architecture : strategy and design

141201 / Coworking conference Lisboa 2014

Here are my minutes of the 3 day conference in Lisbon in november 2014. The programme can be found on -
The most concise way to describe the lesson learned comes from Dusty Reagan, who says : "...coworking is not a space or a noun. It is a verb." And thanks to Fernando Mendes for bringing that to our attention.

This however is Julie, your cruise director. She'll be rebaptised "Tummler" further up in the article. She is honoured to have seen the conclusion of all this so long ago : your community is your greatest asset.

Coworking Europe 2014
November 24th, 25th and 26th in Lisbon, Portugal.

141124 - Paulo Coelho / City Council, Lisboa PT
In 2011 a public referendum in Lisbon decided that a budget would be given to a Council initiative called 'Start-Up Lisboa'. Since then this project has led to three seperate project contexts : 'Lisboa-Tech', 'Lisboa-Labs' and 'Lisboa-Loans'. One of the transversal actions is to maintain contact between the various subsidized clusters (and others) with the intention to improve their resilience through the sharing of experiences, knowledge and methods.

141124 - Bill Jacobson / WORKBAR coworking network, Boston US
In the Bostonian academic culture, infused by educational institutions such as Harvard, Cambridge and MIT, a group of professional friends found themselves in a common situation : in start-up mode, needing a place to work, and looking for a new equilibrium in the work-life balance. Work was the dominant determinator, and life needed to find it's way back into the plan - there was need to embrace the situation rather than fight it. Three goals were set : work-life balance, community creation, convenience. The work of Robert Krim (analysis of affiliation and diversity) lead the way to acknowledging the power of a divers community, for resilience.
The space planning was initially based on a common 20% closed offices and 80% open space. Later other added spaces were added, to add more leisure facilities in a café setting. In an evolved layout three atmospheres were proposed, each divided in a 20/80 division : a) an open collaborative space, b) a quiet study space, c) a phone friendly noisy space.
The limits of these models became apparent in the later period of evolution : i) the rent went up, ii) 150 members appeared to be the maximum population for a cohesive community, iii) Workbar had grown to 800 members on 4.000 m2... iv) the distance to a Workbar location became on issue. - 20 minutes semed te be a maximum. The important question became 'to what extent is the project scalable?'.
When the company New Leaf Legal joined the Workbar network, their collaboration experience guided Workbar to a new set up, that of a network of workhubs with three according membership flavours : I) Total network acces, II) Dedicated location, III) Sector specific location.

141124 - Damiano Ramazzotti / Talent Garden coworking network, Italy
It started out as a small scale initiative in Brescia, but when it became clear that everybody wanted to do it, the initiatives found their way to eachother and became a network. Now there are 8 sites up, mostly dedictated to tech business and start-ups. The effort is mostly put on knowing the client(s)/members, to better cater to their needs. Where there are common needs there are common solutions that can be optimized. A common identity can give a common communication.
A part from these core tasks, complementary structures have been developped to maintain and improve the community. Talent Garden positions itself as a low-threshold easy-acces starting pad for foreign partners. They have developped internal careers where members can become board members and even autonomous founders. Also there is a programme where senior companies invest in young start-ups.

141124 - Sajid Islam / Hubdhaka Coworking in Dhaka, Bangladesh
In Dhaka the working conditions are very complex technically. There is half the population of the US in a country the size of New York State = 150 M people in the half of France (33 M). The density was the motor of the opportunity for creating HubDhaka.
With electricity black-outs happening every day, buying and sharing a generator is an easily agreed upon common investment. Preventing internet going down can be established by having multiple memberships and making them common. The in Dhaka traffic is disastrous. Working close to home is a real time saver. The forthcoming advantages of the established coworking situation, is the potential to work transversally. Events and meetings are organized to internal and external people, and this improves insight and collaboration. Like Talent Garden, HubDhaka positions itself as a starting pad for foreign partners, but also follows up on members moving out to other communities.

