Coworking Signals

The little moments that happen within the bounds of a coworking community are some of the best examples of the coworking movement’s ability to make an impact. These moments are rarely newsworthy, but are incredibly important and are so much of the “why” behind what coworking is all about. So why not try to shine the light on these moments and see what happens?

Welcome to #coworkingsignals.

I introduced this little idea to the giant bullhorn festival that is Twitter and was happily surprised when I got my first response:

Andy

And then I got another one:

GoneCoworking

And even more. Some of them in French. Ou là là!

Foundery

Cohere

YES! This is what I’m talking about. The “why” of coworking is so rarely touched on because it can be so small. But added up over time, it is pretty powerful stuff.

Please join me in adding your voice to the mix. I’d love to hear what you have to say!

GCUC 2014: The Potential of Coworking

coworking

For 3 days, coworking geeks from around the globe gathered in Kansas City for this year’s Global Coworking Unconference Conference. During our time together we shared, listened, learned, argued and laughed. As always when coworking friends convene, it felt wonderful to reconnect with the global movement. Coworking is not just this thing that we do in Seattle – it’s a movement of independent workers from around the world all looking to do better together.

Now back home in Seattle, I am eagerly diving through a long list of great ideas to implement here in our coworking community. Beyond what we’re getting up to here, I think it is important to share some of the bigger picture items that were discussed while we gathered together in the Airline History Museum (hence the planes in all the pictures – cool, eh?):

Forecast: there will be 1 MILLION coworkers by 2018

During the first day’s conference session, Steve King of Emergent Research provided us with this incredible nugget of insight into the future of work: 1 million coworkers around the world by 2018. That’s bigger than the population of Seattle. Bigger than Austin. Bigger than San Francisco. While the total number is impressive, it is the potential of this number that gets me particularly fired up. We have the potential to ensure that 1 million people don’t just have a great place to work, but that they are a part of strong, supportive, collaborative communities. One million people working alongside one another doesn’t sound all that exciting to me. One million people who are tapped into strong support systems and are encouraged to learn with and from one another is an entirely different data set that I hope to contribute to. Coworking spaces have a responsibility to adhere to the core values, and to shift the conversation away from our physical space and onto the communities that form within those spaces.

Unconference Day

We’ll say it again: it’s not about the space

Day 2 was our unconference day, which is when we got to dig deep into specific topics with one another. It is participatory, full of great dialogues, and is the day that I personally get the most out of at this event. In the first session, I hosted a conversation called “Let’s talk about cultivating spaces that matter.” My hope was to highlight that opening and operating a space is the least exciting thing that we do. No city in the world is short on desk space or internet connections. What draws people to coworking is the possibility of having their emotional needs met.

Yes, it sounds woo-woo but it’s the most important work of coworking: addressing the human needs of the independent workforce. These tend to come in the form of social connections and opportunities to learn, not the ability to print something or upload a big file. During this talk, 100% of the conversation was focused around the emotional needs of our members and how to address them. We talked about how a sense of belonging happens, the delicate dance of cultural development, and how to encourage members to take the reins of the space themselves. It was fantastic stuff and reinforced what we’ve learned from 7 years of coworking here in Seattle: it’s not about the space.

Unconference talks 2

Addressing the true needs of the independent workforce

The final session I was a part of on Day 2 was a discussion about “intentional coworking.” Tony Bacigalupo of New Work City and I talked about our experience bringing Cotivation (accountability/support groups for indies) to our coworking communities. Nicolas Bergé-Gaillard from Les Satellites shared about their member mentorship program, as well as their “Good Actions” project where members work together on a nonprofit project. The central theme of the programs we shared with one another was not that they were great marketing fodder or a way to generate revenue, but that they were ways to encourage our current members to make the most of their membership. Programming at a coworking space can be more than an event listing on a website. It can be another way to build a strong platform on which independent workers can create a community. Coworking spaces have the opportunity to be the platform, and great programming can be a way to set that intention.

Big thanks to everyone who came out for the conference – it was a delight to meet so many great folks from around the world. And thanks to the GCUC team for all your hard work, and for letting us borrow these photos for the blog. See you next year, if not before!

Community Cultivator Space Voyage Field Trip!

