back looking around in amazement finding out that I wasn’t in my bed at all. Angel and Betsy were right above me looking at me concerned, although they both seemed to be trying to hold back smiles.

“Must have been one crazy dream, intern,” Angel said laughing a little, “you’ve been out cold for about ten minutes. You slipped on some ice at the top of the steps. I told you to be careful because it was slippery.”

I peered around bewildered and remembering everything that I had just gone through, and the strange ways the members of Cohere had infiltrated my dreams like that confusing movie with Leo DiCaprio.

“You kept talking about Coworking and the blog. Is that finished?” Angel asked me, a hint of the deviant smile I had seen right before I had slipped.

“Right,” I said getting up to my feet and checking for but unable to find a bump anywhere on my head to signify I had fallen. Strange, I thought but responded back to Angel saying, “it’s about the things that I find to be truly valuable at Cohere. I’ll send you a focus statement about it via e-mail in just a sec.”

I turned the corner into the lounge to see Lindsay in front of the dry-erase board. As soon as I turned the corner and looked at it she went into a frenzy to erase it. I was sure that I had seen my name and the word ‘Inception’ with an arrow pointing to something about a blog post. Was I just paranoid or were the programmers here capable of planting an idea in my head using some kind of computer code? I looked over my shoulder at Matt who was staring at me but quickly minimized something on his screen and averted his eyes. It seemed as if a grin had crossed his face before he turned, and several of the other members were smiling at me with the look in their eyes that they knew something that I didn’t.

I sat down in the lounge completely confused and pulled out my laptop. Without thinking the words began to spill from my fingers as if the entire post had been downloaded somewhere into the back of my brain:

What are the reasons why I like Cohere so much? What makes Cohere such an ideal place to get work done? What makes the atmosphere at Cohere so special and unlike anywhere else? What makes me love coming to my internship? What makes me want to be friendly, creative, and gives me inspiration? Where do I learn the most outside of the classroom? How can you practice communicating in a business setting without having to worry about losing a potential client?

I paused for just a sec noticing that Betsy was reading the post over my shoulder. Suddenly the answer to all the questions I just asked became clear in my head:

The Members!

“So, you don’t actually believe that you fell down do you?” Betsy asked smiling and walking away after I had typed the words. I looked up and saw Skippy smiling at me from behind his computer, the camera he had pointed at me on the stage around his neck.

“Noooo, it’s impossible,” I thought letting out a little laugh that let me know I hardly believed in my own personal reassurance. “What a bizarre dream!”

This blog post is based off of the movie Inception. It is also a personal commentary on how the people at Cohere and the ideals of coworking have subtly become such a major part of my life and of how I go about doing work. Although Angel has orchestrated the whole thing and put me in a position to grow and to find information by myself (often holding my hand until it becomes clear for me), it is really the members who have inspired me and helped me to see more clearly exactly what coworking is all about and why it is so great.

Although the space where Cohere is housed is awesome, the time spent here wouldn’t amount to much if the people here weren’t so dynamic, creative, and intelligent. I’ve never thought that I had anything that really makes me stand out. The people all around me at Cohere have shown me that with hard work you can really make something of yourself and truly take control of your life instead of letting your work control you. They are amazingly intelligent people, and the unseen energy that bounces around in Cohere is what I would say is the hallmark of coworking. The community that’s been created here does amazing things and I think that anything that they collaboratively put their best efforts to would never be out of their reach (even inception). They are the source of the sustainable energy that makes anything possible.

Is Your Coworking Space Sending Mixed Messages About The Community?

Catalysts/owners: when a potential member visits your space or a traveling coworker stops in via the Visa Program you’ve got to take it up a notch…you’re the face of coworking for the entire community as far as visitors are concerned!

Just like a laptop or lucky suit, coworking spaces have to be cared for or they won’t perform.

In their attempt to create “friendly atmospheres” and “comfortable workspaces”, some coworking facilities have strayed far from (what I hope was) their original goal of creating a professional space in which the mobile workforce can be at its most productive.

Catalysts/owners: when a potential member visits your space or a traveling coworker stops in via the Visa Program you’ve got to take it up a notch…you’re the face of coworking for the entire community as far as visitors are concerned!