141124 - Miguel Muñoz Duarte (iMatch Creative Collaboration Consulting)
During lunch I had the chance to meet Miguel Muñoz Duarte, who shared a very beautiful story with me. In a research-documentary about the origins of Nobel prize winners, it appeared that many (maybe even most) came from the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge UK. An essential part of their success was due to the fact they shared a canteen that enabled for "...Making People Talk and Listen to Each Other"
This is one of a number of strands of thought I'm starting to collect under the keyword #realspace. Realspace is the kind that seems necessary for trustworthy collaboration of communities that otherwise could make do with online contact and its #realtime quality. Finding the defining of the spacial qualities of this type of space could be a very interesting study object.

141124 - Sophy Moffat / DTZ Central London Property Analyst
The presentation transmitted the conclusions that were collected in their document called "The Coworking Revolution". Highlights of the presentation were aimed at identifying how the coworking development could and/or would impact the conventional property management business. Surveys say that if 1% of current home workers would choose to work in a coworking site, 700K m2 would be required to accomodate them. In addition, professionals profiles show that 74% would like to work on a flex-desk, and 88% prefer collaboration over competition. Short term contracting creates a new condition of flexibility. Bringing home like qualities to the work place change the style aspects, moving away from corporate. When traditionally space was planned according to hierachies or teams, in this new concept it is the tasks and actvities, and their respective space conditions, that detemine the programmatic layout. These elements create a novel and hybrid version of office space, rearranged and complemented with new elements.
As a reference I would like to add Bruce Mau's 1998 1 page "Incomplete Manifesto for Growth". And while we're at it, I can't skip Rem Koolhaas' S,M,L,XL Generic City "Hotels are becoming the generic accommodation of the Generic City, its most common building block. That used to be the office..".

141124 - Caludio Vandi / Numa, Paris
The proposal by Numa Paris, is to promote the innovative potential of coworking, calling it a Sandbox. Since 2000 the team has been working on and improving their community. The main idea is to generate income for the community, by linking them up with exterior corporate companies who are willing to pay for an intensive co-creation experience.
The lessons that are shared from this coworking model : make the effort to know your client before engaging in co-creation, take it seriously, watch out for innovation-washing, focus on people not on organisations. To increase success emphasis is put on (office and corporate) cultural change, enhancing diversity of the participants, and stimulating 'serendipity'

141124 - David Canat / Oui Share, Paris
A general Oui Share point of view starts with an overview of the sharing economy, which is described as : 1) collaborative consumption (sharing a lawn mower), P2P finance (crowd funding), open production and distribution (open source, fablabs), and the sharing culture. The latter is then elaborated as co-creating, co-working and co-living.

141124 - Carsten Foertsch / Deskmag, Berlin
Coworking survey 2013 / 2014
Surface = 378 m2, rather small
36% of spaces are 100 / 250 m2
33% of spaces are 250 / 500 m2
70% of spaces are 100 / 500 m2
Average surface per member = 17 m2
23% has 5 m2 surface per member
63% income relies on space rental
30% of spaces are profitable

141124 - Room1 / The art of managing coworking growth, without hurting the soul or the hosting quality
With : Ashley Proctor (AP / Foundery, Toronto), Lorenzo Cappellini (LC / Multiverso, Florence), Benjamin Dyett (BD / Grind, New York City), Christoph Fahle (CF / Betahaus, Berlin) - moderated by Marc Navarro (MN / CREC, Barcelona)
BD : Grind offers the same experience in every single space. That's the selling point, and it comes down to managing the experience. It's not about selling m2. CF : It's a different kind in each city, not so much as Mc Donalds, but in a way. AP : At a certain point we had three separate spaces. Then we brought them all under one roof. The cohabitation of desk and workshop activities needed some special adjustments. Some demands were granted, others not : a development lab for two photographers was not made, but a patio for exterior yoga was made, and then served also as lunch terrace. LC : The soft skills are very important to make sure the atmosphere is right. Getting events going, for the members and for public, can help to create the right feel. Helping the members to organize this is already a good part of creating the community feeling. BD : Locations are chosen close to transit hubs in high density urban areas. CF : When Sofia says "we want to open a Betahaus", then that's hard to refuse, but sometimes there's a lack of strategic organisation. There's a difference between emergent and strategic. AP : When we brought the sites together, it simplified the administration and improved the viability. In the new big site we invited Starbucks to be an attractor, along side an independent coffee bar and an art gallery. BD : When members come from one site to the next, they have a seamless check-in and automated invoicing. Copass could have this future in Europe. When we planned our first site, we sat down for 4 months to carefully plan every detail. We found the building, gut it clear, and spent 1.000 eu/m2 for outfitting it. All that, but now we're a "hospitality company". AP : For keeping the community in touch, the best solution is beer and food. People get in touch on a social level, and then the collaborative projects come out. For getting touch with the local community, we organise dinners with a local chef. Locals get a discount. When someone participates one day, they have access to a local fund heath care programme. CF : The best way to convince outsiders about the qualities of these spaces, is to invite them to participate, maybe just for a day or a week.

