Category Archives: “New Way of Work”

Katz on the Value of Learning Stand Up [repost]

[This was posted earlier here]

This month Michael Katz writes about “What stand-up comedy can teach us about freelancing” [1].

He makes several good points

1. Content and delivery are not the same thing.

2. The audience decides what’s funny.

3. The only way to get better is to practice.

And, of course, “The most important, I think, is to just get started.

On the first point, he emphasizes that you need to decide “who you are”, what he case “voice”, for purposes of a specific message.

And the second point is, of course, you need to pay attention to your audience.  And, as they say, the customer is always right, and you have to pay close attention.

The third point is obvious.  But he also notes that there is always more to learn, and a humble, beginner’s attitude goes a lot way toward getting better.

And, of course, doing something out at the edge of your comfort zone is scary.  Screwing up the courage to do stand up to a bunch of strangers is really hard.  But, compared to that, pitching your own stuff, stuff that you really know and care about, should be easy, right?


This is all good advice.

I’d add a deeper point.  Stand up comedy and improv in general not only force you to put your self out there, they force you to act.  Whatever you try to do, but especially something multifaceted like freelancing, you will do well to act the part.   If you act like a talented, confident professional, then people will treat you like one—and you’ll be a step closer to being good at doing whatever you are trying to do.

Speaking as a psychologist, I’ll note that you are acting out roles in improvised little plays all the time anyway.  It’s called life.  So why not study and practice to be good at this skill?

Furthermore, as I have pointed out many times, coworking can be viewed as a form of improvisational theater, in which workers enact “the future of work”, making it up for themselves.  (See the book!)

So yeah, improv is something I would recommend to everyone*.

By the way, I also recommend pretty much everyone learn a bit origami, just because there are so many useful design insights, and it’s 3D and it’s self-organizing and it’s parsimonious with materials and…  You get the idea.


  1. Michael Katz, What stand-up comedy can teach us about freelancing, in Freelancers Union Blog, June 23, 2020. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2020/06/23/what-stand-up-comedy-can-teach-us-about-freelancing/

 

* Of course, I am far, far too shy to take this advice myself.  But then, I am not a successful freelancer, am I?  Do as I say, not as I do.

 

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book and blog  “What is Coworking?”)

What is Cowworking?  What Will Coworking Become?

What Is Coworking? Not Necessarily Utopia [repost]

[This was posted earlier here.]

As I have said before, my own view is that a big part of why coworking makes workers happy is that each coworking community serves its niche, so workers can self-select their work environment.

So we see lots of ‘niche’ coworking spaces, not just localized, but focusing on specific types of work, personal interests, or demographics.

A prime example are workspaces aimed to serve women (for example, see here or here).  The idea of a “female friendly” workplace can be a tricky balance to hit, since female workers and businesses need the same things as everyone, but at the same time can benefit from not quite so many large male elbows and shadows, thank you very much. My own observation is that a ‘female friendly’ coworking space (or any similar effort) requires of ambiance, policy, and just the right people.

This summer we are reminded that things can go wrong.  Very wrong.

In particular, any kind of workspace and community may work for some of the workers, and not for others. Just like any other human organization….

This week we see reports about The Wing, a female oriented coworking space [1].  (The fact that WeWork invested in The Wing is, to me, a warning sign.  But that’s not the topic today.)

The thrust of the story is that this community that espoused feminism and female empowerment, was and is rife with racial stereotyping and flat out discrimination [1]. AI can’t independently verify the claims, though the resignation of the leader would seem to indicate that there is something deeply troubled there.

Reading the report, it sounds familiar.  I’ve encountered workplaces with similar issues. Of course, this sort of degradation and shafting is often directed at working women of any demographic.  The irony is that this is exactly the problem that The Wing aims to solve for working women.

The reports paint an ugly picture, for sure.  To the degree this is accurate, The Wing does not seem to be all unicorns and rainbows.

Perhaps the safe space for women made room for some women to let loose their own biases on other women.

In fact, though, this sounds pretty much like a lot of conventional offices.

However, in a coworking space, the lines of responsibility are murkier than a conventional office.  Just who is responsible for maintaining a decent work environment?  The workers do not work for the workspace, nor do the workers all work for the same employer. Noone is formally responsible to anyone else.

