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Coworking... served hot: pop-up coworking spaces

‘The pop-up was an amazing way to teach people about coworking, and to introduce them to the idea of working in an open environment', said Marko, 'it was important exposure for Slovenia Coworking,’ which hopes to open a space soon.

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The idea is gaining popularity

Certainly, pop-up coworking spaces are unlike the ‘real thing’, since there is no element of community – and this could paint a distorted picture of what coworking actually is. To counteract this, pop-up coworking hosts make sure to talk to people about what really happens in a space.

Pop-up coworking spaces thus have their place as an effective promotional strategy for the movement, and we are seeing a large increase in their emergence - serving a wide variety of goals & introducing the concept of coworking to thousands of people.

This can be seen in London where a public coworking space has popped-up in the Library Lab, in one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, Brent. Library Lab is attempting to show those who may not realize that they can rejoin the working world who left it for personal reasons, like raising a family. The program Work Free aims to give the parents of young children the chance to make connections or pursue or initiate businesses by offering a flexible crèche within the pop-up coworking space. The space however remains open to all.

Work Free focuses on working with local organizations, coworking spaces, charities and families. It aims to accelerate “learning and local entrepreneurship in the Brent community by offering coworking and meeting space, workshops, lectures, and community gallery”, as stated on their website. Another goal is to start a permanent coworking space in February, based on the experience they gained during the pop-up phase. 

In Australia, a pop-up coworking space is planned for Bleach, an annual surfing, arts and culture festival that takes place in numerous beach towns along the Gold Coast.

‘Coworking by the Beach’ will be a temporary space for festival-goers to gather and take part in workshops and presentations. It will also be the central node for the festival’s media center, which has a global reach estimated in the millions. National radio station Triple J has also come on board, and collaboration between the space and Coworking Conference Australia,  to be held on March 1and 2, is planned.

‘It’s going to be an amazing project,’ said Libby Sander, project instigator and coordinator. ‘[Furniture company] Bene has come on board to furnish the space, and the festival organizers were so excited by the idea that they’ve asked to have the space as a permanent installation.’

There will be a wide diversity of people visiting the space. Surfers will sit alongside artists, musicians will rubbing shoulders with corporate reps. Indeed, there are few other places where the concept of coworking can be introduced to, and experienced by, such a large and varied group of people.

Like EBE’s version of pop-up coworking, ‘Coworking by the Beach’ will have hosts on-site to facilitate connections between visitors. ‘There will be a community manager who will curate connections,’ said Libby, ‘and we’ll take ‘Polaroid snapshots’ of visitors to create a members’ wall.’

In each of these pop-up coworking events, it is doubtful that a great deal of work was (or will be) done, and none of the organizers of these temporary events preach that the projects are faithful representations of what a coworking space actually is.

In Ljubljana, Marko Orel from Slovenia Coworking, along with eight partners involved in the creative industries, began a pop-up home project to help some designer friends who were unable to find work in the depressed economy.

They kitted out a bourgeois apartment in a prestigious area with the designers’ wares, and sent out elusive invitations to their communities on Facebook announcing that ‘something different was going to happen’.

The turnout exceeded everyone’s expectations, with more than 500 people showing up to the opening night. Over the month, between 200 and 300 people passed through the space on a daily basis, both to tour the space and to attend the varied events happening there.

Slovenia's president visited the pop-up space

Unsurprisingly, this attracted the attention of all the major media outlets in the country, and, in the most extraordinary case of successful marketing, snagged a visit from the Slovenian president, Danilo Türk.

While it wasn’t strictly a pop-up coworking space, several students were invited to use the space to work on a daily basis. The coworkers – all design students – were given workspace for a short period and were able to work alongside the established designers who had outfitted the space.

In addition, Marko exploited the creative environment and the enormous exposure to tell people about coworking in a weekly lecture conducted in both Slovenian and English.

It was an opportunity to talk to a wide audience about what it means to cowork, as well as invite them to the weekly Jellies that the organization hosts. The project has given the organizers a huge amount of exposure across different industries and sectors. 

 ‘The pop-up home was an amazing way to introduce [people] to the idea of working in an open environment,’ said Marko. ‘It was also important exposure for [the organization] Slovenia Coworking,’ which hopes to open a space in the near future.

The outreach was certainly an impressive feat for a project that received no monetary funding, and which required a significant amount of own-capital to set up.

‘The 16 hour days have been worth it,’ said Marko, who recently received a national award for outstanding event management and planning. ‘We had two or three hundred people coming in each day. It’s good for the designers because people see their work, and good for us, because more people get know about us and what we do.’

The pop-up home project was a way to inject energy and movement into a stale and depressed economy

‘We want to improve the situation of young people and creatives [by] promoting collaborative and open working environments,’ he said.

For Marko in particular, whose friends refer to him as The World’s Savior (or Jesus, for short), this project was an effective way of demanding attention from a diverse group of people, for a cause that he thoroughly believes in.

>> Next page: A community cannot be built in a matter of days. But these events serve several purposes.

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