Archivi categoria: Five Coworking Questions

Five questions to discuss and share :-) 1-Has your own life changed since you practice coworking? 2-Is coworking a commodity or a strategic option? After so many discussions, does businss rhymes with coworking? Considering the media craze and the flourishing of spaces, could coworking become a sort of bubble? What are your feelings about coworking as a public service?

The best coworking blogs in the world by the dozen (and all in the same place).

Best Coworking Blogs Google Search Coworking Cowo

Even if we are an Italy-based community, we’ve always tried to keep in touch with the bigger picture, as far as coworking and shared space is concerned.

That’s why we happen to make “open questions” to international coworking thinkers, that’s why we publish coworking presentations in English, that’s why, well, we try to write a few international posts now and then.

Besides, we also manage the International online Community NomadWork, now up to 635 people from all over the planet.

One good way to stay tuned with what happens in the rest of the coworking world is – of course – to read blogs.

Over the years, we have found that the following could be the best ones around (but, please, don’t get offended if you think we missed yours: we are far from being sure of our choice, and more than ready to include you in the list ;-)

  1. Global Coworking Blog – The mother of all coworking spaces (from the Us)
  2. Deskmag – All the news that’s fit to print on coworking (from Berlin)
  3. Dangereously AwesomeIndipendents’ Hall founder Alex Hillman personal blog (from Philadelphia, Us)
  4. Happy MonsterNew Work City‘s mayor Tony Bacigalupo writes here (NY)
  5. Mutinerie – News and rants from the Van der Broek frères in Paris
  6. Diary of a Mad Freelancer – Princess Jones from New York City reports
  7. Workbar – From Boston, Cambridge + a network of coworking spaces within companies (something like us)
  8. BetaCoworkRamon Suarez‘ coworking band rocks on in Brussels
  9. Plymouth CoworkingSabrina Simpson’s coworking activities in England
  10. Craig Baute’s Blog – Indipendent coworking thinker and consultant, founder of Density Coworking in Denver
  11. Worksnug – Connecting nomad workers with mobile technology, from London
  12. [Ha ha ha] Cowo

In case you are interested, we are now publishing a one-post feed from all of them on NomadWork home page, so we to be able to see at a glance what the important guys are up to :-)

Enjoy!

NomadWork: Coworking Cowo International Community

Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Antoine van den Broek’s 5 answers.

mutinerie coworking: antoine van den broekAntoine van den Broek is involved – with his brother Eric among the others – in the Mutinerie coworking initiative, in Paris, France. 

Mutinerie only had a space for a short time, they are actually a nomadic community, travelling at each others’ places. The space opening is planned for early 2012.

We are twice as glad to host his views because we had the chance to meet Antoine one year ago: he managed to stop visit Cowo’s founder for a good chat, while travelling in Italy.

It will be a pleasure to meet him again at the Berlin Coworking Conference 2011, the event planned to start in about 36 hours… on november 3rd.

Thank you Antoine for sharing your thoughts on Cowo’s 5 questions, and best of luck to the Mutinerie team!

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

ANTOINE VAN DEN BROEK:

Ever since we were kids we’ve always been surrounded by lots of people and lived in a collaborative and sharing environment.

When we entered the corporate world, we missed that energy and those real relationships. We decided to launch a coworking space so we could chose who we want to work with in an attempt to unify our lives and to promote this way of being and working together.
Since then we’ve been talking with many inspiring people from all over the world. In fact we rarely travel anywhere without visiting the local coworking space, and we’ve learned a lot about community dynamics and collaborative organizations.

So yes our lives have changed since we started coworking.
And the ‘funny’ thing is that we only had a space for a short period; most of the time we’ve been working at each other’s places, in bars, parks, or in others’ coworking spaces.

We will likely open our new space in early 2012 and I am sure it’s going to be another interesting change for us.

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.V.D.B:

It is, above all, a strategic option.

It is a bet on the power of free and authentic relationships and it is a stance of openness to new encounters—even if not everyone sees it this way before experiencing it.
So, some people come for the commodity aspect, as there may be no real alternative to such cheap and flexible workplaces.

However, our duty as coworking managers is not only to fulfill our members’ needs by providing all the amenities of an efficient work environment, but also to go beyond this pragmatic level.
In an extreme sense, coworking can be seen as the inverse of a typical firm: Whereas a firm hires people to perform a precise and preordained task, a coworking space starts by bringing people together around common values, and from that, new projects begin to take shape.

In coworking, people are at the center of creativity and productivity.

COWO:

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

Yes there is room for coworking as a business, whether it be spaces management, associated services, or some kind of expertise you can bring to others’ organizations.