Here are some unsavory practices that could affect their impression of coworking and cost you a member:

  • The door is locked: There is nothing more confusing and off-putting than not being allowed to enter the facility during hours of operation. I once showed up well past 9 am (on a day that I’d informed the community manager I was coming) only to find the doors securely locked, with no one in sight. The only reason I eventually entered was because a member heard me rattling and opened the door. This member didn’t know me, and it wasn’t his responsibility, so he promptly returned to his office with a door (which he closed) and resumed working. I was left standing in the lobby, wondering whether I had the wrong direction. Which leads us to item 2…
  • No host on duty: I’m tired of arguments that the community can thrive without a manager, curator, or host. I don’t care what you call this person, but they need to exist and be located near the door during business hours. This smiling face should be available to show new people where the coffee pot is located, and where to put their coat. It’s also helpful if this person can get a few of the members to also smile, wave, and say a sentence about what they do. This makes people laugh, feel comfortable, and understand why coworking is so great. So do it.
  • A dirty bathroom: I hear you snickering already…”Thanks ‘Mom’ we’re all aware of how to clean a bathroom.” ARE YOU? In my travels, I’ve encountered coworking spaces with empty toilet paper rolls, hand towels that looked like they’d assisted in the open heart surgery of a car engine, and soap dispensers that made me want to skip the hand-washing all together. Think to yourself: if I were a member bringing my most important client in for a meeting, is this the bathroom I’d want to offer?
  • A cruddy kitchen: If you’re going to entice new members with kitchens or breakrooms in which to enjoy their lunch, for god’s sake, keep it enjoyable. I’ve seen kitchens with signs that say “please be courteous and wash your own dishes” with what looked like a 90 year-old sponge lurking in the sink and nothing but a dingy towel on which to place your “clean” dish. Unacceptable. We’re all adults here, so let’s nix the signs and act like it. Space owners, I’m pretty sure if you provide your members with soap, a touchable cleaning implement, and a rack in which to place them, the clean dishes will follow.
  • Weak power outlets: Freelancers are designed to travel light. Give them an outlet and a Wifi connection, and they’re happy. That’s why it shocks me that I’ve been in spaces where outlets are inconveniently located or missing altogether. If you want people to pay for a membership, they shouldn’t be forced to cross their fingers and plug their beloved computers into a scary tangle of extension cords and power strips.

Let’s face it people, even the most resilient community will falter and die if you can’t master the basics. Let’s not become so concerned with using our 30,000 foot lofts and cool-looking furniture to attract new members that we forget to care for the ones we already have.

Image Credit: funpicked.com

Welcoming New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space

You can make new members feel welcome to your coworking space by doing the basic “host”-type duties. Are you doing these things?

If you’re a coworking space catalyst or a coworking space owner, you should probably have a welcome mat in front of your space.

Okay—not a literal welcome mat.
Welcome New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space
I’m talking about making new members feel welcome by doing the basic “host”-type duties in your space: greeting potential & new members, giving tours of the space, introducing them to other coworkers, etc.

While these my seem like no-brainer things to do, I’ve discovered that in some coworking spaces, these things are simply not happening. Although not every coworking space has a dedicated host, for those spaces that do have a host, the following to-dos are musts. I’d venture that it’s a real challenge to get a community to grow—and grow bountifully—if coworkers don’t feel like they belong. The good news is that it’s fairly easy for you to help new members feel welcome.

In my mind, the following actions are musts:

  • Greet potential & new coworkers. When someone new walks into the space, is it clear where they should go or who they should talk to?
  • Provide a tour of the space. No matter how small the space may be, provide a tour to help new members feel comfortable and oriented. Heck, introduce them to the coffee-maker!
  • Connect them online. Provide the wireless name and password…and remind them of the website and any other communication tools available. For example, we use IRC at Cohere…old school geekdom!
  • Introduce new members to current members. With respect to people’s work and time, it’s amazingly helpful to introduce new members to current members—especially between members you think might have skills, profession or hobbies in common. This, too, helps foster community!
  • Orient them to the neighborhood. Do the current coworkers have a favorite lunch spot? Let the new member know what amenities, restaurants and other resources are near the coworking space.
  • Other community connections. Is there a calendar of events for the coworking space? Or a list of local meetup groups & events? Or simply a list of all the members? Show the new member! They can then explore these resources on their own time and get more comfortable with the community they’ve just joined.

The idea is to make new members feel comfortable. Imagine how intimidating it is to be the n00b in a group of people who already know each other and are established in their work and social patterns. This can be challenging, even for the most extroverted of people. Fortunately, it takes only a few simple actions to help welcome new members.

If you’re a catalyst or owner, do you have other or different ideas about how to welcome your new members? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Why Bigger Coworking Spaces Aren’t Always Better

Should coworking spaces strive to become the Wal-marts of the mobile workforce, or should they resist growing for the sake of growth? Some surprising results from the Global Coworking Study.

Is a bigger coworking environment always better for members?

