What is Coworking? It could be an indigenous community

Sensei Cat Johnson—who really gets it about “community” [1]—writes this month about a new community coworking space booting up in Winnipeg– Canoe Coworking.

Canoe aims to be a bit different, to be “indigenous-focused coworking” which above all means “creating a space that respects cultural protocol.” [2]

If coworking is all about community (and it definitely is [3]), then it is certainly interesting to look at existing communities as both models and customers for coworking spaces.

Canoe founder Tara Everett comments that this project has had to overcome mistrust of something so different from what her community is used to.  At the same time, she thinks that “Indigenous people have been coworking since the beginning of time”. Her vision of coworking is one that it maps to traditional organizations and ways..

If you’re a hunter, you’re hunting; if you’re a gatherer, you’re gathering; if you’re a little bit of both, you’re doing that, instead of being forced into these rules where you have to fit in a tiny shoebox.

I think this is an interesting way to think about the “independents, together” aspect of coworking.  Hunting, gathering, and maybe a mix of both.

Everett is still thinking about how to define the “indigenous” nature of the community.  She wants it to have a certain cultural milieu, but potentially be open to others.  As she explains this tension:

[W]e’re all just people within the space. But we have enough knowledge about each other’s cultures that we don’t feel that we have to explain everything. It’s exhausting for people to have to explain their culture over and over again.

One of interesting and unique “protocols” she envisions is an elder lounge.  This part of the space is both dedicated toward taking care of and respecting elders, and as a source of advice and counseling for workers. Cool!

I’m not aware of any other coworking space with any kind of provision for older people, let alone this kind of intergenerational care and mentoring.

I don’t want to be suggesting any kind of cultural appropriation, but I think this idea of a multi-generational space is something that other coworking spaces might explore.

Everett’s summary is actually good advice for any coworking space that wants a community emphasis”

“Indigenous people tend to be very holistic in their approach to policies and looking at all sides of things, not just dollars. We look at how something will make people feel and how it will impact our community. There’s so much more to coworking than just coming into work”.

There’s so much more to coworking than just coming into work”.  There’s a motto for everyone!

  1. Cat Johnson, You Can’t Force Community, in Cat Johnson Content. 2017. https://catjohnson.co/cant-force-community/
  2. Cat Johnson, Indigenous Coworking In Manitoba: A Q&A With Canoe Coworking Founder Tara Everett, in AllWork. 2018. https://allwork.space/2018/08/indigenous-coworking-in-manitoba-a-qa-with-canoe-coworking-founder-tara-everett/
  3. Robert E. McGrath, What is Coworking? A look at the multifaceted places where the gig economy happens and workers are happy to find community. 2018, Robert E. McGrath: Urbana. https://whatiscoworkingthebook.com/


What is Coworking?

6 thoughts on “What is Coworking? It could be an indigenous community”

  1. I believe the majority of coworking spaces are actually modern versions of what used to be referred to as executive suites. Having an actual successful coworking space is a lot like trying to form a successful band. Both require a high amount of talent, passion and luck. This is not to say that a workspace that is not really a coworking space has no value.


    1. There definitely are lots of office space that once would be called ‘executive suites’ or whatnot, now being labelled ‘coworking’ to catch the trendiness . And, as you say, they are useful for the workers who want that.
      Creating and sustaining a coworking community is like forming a band? Not a bad analogy, though coworking communities are pretty big groups. (And coworking probably isn’t as wild and crazy as many bands we have heard about.)


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