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The life and death of communities

Indyhall (right, picture: Ben Leuner), is an active coworking community since 2006, Treehouse Brooklyn (left) closed four years ago.

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If coworking spaces are the potential source of new communities, how should they align and organize themselves to be more efficient? Here are some questions from the people from Mutinerie because - we can never stress this enough - success of a coworking space depends on its capacity to breed, gather and grow a community. In order to ensure this, we should first understand what exactly a community is: how is it born, how does it organize and how could it disappear…

This is a guest article by William van den Broek from Mutinerie:

A common heritage 

Discovering the etymology of the word “community” really sparked a passion in me. The word comes from the Latin cum numus. “Cum”, meaning that which shares something and “numus” meaning a good a resource, or on the contrary, an obligation or a debt. Thus, sharing would be the origin of community building… great! And it is also totally along the lines of a previous post from Mutinerie.

The birth of communities 

What exactly are the origins or dependencies that create new communities? 

A common territory

First it can be a territory or a place frequented by several individuals. When they consistently meet in this specific location, they create links and relationships, which give birth to a community. Relationships in workplaces, schools or villages could lead to this kind of community.

Shared resources 

Combining resources is the main point of creating community. Some examples of this could be a common water point, a factory or a family home, where sharing, resources and dependency encourages a social link.

A common language 

Language is also a common heritage that is shared as an indivisible whole by one population or another. Therefore, it could be seen as one basis of a commonality between groups. The community of Esperanto partisans is an example of community building through language.

A common memory or history 

Belonging to a common, tangible, fictionalized or fantasized past is an important factor in unity and a way to bring human beings together. During the Antiquity period, the creation of a mythical past played a huge role in building the Greek, Jewish and Roman identity. As an example, we look towards the 3rd French republic and national heroes such as Vercingetorix or Joan of Arc, who were highly emphasized as a way to reinforce national unity.

Shared skills and techniques 

Circles of great thinkers, scientific communities and job corporations are all examples of communities built on shared knowledge and techniques. 

Shared values, ideals and areas of interest 

Finally, some communities are set up around values and common interests. Communities based on religion, political views, familial ties and even sports clubs belong to this category. In practice, these are interwoven communities. For example, associations that are formed in companies, could be simultaneously a community of place, resources, knowledge or memory. The strongest communities are the ones that share the maximum amount of heritage.

There is however a risk when sharing too much heritage, and that is to fall into a kind of cultural consanguinity, resulting in being too closed and entering the realm of communautarism. To avoid this, these types of groups should remain open and receptive to other influences.

How could a community be born in a coworking space? By sharing the same place, resources and pooling together new skills and ideas, coworkers multiply successfully.

 ▶ Next page: The adulthood of a community

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