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What we can learn about Coworking from the Croatian community

Coin Zadar Coworking Conference, Zadar Croatia

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In Sarajevo, Hub 387 founder Edin Charlie Saračević decided to open a space in his hometown while living in the United States. Saračević explained that his inspiration was sparked by lack of initiatives supporting young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially those who are precarious workers. He explained that the country still suffers from high unemployment and offers little opportunity for future success, which results in the majority of recent graduates and professionals to leave. Hub 387 aims to focus on job creation and support for projects by nurturing a critical mass of energy and drive and supports those who do not have the money to carve out a successful career. Edin announced opening another space in Zagreb called HUB 385 in February 2016.

Cross-pollination with bigger European players enriches the coworking movement

Damiano Ramazzotti, former COO of the successful Italian network of coworking spaces, Talent Garden, offered insight to what it takes to build a global network of spaces based on the idea of fostering top talent. “Being together and doing cool stuff is not enough, especially if you want to grow,” explained Ramazzotti. This statement sums up much of the conversations presently happening within the coworking community. He continued by explaining that the coworking space can be used as a platform to create a curated community, thus cultivating density leading to innovative projects that will actually attract investors and lead to expansion.

Alex Soskin, from London-based Impact Hub Westminster, a leader in supporting social innovation, discussed the ways in which government initiatives, regional development funding, and EU funding has also helped their space grow. The Hub has been open for approximately 4 years, and the 1,200 sq.m space is home to around 500 members,  

Soskin explained that is can be slightly more difficult for socially oriented startups to attract funding, so like Poligon, they have also turned to alternative methods in order to bring financial support to their members through crowdfunding. The success of Impact Hub Westminster has been a prime example of how far public money can go, brining in favorable returns to the local economy.

How does a bigger network support smaller coworking communities on the whole?

For members of the local community, Coin Zadar has brought a welcome addition to their professional and personal lives. Coworker Josip explained that the establishment of coworking in Zadar has allowed him to reach financial independence while not having to compromise his professional freedom. “It has been really great for me, as I can stay in Croatia and have access to a professional European network.”

Other members seemed not only grateful for the chance to network, like newest member Branka, who scored 3 new jobs within the time of only 3 weeks, but also for the social support. Petra, who lived in Zagreb for 13 years, finds that balancing home life, children and work to be much easier with the availability of spaces like Coin Zadar.

Yet the defining factor of what coworking has brought to the community in Zadar is the ability for members achieve success through a greater degree of autonomy. One member, Silvija, explained that many people still consider freelancers to be individuals who cannot find “real” jobs, thus cementing the stigma against self-employment in the region still exists. Established pillars like Coin help to promote change and also support the growing number of freelancers, which rose by 82% from 2000 to 2011 on a global scale. It is expected that this number will only increase. 

As it is often said, it is important never to forget your roots in order to understand who you are today. As coworking matures with a little over half a million people working in an estimated 7,800 spaces around the world, it is important to recognize developing communities, like those in Croatia, as they can remind us of what all communities need in order to continue to grow in the spirit of collaboration and coworking.

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The travel expenses for this article have been covered by the Coin Conference.

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