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Ten things to tell the government about coworking

Joel Dullroy (Deskwanted), Tanja Mühlhans (City of Berlin, Projekt Zukunft), Dirk Kiefer (German Ministry of Economics & Technology) - Picture by Stefano Borghi, more pictures you'll find on www.stefanoborghi.com

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If you had half a day with your government’s department of economics, what would you say about coworking on a national level? Deskmag was recently given this opportunity by the City of Berlin. They asked us to provide a list of “ten things the government can do for coworking”. We threw the question open to the Coworking Europe conference participants during an open camp session. Here is a first summary of the recommendations that emerged. We are also open for more proposals.

1. Easier access to empty spaces

Governments could provide easier access for coworking initiatives in publicly-owned buildings. Old, empty buildings could be leased to coworking projects at a discount rate for a limited time, which could revive both, the building and the local neighbourhood. Coworking facilites could also be opened in locations such as libraries. It could also help to remove a loophole that allows real estate companies to reduce their tax expenses by keeping space intentionally unused and calculating it as loss. In this way, the government is supporting unproductivity and waste of ressources.

2. Government officers give information sessions

Government officers could be dispatched to coworking spaces to work, either as paying members or as drop-in advisors giving information sessions.

3. Educate bureaucrats about coworking

Government agencies need to learn more about coworking as a new model. By supporting many small businesses there is less risk than by trying to create the next giant corporation.

4. Using the government network in order to promote coworking

Governments could assist the coworking movement by placing information about coworking spaces on their websites; this strategy has worked in Nuremburg, Germany. The greatest benefit could come by funding a public awareness campaign about independent workers and coworking.

5. Easier bureaucracy for independents

Unlike big companies, independent workers need to handle bureaucracy their own. Easing business, tax and visa regulations for entrepreneurs and independent workers would inevitably help the coworking movement, which is made up of such individuals. Bureaucracy could be reduced for freelancers, such as removing the requirement that they file complicated revenue forms each month.

Some government agencies hinder the progress of coworking spaces because they lack an official definition or “checkbox”. On a similar track, governments could help to fast-track business registration for start-ups that emerge in coworking spaces.

6. Supporting the start of smaller businesses by rewards or grants

Another way apart from removing hurdles is installing incentives: start-ups could be given a reward for beginning their businesses in coworking spaces. Freelancers and new small companies could receive a grant if they can't afford a membership of a coworking space yet - in order to leave the unproductive home office. These grants should be restricted to the first hard months of a busisness. If they succeed, they shouldn't need this help anymore.

7. Funding of education programs in universities

Education programs could be funded in different universities to further academic knowledge about coworking.

8. Educate would-be coworking space founders

On a similar level, an education program could be established to train would-be coworking space founders about business, and for start-up businesses located within coworking spaces.

9. Don't fund single coworking spaces more than others

However, government should not fund individual coworking spaces directly, as this would unfairly affect the market and push some coworking spaces ahead of others.

10. Your proposal!

Got more suggestions? There’s still a few days before we send off our official letter. Send your ideas to us.

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