Humans are hard-wired to want the biggest and the best, whether you’re talking about burgers or boats. Independents are no different, and we often push for growth without really thinking about what’s best for our business or clients.

As interest in coworking increases all over the world, many space owners will be tempted to move the community out of its loft or small storefront, and into larger warehouses or standalone buildings. While expansion might allow space for more members, it could actually have a negative affect on the level of comfort and collaboration.

Seat capacity of Coworking Spaces in Europe (Source: Entreprise Globale & Tech4i2)

The recent Global Coworking Study found that over 50 percent of coworkers prefer to share a workspace with less than 20 people, and at least 21 percent say they work well in a space with fewer than 50 other coworkers. Less than 4 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to work in a workspace with more than 50 users.

There are a few reasons why these findings make sense, both for coworkers and space owners:

A More Intimate Community

When a coworking space maintains a small to moderate size, the members are more likely to get to know each other on a personal level. This facilitates more comfortable conversations and productive collaboration. A massive space with hundreds of members might be lucrative, but it’s likely to lose the intimacy and spontaneity that makes the coworking community so special. Members become ships passing in the night–with no knowledge of the struggles or successes of their fellow independents.

Higher Desk Utilization

It might seem counter-intuitive for a coworking space owner to limit the growth of the community, but as the Global Coworking Study points out, there are some interesting reasons for doing so. In addition to a less connected community, bigger coworking spaces usually see a lower the desk utilization load factor, and fewer full-time members. Members of smaller coworking spaces know that desks are limited, and they’re more likely to sign up for permanent desk space so they’ll be assured a space no matter when they decide to work.

What do you think?

Do you prefer a coworking space to have fewer than 50 members? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Coworking is Not a Frat House (and the Evidence to Prove It)

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house.” How totally inaccurate that stereotype is. I’ll prove to you why.

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house,” “romper room,” or “social hour” for freelancers and independents.

Yikes. How totally inaccurate that stereotype is.

Not only is the success and level of productivity at most coworking spaces anecdotal evidence of why this myth is untrue, but there’s also hard data to make the case.

Deskmag.com coworking survey

The Evidence

You may have already seen the recent global coworking survey—the first of its kind, seeking to gather data about coworkers and coworking space owners. Deskmag is digging into the survey data and sharing insights about many aspects of coworking. (See the end of the post for links to the Deskmag articles.)

Here are some relevant stats from the survey that dispel the “frat house” myth that often informs stereotypes people have about coworking spaces:

  • Connections: 43% of respondents reported meeting one to three helpful acquaintances within a two-month period, while another 43% have found four or more such connections
  • Income: 25% of all coworkers indicated that they earned more than the national average income
  • Motivation: 85% of respondents are more motivated and have better interaction with other people since moving into a coworking space
  • Teamwork: 57% now work in teams more often
  • Work/life balance: 60% organize their working day better so they can relax more at home

These stats don’t show unmotivated nor unsuccessful freelancers. Coworking isn’t a rowdy frat house.

Community…and Work-Life Balance

The coworking survey reveals that one of the big draws to coworking is the community and collaboration that happens in a coworking space. And “community” doesn’t translate into “frat house” or “social hour.” On the contrary, one of the most powerful aspects of coworking community is to connect with other people while giving—and receiving—value and benefits.

While there are moments or afternoons that feel more “social” at some coworking spaces—for example, when coworkers share funny stories, start a room-wide conversation, or head out to grab a mid-afternoon snack—it’s those moments that make a coworking community what it is: a place for work AND social productivity—a place for a balanced work life.

If you want to read more insights from the survey, check out:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Deskmag

What does it mean to be community driven?

Coworking is a community driven shared office where freelancers, entrepreneurs, and others break the isolation of working from home and the cafe to work side by side. Sounds great, but coworking is so much more. It’s a community of ambitious individuals to participate in discussions, share ideas, and build relationships.

Common Coworking Community Activities

  • Weekly lunch-Ins for members
  • Common areas for brainstorming, coffee breaks, relaxing with others
  • Host Meetups groups
  • Member led workshops
  • Present xTED Talks
  • Launch parties are hosted for members
  • Members are given a voice in major decisions

Coworking communities are member focused by allowing them to have a voice in the activities, facilitate presentations to teach a new skill, provide a gathering space for groups, and become a hub of ideas and debate. Coworking communities provide the events and social gatherings that build connections and that most traditional workers take for granted. For example, regular lunch-ins, weekly open brainstorming sessions, and large common areas help coworkers to connect with other freelancers and entrepreneurs. Most successful communities also allow for the members to act as an advisory board or board of directors similar to public corporations or non-profits to provide input on expansion or new services.

