Not Money, but Relationship-Building, Older Participants Say
For older participants from the States like Indy Hall and Office Nomads, their focus is more on the inherent geniality of the program. For Indy Hall in Philadelphia, which started the program in 2009, no formal affiliations with other coworking spaces are established, but instead a friendly exchange is emphasized when members from other coworking spaces visit. Indy Hall’s members are also encouraged to seek out kindred coworking spaces elsewhere.
Alex Hillman, founder of Indy Hall said: “Truth be told, we go out of our way to warmly welcome everyone here, but when someone visits from another coworking space it's more about deepening the relationships involved than anything related to our business structure.”
Hillman also shared that Indy Hall’s culture and philosophy centers around helping to build relationships before transactions. This view has not changed since the coworking space was opened almost four years ago and that is how he also sees the visa structure.
“It's more of a gesture, like a welcome mat, than an affiliation or even a discount, and a way to help coworking space members feel ‘at home’ wherever they happen to be in the world,” said Hillman. “I love that I can visit just about any city in the world and have a good chance of finding a coworking space to call home for a little while. That sense of awareness and belonging is far more valuable than a discount on a couple of days of coworking fees.”
At Office Nomads in Seattle, Sayles shares a similar sentiment. In fact, Office Nomads even had a coworker from NextSpace in Santa Cruz who helped out at the space and participated actively in the community during his one week stay.
“We allow members to work here free of charge and no one has ever abused it or stayed for too long. The guy from NextSpace stayed for a week and was a wonderful addition to our community in that time. Normally people stay for one or two days,” explained Sayles.
Tough Work Managing Coworking Visa Data
For now, the project where coworkers can move freely without borders as long as they have the “visa”, has reached a point where the organization of the directory of participating spaces has become a bit difficult to navigate. But efforts are now being made to structure the information more efficiently, so coworking spaces and members can benefit even more from its original intent.
Santamarina, project director of the coworking wiki page, which lists everything about the coworking movement, including the visa and the participating spaces, is in the process of cleaning up the pages posted over the last few years since the visa was introduced. Coworking spaces have come and gone and it is hard to keep track of them when they close or stop implementing the program. Because of the turnover rate, the wiki has no specific numbers of the coworking spaces involved in the visa program presently.
But this might change.
Oren Salomon, founder of Dallas Fort Work in Dallas, has started a project called the Coworking Map, which might remedy this. This map project aims to build a robust list of all active coworking spaces in the world and will be publicly available for free to anyone to use on their own sites. It hopes to recruit a team of 50 to100 coordinators worldwide to each oversee and support 30 to 50 coworking spaces within their region.
“We believe at this level, it will be possible for each coordinator to develop a personal relationship with each space and then data management will go from chore to privilege. When you know each space personally, you're excited to update things like a directory because you're personally invested in seeing each space grow,” said Salomon.
As the project is still at its genesis stage, Salomon hopes that volunteers from different spaces will come forward to offer their help in this project, as it inevitably serves their own coworking spaces and the community in general.
Salomon continued, “We're hoping the map project will blossom into something much more than just a directory of spaces and actually form a support network and council for every space in the world.”