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!

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!

Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind

We are thrilled to invite you to join us for a special event at Office Nomads! Please join us and this wonderful crew for an evening of prose.

tales from the grind

Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind
Thursday, March 13, 6:30-8 pm (during Capitol Hill Arts Walk)

Six Seattle authors read stories and poems about the jobs they’ve loved, lost, hated, tolerated, and sometimes, quit in a frenzied rage. Featuring Maged Zaher (2013 Stranger Genius, Thank You for the Window Office), Peter Mountford (The Dismal Science, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism), Jane Hodges (Rent vs. Own, My Year of Living Posthumously), Matthew Nienow (The End of the Folded Map, Best New Poets 2007 and 2012), Sierra Golden (poems forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, and Permafrost), and Michelle Goodman (The Anti 9-to-5 Guide, My So-Called Freelance Life). Coffee and doughnuts provided. Free and open to the public. More details at http://seattlewageslaves.com/

Personnel:

Maged Zaher is the author of Thank You for the Window Office (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012), The Revolution Happened and You Didn’t Call Me (Tinfish Press, 2012), and Portrait of the Poet as an Engineer (Pressed Wafer, 2009). His collaborative work with the Australian poet Pam Brown, Farout Library Software, was published by Tinfish Press in 2007. His translations of contemporary Egyptian poetry have appeared in Jacket MagazineBanipal, and Denver Quarterly. He performed his work at Subtext, Bumbershoot, the Kootenay School of Writing, St. Marks Project, Evergreen State College, and The American University in Cairo. Maged is the recipient of the 2013 Genius Award in Literature from the Seattle weekly The Stranger.

Peter Mountford‘s debut novel A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism won the 2012 Washington State Book Award. His second novel The Dismal Science was recently published by Tin House Books. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, Boston Review, Southern Review, Best New American Voices 2008, and numerous other anthologies and magazines. He’s currently a writer-in-residence at Richard Hugo House.

Matthew Nienow is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent of which is The End of the Folded Map (2011). A 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellow, he has also been recognized with grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, 4Culture, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared in Poetry,New England ReviewPoetry Northwest, and two editions of the Best New Poets anthology. He lives in Port Townsend with his wife and two sons, where he builds boats and works as a writer-in-residence at a small private school.

Michelle Goodman is the award-winning author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and My So-Called Freelance Life, both published by Seal Press. Her essays and journalism have appeared in dozens of publications, including Salon, Vice, Bust, The Magazine, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Seattle magazine, and several anthologies. She’s currently writing a book called Crap Job: How to Make the Most of the Job You Hate, which Seal Press will publish in 2015.

Jane Hodges is a Seattle-based business writer and author of Rent vs. Own. In 2012 she became power of attorney for both her father and her uncle. They each died, forcing her, grieving, back to the South she had fled like a prison escapee. There, in her executrix role, she found herself hocking jewelry at Southern Bullion, pawning a gun, skirting tornados, hacking into e-mail and bank accounts, trying to divest mountain plots and timeshares, and lurking at the Oconee County dump. Navigating Dixie with a catty ex-military rent-a-brother, a gypsy jazz CD, and her Letters Testamentary, she wound up in an existential crisis she’s chronicling in a memoir in progress, My Year of Living Posthumously.

Sierra Golden received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Winner of the program’s 2012 Academy of American Poets Prize, Golden’s work appears widely in literary journals such as Roanoke Review, Fourth River, and Tar River Poetry. New poems are forthcoming in Permafrost and PloughsharesShe has spent many summers in Alaska working as a commercial fisherman.

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.

 

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!

 

 

Two things you should know

Two floors of coworking at Office Nomads is awesome!

We’re having a great time getting to know our new first floor space, and are loving it more and more each day. If you haven’t come by to check it out, you should – we’re open M-F from 8:30-6 as usual. We’re always happy to give you a quick tour of the space and answer all of your coworking questions. In fact, we have a whole new team of Community Cultivators on hand who are there to help you get acquainted with all the goings-on in the space (we’ll tell you more about them soon – I promise!).

Specifically, if you are interested in becoming a Resident, you can take advantage of the opportunity to pay 6-months in advance and receive a little discount. Drop by and chat us up and we’d be more than happy to tell you all about it.

