What is Coworking? Cat Johnson on GCUC 2016

Last week I posted several comments about the recent Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC 2016) in LA (here, here, here, here). I remarked on the apparent tone of the conference (“We, the operators”, “community is a product”, etc), that contrasts with The Original Meaning Of Coworking (TOMOC).

I wasn’t the only one so struck.

Long time commentator Cat Johnson reported on this conference for Sharable, commenting that:

“What is new was that GCUC, which has been an essential way for coworking space operators and enthusiasts to connect, share and strategize, felt like it had been hijacked.”

Johnson was not at all happy with the focus on business growth, and the dearth of attention to community. Furthermore, as I already pointed out, this approach is probably a mistake, because these “investors may be missing the point of coworking”. It is not about efficient use of office space, it is about making coworkers happy.

She concludes:

“Those looking to connect to the heart and soul of the coworking movement, however, will have to search below the surface of this now-booming industry. But, doing so is well worth the effort. As the people at that first meet-up in Austin knew, coworking has the power to transform lives and communities.”

My own view is a bit more optimistic. No matter how many large “flexible office spaces” there are, and regardless of whether they advertise “community”, it will still be possible for local, “authentic” communities to form and sustain their own spaces.  And they will thrive and beat the heck out of soulless, “bleeding edge” “Service Offices”.

The bottom line is:  You can’t fake what you don’t got. If you ain’t got community, you can’t buy or fake it. Period.

It is true that many coworking spaces will be crunched by the costs of leasing. I suspect that many local spaces will find success in alliance with local businesses and organizations, and find space in buildings with other (perhaps more lucrative) uses. (E.g., something like what Paul Hemmings described at GCUC, or [Co][Lab] Urbana, each of which owns their building and shares it with a variety of other enterprises.)

See Johnson’s article, “Look Out, Coworking. Here Comes Big Money“, and any ensuing discussions.



What is Coworking?



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