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The Evolution of Coworking Conferences

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All of the coworking conferences, unconferences or barcamps happening all over the world, are now taking on a big assignment. They are expected to keep up the momentum within the coworking community, while simultaneously presenting the most current state of the coworking movement. But these trends are changing fast, and it has become difficult to predict what they will be from one year to the next. Deskmag got a closer look at how coworking conferences have changed as a result of major developments within the community. We spoke with the organizers of Global Coworking Unconference Conference, the European and Asian coworking conferences as to gain insight into what will be offered at these upcoming events.

As the amount of attendees continues to grow, coworking conferences are now reaching a varied audience, which includes government officials, corporations and new coworking operators. All of these groups are now coming together to join the discussion on the future of coworking. Not only has interest in coworking increased, but the organization process is evolving as well.

In the US, the GCUC will be moving to another city, while in Europe, Barcelona will take all the attention by hosting both the Coworking Spain and Coworking Europe Conferences in 2013. Meanwhile, the Asian Coworking Conference will soon connect to the entire Asian coworking community for the first time ever.

The balance between conferences and unconferences

In 2010, Loosecubes turned what was once just coworking meetup into a half day coworking unconference: the first Global Coworking Unconference Conference. Finally, in 2013, over 300 people from around the world gathered at the Austin Music Hall for the second annual GCUC.

After 3 years in Austin, the 2014 edition of GCUC will move to Kansas City, Missouri, and also take on some bigger goals. Based on feedback from the participants of the 2013 conference, some changes will include a combination of conferences and unconferences, which will cater to the requests of the previous attendants. There will be fewer panels, more unconferences, and an extended focus on information and research on the development of coworking. "Day one will begin with a keynote address and a research update presentation in the morning, followed by a semi-curated unconference in the afternoon. Day two will feature a few panel discussions in the morning and a fully unscripted unconference in the afternoon. Workshops on topics like how to open a coworking space, technology for coworking, and design will also be available to attendees," declared Liz Elam, the organizer of the last GCUC conferences.

Because of the diverse nature of last year’s participants, the 2014 edition will have more workshops covering different topics and levels of experience. Some people have been coworking for the past 5 years, while others are just discovering the concept. Furthermore, 20% of the 2013 attendees responding to the post-GCUC survey reported that they are looking into or are in the process of opening their first coworking space.

Find the perfect location

When asked why GCUC should be moving, Elam answered that, “we need a fresh location, and an easier place to get in than Austin. In a survey, we saw that San Francisco was the most popular response, followed by a tie between New York City and Chicago." Furthermore, 7% of attendees actually came from the state of Texas.

Elam underlined that the organization of this conference is now asking for more time and resources. She hopes that people involved in coworking communities will step out and commit to the organization by hosting GCUC in their own city. The team is now re-branding GCUC and will soon launch a new website this month under gcuc.co, which should be ready to go in June. They will also be posting a request for a proposal on the website, and looking for a new home for GCUC, which is planned for the first or second weekend in May 2014 (Friday and Saturday).

Barcelona, the European capital of coworking

After Brussels, Berlin and Paris, it is now Barcelona’s turn to host the Coworking Europe Conference between the 11th and 13th November (early bird tickets are already available here). One could not hope for a better place than Barcelona to host this conference. Despite the crisis, the city not only held on to a lifeline of creativity but also has 90 coworking spaces, 19 of them have been approved to be a real coworking space, both according to Coworking Spain. The conference will take place in Fabra i Coats, an old factory that has been transformed into one of the biggest centers for creative projects in Barcelona.

More than 300 people are expected to attend, according to Jean-Yves Huwart, founder of Global Enterprise, and the European coworking conference. The number of attendees is actually quite equal to those of the last GCUC, which is probably due to the fact that the European conference welcomes people from across the world and highlights initiatives that come from outside Europe.

As examples of guest speakers, the founder of Work Station Coworking in Moscow and the head designer of 1871 Coworking Space in Chicago are already scheduled to be a part of the event program. “We are also trying to open the coworking movement to different operators, but at the same time we are clear on what coworking is about and we make sure that people do not confuse concepts,” said Huwart. The rise of the hybrid coworking space, and changes in the real estate economy are examples of topics to be introduced to new operators that could play a big role in the future of coworking.

In just a few years, Spain has become one of the world leaders in the Coworking movement, with over 300 spaces spread throughout in the country. This year, Barcelona will also be hosting the second Coworking Spain Conference that will take place from the 24 to the 25 of May.

This year’s topic is “The Collaborative Society", and will focus on new work and business models related to collaboration. The team that will organize the event also announced the innovative solutions that will be discussed, which will focus on moving toward a new "collaborative partnership" and also developing new social models answering to the crisis, which is rapidly gaining prominence.

  Next page: The first Asia Coworking Conference & upcoming conferences

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