141124 - Room2 / Should corporations put their own coworking units in place ?
Magith Noohukhan (MN / Xing AG social network, Hamburg), Mischa Schlemmer (MS / 1000Startups, Paris), Stefan Rief (SR / Fraunhofer Institute, Stuttgart), Bill Jacobson (BJ / Workbar, Boston) - moderated by Julianne Becker (JB / Workation Retreat, Berlin)
SR : Most people want to move on after 5 years of career in one office. To break the rythm, maybe send someone to a coworking space to recharge the energy and motivation. Of all corporate work, 20% is already done outside the headquarters, but home-offices or business-centers do not offer the same experience. R&D could be 'outsourced' in these innovative spaces. MS : The coworking surroundings are a good opportunity to find new learning conditions. With the technology behind the collaborations, students could be in the practice of work and technology at the same time. Traditional education programmes don't keep up with the pace of work development. Students should learn about the options with technology. BJ : It's really all about the people. The space planning is only partially relevant. The opportunities that can be developped depend on a good internal exchange. MS : Initiators are organically sensitive to the locations and the conditions that are required, much like the actors of gentrification in housing development. BJ : It's the convience that's brought to the workplace - office space has gone retail...

141124 - Room1 / Coworking spaces as gateway to implement policies in the fields of entrepreneurship, sustainable development, city planning
Christian Cordes (CC / Coworking Deutschland Conference, Germany), Marc Navarro (MN / CREC Barcelona), Paulo Soeiro de Carvalho (PS / Lisbon City Council), Geneviève Morand (GM / La Muse, Switzerland) - moderated by Amanda Gray (AG / Deskmag, Berlin)
GM : Government can give support to coworking spaces to foster the emergence of social innovation. The sites in Switserland are run by university drop-outs. CC : In our site in Wolfsburg we give smart-phone-training to the elderly inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Coworking finds a place as a platform where industrial and social developments can meet. PS : The meeting of people of different backgrounds leads to the hybrid population that accelerates exchange and innovation. This gives coworking the possibility to innovate in both directions, towards economical development and towards social cohesion. MN : In Barcelona it seems the government has a lack of imagination. They've picked up the coworking trend, ad they're initiating a site, but as an opaque mechanism with no imagination. The most important thing to get people to engage and interact is to build trust., that means no hierarchie. This is a real culture game-changer, mostly for big organizations such as governments and corporations.

141125 - Room 3 / Coworking and tourism
Since one of the recurrent motivations for coworking is to bring life-like qualities back to the workplace, the idea of combining coworking and tourism doesn't seem so far fetched. Xavier Jaquemet of the Paris based Mutinerie explains how they set up a coworking place in Le Perche at 1 hours train from Paris. This site answers to certain demand, one where the worker has the necessary conditions to work, while the family can come along and enjoy the country side. The accomodation is 20 beds. Also this allows for other packages where people come for 2 days and then stay for the weekend. One family lives there permanently since this summer. Local companies are involved with the project since the beginning. The most striking story, is the one where Paris based young families can finally imagine moving away from the unaffordable real estate of Paris, go live in a greener place, and stay in touch with the Parisian economy and some of the life mentality. It would seem possible then, to bring the economical power of the metropolitan area to the peripheral areas.

