• Coworking and Communities: Lessons from the Coworking Conference 2015

    Last week, Bisner was delighted to participate in the highly anticipated Coworking Europe Conference in the magnificent city of Milan. With almost 400 participants and spread over three days, the event was filled with coworking enthusiasts sharing ideas and opinions, holding insightful discussions and learning from the experiences of other participants. We got to speak to a range of people, from coworking space operators and city council representatives to startup incubator managers and many more. It was fantastic to be a part of the event, and Bisner was extremely proud to be an official partner.

     So, what did we learn?


    Coworking is on the rise


    The Deskmag Global Coworking Survey identified 3,400 coworking spaces in 2013. Preliminary results from the 2015 survey suggest there are now 7,800 coworking spaces. This is no surprise to us though as we’ve already written about the growing trend of coworking.


    Blog Post: The Rise of the Coworking Market


    Furthermore, each coworking space now has an average of 30 percent more members than in 2013. For more on the Deskmag Coworking Survey first results, read our post .


    Blog Post: Deskmag Coworking Survey 2015 First Results



    Communities play a significant role in coworking


    Each coworking space is home to a community of members. Most coworking spaces expect the sense of community to grow next year (Deskmag Global Coworking Survey, initial results), showing that community is an area that still has room for improvement.


    Sara Bigazzi from Toolbox Coworking, a 6,000 m2 space for freelancers, startups, small businesses, and makers, discussed how Toolbox developed from a coworking space into a decentralized creative hub. The moment that turned them into a creative hub was when they understood the importance of co-habitation. Communities played a big role in this stage, as Toolbox began to host different communities in their spaces who were willing to share and mix their knowledge, skills, and experience with the others. As a result, they created a large coworking ecosystem that connects not only people but communities too.



    Innovation comes from local communities and the human potential inherent to them

    - Jennifer Magnolfi, Programmable Habitats


    As suggested at one of the Unconference Day sessions, communities are a great place for people to share skills, but why not  failures too? Be proud of your failures and learn from each other. (Check out www.fuckupnights.com) Other key ideas include space managers showing they really care about the members by getting to know them and their needs even before they sign up. Events are essential, though we learned that it is important to host initial events on neutral territory. This sets your ‘clients’, so to speak, at ease. 


    What can be done better


    While the number of coworking spaces is increasing, their communities are often far from a true collaborative/sharing experience. Communities need to collaborate more. For this to happen, communities need to be perceived as profitable for coworkers. What can they gain from it? Can they trust each other and actually DO something together? We need to comprehend that this new way of working is essentially about sharing knowledge and experience, socializing in the workplace, participating in the community and so forth. It is all about the culture and values, and less about the physical environment and technology.


    Collaboration between coworking spaces should be continuous and coworking spaces should work together instead of competing against one another

    - Alex Ahom, Shhared



    Online services are needed for coworking


    It was widely acknowledged during discussions that there is a need for online coworking services and tools. “Online and offline complement each other and together they are more valuable,” said Alex Hillman during his workshop on community building. For example, when introducing yourself to new connections, an online introduction becomes a starting point for offline communication. It’s great to share what we want from the community and to help each other online. However, we must remind ourselves of the goals of using online tools for community building. What habit are you trying to create? What are you aiming for? Is it to socialize? To network?



    A new business model for coworking includes the act of bringing services into the cloud.

    – Participant, Coworking Europe Milan 2015



    Online services are also needed to find partners. They offer a way for people to meet and engage with people in their space who they don’t see physically every day, and with people beyond their own space. It is even more important for the coworkers who need to network on a larger scale or who are not able to move between coworking spaces.


    Being online allows you to bring the community with you, wherever you are.

    – Alex Hillman, IndyHall



    Coworking, communities, and online services are just three topic discussions I focused on. Much more was discussed during the event such as the patterns and motivations of coworkers, ‘coworkation’, the on-demand freelance economy, and coworking spaces working with sponsors. It was a fruitful three days of gaining perspectives on what the world of coworking expects in the coming years and the challenges faced by those involved in coworking.



    Bisner: The Virtual Coworking Platform

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