„Free Coworking“: Reply to Jay Thomas (Coworking Space Operator)

Veröffentlicht am 9. Februar 2012 von Felix Schürholz in Kategorie: CoWorking Basics, Konzeptionelles, CoWorking Kultur, CoWorking News International, Funding, Meinung, Zitate | Trackback URL | Zur Diskussion

First of all a big thank you to Jay for his great comment and very valuable points concerning the introduction of „Free Coworking“ in an already running coworking space!!! I am taking the unusual step to reply to his comment in a blog article, because I believe many people are interested to join the discussion.

I have the utmost respect for every coworking space operator. Building up a community is an extremely challenging task and an amazing achievement to sustain and even develop it!!! I know what Jay is talking about  having started coworking in Munich with events like weekly coworking in a pub or the coworking business lunch.

Regarding Jay´s first point: „First, lets talk about “Capital”, the only way companies would give us money to offset our members cost would be if the members met certain skills & qualifications.“ To start, „Free Coworking“ I believe will mainly spread from coworking spaces already running, a space like Jay´s. There is a community in place consisting of members usually with high skills and enough capital otherwise they could not afford the coworking space desk and services they pay for. These coworkers for one could attract and finance „Free Coworkers“ on a project basis. So in that model, it would be the „established coworker“ who would offset the cost for the „Free Coworkers“ in his/her team.

Jay: „Now if you put those barriers in place, were in essence becoming a group temp agency. Our job as Coworking owners shouldn’t be to find work for our members, its to provide a productive/cost efficient solution to individuals & companies who need to get things done.“   Partly, I answered to this already above. I fully agree that „Free Coworking“ should not burden or challenge coworking space operators even more. On the contrary I believe in the long run they will be able to manage their work more efficiently and more profitably. How is that possible? Firstly, it is not the space operator who needs to find the work for his/her members. I see „Free Coworking“ based on a virtual platform largely as self-organized. It is not the space operators who put barriers in place, but the project requirements set out on the virtual platform. Space operators regarding „Free Coworking“ will only have to manage the desks and meeting rooms. It is only in the area of „paid coworking“ where community management will remain key and the major challenge.

Jay:“To your point of Social Capital to attract Financial Capital is ok, but then we become a recruiting company.“ Again, some answer above. I see a virtual platform as mentioned above as key to the setting up of new projects (for new and established coworkers) and the running of „Free Coworking“. Without this platform, „Free Coworking“ does not make any sense to me. Therefore it all hinges on a platform that is acceptable and owned by all coworking spaces offering „Free Coworking“. One element of ownership is the process of „decision by consensus“ as described at the bottom of this article. The second is of course financial participation if investments become necessary or revenues are generated. When and how this is set up depends largely on everybody who wants to use and support this virtual platform. Again, the process of „decision by consensus“ will be key to achieving such a commonly developed, run and owned platform. To start the process several „Free Coworking Resources“ are already in place. Now it is up to the spaces and coworkers to use and develop them further.

Jay:“All in All, I think your undervaluing our role in the co-working community.“ Certainly not!!! On the contrary! I think coworking operators, managers, space hosts, community managers etc. are the pillars of coworking. Without them, there would be no coworking!!! On the other hand, without coworkers, without coworking values and the energy of everybody interested and active in coworking, the building or community would be incomplete.

Jay:“However, I do respect the idea [of Free Coworking]. I just think it needs to be further developed. Keep thinking and keep up the good work!“ Again, huge thank you Jay for your contribution!!! I hope many people will follow your wonderful example and join the discussion. As mentioned above, I believe the process of „decision by consensus“ or in this context „development by consensus“ will be key. We need a sound base and consensus for the development of „Free Coworking“.

Please everybody interested get involved, join the discussion, start your local „Free Coworking Campaign“ to connect with coworkers in your area. Coworking and Free Coworking belong together. Both have the same values „Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability“.

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6 Kommentare
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  1. The idea is good, but with „only“ social capital I do not think this can be done. Especially in small Working Spaces like ours. Having Free CoWorking and still beeing independent is a big challenge. Somebody has to pay or give you space for free. Ask me in 50 years, maybe I am rich then and have some space left.

    Now, who needs Free CoWorking? I have about 3-5 people (our space can only host up to 10) who could use that. They are just starting to be selfemployed, are afraid of the potential risks and do not have the money. Most of them are not starting for a very innovative business. They want to be their own bosses, that it. I gave one of them 3 months of free CoWorking, he is a regular CoWorker now and loves it. But I paid for it. I am getting back a lot on creativity and CoWorking, we are starting on some projects together. This is fantastic, but how should I decide, who to give that to? And is there anybody else who believes in someone and pays for them, or is it always me? I can not afford it right now, but would love to give some people the opportunity.