Some initiatives will remain close to the initial values of the coworking movement, others less; people will be able to choose.

What’s most interesting is the unknown part of the business model: the unexpected is to be expected.

Coworking creates trust and there is no business without trust. It is a crucial asset. People are losing trust in many institutions these days.

If you are able to generate enough trust between people, if people really trust you, you may well be in a good position to do good business.
This implies being consistent with the values you claim and being able to understand profit not only in financial terms.

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.V.D.B:

A new term is coined when we need to express a new reality.

Then its meaning gets diluted as more and more people start adopting it to suit their own needs and understandings.
Eventually people may spend time trying to reclaim the ‘original’ sense of the term, but this can easily turn into a blind debate; semantic evolution is part of the term’s life.

Today we use “coworking” because we need a common flag to unify hundreds of local initiatives. Essentially it’s an accessible concept that’s big enough to unite likeminded people who might have the same intuition, and clear enough to attract newcomers.
In the future, the word “coworking” might be overused or misused in an opportunistic attempt to divert some of the juice that this word can bring, and some of its caché might fade away for that reason. But this is not such a big issue.

When the word “coworking” dies, it will most likely because this type of organization has become the norm.

In that case we would no longer talk about coworking spaces in general but more often about particular coworking spaces and their specific communities and achievements.
Each of us will then be able to choose the space that best fits our needs and expectations, without having to wonder whether it is or isn’t a true coworking space. And pioneers will need to move to a new frontier.

COWO:

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

A.V.D.B:

Regarding the numerous benefits of coworking for a local community, and the growing numbers of nomadic workers, it makes sense to expect public institutions to be involved at some level in the sponsoring of coworking. In our current tough economic climate, it is crucial to unify and thus empower the energy of creative people willing to take risks.

In any case we have no choice: the way we work has changed, and the state would do well to take this under consideration.
We could then expect the crucial task of creating coworking spaces to be supported by government. But the establishment of hundreds of state-run spaces would contradict the essential idea, which is let each community decide how and where it wants to work.

One of the great things about a coworking space is that it’s a genuinely bottom-up organization and a unique, community-driven entity.

Thus, government would ideally provide subsidies to bootstrap various coworking projects and to sponsor some social initiatives associated with coworking spaces.
We recently had a chance to meet some officials in our region and we were glad to hear that this is exactly how they see their role.


Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Alberto Bassi’s 5 answers.

LAB121 bassiSometimes you start building a commmunity even before the coworking space actually opens its doors.

It’s what happens in Alessandria, Italy, where the lab121 group is warming up its future coworking community with events, seminars and meetups.

Alberto Bassi, co-founder of lab121 team, will take part in the first morning panel of the Coworking Conference 2011, in a few days in Berlin.

Awaiting to meet him in person, Cowo thanks him for answering the 5 questions.

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

ALBERTO BASSI:

My life is not really changed, but I believe that has improved my way of working. In the coworking network I’m making useful contacts and I’ve done decisive steps in carrying out  those projects which which I had thought about for long. I go straighter into my business now.

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.B.:

The economic advantage of renting a temporary office is undeniable, and the strategic opportunity to work side by side with people with skills and expertise different from mine is the most significant advantage. Having a project you can find someone who helps you to develop it, and with a little luck also the buyers.

COWO:

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

Yes, the rhyme coworking-business works!! But How? Not intended as an immediate economic returns or immediate growth in turnover, but as professional collaboration between coworkers and customers from inside and outside the coworking centres.

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.B.:

I do not fear that coworking can become simply a way to make money by renting a desk. Why? becouse it cannot happen! it’s natural for people to socialize and interact, so even those who rent trivially a desk, will turn to professional collaborations. Lab121 is a nonprofit association that allows members to grow through co-working, so even without the desk the Alessandria coworkers find a way to connect and work!

COWO:

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

A.B.:

I believe that the co-working is partly an evolution of the concept of cooperative learning, already applied in schools: this means that coworking should be a basic service!



Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Jean-Yves Huwart’s 5 answers.

jean-yves huwart

Jean-Yves Huwart is the organizer of the Coworking Europe Conference, both 2010 and 2011 editions.

As he himself states (see answer no. 1) the discovery of the “coworking spirit” at The Hub Brussels was a revelation for him.

From that point on, coworking has been his everyday professional state of mind.

As the organizer of two important events such as the conferences, he has accumulated a notably extensive view on coworking, in all aspects.

Awaiting to see him in Berlin in a few days, we thank Jean-Yves for sharing his points of views on the 5 questions asked by Cowo.

