Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Alexandre Khan’s and Marianne Wehbe’s 5 answers.

Alexandre Khan, Marianne WehbeAlexandre Z. Khan and Marianne Wehbe are the coordinators of CocoAthens (Greece).

CoCoAthens is a collaborative work platform and coworking space supporting the development of social, cultural, artistic and environmental projects in Athens. 

While Alexandre studied statistics and economics in Paris, Marianne studied psychology in France and Spain.

Thank you both for taking the time to answer our 5 questions to the Coworking Europe Conference Members.

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

ALEXANDRE KAHN, MARIANNE WEHBE:

Coworking changed our life in the sense it changes the way of working, and gave another dimension of work with more professional socialisation which is required for new projects and start-ups, especially when aiming to develop original business models, not solely based upon high tech and economics, also social and cultural aspects. 

By working in multi-dimensional workspaces with different people, it favoured exchanges, creativity, synergies and catalysed motivation between co-workers.
Specifically in our difficult economic situation, such coworking spaces put back into question the ergonomics and psychology of our work, our activities.
We think it is important to develop Coworking’s concept and spaces to favour various forms of activities all over Greece. 

COWO:

Is coworking a commodity (i.e. the chance to share an office with little money) or a strategic option (i.e. a platform for all kind of sinergies)?

A.K. – M.W:

Coworking is both in our case (CocoAthens), but I would insist more on the second aspect: seeing Coworking like a creative platform for all kind of synergies and exchanges, sharing values, competencies and innovation.
We focused on providing support to other projects as well as ours.
Hence for some projects, we helped at an early stage identify their needs.
For others, we helped and encouraged preparation and deploying of business plans and followed-up progress. 

COWO:
After all these years of discussing, I think we should know by now if business rhymes with coworking. Does it?
A.K. – M.W:

It depends of the sense you give to business and the kind of Coworking place you’re speaking about.
We think Coworking is particularly adapted for project preparation.
In many cases, co-workers had ongoing other activities.
Coworking was more used for new developments. 

COWO:

Considering the media craze, the flourishing of spaces, the many online tools coworking-related and… why not,this conference itself, do you envision the risk of tranforming coworking in a sort of bubble, where a minority just trying to make money spoils the beauty of the idea, ultimately depriving the word coworking of its true meaning?

A.K. – M.W:

There is always this risk of course, like in all innovative concepts and projects.
But even if a minority just tries to make money, depriving Coworking of its true meaning, the majority has to continue its activities showing the real “values” behind “working-together”. Costs for Coworking in our case were optional.
If somebody could not afford our anyhow symbolic fees, it was free.
We were glad leave free and open our spaces. We tried to catalyse some themes by organising Coworking into Waves, purposely away from sole high tech and economics, to integrate other dimensions such as social and cultural, because IT is now widely used in all fields of life, the necessary literacy for all professional projects.

COWO:

What are your feelings about coworking as a public service, just like schooling or health services?

A.K. – M.W:

We think it would be a good idea to put Coworking places, with specific services (Wi-Fi, equipment …), at the disposal of people generally.
We might be creating our new job, working on a project we find useful on top of an existing job. The benefits of public service would be tremendous in the case of Greece; it should be indeed a public service, especially as costs minimal and outcomes with high potential, a real catalyst for change. 

Coworking should be made “more accessible” to everyone, migrants included, to give a supplementary dimension to Coworking (social, for example with computer equipment for people that don’t have…).
Also, work takes so much of our time in our society, it would be good to have this kind of services for all citizens, like meeting-working-space, which favour exchanges, synergies and productivity, to encourage also open-mindedness, sociability and solidarity, active and positive values that all societies need.


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