Worse, the workers are actually paying customers of the workspace, so they can’t be disciplined or fired for misbehavior.  And works of all, it is easy to see how you could act as if the people who run the workspace are not coworkers, but rather are servants.   (These are inherent weaknesses in modelling coworking on the “hospitality” industry, IMO.)

Utopia often is built on slavery.

One of the great things about coworking is that it is all about workers creating their own workplace culture.  But these reports make us realize that the resulting “bottom up” workplace culture can be just as toxic as any other workplace culture.


  1. Ashley Reese, How The Wing’s Empire Was Built On Trauma, Racism, and Neglect, in Jezebel, June 12, 2020. https://jezebel.com/how-the-wings-empire-was-built-on-trauma-racism-and-n-1844000985

 

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book and blog  “What is Coworking?”)

What is Cowworking?  What Will Coworking Become?

A Drone Hops On A Bus…

I’m not a huge fan of the UAV delivery-to-your door concept.  Aside from a personal dislike of small helicopters buzzing around me, I hate to see retail and delivery jobs eliminated.  The people I know who do this work really need these jobs as a step up (or a landing to avoid going down).

On the other hand, I would like to see public transportation survive and thrive.  A city with no public transit is a rotten place to grow up, and a difficult place to get started or be poor–or old,

So I was interested to read a report from Stanford researchers who explore the possibility that, as Evan Ackerman put it, “Delivery Drones Could Hitchhike on Public Transit”. [2]

The concept is simple.

Contemporary UAV delivery copters have a pretty limited range, especially when carrying meaningful cargo loads.  This means that covering a city needs a lot of UAVs and a lot of recharging bases, spread across the whole area.  Some operators have been experimenting with mobile vehicles, essentially delivery trucks that can dispatch UAVs.  Such a solution would use a fleet of surface vehicles to extend the range of a smaller number of bases and UAVs.

The Stanford researchers explored the potential effectiveness of using existing mass transit systems instead of dedicated mobile bases.  There are already large fleets of vehicles covering the city, so why not piggyback on them?  And the roof of a city bus is pretty large and not used for very much.  So, yeah, that could work.

The study focusses on the question of “how would you route deliveries if you could do it”?  I.e., assuming that we can ride on the roof, how well would that work [2].

This is actually a moderately complicated optimization problem, because there are a lot of variables to consider.  But, hey, optimization problems are what academic computer scientists are here to tackle!

The paper describes an efficient framework that can compute a schedule quickly (in seconds!), which means that you could try to keep up with the flow of a real city [2].  I.e., you can recompute a new solution as things change.

The hitchhiking more than triples the effective range of the UAVs, which save power by riding the bus part of the way to their destination.

Cool!

Obviously, there is some work to be done to get UAVs to autonomously land and take off from the roof of a bus.  You probably need to know the motion of the bus (which might or might not be moving), and take care about obstacles (underpasses, overhead wires, who knows?)   A city bus is a creature of the urban jungle, for sure.

I assume that we might have a charger station on the bus, too.  And maybe more than one dronepad per vehicle, which would add air traffic control to the requirements.

I’m not sure how the rendezvous would happen, but at least some of the time the UAV might have to wait for the bus, just like the passengers.  So, perhaps the bus stops would have dronepads with chargers, where the UAVs can safely nest.

Aside from extending the range of the aircraft, this concept has other potential advantages.  Riding on a bus is probably a relatively safe and secure location, which offers a potential haven in case of emergency, bad weather, or malfunction.  Worst case, the UAV can power down and ride to the end of the line for manual recovery.

But the best thing is that the UAVs would pay fares (maybe even refueling fees), sustaining the public transportation network with paying freight.  This would also push the transit system to cover the whole area, in order to garner more freight traffic, and in the process serving more passengers.  (And if the UAVs nest on bus shelters, there would be a demand to install and maintain shelters throughout the whole area, too.)

So, there are lots of wins, including plusses for the mass transit system and the public who rely on it.

And interesting idea.


  1. Evan Ackerman, Delivery Drones Could Hitchhike on Public Transit to Massively Expand Their Range, in IEEE Spectrum – Robotics, June 11, 2020. https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/delivery-drones-could-hitchhike-on-public-transit-to-massively-expand-their-range
  2. Shushman Choudhury, Kiril Solovey, Mykel J. Kochenderfer, and Marco Pavone, Efficient Large-Scale Multi-Drone Delivery Using Transit Networks. arXive, 2020. https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.11840

 

Robot Wednesday

Blockchain for Book Publishing

Yet another perennial use case for blockchain is publishing, i.e., delivering content from author to consumer.  The main potential contributions of a blockchain are rights management and payments, especially micro payments.  Variations of this concept have been mooted for “art works” and “journalism”.

