Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Liu Yan’s 5 answers.

Liu Yan, from Xin Danwei coworking space (Shanghai, China)

Liu Yan is the CEO and event curator of coworking space Xin Danwei (which means New Work Unit) Coworking, in Shanghai, one of the first spaces operating in China.

Since 2004, Liu Yan has been advocating cross-culture and inter-disciplinary connection and collaboration between Europe and China through events like Picnic and Dutch Electronic Arts Festival.

While we thank Liu for answering Cowo’s 5 questions, we remind everyone that her speech at the Coworking Europe 2011 Conference is due on nov. 3rd, 12.40 am. 

The subject of her talk is very promising: “Coworking Globalisation: The promises of coworking for China and coworking as a gateway between Chinese and European”.  


Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?


Absolutely. Yes, I become Ms. Whoever-you-want-to-know in Shanghai. Our coworking center is the central hub where technologists meet artists, academia mingles with designers, hackers collaborate with farmers, a big melting pot for all kind of people and ideas. 


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)?


It isn’t just about giving community whatever they need (shared office and facilities), it is also about catalyzing the community in the new ways of working: connected with one another, stay curious and hungry about different disciplines and culture, open up for sharing, collaboration.

However, in the real life, building a sharing community takes a hell lot of time, energy, resources, and professional expertises, on the top of your passion and dedication.

In our case, we have spent a great deal of time to learn how to administrate and manage the commodity well (make sure the printer works smoothly and the chairs are comfortable), which are the basic things for the coworkers to get their work done and enjoy this togetherness.
If there are conflicts in terms of resources, we will have to make sure satisfying the needs of coworkers has the priority, and the strategic options come next.

The biggest lesson I have learned so far is “even with a good will, what you are trying to accomplish doesn’t necessarily turn into some value appreciated by your community.”

After all these years of discussing, I think we should know by now if business rhymes with coworking. Does it?

There is still a long way to go before majority of corporates rhymes with coworking.

Although open innovation has been practiced in the business for some years, we are merely in the starting point of getting corporate involved to create an open, collaborative, sustainable way of working. 


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?


Coworking is a new way of thinking, doing and working.

It is a social movement to unify our resources, experiences and wisdom to make our world a better place.
I believe more and more people will appreciate, accept, get involved in this movement, so it will gradually become the main stream of our society.

Meanwhile, whoever foster and (financially) benefit from this movement should be the hero of our time. People or organizations who try to make quick/dirty money out of it will exhaust their social capital and fail.

It is comparable to the Green Movement years ago, green has now become the new “gold”. I believe coworking will equalize to “working” in the future. 


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


I think it is a great concept to turn coworking into a public service, or eventually integrated with the existing public services.

I believe the current coworking spaces are the pioneers to show the “new way of working” movement in each region or city, gradually, it will become the main stream, coworking will no longer stand alone as a separate service, it will become the new services of many public and private institutions.

I have discussed with some librarians and educators to introduce coworking services into their libraries or schools.

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