What we can learn about Coworking from the Croatian community

Coin Zadar Coworking Conference, Zadar Croatia

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Last week, Coin Zadar held their first coworking conference at their newly minted space situated on the Adriatic coast in the town of Zadar. The 350 sqm space is fully equipped and well positioned to meet the needs of both tourists and locals. In the future, Coin aims to become a base for those who are in need of a place to work and network while on the road or simply in their day to day routine.

In Croatia, the coworking foundation has been set, and now it’s time to start developing the community. With the help of Coworking Croatia and various other local networks, spaces are starting to surface and today there are roughly 10 collaborative spaces and 4 more initiatives throughout the country. Coworking experts from Slovenia to England gathered in Zadar for a day of lectures, workshops, and discussion surrounding the emerging movement.

Coin Zadar, an answer to economic hardship and a changing workforce

Croatia and the surrounding region were hit hard by the economic crisis in 2008. At one point unemployment reached 49.2 percent, leaving a growing population of precarious workers forced to make their own way in an increasingly unstable economy. Coworking Croatia, the national coworking community and recently an informal network of coworking spaces, played a critical role in educating the public about the coworking movement. They are primarily focused on empowering future space operators by explaining the benefits and values of collaborative and social workplaces tailored to the needs of a new emerging workforce - independent professionals, entrepreneurs, SMEs, and startups. Implementing the coworking model has been an answer to the question of how to support young entrepreneurs and independents. It has also offered a potential solution to tackling brain drain caused by the lack of innovation in today's work infrastructure.

The establishment of Coin Zadar was in many ways an answer also an answer to the same question. Originally an EU funded project "Coworking Zadar", Coin was born out of the work of a team comprised of project partner institutions, such as the City of Zadar, Association of Crafts and Trades, Development Agency of Zadar County, Zadar County, in addition to the Croatian Chamber of Economy. The element of public ownership and EU funding have allowed the space to succeed thus far, and sets them apart from other, mostly private, coworking spaces in the region. 

How coworking can address socioeconomic issues in Croatia and the surrounding region

Keynote speaker, Marko Radenković from Belgrade’s Nova Iskra, discussed the challenge of addressing the mindset of the region, which was somehow stuck in a more rigid idea of success. “We had to work a lot to show the importance of coworking and present the concept in a professional environment,” explained Radenković. After 3 years of educating the public, Nova Iskra has a full house of coworkers and has implemented various programs focused on design and design thinking.They targeted young people looking for their place in the professional world and established strong connections with companies and public institutions in order to provide scholarships and coaching to those who are most in need of funding and education.

Other regional players also shared their stories, like Luka Piškorič from Poligon, founded in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The creative think tank has been a pioneer of the Slovenian coworking movement that also faced similar challenges to Nova Iskra. Making their home in 1,200 sqm abandoned Tobacco factory in the city center, Poligon now acts as a support network for the self-employed involved in the creative industries. Piškorič discussed the various programs offered to freelancers in Slovenia and also those coming from other countries, such as their crowdfunding. Poligon has utilized the platform to fund Slovenian projects that would not have received funding otherwise, by creating their own methodology in terms of creating a successful campaign. As it stands, Slovenia has become one of the most successful countries in regards to crowdfunding.

▶▶ Next page: How major coworking players can support smaller networks

Their focus is primarily on finding ways to empower future space operators by explaining the benefits and values of collaborative and social workplaces tailored to the needs of a new emerging workforce 

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