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Coworking in Albuquerque

In Breaking Bad we see Walter White (right) quit his job as an employee, enter a freelance career and start a small 'company' with Jesse Pinkman (left). But unlike members of coworking spaces he works in an atmosphere of distrust.

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Before last year, coworking was largely unknown in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In fact, the city is still in the process of learning about the advantages of the coworking movement. In late summer 2012, a number of coworking spaces popped up, more or less simultaneously, in different parts of the city. In keeping with the spirit of community, the different spaces have come together to try to work alongside one another as a way to cultivate the coworking culture in a place that simply hadn’t caught wind of it yet.

Albuquerque was seemingly unknown to the world, until a few years ago when the television show Breaking Bad started filming its series there. The award-winning series paints a picture of the city that is not wholly flattering, albeit extremely entertaining.

In Breaking Bad, like in many coworking spaces, the main character Walter White quit his job as an employee, entered a freelance career, created its own 'flexible' workspace to work where he wants, started a small 'company', and finally became the head of his own international 'cooperative'. In contrary to members of coworking spaces he produced and sold drugs, changed his workspaces very often (finally, he worked from homes) and ended up killing most of his 'coworkers' and 'contractors' due to an atmosphere of distrust. 

Yet Albuquerque residents, as well as members of coworking spaces, attest to a more complex and varied vision of their home, which is located in a high-desert valley along the western side of the Sandia Mountains. The air is thin and the sun is abundant and locals swear by the excellence of New Mexican green chile. Albuquerque is frequently referred to as a big small-town, and maybe it is this easy living quality that makes it seem like Albuquerque is slower to catch on to global trends in comparison to other cities of its size.

Due to the healthy, collaborative atmosphere that exists between the various coworking spaces in Albuquerque, coworking culture is now developing in a city that just didn’t know what it had been missing. Here are a few of the spaces that have recently set up shop, and a look at how they are bringing coworking to this relatively unknown Southwestern city by channeling the collaborative mindset.

Convivium Coworking

In October 2011, Deborah Reese started organizing bimonthly “Jellies” in Albuquerque. Jellies are a type of pop-up meeting, which greatly helped to introduce the coworking philosophy to the Albuquerque community. As a result, people were able to build relationships, and begin working together. Reese is the catalyst for Convivium Coworking, which was the final result of those early meetings. Reese explained the importance of building a community before acquiring a physical space. “Many coworking spaces have started and died because they ignored this wise council, some in Albuquerque … there is no way Convivium would have become a sustainable reality without this group.”

Coming up with the name of the space was a collaborative effort as well, which then led to defining their core values, selecting a location, and last but not least, designing the layout of Convivium Coworking. The space they chose lies in Albuquerque’s Northeast quarter, situated amongst many other businesses. The 3000 sqft (275 sqm) interior is brightly colored with high ceilings and skylights. Most of the space is dedicated to the open coworking area, but there is also a large conference room, a small private meeting room, and the new addition of a movable phone-booth-room made out of corrugated plastic. In this great setting, Convivium aims to, “focus on helping solopreneurs succeed in their business endeavors. People who have recently become independent need huge amounts of support and new skills to succeed,” reiterated Reese.

She also said that Albuquerque has an, “excellent opportunity for growth – including attracting more independent workers to [the] city – partly because of our amazing quality of life (exceptionally great climate, mountains for hiking and skiing, hundreds of square miles of beautiful wilderness), great cultural diversity, and very low cost of living. For people who can work anywhere, [Albuquerque is] ideal. And with coworking spaces entering the picture, we become even more attractive to independents and remote workers.”

The Albuquerque Coworking Alliance

Reese told Deskmag that in the summer of 2012, four new coworking spaces opened up almost simultaneously, but also completely independently from one another. When she noticed this, she said that she “knew it was more than the market would bear in this early stage and that we needed to collaborate to get the idea of coworking out into the community.” Reese contacted the other catalysts and together they formed the ABQ Coworking Alliance. “All the spaces have participated in some way … my excellent collaborator, Jamii Corley of Ideas & Coffee, created a web page that shows a directory of all the coworking spaces, and combines on one calendar all of our events. We are demonstrating the collaboration value that is so core to coworking.” Included in their directory, are Convivium Coworking, Ideas & Coffee, Newton’s Cradle, Quelab, and Tech Love.

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