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A coworking space is a gathering point for a wide variety of creative and motivated individuals. Several spaces around the world are experimenting with ways to turn this diverse pool of talent into a collective brain. In Vancouver and Melbourne, spaces invite members to consult on projects for outside bodies. Engaging coworkers as consultants may be a way for spaces worldwide to draw out the most valuable aspect of their communities.
By Carsten Foertsch - Thursday, 26 April 2012

Hive Mind - structured brainstorming

Ideas are one thing, but action is another. The Hive in Vancouver are trialling an interesting program to push ideas forward. They call it Hive Mind. As Tara Geach of the Hive explains, it “draws on the resources of the people here to present solutions to businesses and society.”

It starts with a concept; a problem to solve, a stuck situation, a stalled project. The members of Hive are invited to participate in a “jam”, where the issue is discussed and ideas are drawn out. So far it sounds like Plug, but this is where Hive Mind takes it further. A follow-up meeting revisits the ideas, which result in a set of concrete proposals and a written action plan. This action plan is presented back to the initiator of the process. But it doesn’t stop there – members of Hive may be involved in actually carrying out those proposals, thus resulting in extra work for those individuals. This multi-stage process – idea jam, follow-up meeting, action plan writing, and enactment – is intended to pump wind into the sails of becalmed concepts.

Already the Hive has external groups knocking at the door with ideas to be pushed through a Hive Mind session. A local youth theatre group wants advice about opening a café. An arts foundation needs a new concept for fundraising. Yet Tara said they’re not quite ready to attend to others’ problems. The Hive workspace opened in June 2011, and is still finding its own feet. For that reason, the initial Hive Mind sessions are focusing on internal issues first; how to create the optimal collaborative workspace, drawing the right members and so on. Members who participate in these sessions are rewarded with discounted desk and meeting room costs.

Hub Melbourne - collective agency

Something similar is in progress at the Hub Melbourne, where host Brad Krauskopf wants to turn his space into a kind of creative consultancy. Members at the Hub will be invited to take part in consultancy session, in which an outside business or agency will present a project for feedback. The members will pour over the project, analyzing it using their various skill sets and experiences.

How the outside agencies will pay for this service, and how members will be rewarded, remains to be tested. But Brad is moving ahead with the concept, building a bigger network of members and fielding expressions of interest.

Plug - Jelly with purpose

A few months ago we wrote about Plug, a concept active in Amsterdam which sees a network of freelancers come together once a week to put their collective brains to work over a specific issue. Plug participants are invited to attend a specific location for a day, where they can work on their own tasks and interact.

At lunchtime, the host of the meeting presents an issue to be discussed. Normally it is a pain point or challenge to resolve. Over lunch, the visitors talk about the issue, drawing on their varied individual skills to create a diverse conversation. At the end of the day, the host will have received a flood of feedback, all for the cost of hosting the Plug members and putting on lunch.

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