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Coworking created within the public sector

Well known for its startup scene, Tel Aviv is also a city with very young population. According Michael Vole, director of unit for young adults of the city, “Coworking spaces are essential tools for the Y generation, which actually counts for 50% of inhabitants in the center of the city.”

In 2011, Tel Aviv opened two spaces, which were labeled as coworking spaces: The Library and the Social Lab. These coworking spaces are completely managed and funded by the municipality. These two spaces are described as platforms for youth, allowing them to succeed in the tech and social fields. “It is the responsibility of the local government to support the youth thanks to this kind of initiative, it is not only just to be nice,” added Vole. 

However the recipe of coworking differs significantly in theses spaces, which are entirely funded by the local government. The Library is, above all, a cocoon for young innovative startups, and due to public resources, it has chosen a particular model. In order to fairly use public resources, there is a time limit of up to 4 months. In this sense, the concept could be more similar to an incubator rather than a coworking space.

The Library includes a shared workspace as well as space open to the public, animated by numerous events, courses and workshops, making it more accessible and giving it a spontaneous atmosphere. Mentoring, coaching or courses taught by entrepreneurs, the Social Lab offers many services for only $30 per month, which is an affordable price for the youth of Tel Aviv. 

Finally, Vole explained that no objective has been set in term of success, because the two spaces don’t want to only support projects they could judge as successful from the beginning. They are rather focusing on the usefulness of their services and on the growth of the community as a whole. 

Finally, is worth it or not?

Of course, public organizations could support and fund coworking spaces, but they still have to find new funding tools, and adapt to the entrepreneurial and coworking mindset. These new tools or means should allow coworking spaces to fully control their image and activities without being led by the hand. This independence seems easier for spaces that already exist, and it’s even better if they can demonstrate to local governments that they are in accordance with an economic development policy.

Some public structures have a better understanding of the coworking movement, but the quest for economic development, although well intentioned, could also easily overshadow the spontaneous aspect of coworking spaces and the importance of a preexisting community, which will ultimately guarantee the success of these kinds of spaces.

To read also: Public Support of Coworking Spaces: The Example of France


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