The goal is to be of help all of the members to know all of their coworkers and their businesses, and create a sense of unity and camaraderie. It is this sense of community and natural formation of friendship that drives coworkers to be more productive, creative, and better connected to other businesses. The global coworking survey further emphasized this point with 85% being more motivated while coworking, 88% having better interaction with people, and 42% making more money (versus a 5% decline).

Every coworking community is a bit different and evolves to have a different culture and attract different members. The values of collaboration and openness are often common throughout, but you should always check out a coworking community before committing. Talk to a few of the members or share a coffee with the community manager to get a sense of culture. IndyHall, Conjunctured, SandBox Suites, Beta Haus, Citizen Space, and Cohere Community are vocal advocates of coworking and are often cited as examples that personify these community values.

The first European Jelly week is ready to start

Hub Vilnius joined over 30 other coworking centers from across Europe for the first coworking Jelly week. Come to Hub Vilnius on the 21st of January for Jelly there.

Jellies are occasional meetings at which a small group of people come together to collaborate in an informal atmosphere. Unlike coworking spaces, no membership is required, they cost nothing and take place in a variety of locations. They offer the opportunity to exchange ideas, with no commitments or costs. And at the same time, they allow a community to build that can eventually lead to the development of an institution like a coworking space. With these two benefits in mind, Anni Roolf, a communication designer from Wuppertal, has organized the first European Jelly Week. It will take place from January 17 to 23 in many cities across Europe.

First Jelly in Hub Vilnius, November 2010

Jelly coworking by Mokolabs
Jelly coworking in San Diego by Mokolabs

The name “jelly” was chosen by a group in New York in 2006, taking inspiration from jelly beans. In the end it is simply a fun name, one which is yet to surface in Wikipedia. “These meetings are probably too unstructured and not organized enough for it. Many meetings in spontaneous locations could qualify as a jelly. But even so, somebody could have written an article about it on Wikipedia. The concept has existed now for five years, after all,” Anni said.

Jelly at PAX Coworking Japan

“The coworking movement also existed before it had a name. Many people discovered the concept for themselves, without having to describe it in one word. However using a known label can allow people to better grasp the concept and help it to achieve greater awareness.”

As well as the first Jelly Week, Anni has also initiated the development of the first coworking space in her home town. Jelly meetings can act as a temporary coworking meeting, even if no fixed premises have yet been found. It also helps spread the coworking movement to new places.

The idea grew out of the Coworking Europe conference in Brussels at the end of 2010. Anni wanted to find a way to carry on the productive spirit of the conference, and to demonstrate “how fast things can be created, with few resources but many legs.”

Another reason is to help spread the word about the coworking movment and foster a pan-European dimension to encourage international exchanges and attract more media attention.

How each Jelly looks and functions is entirely up to the creativity and knowledge of each individual organiser. “We only create the basis, and it is up to the people to visualize what they can make from it.” For herself, Anni hopes to develop the initiative for a coworking space in Wuppertal, and to network with people in other locations.

So far, 30 organizations from 14 countries have signed up to host meetings, many of them coworking spaces. A central site will help all participating jelly meetings communicate with each other, as well as a Twitter wall using the hashtag #jellyweek. Jelly Week offers a good opportunity for the strengthening of the European coworking community. To participate, simply contact Anni.

Here is the map of coworking Jelly week:


Japanese coworkers has joined it as well:


from www.deskmag.com

Growing Your Business By Keepin’ It Real

Coworking Out of Bounds

The new year is here and that means many freelancers and small business owners are setting challenging goals for themselves, both personally and professionally. When challenging yourself to earn, create, or accomplish more, remember that although you may not answer to anyone else, it doesn’t mean you should take advantage of yourself by creating situations in which your time and talent will be overextended.

We talk a lot about engaging and making ourselves available for the coworking community and community at large, but agreeing to projects beyond your limit is an easy way to breed frustration and apathy–two traits that are deadly for the independent professional.

This year, pledge to remember that you’re only human. Stop saying yes when in your head you’re scrambling to think of a way that you’ll get it done in time. Refrain from agreeing to that aggressive deadline or early morning meeting when you know that your other work will suffer because of it. Be honest with clients and coworkers about how much you can handle, and know that the most beneficial growth, both as a person and a business owner, is that which occurs at a sustainable pace.

You’ll feel more pride about the high quality work accomplished when you operate within your limits, and the anxiety about income goals and number of clients fades naturally as people are attracted to the calm, organized, professional manner in which you do business.

Have you ever said yes to a project or deadline when you should have said no? Share your experience in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Phillip