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Community-sourced ethos: coworking in practice

What is the Hub Melbourne? Members views and values combine to create a community-sourced ethos.

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Something that continues to reassert itself as the coworking movement matures is that there is no one definition of coworking. While the industry can be broadly defined by a handful of terms and principles - community, collaboration, and workspace, to name a few - the combination of these values, and the emphasis placed on each, varies from space to space. But the hierarchy of values is also discordant amongst members of a single community. As the community evolves, so too will the ethos of a space; finding an ethos - or set of values - reflective of an ever-changing community is a challenge all coworking space operators face.

In order to encapsulate these varying opinions, and to ensure that the experience of members remains the thing of central importance, an alternative approach to articulating a coworking space’s core values is needed. Brad Krauskopf, founder of Hub Melbourne, recently confronted this challenge and commissioned one of the Hub’s members to help shape a community-sourced ethos, defined entirely by the community.

It was a move to embed the values of coworking into the Hub’s own definition, avoiding the temptation to impose a set of values that were defined by management as is seen in traditional organizations.

‘A top down, vision / mission / values statement set in stone for all to comply with did not seem innovative, inspiring, and in many ways would go against the grain of who we really are,’ he said. ‘People have always asked what the Hub Melbourne’s vision and values are, and I was hesitant to say ‘this is what we do...’ ‘Instead we wanted a community sourced ethos. Something that is shared with the entire Hub community.’

Instead, Brad approached Hub member Julian Waters-Lynch to ‘synthesize 650 voices, with the caveat that it had to constantly update.’

After establishing and test-running nine questions, Julian processed an enormous amount of qualitative data procured from 20 face-to-face interviews, 29 formal submissions, and comments from Hub’s regular ‘town hall’ meetings, which he sorted and presented in a Prezi.

‘I sorted the data into key themes for each question - grouped the responses by data tagging,’ he said. He then created categories in a Prezi and organized the direct quotes according to the categories into the presentation.

The Prezi format allowed Julian to create a visual representation of what would otherwise have been an enigmatic definition of a collection of values and visions, and allows for constant updates as the community evolved.

‘The vision is a live link, and it will always change. It’s a way to document and describe the way a space has, and is, evolving,’ Brad said, and added, ‘the Hub Melbourne’s vision now, with 650 members and at one and a half years old, won’t stay the same. In a few year’s time it will look completely different.’

This visual snapshot affords the opportunity to look closely at what the space is about, or to gain an overview. Font size and color lend weight and importance. These elements can always be amended.

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