141125 - Room 1 / Coworking and profitability
From a business-center point of view, the costs could be broken down to the following : a) 50% builing (of which 33% is for construction or renovation, and 17% is for servicing), b) 25% is desk oriented servicing (ict), c) 25% administration, marketing and sales. Regus and Ryan Air develop their prices such that the price goes up as the accomomdation gets occupied - the later you book, the higher the price. Also, their main income is on variable costs, such as projectors, catering, and events.
The audience takes several initiatives to point out that coworking is not the same as running a business-center. Benjamin Dyett of The Grind in New York says he has a 30% profit margin, but his job is not about selling square meters - it's keeping up the experience of the Grind community. The term that is recurrent is "community broker". For start-ups with little resources, it is important to take the time to create the specific value, and when it's out there, attract people to attract people. The value will propel itself, is it's appreciated.

141126 - Workshop 2 / How to grow participation, improve collaboration, and build a sense of belonging ... or Tummlers!
Alex Hillman, Adam Teterus, Indyhall, Philadelphia (US)
With a very compelling presentation Hillman and Teterus make it easy to understand where lies the essence of community management. It starts with saying that it's not about management. People don't want to be managed, and those who own a coworking place don't want to manage people. The solution lies in what the call the role of the Tummler. A tummler is someone who knows how to get people to meet, share stories and values, get together, build trust, and then engage in the community. They mention four levels of participation : 1) pay for the service, 2) volunteer for the space, 3) tell others about it, 4) do the dishes! If there's something wrong with the dishes, there's something wrong with the community.
The example of a tummler that is brought forward is ... Julie, your cruise director from Loveboat (LOL). But, they say she's too present. A tummler should make sure that everybody has a good time, but not by being in the center as an example showing off. The important thing is to make sure that the community 'manages' itself, so that life becomes a little easier. The community can learn and improve itself (as according to Peter Senge's notion of self learning). The key is to let the common goal be defined from within, the people are the pieces of the puzzle, they have to fit, but you don't know what's on the final image. And for the pieces to fit, they must subscribe to a common goal. Creating this shared vision builds upon the individual values which ultimately are common values (Carl Rogers, "The good life is ... a direction not a destination").
If the shared values are the center of gravity of the coworking place, around it orbit people with different levels of engagement : a) observers, b) attendees, c) participants, d) initiators (and maybe some more..?). Getting events to be organised, by members of different engagement level, can be the start of getting the pieces of the puzzle to fit. The positions in the engagement field are not fixed. One is not always an initiator or an observer, roles can be exchanged. Different initiatives appeal to different people: A Christmas dinner, a spring clean-up, a redecoration, a open scene for music... For a tummler to take a (not too visible) lead in these dynamics, it is suggested that one makes their daily 'managers-list', and find a helping hand for each detailed action on the list. To close it off, I'm going to quote Deborah Astell (Capture) "share, create, innovate - cool new ways to hang out together for business ideas..".

Preliminary Conclusions
What is the comfort zone? What is considered to be comfortable? - Hybrids - Diversity - Seredipity - urgency leads to freedom - Community is the most valuable assett - To tech or not to tech? - Can banks, with their responsibilities and their damaged image, embrace the innovative and volatile character of co-working, and get away with it? - Bruce Mau - Koolhaas Generic City - History - silos - caught up in structures - breaking down barriers (once again) - religion - politics - sexuality - gender - corporate - - Industry and Fordism changed the world - ICT announced and delivered #realtime. This created todays #socialnetworks on line. In a time of crisis the social network is the highest value (for finding a job..), but collaborating for improving chances requires trust. Trust doesn't travel online (yet), it requires #realspace. - Government has relation with industry and finance and could take a pedagogical stance for innovation and facilitations - Education is no longer in pace with the present day development of work and society. Architecture students could be invited to experience the new context, and study the new subject