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

JEAN-YVES HUWART:

Definitely. And in an unexpected way.

Like many, I used to be an employee. I was lacking challenges. Three years ago, then, I left my job to start a business of my own. The goal was to speak about the new way companies could organise themselves in a flatter way, using digital social platforms, creating a better collaborative culture and developing a more motivating working environment for the Gen X and Gen Y.

As a starting entrepreneur myself, I first tried to work from home. It was a nightmare. I was losing social contacts and my productivity dropped.

Then, a new coworking space opened up nearby, the Hub Brussels. It has been a kind of a revelation. I found for myself a new working experience which could fullfill my freshly discovered needs as a starter. Moreover, regarding my activities, Coworking appeared to me as a perfect tool and mindset to address the challenges of the economy of the 21st century, which needs more interconnected innovators and entrepreneurs, while the traditional corporation model will be forced to shift to a new paradigm embracing openess, collaboration, sustainability and human values.

That’s why we decided to organise a first international conference on the topic of coworking.

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)?

J. H.:

It can be both. 

For sure, it starts with the flexible model. For a pre-determined capacity (15, 20, 50 seats or more), 100, 150 or more members will likely sign up. This is the base for the community. If the tenants are there, first, for the purpose of having an office for cheap, so be it. It’s no big deal.  

Now, a coworking space can dramaticaly increase its outreach with events, facilitations, games open for non members. This generates traffic in and around the place. Eventually, hundreds of people can take part in the community via an online subscription to the newsletter and discussion on social network. 

In a classical office sharing environment, a pre-determined capacity give access to the related number of tenants or less. You meet the same people every day. This can ingrain a community spirit, of course, but never of the size and energy a genuine coworking space can support.

So, once the community is there, you have a platform to sprout almost anything: be a neutral spot for collaboration between third parties, host creative events, network with other communities localy or internationally, work as a gateway for other entrepreneurs, etc. 

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

That is one of our goal at the Coworking Europe 2011 conference.

The first Coworking conference, in Brussels, last year, helped to connect the coworking movement and its players on the European and even on the global level. The coworking movement is enterning its teen age. Nowadays, we have all kinds of coworking spaces: self-supported by one or two people, added-on to another organisation, publicly funded… Other a real businesses…

However, we have heard a lot of coworking spaces stories which shut down because they relied too much on one individual who, after two of three years of operations, ended up exhausted.

I think no matter which model you choose. If the cash flows are too low to cover one person salary, at least (on top of the running cost such as the rent or the internet connection), the space won’t be sustainable. So, coworking can be a very good business, as some have already shown in Europe or in the US. The condition for that, though, is more professionalism.

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?

J. H.:

We are at the beginning of a deep economical and cultural shift. 

Digital social platform are outdating the former way of coordinate teams. Innovation won’t remain forever in ghettos. Working people, especially the younger generations, demand their professional life to be fullfilling. Moreover, look at the movement of the Indignados in Europe or at the uprisings in the Arab world. Graduated people are struggling to get a first job. 

So, we know that in the future, more and more, we will have to create our own economical activity. For these reasons, my assumption is that we will need more coworking spaces around the world. As starters, freelance or even regular employees will more and more look for a human experience. So, the market will learn steadily to make the difference between real coworking spots and fake ones.

COWO:

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

J. H.:

A growing number of public local institutions acknowledge that the traditional tools used to develop entrepreneurship and networking in a city or a region are far from optimal in terms of impact.

The coworking experience seems a much more efficient approach to achieve the same goal. So, to me, they can perfectly support a coworking space financially. Of course, it’s better that the running of the space remain at arm length from the administration. It has to secure the space’s operational autonomy.


Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Manuel Zea’s 5 answers.

zea barralManuel Zea is a Spanish architect, founder of 2arquitectos in 2006.

In 2007 he founded one of the first coworking spaces in Spain: WorkingSpace.

In 2010 he founded the directory Coworkingspain.es. and now works to link all the spaces and create a Spanish co-community.

We thank Manuel for answering Cowo’s 5 questions, and look forward to meet him in person in Berlin!

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

MANUEL ZEA:

Since I came to the first Coworking Europe conference as a speaker, I started the directory coworkingspain.es. In the beginning we were less than 30 centers in Spain. 
Last year, in junction with all coworkings in Spain, I work in growing the directory and the connection between all the coworking spaces. 

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)?

M.Z.:

At the beginning it was an option of having nice office with little money, but the coworking concept grows, and spaces start being a strategic option for knowledge and synergies for freelance, and innovation center for corporation. 