November 1: Office Nomads turns 5

We are throwing a big Open House event on November 1st and we want you to be there! Please join us in celebrating 5 amazing years of coworking on Capitol Hill, our newly expanded space, and the fabulous team that makes Office Nomads work so well. You can RSVP here via Facebook, or just come on by between 6-9pm on Thursday, November 1st. Families, friends, coworkers and colleagues are most welcome to attend.

Favorite Things: Kitchenette

“I love having a

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very functional kitchenette!” -Alex

First Glimpses: The first floor!

It is exciting times at Office Nomads these days as we prepare to expand our coworking operation onto the first floor of our building! If this is news to you, please let me direct you to our formal announcement on the matter. It’s worth watching.

And now, for a few little glimpses into the wonderful world that is the first floor. We are so excited to get started making changes & improvements, and waving our magic “Office Nomads style” wand around down there.

Desk in “first floor preparation” mode.

Hey pretty window! Thanks for letting in all that nice light!

Jacob in his happy place.

This wall is not long for this world. Walls are best when they’re knocked down.

More photos to come as the space changes and develops. Better yet, swing by sometime and we’ll be more than happy to give you a tour!

A Field Trip to Cedar Grove Composting Facility

Last Wednesday a cadre of Nomads took a trip to Cedar Grove, the family-owned composting facility in Everett that handles the yard and food waste from King and Snohomish counties. When you put your coffee grounds, chopsticks, eggshells, orange peels, leftover Pud Thai, sandwiches, bonsai trees, and approved food packaging into the green compost bins at Office Nomads, this is where it ends up!

Hey! Don’t eat that!

They use a 3-phase Gore system (as in Gore-Tex, the company that makes the breathable covers for the composting piles) to turn organic urban waste into various garden soils and mulches.  In fact, theirs is the largest Gore system in the world!  It turns out over 400,000 tons of rich, fertile goodness every year.

And this bald eagle owns all of it.

The first phase grinds and sorts the waste into pieces no bigger than 4 inches.  Then it is churned in with wood chips, which are important to balance out the abundance of green yard waste they receive.  “Green” materials contain lots of nitrogen, while “brown” materials like wood have lots of carbon.  Getting the right balance is critical to making good compost.  Then, they use front-loaders to move the compost into long piles, which are aerated and sprayed with just the right amount of water for decomposition.  The next phase continues this, and the final one involves “curing,” i.e. letting the compost rest until it naturally darkens in color.

Conveyor system moving the compost from intake to Stage 1.

A long pile of compost in Stage 2

Their “recipes” for nitrogen and carbon (green and brown organic waste, respectively) ratios vary throughout the year in order to produce a uniform final product.  For example, they have a grass recipe, a pumpkin recipe, and a Christmas tree recipe, depending on what they’re getting seasonally from consumers.  They also modify the recipes with nutrients such as manure and loam to make the different products they sell to gardeners and landscapers.

Vesting up for safety

We were able to walk right up to the giant rows of compost to see and feel the various stages of decomposition.  Most were under their Gore-Tex covers, but in the final stage they are out in the open air.  We were able to touch them to feel how hot they get–the composting organic material naturally heats up to about 175 degrees!  This hot composting action works even in the dead of winter.

Veena feels the warmth

On a sad note, there were pieces of shredded plastic visible in all the piles. While they have a system to remove most of the plastic and metal that gets tossed in with the organic waste, seeing the plastic bags all piled in tall heaps was enough to make any Italian-actor-playing-a-Native-American-chief cry.  It might not seem like a big deal to toss a bag closure in with the spinach, but it adds up fast–and the result is pretty upsetting.  They can’t even sell some of their compost anymore because of all the plastic.

Huge magnet they use to remove metal

But encouragingly, everyone we met was super sweet, optimistic, and very passionate about composting. It was such a nerdy good time that we’d love to organize more field trips in the future.  Next up, we’re going to see if we can visit the recycling center to learn how that magic happens.  Onward to more adventures!

Favorite Things: Mia’s Off Broadway

“Spicy Chicken Terryiaki Wraps from Mia’s Off Broadway Cafe. They’re the best! And Mia is fantastic.” – Ron