Are Italian coworking spaces 10% of all spaces in the world? No.

Deskmag – the online coworking magazine – has published some interesting data on “how many coworking spaces there are in the world“. (It has also defined our project superb, which made our cheeks go red…).

The number in itself (820) doesn’t say much, what is interesting is that… there are more and more. Good.

We don’t pay much attention to numbers, but we do know that Cowo has helped the Italian coworking community (now composed of approximately 80 spaces, 57 of them in our network) grow quite a bit, not only through our affiliation program, but also with the national barcamps held in 2010 and 2011 [and following years], the free coworking events, the special coworking space set up for the Salone del Mobile for two years, the participation to the Coworking Europe Congress… leave alone the online work and communities.

We are coworking enthusiasts (and practitioners, of course).

In these past three years (Cowo was born in 2008 with our space in Milano and evolved in the network project in February 2009) the link to the Wikipedia definition of coworking has never left the top-right position in our homepage, to remind us what we are here for… and we always make sure that the people who join Cowo are very aware of the coworking values, before they start.

So, why are we writing this?

Well, because Deskmag left the 50+ Cowo spaces out of the count!

It did it on the grounds that our spaces are not 100% fully dedicated to coworking, but home to different economic activities, which open their doors to coworking/nomad working in order to share they professional values (and their desks)… hey, isn’t that what coworking is all about? Aren’t 99% of coworking spaces not self-sustaining, economically speaking?

This to say: c’mon Deskmag, put us back in the count! Make that total closer to a 1,000, the Italians wanna play the game too… :-D

Note: We have sent the article’s author, Carsten Foertsch, a message on this, asking to be able to explain better our project on Deskmag magazine.

4 commenti su “Are Italian coworking spaces 10% of all spaces in the world? No.”

  1. Thanks for this post! We have counted many Cowo spaces as coworking spaces, just not all of them.

    I would like to explain our method of counting coworking spaces.

    1. We followed a simple 51% rule. If more than 50% of a space is dedicated to external people for coworking, then we counted these spaces as coworking space. For instance, we don’t include spaces which are home of a company with ten employees or co-founders and rent out two vacant desks to external freelancers and external employees. Such a space would be decidated to a majority of “internal people”. Co-founders and employees depend on each other by more inflexible contracts. Unlike these internal people, the external ones can leave a space whenever THEY want, usually within a month. We also know that many other places (traditional offices, libraries, parks etc.) offer opportunities for coworking. However, for statistical reasons we needed to make definition, otherwise we also could count all cafés, libraries or parks as coworking space. But coworking is not the major goal of these spaces. It’s not a discriminating rule. It is just to count these new types of workspaces.

    We also follow some other rules. We haven’t explained them yet, since most readers are more interested in the results than the statistical background:

    2. We don’t count spaces which provide a space for less than five people. “Coworking” can start with two people, however, it wouldn’t create a community if you have only two or three people. A real coworking space is based on a community in order to create a coworking friendly atmosphere. It’s difficult to set an exact number when a community starts to become a community. For statistical reasons we needed to make a decision on the minimum of desks and decided for five.

    3. The primary business model of a coworking space is renting out a place to work within a community. As I wrote, we believe that the phenomenon of coworking can also take place in other spaces. However, a coffee shop for instance lives primarily on selling drinks, a library on lending books.

    4. Coworking spaces provide more shared coworking areas than single offices. We don’t include spaces in our countings which provide single offices for one, two or three people as the majority of their service since too many walls block collaboration.

    5. We only count spaces which provide public informations about themselves – on their website or on a listing directory. It’s not only helpful for our counting, coworking is also about openness and accessibility. Therefore a public website or a listing on a directory can be seen as minimum of being “open”.

    We produce our statistics in a careful way. But it’s possible that we sometimes miss a few, or we counted some spaces although they don’t exist anymore. After doing regular re-checks, we know, this can create an error rate of up to 5%. Based on the proved assumption that more coworking spaces start their business rather than closing it, we guess, there are more coworking spaces than we counted – but not more than +5%.

    This all being said, we very much appreciate the idea behind the coworking project. We also see a lot of them as coworking space. We just don’t count all of them as a “coworking space” according to our guideline for statistical reasons – mainly for the first reason.

  2. Hi Carsten,
    thank you for your detailed answer!

    It’s good to know that many of our spaces are included in the stats you’re providing, and you’ve made very clear the procedure behind the figures.

    I personally agree on your criteria and – would have I been in your shoes – I would have reasoned in the same way :-)

    Our project is very active in promoting the idea of coworking, bringing the concept where it wouldn’t arrive by itself.

    In other words, we help coworking communities to emerge and start, in places where coworking isn’t seen as an end (let’s rent a place to work together) but as a mean (let’s open up our professional space and see what happens).

    Some of the Cowo spaces find a true commitment in coworking, discovering that the sharing attitude coworking brings to their spaces is an excellent way to do their own work, too.

    That said, Cowo is a highly experimental project, and every new space gives its own interpretation of coworking, within the guidelines we give them (sustainability, openness, community).

    As organizers and promoters, we find great energy in the active participation of the signle cowomanagers, without which no coworking project would ever exist.

    I look forward to our skype chat, so to continue this interesting conversation… live :-)

  3. Very interesting conversation. Structured, respectful, meaningful (sadly, that does not happen that often in life).

    It’s exciting to see those different practical applications of this movement. With Mutinerie, we feel very concerned by this ‘model issues’ as we might be the first ‘major’ french coworking (correct me if I am wrong Mr Data) that does not rely on state or local governments subsidies – we are not against it but it’s a very long, uncertain and sometimes weird process here in France so we chose to focus more on gathering awesome people, show traction and see what happens (our plan is to re-open before the end of 2011). It is also very important for us to remain completely free and independent as a place and as a community. We know we are not in the US so going that way is a bet…

    Thanks @Carsten for clarifying your method and criteria (I often wondered) and for your very useful studies in general. It really serves the movement a lot.

    @Max, my brother William (not Eric that Carsten met a few mont ago in Berlin) is likely to come to Milano in about 2 weeks – back from a road trip to Slovenia – so he might get in touch with you…

    Have a good one both of you


  4. Ciao Antoine, thank you!

    Please tell your brother to come by at any time: Via Ventura 3 (metro station Lambrate, on the green line), we’ll be happy to give a desk and a cup of coffee :-)

    On the rest, well, best of luck with your coworking adventure, I have a feeling that every space follows his own path…

    Keep an eye on Deskmag for the interesting interview I gave Carsten over Skype yesterday, and thanks for contributing to this exchange.


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