    Main point is: Staying independent from any company or association.

    Just some very spontanous thoughts.

  2. We have used the social capital model for 5 years, have multiple locations and are international.

    http://whatisgangplank.com

  3. In gangplank videos – they mention „like minded people getting together“ – the essence seems to be actual physical meeting – the gangplank origins are from a regular „meeting“.

    My liking for Jelly is that I meet people – really meet, not online.

    Social capital seems to be based on the time given/exchanged thus enabling a business or person to extend their ability or capacity – to parallel this with a Facebook scenario is difficulty for me to comprehend – OK, if I am part of a team, meeting to thrash out a solution or to create an entity, then this implies a team leader, structure and delegation – far far better done face to face.

    Then the big question – who bankrolls this „group“ – I would love to have help on some of my projects – I will willingly give or share my own skills and time in exchange so as to realise a stronger outcome. But I suspect my main benefit would be the „brainstorming“ (another word from the gangplank videos) so as to help me solve my own problems – perhaps this is a good starting point – virtual brainstorming ?

  4. @Derek Enighbors
    Yes, in a larger city. In our infrastructure (which was the one i was talking about) with 8000 people (yes, eight thousand) it would be very hard. It is not a sleepy little village, but there is already a lot of action.

    But I will try to proof myself wrong. Maybe I can do some crowdsourcing asking the people here, what we could do for the region (we already built a regional blog with our coworkers) that was worth financing our space through a lot of people (for staying independent).

    I love the idea, I just wanted to raise my feelings about it.

  5. Let me indulge you with some background how we set up the operation of our Seats2meet.com co-working concept and dealt with the free co-working business model:

    S2M Workspace is an open portal available for everyone to offer their workspaces to professionals from within or outside their organization. The seats owner (the corporate company) can choose to offer seats free of charge or against a fee.

    The most important aspect regarding S2M Workspace is to provide visitors an insight into the knowledge of other visitors present at a S2M Workspace location. We ask our guests to identify their expertise when reserving a workspace. This allows us to match the total knowledge available in the network to those who are in need of this knowledge. This is how we bring the supply and demand of knowledge together. Therefore, the choice regarding the location to work at will no longer (only) be dependent on geographical preferences, but on the knowledge and skills available at the location.

    Seats2meet.com branded locations however (located in area’s with a heavy S2Mworkspace ‚traffic‘), even provide workspaces with Wi-Fi, lunch, coffee and tea (for free!) in exchange for knowledge and adding value to the value network. In that way there “ain’t no such things as a free lunch” . We strongly believe in the power of social capital because this stimulates and strengthens the aforementioned value networks.
    Around the central coworking space/lounge there are, depending on the location, between 5 to 25 meeting rooms (between 2 and even up to 200 pax). For seats in these meetingrooms we charge traditional currency per seat per hour.
    However, we do not want to limit ourselves to just facilitating a great conference experience. We aim to connect those (traditional) organizations that organise meetings at our locations to the independent professionals in our value network, who can be found in the central co-working area . Together they create new coorperation, projects and (new) value. By providing insight into the knowledge that people have, we can aid in steering towards the relevance of the unexpected encounter (serendipity). This is why meeting at Seats2meet.com is more that an experience, it becomes a transformation towards a new way of working, a new way of collaboration and thus value creation.

    This serendipity works out very well, so traditional companies are ‚fighting‘ to reserve meeting rooms and to connect with the co-workers (self enterprising professionals as we call them). Virtual dashboards and bulletin boards are available to support this process. We make more than enough real money to enhance the growth of social capital, which strengthens again are traditional money stream and so on…

    Also, since SEP’s are very well connected and create a lot of buzz, we no longer need sales/marketing/pr/reservations staff and so on, meaning that our operational costs are a fraction of traditional meeting/conference centers as those functions/tasks have been taken over by the community.
    On the real estate side we convince real estate owner to a profitsharing deal instead of a traditional rental contract.

    We have been growing the last year here in Holland from 2 to 15 Seats2meet branded locations, and to over 45 workspace locations, offering close to 2000 seats. We offer the knowledge and reservation and collaboration software free of charge to anyone who wants to join the S2M operation. Only commercially rented out seats are commissionable with a small fee to keep the system up & running. Next month we are opening up in Belgium and Egypt…

    Closing remark: I am 58 years old, have been an entrepreneur for a long time, managerial trained in all traditional economics laws, models etc. and it surprises me every day how well the combination of asynchronous reciprocity (combination of traditional money and social capital) works!

  6. […] von “Free Coworking” nicht richtig verstanden hätten. Das geht selbst gegenüber Betreibern von Coworking Spaces so weiter und ob dies ein gangbarer Weg zu dem gewünschten Ziel ist, wage ich […]

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