On April 16th, the intrepid Office Nomads Community Cultivation team went on a voyage to visit 5 local coworking spaces, making connections and earning our Space Traveler mugs. The Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance offers a mug to anyone who visits 5 spaces (with photographic high-five documentation, of course). But we didn’t make it to 5 spaces–we made it to 6! All aboard Phaedra, the Magical Coworking Bus, and hear the story of our epic adventure:

Space Name: WeWork

Coffee: Zoka
wework-logo

WeWork, a large coworking space in South Lake Union, was our first stop. With 3 floors, they are easily the biggest of the spaces we visited, and also the newest. Comprised mostly of private offices but with some lovely common areas and workspaces, WeWork has a polished and cool atmosphere–including beer on tap–as well as some stellar views. We got an amazing tour from Gina and got our high-five in front of a Sasquatch!

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Space Name: Impact HUB

Coffee: Equal Exchange
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Next we were off to Impact HUB in Pioneer Square. The guys hanging out outside really dug our Westy! The HUB are old friends of ours, and their space has lots of light and a great vibe as always. Sarah, who is also a member of ON, showed us all kinds of neat things they’ve got going on. As we navigated the twists and turns of turn-of-the-century architecture in their recent expansion, we learned it was originally a brothel! Saucy! And we are totally stealing their on-glass meeting room reservation system.

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Space Name: Works Progress

Coffee: Alternates, currently it’s Forest Voices
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Then it was off to Greenwood to visit our dear friends at Works Progress, Jessie & Marnee. Jessie greeted us and showed us around. Works Progress is on the smaller side, which adds a friendly and intimate feel to the space. They have reclaimed academic desks and a super cool eclectic feel.

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They have also added a whole new section since the last time we visited, with a bigger kitchen and meeting rooms.

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Phew, after all this we were getting hungry! So we made sure Paseo’s, aka the land of the Best Cuban Sandwiches of All Time, was en route. After plowing through them with great vigor, we found ourselves pleasantly ahead of schedule, so we gave Ballard Labs a call to see if we could stop by!

Space Name: Ballard Labs

Coffee: Up to the members
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Ballard Labs is tricky to find but well worth the hunt. It’s tucked away inside a shopping complex near the Ballard Blocks–we got turned around so many times we ended up on the roof!IMG_20140416_121939

When we finally found our way to the door, we were greeted warmly. What a beautiful view their space has–and big huge windows, to show it off!

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On our tour we learned that Ballard Labs rents their meeting rooms for events, so we will be sure to add them to our list of recommended meeting spaces. Also they had scotch.IMG_20140416_124057

 

Space Name: Makerhaus

Coffee: Up to the members
Makerhaus

Next we headed to Makerhaus for a taste of a more physical brand of coworking. Located right on 36th in Fremont, Makerhaus offers access to expensive & complex tools that can often be out of reach for small makers–kind of like a tool library and coworking space in one–such as a wood and metal shop, 3D printing and laser cutting. Quite a few of the signs around Office Nomads were made at Makerhaus! We loved seeing all the projects the makers are up to.IMG_05361

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Space Name: Lilospace

Coffee: Wine
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Finally we pulled up to our final visit: Lilospace in Sodo. Nestled inside the historic Old Rainier Brewery, Lilo is a very small, artsy space with some very big-deal members. Sansaire, a team who developed a new type of sous vide cooker, recently had their Kickstarter funded to the tune of $800,000!  The space is run by Leo, a designer, photographer, and entrepreneur. He told us all about the journey of getting the space up and running and the story behind their suh-weet anatomical angel bathroom mural.

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They definitely win for coolest bathroom.

Back at Nomads, what was there to do but toast to our success with our brand new mugs!IMG_20140416_144411

A toast is just a high-five with mugs.

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See you next time!

Spring Photo Contest!

work from home

We know working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For some it works out delightfully well – peaceful, quiet, focused. But for many (and we’ve heard from thousands of you over the years) it’s rife with distractions, lonely, and uncomfortable. We’ve heard your stories, but nothing quite says it like a picture. Show us how bad it can be!

Send us photos of your best (aka worst) home office setups. Whether you’re programming at the kitchen table, crammed into the local café, or attempting to get some work done with a puppy in the house (like Teal, above), we want to see what you’re attempting to work through. Photos can be spontaneous or staged, and we won’t judge you at all if you put your pets or your kids in the photo to get extra points.

The individual with the best photo will win a one-month membership to Office Nomads at any membership level (key card access not included). Send your submissions to photocontest@officenomads.com. We’ll be posting some of our favorites to both our Facebook Page and Twitter Feed. Submission deadline is Friday April 18th at 6pm.

Show us your worst, Seattle!

Cultivating Useful Connections


Networking

This is the first in a series entitled “Nomadic

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Encounters” – stories of cool projects seeded, germinated, and cultivated through encounters at Office Nomads.

