Sunday, 13 February 2011
Co-working's about the people as well as the place
The concept of Co-working is now pretty much entrenced in the US freelancing culture, with strong co-working communities having formed around places, events and, as importantly, people, and has proven its worth in providing camaraderie, mutual support and hard business benefits.
The UK has followed suit, with some great examples of established co-working spaces from Brigton to Edinburgh (and probably beyond), with many co-working communities having formed around the creative and digital sectors where the niche nature of much of the freelancing activity lends itself well to collaboration.
It has been increasingly recognised, though, that successful co-working space is as much about the community as it is about the place (or 'hub'). So as well as the emergence of spaces that provide a structure that accommodates collaborative working, co-working has also been recognised as an opportunity to form a community or network beyond the space. In fact to the extent that for example when a co-working space closed in the US quite recently the co-workers confirmed en masse that this would not impact upon their ability to co-work - they would literally just uproot and take their community somewhere else - even to the local cafe, as the bonds had already formed.
Creating the community
This said, the community needs a space in which to form, beyond virtual networking. As a hybrid of the US model, 'Jelly' co-working days were introduced into the South West a year or so ago to provide such opportunities, and last June Space on Tap introduced Colleagues on Tap into the North East, formerly virgin territory as far as co-working goes.
Colleagues on Tap co-working days provide the opportunity for a group of people to form around a pop-up office which is created for the day. With now 7 (shortly to be 8!) co-working days firmly under our belts we have a proven formula that provides a plaform for freelancers and homeworkers to enjoy a day at the office surrounded by temporary colleagues, and through this new collaborations have formed. A nucleus community already exists, with some co-workers having attended several events and forming bonds with likeminded co-workers which now extend beyond the events.