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Notes from #CoworkingEU open camp

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The second day of the Coworking Europe conference was a series of self-organized interactive barcamp-style sessions. More than 200 people participated in a rolling program of fascinating discussions about the future of coworking. Deskmag and Deskwanted facilitated the afternoon and took notes from the sessions. Here is a series of our observations from the day. Our favourite moments was Alex Hillman explaining why coworking sometimes seems like a cult.

Have you ever noticed that coworking enthusiasts can sometimes seem a little too enthusiastic? Alex Hillman – one of the biggest supporters of the movement – admitted that coworking evangelists could sometimes appear to be “religious”. But during a Barcamp session at the recent Coworking Europe conference, he offered a good explanation why.

Coworking – the act of collaborating with other independent individuals to achieve your personal and collective goals – is a highly satisfying mode of work. It helps the individual feel fulfilled, personally and professionally.

“On Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, the top level is self-actualization,” Alex said, “Coworking is addressing this better than most things in history, other than and even more so than religion. Perhaps that’s why some of us treat coworking religiously. When something helps you self-actualize, it turns on something in your brain that makes you react a certain way.”

What to do about empty coworking spaces during the summer?

Conference participants from St. Petersburg raised the problem of coworkers leaving the city during the European summer months. They sought a solution for how a coworking space could continue paying its costs.

Simon Blake suggested they could adopt his “Workation” concept – something we’ve written about on Deskmag before. Workation is a combination of work and vacation. It’s a holiday week for coworkers in a nice location not too far from the city. Coworkers travel their with their laptops, sit in a nice location while being productive, then enjoy the sunset and evening in pleasant surroundings. His two Workation sessions near Berlin have been well-received, though he is still looking for a financially successful model.

Nathan from La Cantine in Paris made a second suggestion: a coworking exchange, where members from one city could arrange to swap both workspace and living space with members from another city. He envisaged this as an extension of the existing Coworking Visa system, an informal unstructured arrangement informally organized between individuals. If successful, it could be formalized into a system, perhaps administered by a website.

CoWo - Italian Coworking Network Presentation

The CoWo network in Italy was developed as a community of coworking spaces in the country, and now is the go-to place for new initiatives in Italy. The network shares knowledge and documents, as well as best practice criteria which all in the network adhere to, including príce control.

One value of joining for a space is that there is strength in being a part of a group who have already experienced starting a space. If they have a problem, it is likely that someone within the community has already gone through it, and can give advice. There are also legal documents and tax information that lawyers have put together for the coworking community.

The spaces that are within the CoWo network also share in visibility. When the network launched it’s wifi hotspot initiative – where all CoWo affiliated spaces became public hotspots in a country with limited and unreliable access – they gained national attention. This also transfers to government attention, and spaces within the group have an easier time accessing government bodies. Additionally, there is a certain amount of SEO that occurs when everyone uses the CoWo URL – and CoWo comes up on the first page of a search for ‘coworking’ on Google.

The group is not as structured as it may sound, which is seen as a positive. The development comes from the actual needs of the community. The network is run by a team of two, who take a marginal amount of salary compared to the 15+ hours a week they spend on it, and one assistant. The project is obviously a labor of love.

Need for coordination on online coworker networks

Joel Dullroy, one of the editors of Deskmag and a co-founder ofDeskwanted, participated in the panel about online tools and platforms for coworking spaces. He called for cooperation between competing online systems, to allow coworking spaces and their members to stay connected despite using different platforms. A peer-to-peer style protocol that allowed users in different platforms to see and interact with each other would be of benefit to the coworking community.

“We are at a point where either one online service will emerge as a monopolistic monolithic entity, a giant data silo which locks the whole system in for its own profit. Or, we could build interconnecting systems that allow each competing platform to specialize and offer different levels of service, while still allowing the users to have the benefit of a global communication network,” Joel said.

He suggested everyone building online platforms for coworking spaces to come together for a meeting to agree on a set of protocols that would allow a distributed decentralized system to emerge, for the benefit of coworkers worldwide.

All open camp notes online

A complete set of notes from the Coworking Europe open camp has been created on Google Docs. You can read all the rough notes from the sessions, and add your own. Simply follow this link to find the online folder.

 

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