When you get asked to a networking event, do you think “Cool! Free wine, cheese, and interesting new people!” or “Oh no! Cheesy people whining and trying to sell me things!”? That’s the dilemma Office Nomads faced – we know our members love to connect and create useful projects, but should we call it networking? “Networking” short-changes the real connections that happen within our community, and so instead we’d like to introduce you the first of many stories of “Nomadic Encounters.”

One project happening now is a member-driven idea called The Numad Program (it is an evolution of the Nomad-in-Residence Program if you remember that one). We selected one individual who was embarking on a professional transition, gave them a discounted resident membership, and most importantly collected a team of members who were interested in volunteering their time to help the “Numad” gain traction in their transition during a three-month period.

Our first Numad is Mandy Egle, a grammar and pronunciation coach for non-native English speakers. While Mandy is an expert possessing magical knowledge that unlocks the secret of saying “my car” differently from “mike are” – one that works fantastically whether your brain was wired listening to conversations in Bangladesh, Senegal, or Buenos Aires – she lacked the technical and business skills to upgrade her website, pronuncian.com, into the best tool for learning.

“I’m forging ahead but I don’t know what I’m doing,” said Mandy. With the help of other Nomads like intellectual property attorney Mike Morita, designer and engineer Trevor Smith, financial analyst Javier Soto, game developer Pat Kemp, and myself, Mandy is creating a project plan to achieve her dream, a site “that learners can really interact with and learn from in a profound way.” One that includes gamification so learning is more engaging for students.

“As a teacher, I have a list of students’ excuses for why they aren’t advancing,” Mandy told us. From this she has been able to develop a number of tools and podcasts to help them practice more effectively when she can’t be there.

And while pronuncian.com has been around since 2007, and now gets 70,000 visits per month, she wants to make that system more useful and available to students that live nowhere near Seattle. “We called it Project Morocco, because our vision was to enable Mustafa in Marrakesh to be able to speak as well as Cho in Seattle.”

What’s the goal? To double the usefulness of her site, to better help students around the world develop American English fluency so they can tap higher paying jobs, and to be virtually available 24/7/365 so she and her family can spend more time sailing their 37-foot cat-sloop named Rosie around the Salish Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Over the next few months, Mandy will meet with her team and develop a plan to make her transition happen. And I’ll be writing about it here; so stay in touch!

Kevin Owyang is a member of Office Nomads and Digital Strategist for Game-Changers. When not developing new strategies to amplify social entrepreneurs across new media, he can be found making independent films or hanging with his dog on Capitol Hill.

 

Here’s to you, coworking

It’s August 9th, 2013 – Coworking Day! Coworking is being celebrated all over the world today – in big cities, small towns, and rural coworking gatherings alike. Today is a day for us to reflect on all that has happened in the 8 years since Brad Neuberg threw down his original blog post in 2005, and to dream of what the next 8 – nah, 80 years may bring.

Initial Open House

Susan and Jacob, visited by Noel for our grand opening in 2007

Since I first sat down to coffee with Jacob 6 years ago, my life has changed. The coming about of Office Nomads – from my initial dreams on a walk to work until the day we threw open our doors – is something I absolutely cannot imagine my life without. Sure, it has been a crazy journey becoming a small business owner, but that is by far the least interesting part about my life since Office Nomads began. The meat of the matter is being a part of a budding international movement designed to live and work better together, and how coworking cracked open the city of Seattle for me, introducing me to an amazing group of people who I likely would never have met otherwise.

Coworking Day is an opportunity for me to remember Office Nomads’ roots – the early days on the Coworking Google Group, diving into a “wiki” (yeah, I had no idea what that was) to learn and contribute what I could, blogging about everything, visiting fellow spaces in Portland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, excitedly helping to launch the Coworking Visa program, pre-SXSWi beers with the only other people in the world who had heard of “coworking.” It was so. Much. Fun. And such hard work. We were building something new using the pieces we loved about artist lofts, cafes, networking groups, and yes – the regular ol’ office. It took time. It was exciting. It was challenging. We made mistakes. But we hit some things out of the park. And every step of the way I knew that what we were building wasn’t just about Jacob & I “us.” It was the Coworking Community “us.”

