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Coworking Spaces

The hidden treasures of coworking

Many universities archive hidden treasures: studies about the coworking industry. By creating a coworking library we want to make these treasures public to accumulate knowledge.

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In recent years, coworking has drawn curiosity from the academic world. As a result, a huge amount of papers and studies have been produced, which begs the question: where do all these studies go? Well, we believe that a lot of them are lost somewhere on the internet or tucked away on the shelves of university libraries, probably collecting dust. In lieu of our recently launched crowdfunding campaign, we have turned our focus to the academic study of coworking, and have made it one of our goals to create our own open source coworking library. To show its potential, Deskmag has highlighted some works studying coworking from an academic point of view.

We found around 200 studies, theses, and papers that are related to coworking. These studies are found in various fields such as sociology, business, economics, design and architecture. And that isn’t including all the works in progress that are not yet accessible online. To avoid having the study of coworking becoming lost in the depths of the internet, Deskmag is now in the process of starting a coworking library. We plan to archive and share each one of these significant works and then give our readers the chance to be updated with the latest research, studies and documents related to coworking in a well-structured and easy-to-use archive. However, this coworking library can only become reality with your support of our crowdfunding campaign.

So far, we have found that many of these studies can confirm many results of our own Global Coworking Survey, which is that coworking is a valuable platform for freelancers and entrepreneurs who want to grow and connect. Yet, many of them also followed different approachs with more open and bigger questions, such as: What are the origins of the movement, why does it exist, and what does the future hold? This type of questioning is necessary in order to understand coworking as part of the bigger changes in the way that we work today. The academic study of coworking also shows how collaborative and independent work plays a major role in how we live and connect socially through multidisciplinary fields.

The stars have aligned

In her master thesis, “Making space for others”, Katy Jackson studied socio economic factors found in coworking. Because of its short history, the coworking movement can only have a look to its recent past. With Jackson’s study, the origins of coworking and why coworking appeared latterly, and not before, can be better understood. The displacement of power from the organization to the individual, the birth of the “free agent” and its "Lego" career(s) were events which greatly contributed to the development of coworking.

On a general scale, coworking was also born from the same roots as the sharing economy. The major economic downturn, resulting in plummeting unemployment rates after 2008, were triggers that allowed the spread of pre-existing values and habits of sharing. Within the context of economic necessity and the need to gain better knowledge, coworkers have been reshaping the core values that are found in collaboration, reputation and trust. Slowly but surely, the individual is becoming the fundamental economic unit.

In her study, Jackson interviewed Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City. Bacigalupo explained to Jackson that “coworking sums up a period in time right now where the stars have aligned for some people to create something new (...) the Irony of being able to work anywhere is that there isn't anywhere designed for people who can work anywhere, so a movement formed around that and that is the coworking movement."

The development of coworking

After mapping out different kinds of collaborative workspaces. Jackson also looked towards the future development of coworking. One key point found in Jackson’s study is that big coworking spaces, as well as franchises could be part of the development of coworking. The author found that the reason for this is because these larger spaces could operate economy of scale and be more profitable contrary to most of the smaller coworking spaces. Jackson’s realization is well illustrated by a quote from Daniel H. Pink, author of “The Free Agent Nation”, and who was also interviewed for the study. “After all, even if there were 11,000 U.S. coworking spaces - roughly the number of U.S. Starbucks - with 50 members, they would only be serving 550,000 workers. This is less than 1/2 of 1% of the U.S. workforce and less than 4% of the number of independent workers." 

Jackson’s work also argues that these big coworking spaces have the opportunity to connect more easily to their community outside of the space, and can support other initiatives, such as public ones.

▶ Next page: How to generate “happy surprises” in public spaces

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