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

The business of coworking spaces still having a difficult future in Spain. Coworking managers still a bit lose in how to increase their centers. But outside Spain, centers are making really good job. 
Coworking centers start to know how to make business with their centers, a lot of centers are recently open as business option and business center are looking to coworking as a product. 

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?

M.Z.:

The coworking concept has a big way to walk yet.
The business model is not completely validated. But when we walk all this way it could be a coworking bubble and maybe some centers without the values of the coworking are destinated to close in the future. 

COWO:

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

M.Z.:

I think city halls have to give entrepreneurs and freelances the tools to start or improve their business, and everything they make to help freelance improve their business will be beneficial to all.



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”.  

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

LIU YAN:

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. 

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)?

L.Y.:

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.”

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

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. 

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?

L.Y.:

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. 

COWO:

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

L.Y.:

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.


Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Mindaugas Danys’ 5 answers.

Coworking Manager Mindaugas DanysMindaugas Danys is the manager of Hub Vilnius, the first coworking space of Lithuania.

His space has been running for almost a year now, and he speaks about this experience as he answers Cowo’s 5 questions to the Coworking Europe Conference Members.

We are not sure whether Mindaugas will be at the Berlin conference, but he surely is a well-connected professional, so it’s always possible to reach him through FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.

Thank you for sharing, Mindaugas!

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

MINDAUGAS DANYS:

For me the biggest motivation behind opening the space was to be a changemaker and bring some social innovations to Lithuania.
However sometimes I feel that perhaps it was too early, or I did something wrong, cause it’s difficult to keep the place growing and members stay.

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)?

M.D.:

I’d prefer to look into coworking as a platform, however motivation of members is different, some see it as a utility some as a chance for personal growth and social changes.

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

With my experience I don’t see how coworking can become a business option, perhaps, and only, if it is used as a bi-tool by some venture capitalists and business angels who utilize serendipity to increase acceleration of their startup investees.
No chances of making it a business all by itself.

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?

M.D.:

Since I don’t believe in commercial viability of coworking, I don’t see it as a threat.
On the other hand overexcitment leads to opening of more spaces without getting sustainable, thus ruining the credibility of the concept in the first place.
It’ s a much bigger threat than someone trying to make business out of coworking.

COWO:

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

M.D:

I believe that coworking should become a norm both literally and theoretically, it should be everywhere and in different forms.

Flexibility, connectivity, sharing and openness has to take over the public space.


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.


Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Mazen Helmy’s 5 answers.

Mr. Mazen Helmy

Mazen Helmy was born and raised in Egypt.

Graduated from Cairo university with a bachelor degree in civil engineering, minoring in environmental and sanitary projects.

He is the initiator of the “District Egypt” project.

The District is designed to be an on-ground space in the heart of Cairo for young business owners, (social) entrepreneurs and freelancers where they can meet, work, collaborate and co-create.

Awaiting to meet him in Berlin (Mazen is among the conference speakers and his talk is due during the “Getting out of the crisis thanks to coworking” workshop on Nov 3rd), Cowo thanks him for his kind availability to answer our 5 questions.

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

MAZEN HELMY:

Actually I can’t deny that i have been practicing the concept of coworking under many forms, even long time before getting to know the term “coworking”.
But anyway once I started understanding and practicing it more, it has direct impact on my whole working perspective.
It was like discovering the other side of the moon, and feeling the power of the surrounding community. 

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)?

M.H.:

Coworking is different than shared offices.
It’s not just about the infrastructure and the shared facilities, it includes the community factor as a major aspect as well.
I believe it’s more a behavior people practice despite the label of the space they are working in, whether they are sharing high tech, sophisticated  infrastructure, or the simplest form of a platform. 

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

If you are asking about doing your business the coworking-style, I can tell that for me personally it pays off.
I can see the direct positive effect of it. 
But talking about the coworking as a business, I can’t really tell you now. Our new project “The District – Egypt” is considered one of the very first few trial of setting a coworking space in Cairo/Egypt.
However, while going through all the planning phases, we figured out that there’s no yet – on the international level- a unique, ultimate profitable model.
That forced us to go deeper in understanding the real motive behind this initative; we want to create values, creating our dream working environment.
The revenue is important -as a step – to keep the idea self-sustainable and to improve/expand it.
But I believe in the future it should pays off somehow. 

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?

M.H.:

Personally I trust so much the intelligence of the public; people are having a highly-sensitive sensor to detect and get a feeling of the real purpose of an initiative.
Besides that, the market – itself – has huge space and potential for other projects and initiative, and it’s up to the people to decide which way they want to go. 
However, still the real concept-believers have the responsibility to speak-out-loud using a media mix about the real meaning and practice of coworking. Showing real examples.
Why not later-on setting some kind of regulations? 

