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The 1st U.S. coworking unconference

Austin's community watch dog infront of the Unconference at the Hangar

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The first U.S. Coworking Unconference in Austin is over. Despite the enormous variety of topics, discussions focused on three main areas. How to build and open a coworking space? What successful business models have emerged, and which is the best and most effective? And how does the future of coworking look? The event ended with many responses and plenty of happy faces at a rooftop party in the Austin night air.

The 200 people attending the Unconference could be easily divided into two groups, professionals and newbies. Many of the long-established coworking professionals had until now only known each other through Twitter or the Coworking Google Group. Lots of hugs and shouts followed when they first met in person. The newbies mingled in with the crowd undeterred. This friendly mixing atmosphere – which also characterizes the essence of coworking communities – lasted throughout the day and during almost all sessions in four spaces.

Equally striking was how neither the organizers, Loose Cubes, nor the many sponsors dominated the Unconference for their own purposes. Of course, such a conference is also a sales event. Proprietary products are introduced, flyers distributed, successes spoken about – yet at the foreground of the conference stood the idea of mutual assistance in various projects.

So much so that some visitors criticized that the exact same agenda items were likely to appear at the next Unconference, due to a lack of central leadership - particularly topics about self-help in setting up a coworking community. At the same time, the topics are necessary to continue discussing as the coworking movement is growing at its fastest rate. And it was open to everyone to find an interested audience for their own topics.

The only real difficulty was to decide between one of four concurrent sessions, to find a safe place for your bags or a plug to recharge phones, cameras or laptops. In the end just tiny things, so..., a better and more successful meeting wasn’t possible.

What will come from the event? Coworking will develop like coffee in all directions. Invented as a simple beverage, today it is drunk in many ways in different places. Espresso and white coffee live in peaceful coexistence next to each other. Small corner coffee shops exist, as does Starbucks. And despite all this diversity, the black bean connects them all as long as people don't forget where the coffee comes from.

Deskmag will roll out stories about the various topics discussed over the next few days in a series of articles. Although the Unconference is over, other events will take place during and parallel to the South by Southwest Festival. One is on Saturday March 12, when Liz from Link Coworking will organize a Coworking Happy Hour at Conjunctured.

Many thanks to the people from Loose Cubes for a perfectly organized event!

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