Within our own space in our own city here in the northwest corner of the US of A, coworking has been a day-to-day lesson in the great rewards that come from inviting people over. Office Nomads has introduced me to more amazing people that I certainly wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise. I’ve learned so much over the last 6 years about such a wild range of topics it is incredible. I know that I am not the only one who has had this experience. I hear members meet one another every day that may not have otherwise that realize they have a shared interest, a reason to work together, or just have a need to head out for a cup of coffee at the same time. It’s incredible stuff. It is accelerated serendipity, but in the least accelerated way possible – through the careful, slow, and deliberate act of working alongside one another over time. Introducing ourselves when we are ready to. Saying hi on the day we’re feeling a little less shy.

Back in late 2008, a small group of fellow coworking spaces started getting together in Seattle, planting seeds for what would become Coworking Seattle and then the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance. Because if we took all of the lessons we learned in our space and applied them to a wider circle, it meant making strong connections with the people who would be our greatest strength in ensuring the coworking would make it in Seattle – our fellow coworking spaces. And now we have an organization with 20+ spaces participating with a kick-ass mission: “We are here to unify, support and promote the coworking and collaborative space movement in Seattle.”

I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

Happy birthday, coworking. And here’s to many, many more years of great things to come.

 

Guest Post: Simple Acts of Kindness

Heather

Heather Goodwin is part of the Office Nomads Community Cultivation Team, and is excited to share her experiences and thoughts on the community of coworkers here on Capitol Hill.

We all get busy with life and our own obligations, and sometimes it can be easy to forget how important it can be to uplift those around us through simple acts of kindness. Part of our work as Community Cultivators is to brighten our fellow Nomad’s spirits through simple actions like saying “good morning” and “have a great night!” We “CC’s” have a special love for getting to know our fellow Nomads and thrive on catching up over a cup of coffee in the morning or grabbing lunch together in the space. It is easy to see that even a quick hello can propel someone’s day from “blah” to “a-ha!” These acts not only can brighten someone’s day, but means we get to know one another a bit better as well.

Over time we CCs have learned there are some great ways to brighten someone’s day that every Nomad can engage in. Being sincere when asking someone how their day is going can make a world of difference. Moving around throughout our coworking space can mean meeting a new person you wouldn’t have met if you sat at

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the same desk each time you came in. Sitting down by someone who is taking their trail day can help them feel included and a part of our community. It can all begin with a simple introduction, and can not only brighten the other person’s day, but yours as well.

Beth 1

Today I had the pleasure of being on CC “duty” as one of our members got an uplifting surprise from her client. Nomad Beth Jusino works to help independent writers get published, and one of her clients – Seattle-based author J.L Spohr – sent her a thank you package of chocolate and wine! Just by being there I got to know Beth a little bit better, and got to learn about an author I hadn’t heard of before. And add wine and chocolate to that and we were both feeling great about life!

There is always someone new to meet or a project happening within the space to learn about. Introducing yourself, asking questions, and moving around the space are great ways to get started. And remember: it only takes a moment to brighten someone’s day.

Coworking In Action!

Nomads are not only universally beautiful and intelligent, but they are also always  working on interesting and worthwhile projects.  But Office Nomads (the business) tries to avoid advertising for any one project over another, so we don’t often shout about the amazing work our members are doing. However, in this case, we just have to stand up and cheer because Seth Stell and Peter Conerly have created a free tool that can benefit all of us.  Their work is a perfect example of coworking in action!

PaletteComp is, very simply, a way to test a variety of color schemes for your website, without having to write a line of code.  Most designers will provide you with one or two color schemes, but PaletteComp allows you to test out ANY color scheme you can come up with, and see it on different templates so you can really get a sense for how the colors will work together. The tool is available for free at www.palettecomp.com.  Check it out!

But the real story here is not about PaletteComp. It is about how two members lived the coworking values of Collaboration, Community, Accessibility, Sustainability and Openness to create it.

Seth and Peter, a designer and a developer respectively, are both Residents at Office Nomads.  One day they happened to sit next to each other.  Seth’s client had just gotten back to him and said they didn’t like the colors he’d sent, but they couldn’t explain why.

Frustrated, Seth talked to Peter about it.

Peter, being a coder, and Seth being a conceptual guy, discussed the need for an easy way to try different color palettes on websites. Peter figured out how to code it to Seth’s design and needs, and after two months and a ton of whiteboarding, PaletteComp was born.

This makes sense to them.

Seriously, LOTS of whiteboarding.

Seth had recently been turned down for a job at Micrsoft because they were unsure of his UI/design abilities.  Now he can add this to his portfolio and Peter, who “had a lot of fun coding this” can show it off as well!

And they’re not the only Nomads who got something out of the project.  Dana, a financial advisor, used it to figure out the color scheme for her new website.

