coworking

Massive collaborative potential for coworkers worldwide — and how we’ll achieve it

As the coworking industry matures, it is now becoming apparent that coworkers have the collaborative potential to come together and establish better ways of living and working on a massive scale. Let’s look at some of the ways coworkers as a group are harnessing the true power of collaboration.

In many ways, coworking is an excellent example of the collaborative economy at work. People who work from coworking spaces, hackerspaces, makerspace and other types of shared workspaces represent a robust economic community predicated on ideals shared with the collaborative economy: trust, willingness to cooperate, and the belief that together we can do more than we can alone.

Members of shared workspaces – coworkers – often collaborate with each other locally, sharing workspace, ideas and networks. But it’s getting bigger than that. As the coworking industry matures, it’s becoming apparent that there is massive collaborative potential for coworkers to do more than just spend their workday together. Here are some inspiring examples of coworkers getting together to do more.

Crowdfunding. Poligon Creative Centre in Ljubljana is a coworking space with an in-house crowdfunding program to help aspiring entrepreneurs get their Kickstarter projects off the ground. People pitch in to help all aspects of the campaigns and they’ve been a resounding success.

Grassroots politics. Why wait for collaborative values to be reflected in our leaders – let’s put coworkers into political office. A Berlin coworking space operator was voted into Berlin parliament in 2011. Coworking spaces can be a practical home base for grassroots politics, such as the campaign for an Oregon constitutional amendment that’s headquartered in a Portland coworking space.

Work bartering. A number of shared workspaces have work-bartering systems in place. One is Lanau Espacio Creativo in Madrid, where members can trade skills and labor with each other. Graphic design can be exchanged for help with code or a bit of English translation. This is an easy way to keep costs down and make a friend in the process.

A community magazine. New Worker Magazine is the publication by and for members of coworking spaces around the world. Coworkers contribute articles, news, stories, personal narratives and interviews with other coworkers. It’s the largest collaborative project to come directly from members of coworking spaces.

Health Care Benefits for independent workers. The Coworking Health Insurance Plan (COHIP) was established by coworkers and provides coworking members in Ontario, Canada with health coverage and benefits. HackerCare in California was created by a makerspace founder and provides health insurance benefits for startups.

Freelancer hives. Sometimes freelancers can snag bigger projects by coming together with other freelancers to form temporary teams. This allows freelancers to have the ultimate flexibility to collaborate with others when they need to, and maintain their independence when they don’t. But where to find that UX designer I really need? Good thing I work at a coworking space.

A global network. OuiShare recently held its second annual awards, and the winner was CoPass, which gives access to a global network of coworking spaces, fablabs, hacker spaces and other collaborative spaces. CoPass even enables users to easily host visiting coworkers by linking their Airbnb or Couchsurfing accounts, making it that much easier for the intrepid to cowork their way around the world.

Pretty impressive stuff! But we’re still just getting started. It’s estimated that there will be 1 million people working from coworking spaces in the next couple years. As their numbers grow, we can expect to see coworkers band together to do things we haven’t yet seen, like increase their purchasing power, share services with each other, facilitate collaborations or freelancer hives between multiple spaces, and perhaps even get together at global coworking events for some fun.

The coworking community holds a global unconference (GCUC) every year in a different city. Typically the conference is attended by founders and owners of coworking spaces but in the coming years we can expect to see the movement expand with members choosing to get more involved and perhaps even hold an event of their own.

Big things happen when people get together. In the next few years online collaboration software, tools, and networks will play a bigger role. The power of such tools is in the people who use them, so the online collaborative platform that gains the most users will soon become a powerful resource. Right now there are a number of such platforms but none has yet achieved ubiquity.

Until then, coworkers can connect and discover each other by participating in New Worker Magazine. The publication is for and by the members of coworking spaces, hackerspaces, makerspaces, and shared workspaces around the world. Coworkers now have a place to connect with and interview each other, tell their stories, share their successes, and keep themselves at the forefront of a changing work landscape. It was founded on a big idea, that many coworking communities are active and healthy on a local level, and by getting together online with others around the world, they can take it to the next level.

The magazine is actively building an international community of like-minded people by enabling connection with an encouraging global audience of coworkers. By coming together to share stories and news in one place, they create a more vibrant community of their own making and start to establish a shared identity. That’s when bigger developments start to take place. And isn’t that what the collaborative economy is all about?

Take part in the growing members-driven community of coworkers at New Worker Magazine (newworker.co).

Guest post written by Melissa Mesku.

Melissa Mesku is editor in-chief of New Worker Magazine, the digital publication for people who work from coworking spaces and collaborative workspaces. She is a freelance designer, developer, and writer, and co-founded Pure Cure Dental Technology, creator of the first nontoxic denture services.