Adding ACCESSIBILITY to our List of Core Principles

A while back, I listed the core principles of Coworking that Citizen Space ascribes to:

  • Collaboration: One of the great benefits of working in a coworking space is that you will meet all sorts of people with all sorts of knowledge.
  • Openness: We believe in transparency and openness. In a world where people are free, but ideas are not, only a few benefit. When ideas are free, everyone benefits. Therefore, we encourage open spaces and discussions. Sorry, no NDAs allowed.
  • Community: We thrive on connections and mutual support here. It is important that everyone give into as well as benefit from the strong (international) community coworking has become.
  • Sustainability: Shared spaces are also better for the planet, so we like to take that a little further and make certain our space is very environmentally responsible. Check out the Green Business Certification process we are going through and Ivan’s post on the process.

I posted these to the list and people generally agreed that these were important and the defining philosophies behind Coworking as opposed to alternatives like coffee shops and shared offices and rent-a-desks.

Just recently, though, I realized that we missed a BIG one: Accessibility.

There are all sorts of reasons why Accessibility needs to be included in those bullet points:

  1. Coworking spaces are about offering affordable alternatives to the community…giving a financially accessible option to independent workers. If the space isn’t accessible, indie workers continue to work out of their living rooms and coffee shops, which Coworking is supposed to address.
  2. Coworking spaces are about creating diverse and open spaces for everyone irrespective of physical or perceptual abilities….thus being physically accessible is an extremely high priority for Coworking spaces. We are fortunate to have found a wheelchair accessible building for Citizen Space because we’ve had several events here that required wheelchair access we would have otherwise had to turn away. That would have been a shame because they are great events.

Thanks to Anthony Tusler, who is working on Coworking Sonoma, for bringing this important issue to light. We have started a thread on this subject in the Google Group and have set up a wiki page to start collecting resources. We will also be adding Accessibility to our core values.

For those of you who own spaces that are not currently accessible, let’s start chatting about how we can help you make them that way. 🙂

Dec 13 Event: Co-Hopping San Francisco

BioDiesel Betty

The group of us who run coworking spaces in San Francisco, including: Citizen Space, The Hat Factory, Sandbox Suites, The Altrupreneur Center and AF83 are really excited to be throwing a conjoint Co-Hopping Event on Thursday December 13 from 6:30-10:30 pm. We are also really excited to have Bio-Diesel Betty (aka Lindsay Hassett) entertaining us between venues in her bus with the Bamboo Floors, pillows and, what else, bio-diesel fuel.

The route map looks something like this:

Co-hopping Map

And can be found on Google Maps. The event commences at Citizen Space (425 2nd Street, #300), but you could potentially begin at any of the spaces on the route and catch up with us as the bus will be making the loop throughout the evening. There will be food and drinks at each of the spaces and the event is totally free.

The night is intended to give people a flavor of the different spaces, meet the peeps who run them, find out a little more about coworking and just generally celebrate. 🙂 Hope you can come out and celebrate with us!

Cowork Central is now Open

Cowork Central Logo

Now it’s official. I’m really proud to announce that the first and only latin-american coworking space is now open. We also launched our brand new website with photos’n stuff.

Thanks for the support and friendly advice to the guys at the coworking group and everyone who supported the project so far.

So if you travel to Buenos Aires, don’t forget to visit us 🙂

Fernando Maclen
Cowork Central | Buenos Aires , Argentina.

CooBric – New York Coworking finds another home!

Gramstand logoIn the past three months, we have seen a lot of great changes in the coworking community here in New York City – and CooBric is along for the ride. We have been fortunate to find another cafe-based home at Gramstand – where the tea is unique and the space is gorgeous.

With free wifi, a basement space that is nicely furnished with a conference table and lots of space for meetings and personal work space. You can learn all about the space on our blog – where Tony has put up a post with directions and other adjectives.

Come support coworking in New York by visiting Gramstand.

And, while cafe-surfing a great, the CooBric Comm team is working to find a permanent physical space for our team in the future – but we can use your help. Come and join our effort by signing up for the CooBric google group and send an email to one of the CooBric Comm team members with any leads. We thank you for your help!

Coworking + Profit

A while back, I was quoted by someone as saying:

“Designing your product for monetization first, and people second will probably leave you with neither.”

Just recently, Chris and I were talking about the growing tension on the Coworking list between profit and community – a tension that shouldn’t be happening…especially so early in the game. Coworking is really about paving new ground right now. It’s setting forth to create something different. When we started out spreading the word about coworking, we didn’t have the idea to turn any of our spaces into a business. The idea was to be able to create a space where we could work amongst other web workers like in a coffee shop, but without the pressure to buy more coffee and with the ability to meet with clients, etc. and brainstorm now and then. If it was to be our living room, like Amit Gupta created with Jelly in NYC, then so be it! But the point (for us, anyway) was to get OUT of our living room and separate some of that live/work stuff.

I’m currently reading a book on the study of Social Capital and within it, each one of the sociology theorists agree, networks of people are formed through benefiting the individual first, which then positively effects the wider community, creating strong connections and abilities to collaborate, etc. through these networks. We struggled with our initial foray into coworking at Teh Space (now The Hat Factory) as we assumed everyone wanted to be part of it as a benefit to the whole community. Hell, even we didn’t go often enough because it wasn’t convenient.