What’s next for PaletteComp? Well, hopefully one of the color sites – like ColorLovers – will want it and take it over. Seth and Peter might add some features down the road but they have no plans of selling or marketing PaletteComp.  They both have full plates of their own work to do and just wanted to create a tool to help non-designers make decisions on how their websites should look. And of course, now Seth has an easy way to mock up color schemes for his clients.

Here’s where we would usually say this is all thanks to coworking, but Seth really put it best: “We were able to produce this because there was no bureaucracy.  The best thing about PaletteComp is that two people from different industries can identify a problem and solve it…fast.  If we worked in a traditional office this never would have happened.  We would have been in different departments and might have never even talked to each other.”

Seth!

Seth!

And Peter!

Peter!

 

The Nomad-in-Residence Program Returns!

Come and spend some time with these smiley people.

Come and spend some time with these smiley people.

After running the  pilot version of the Nomad-in-Residence Program this summer, we are ready to bring this awesome community-supported membership back in 2013! Applications are now being accepted, and we’ll have the form open until January 15, 2013. Apply today, or send the link along to someone you think would be a great fit as our next Nomad-in-Residence.

What is the Nomad-in-Residence Program, you ask? It is a community-supported Resident membership designed to help bring a new Resident into our space for whom membership is currently financially out of reach. For a 3-month period, you receive 1/2 off your Resident membership thanks to the generous contributions by current members (which is then matched by Office Nomads). In exchange for having the barrier to entry for membership lowered, we hope that you’ll give back to the Office Nomads community by sharing your knowledge, hosting classes, or doing something else awesome that makes our community even stronger (even a little bit more than we all do normally, that is).

Questions? Comments? Wondering if you might be a good fit? Email susan@officenomads.com. I’ll be more than happy to help you out!

 

 

Coworking Europe: this is big.

 

I just returned from an excursion to France, where the start of my trip was completely absorbed with the Coworking Europe Conference in Paris. They call it a coworking conference, but I can tell you confidently that when this group of people got together – 300 people representing 30 nationalities – the conference was about much more than just coworking.

The bulk of conversations surrounding this 3-day event were about connecting to the higher purposes of coworking. How coworking fits into a bigger conversation about our changing world – economically, politically, and socially. We discussed how coworking is – amongst other things – a manifestation of changes we are a part of in every corner of the world.

Coworking and jobs. We heard from Tony Bagicaglupo, Mayor of New Work City, about the ever-evolving “why” of coworking. When so many of us started our spaces, the “why” of coworking was to bring together a community of independent workers who were otherwise isolated in their homes and cafes. But as our spaces evolve, and as coworking spaces from around the world connect, share, and collaborate, we are learning that the “why” of coworking is becoming much, much bigger. For Tony, the “why” has now become a channel through which we can work to fix the job crisis ourselves. His rallying cry to the independent workforce of the world is to stop waiting around for jobs to “be created” by big companies, and instead create the jobs ourselves.

Coworking and political action. Joel Dullroy of Deskmag highlighted the increasing population of freelancers during his presentation on Day 2, and called out coworking spaces as “new political meeting houses” for the independent workforce. For the independent workforce (Joel was speaking specifically about freelancers, but I believe similar conclusions can be drawn to any independent), coworking spaces provide a gathering place and a sharing platform in addition to being a place to work. While on a day-to-day basis this might enable independents to work better and connect with others, coworking spaces also provide a rallying point for independents when they may need it most. He ran us through the story of Germany’s proposed €350 “retirement tax” on freelancers, and how through the power of grassroots organizing (in part via coworking spaces) freelancers were able to raise their voices and strike down the tax.

Coworking and community resilience. I was a part of many conversations about the art of cultivating a coworking community, the beauty of multiple communities emerging out of one coworking space, and how cultivating community is a skill worth learning beyond just it’s implications in the coworking world. The value of a strong, diverse community is possible to see on a day-to-day basis in the form of vibrant conversations, the sharing of skills, and the joy of shared experience. But the power of community is highlighted in an incredibly powerful sense when it is able to demonstrate it’s resilience. Tony Bagicaglupo started off his talk reviewing the quick response by coworking spaces in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in New York. We often talk about how a coworking community isn’t about the space it is in, and Tony gave us a clear view of that truth in practice.

I could continue to wax on and on about the many lessons I learned in Paris and I likely will for years to come. But know this – I’ll definitely be at Coworking Europe 2013. This is a conference not to be missed.

Big thanks to Tilman Vogler and Deskwanted for the use of these photos from Coworking Europe!