COWO:

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

M.S.:

As the coworking is not much spread here in Egypt – yet – but integrating a mix of private sectors and government promoting and adopting the concept should have greater influence and impact in the near future. Specially in the schooling system, that would be my optimum scenario.
I dont  know – now at least – if the model is adoptable in all public services or  not, but that requires more serious study, and a unified  definition of the term coworking first.


Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Mattia Sullini’s 5 answers.

Mattia Sullini, Coworking Cowo Firenze/MattonaiaMattia Sullini is known in the coworking community for at least three reasons.

First of all, he’s the enthusiastic and proactive manager of his coworking space in Florence, Cowo Firenze/Mattonaia; secondly, he actively takes part in most coworking events (Cowocamp Italy 2010 and 2011, Coworking Europe 2010, and more), third – and most valuable – he is one of the most helpful and collaborative people you can find in a coworking space…

He kindly agreed to answer Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe 2011, thank you Mattia!

COWO:

Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?

MATTIA SULLINI:

Well, rather than having changed, I can say I moved to a completely different stage!
In a few months I switched from being a lone bedroom monkey (that’s the way young occasional freelancers in 3D graphics world are called) to an highly social, stimulating and crowded environment, with a lot of people coming in and out, chatting, inviting you for a coffee break, asking for your opinion wheter on their work or on the latest new… distracting?
No, it’s simply the coolest thing it might have happened. 

We are not done for staying alone, what might seem confusing and distracting, such as intense social interaction, is indeed the natural environment for the human being.

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)?

M.S.:

Being a coworking manager, I can say I’ve experienced this is the core of the matter.
Despite all discussions on coworking, everyone still mean different things with the same word .
In my opinion, coworking places are just hardware, such as a computer.
The results widely depends on the operator and on the software you installed.
If you limit the coworking idea to a shared office you just get the operating system running, but you won’t  experience its real potential.
I could summarize the “softwares” into two main categories: interactions among coworkers and collateral functions suitable to be added on a coworking space.
For the first group you just have to immagine you’d get in a coworking space professionals, with skills that are often complementary one with the other, similarly flexible and mindshaped, that working in the same place and not beeing competititors quickly learn to trust each other. And remove all limtations such as physical distance.
You’d get an almost ideal incubator for projects and ideas.
For the second group, coworking spaces can succesfully melt with other functions such as exhibitions, temporary shops, events, courses, meetings, art, workshops.
And I’d dare to say that these could be the functions that could make coworking spaces profitable: maximizing the income from the coworking itself might mean suffocating the process of making the coworkers feel as members of a community, and thus collaborative and active,  leaving them just thinking to have found a somehow cheap workplace solution. 

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

Not in the traditional way.
Coworking is in my opinion the pre-condition for successful and innovative business.
Building a coworking place means setting up a nest for ideas and projects, and by tuning the place you could even choose what kind of professionals it will attract, by that choosing also what kind of community and team you are trying to build.
But as I’ve stated before, there are direct chances for business, also.
Joining networks and giving the chance of feeling active members of a community, will multiply the chances of feeding all your collateral businesses connected to the activity of the coworking in itself. 

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?

M.S.:

This risk is real, and is nested in the perception of coworking as a “thing” that works in itself.
This would mean betraying its DNA. Coworking spaces are exactly what our society evolution needs.
It’s not time for whales anymore.
Almost all professions now need flocks: specialization requires high mobility and flexibility, optimized teams working for continuously changing needs and tasks.
The crysis atomised many  classic working teams, creating an unprecedently wide number of independent, unbounded workers. The number of freelancers is growing, and big companies often cannot afford anymore the cost af working teams that need to be at the same time effective and economic.
Coworking is the ideal base for crowdsourcing and hiring professionals on project, or for delocalizing them even temporarily.
So, coworking will die if the coworking managers won’t realize that the place is just the beginning.

COWO:

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

M.S.:

I really think that coworking would deserve much more attention, and a quicker response by public and private.
The social impact of the wide diffusion of coworking spaces could be very high.
I’m just imagining specialized coworking spaces, organized in a dense network, where every kind of worker might find an optimal environment for its profession.
A place with shared tools and machinery for craftmen, a place with a nursery for young mothers and fathers, or  another with a huge cool showroom for creatives and artists…
I mean populating our cities with nodes that would eliminate the need of making huge investments for igniting everyone’s potentials and projects.
That would – in my opinion – boost economy and society in way that is at the same time ethic and effective. Oh, and enjoyable, of course!