So, when we started Citizen Space, we knew we would have to approach it differently. We couldn’t assume everyone would join because they wanted to see the local coworking space thrive. There would have to be something in it for them…BEYOND a place to work, BEYOND reliable wifi, BEYOND the lack of being pestered to buy coffee. So we poured our heart and souls into creating a space that would be great for people, offered it for free for those who just wanted to drop in so that desk owners would get the benefit of interesting people dropping by, involved the desk owners in everything to feel as if the space is theirs, worked hard at bringing in interesting events and offering a nice, equipped space where people can work and socialize to their hearts content, etc. And still, we have days and sometimes weeks where we have sparse attendance in the office. Why? Because it is still more convenient for many web workers to either work out of their home office or their local coffee shop. It turns out that those in our space who are there most often are quite dedicated to the idea of community…we attracted awesome people to our space because of the way we were approaching it.

And we visited the lovely Sandbox Suites the other night for their grande opening. It’s a nice space and conveniently located. They have put alot of work into making it everything that people need. Lots of meeting spaces, white boards, a T1 line, mobile, open desks as well as more privacy orientated work stations, lots of comfy sitting areas, coffee, etc. AND they are opening every day of the week from, like 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. (M-F) 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (S-S) That’s dedication. Yet, as Sasha told me, they are still struggling for people to come by regularly. They have smatterings of people here and there, but the bulk of people are STILL filling up the coffee shops, fighting for tables, etc. The same issue is happening with Berkeley Coworking and many others, including Citizen Space of late (it’s been very slow). Even as coffee shops are getting frustrated and covering outlets, choking the wifi and putting limitations on time, people choose to go there instead of a coworking space. They are choosing to go to a place that can be hostile to web workers rather to one that is warm and welcoming…why is that?

And there we are on the coworking list talking about being for profit? We keep going back and forth on business models and arguing over how for-profit to be. Sure, go ahead, but as many of us who are GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE* aren’t even meeting the needs of the people we want to attract, I think profit is a long ways down the line.

And, no, we don’t have rich parents or sponsors. I don’t know anyone on the list with that sort of connection. We have hard-earned money (or huge amassed debt) and a dream. We want affordable, convenient spaces that allow for collaboration, openness and community…and many of us believe that this should be done in a way that respects the environment (sustainability). And, yes, we also want to be ‘sustainable’ in the way that we don’t have to close our doors in 6 months time.

We should start looking at coffee shops closer. What is it about them that serves people so well? Is it the lack of having to commit? The regular hours? The ambient intimacy? The rotating variety of people? We all recognize the downside of coffee shop working: loud, forced coffee consumption, cramped tables, etc. but when we think about coffee shops, do we feel a natural revulsion? Me? Nope. It sounds nice. I actually need to go to one every now and then and feel the energy.

Are these discussions putting monetization before people? I don’t know. Maybe we’re just being practical…inclusive…open… That’s all well and fine, but my fear is that if we go down that path, we will end up with neither.

* we aren’t a registered non-profit, we just don’t make any profit. 🙂

Coworking in Argentina

CoWork CentralIt’s been an amazing month since I started calling myself a “Space Catalyst”.
I’m proud to announce the creation of a coworking space in Argentina, right in Buenos Aires city.

I’ve been very happy about the response in my local community. With all the freelancers I talked to, they are all telling me that they’ll love a coworking space in the area and they cannot wait until it’s open. Many of those are designers and programmers.

With these positive comments I started working on a brand, registering domains, doing some real state research and since yesterday I started an online survey for all those argentine freelancers (following the steps of Tara’s survey and the business plan from CubeSpace that was really helpful), with the help of some freelance friends that are helping me in areas involving: press, marketing, design advice, and diffusion mainly.

Although the survey is 100% Spanish, if you’ll like to take a look just point your browser to: http://www.cotrabajo.com.ar

So far, the survey is getting very positive results. The data collected will let us know several issues about the local freelance market, not only coworking-related stuff.

Also, we thought it would be a very positive thing to give something in return for the time spent in answering the questions. First, the participants can enter into a small contest to win several t-shirts with a design customized by each one of them, and second, to all those blogs that are linking to the survey’s homepage, we’re going to add all the links pointing back to them in order to send some traffic back.

I’ll keep up on the results of the survey and with the progress of the space, that I’m keen it will be the first of many in Latin America.

Recent press about Coworking

There have been a number of really good posts about coworking that should be mentioned here, even though they’ve all been adding to the Ma.gnolia Coworking Group.

  • Shared offices growing in S.F., Peninsula – Examiner.com:

    For some entrepreneurs, the idea of managing their own offices just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, they’re consultants sick of working from the dining-room table or buying endless cups of coffee in a cafe. Sometimes they’re bigger startups or satellite offices that just don’t want to deal with buying furniture, setting up fax machines and hiring someone to man the front desk.

    So another set of entrepreneurs has sprung up to meet these needs by providing shared office space. A diverse bunch, ranging from multi-state corporations with “plug and play” environments to small companies offering one large workspace, these businesses are growing in both San Francisco and the Peninsula.

  • Coworkers of the World, Unite! in The American Prospect: The always-on, perpetual freelance culture of Web 2.0 has spawned its own “coworking” spaces, but are these new techno-optimists building sustainable communities?
  • Co-working can solve non-traditional office issues from the OrlandoSentinel.com: “The majority of the people that use this space are making a living doing what they love,” said Alex Hillman, 24, who helped launch Independents Hall, a co-working space in Philadelphia, earlier this month. “This is a happy medium where you maintain your independence, but you get a little of that office backchannel.”
  • Resident plans shared space for creative work in The Daily Tar Heel: A solution is on the way for local freelance workers, startup-business owners and even students who need a place to call “office” without shelling out hefty rental fees.

If you’ve got a quote or other good press for coworking, definitely share it with Ma.gnolia group and tag it with !