Blockchain technology is, of course, peer-to-peer at heart.  It is designed to let a writer sell a story directly to a reader.  No publisher needed, at least for this transaction.

So the question is, what, if anything, do we need a publisher/newspaper/journal/etc for?

In the conventional, legacy world, “publishers” perform a number of roles beyond the distribution of cash.  One of the important functions is quality control and the concomitant reputation and trust.  And reputation is translated into visibility and sales.  In short, there has been a role for a gatekeeper, or rather, many gatekeepers.

Blockchain is specifically designed to eliminate gatekeepers.  So, what should we do?

I dunno.

But I was interested by the headline, “Blockchain to the rescue of small publishers” [2].

At first glance, it wasn’t clear how relevant this project is to the overall question.  Mostly, it’s about rights management and micropayments.  I understand why a publishing company would like to get a slice of the action, but why do creators or consumers need a publishing organization to do either of those things?

A closer look shows that this group has thought quite a bit about ways that a third party publisher can add value and harvest revenue from that value [1]. They use the blockchain as part of an overall system that implements novel services, beyond the catalog of finished products.

First, they capture artifacts that are not published in conventional systems, such as “drafting and editing process”.  These are made available for monetization, perhaps as training materials.

“[The project] seeks to make visible and make valuable these processes of drafting, editing, and illustrating” ([1], p. 2)

Second, they provide a micropayment system to deliver royalties to “all creative professionals involved in the publishing process–namely, the author, editor, publisher and illustrator.”  This “disrupts” the for-fee model, and, they hope, “values co-creation”.

In short, this project doesn’t necessarily rethink what a publisher does, but looks at how to squeeze money out of everything a publisher does.  They also are leaning toward a bit more equitable (and efficient) distribution of the revenue.

Naturally, the system also reaps the benefits of digital rights management as well, enabling finer grained distribution and integration with digital media. You don’t necessarily need blockchain for this, but blockchains are well suited for DRM.

So.

This all looks good, if not completely novel.  In this world, a publishing house is expert at, and provides infrastructure for, things like:

“1. Readership and Audience Engagement

2. Distribution

3. Rights Management

4. Royalty Tracking and Payments

5. Authorship Verification and Co-creation” ([1],  p.14)

The traditional gatekeeping (tagged “readership and audience engagement”) is built on top of rights and revenue and, importantly, management of the co-creation process.

So, yeah, I kind of get it.

Is this enough to “rescue” anyone?  I’m not sure.

In my own experience, if a product doesn’t sell a lot, then there isn’t any “value” to distribute no matter how you do it. Any percentage of nothing is nothing, you need a lot of micropayments to make a living wage. This project slices the pie in a lot more ways, but that doesn’t make the pie any bigger.

What it does do, though, is maybe make possible ways to try to drive up interest and sales.  So, to the degree that a “publisher” gets good at that, then there is a potential win for everyone.

Which, IMO, is the one thing that a publisher really is needed for.

One thing that this project seems to do is put the tools in the hands of the workers:  this technology has the potential to be very cheap and easy to use. If this can improve the game (and revenue) for small publishers, that could have the beneficial effect of keeping publishing diverse.

We’ll have to see how this works.


  1. Mark Ryan, Phoebe Macrossan, Michael Adams, and Cameron Cliff, No point in stopping white paper: A publisher-centred blockchain model for the book publishing industry. 2020, QUT Digital Media Research Centre: Australia. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/199865/
  2. Amanda Weaver, Blockchain to the rescue of small publishers in Queensland University of Technology – News, June 2, 2020. https://www.qut.edu.au/news?id=164218

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

 

What is Coworking? Let’s Think About What Coworking Will Be [repost]

[This was posted earlier here.]

I have been observing and investigation coworking since 2015 or so.  From my earliest explorations, it was very clear to me that the key feature of a coworking space is that it is a face-to-face community.  As Zachary Klaas put it in 2014, coworking is “a respite from our isolation” [1].

As I have put it more than once: “Community, community, community

Furthermore, I have argued for more face-to-face time, and less digital “community” throughout all aspects of life.  “Turn It Off”.

I stand by these arguments.


But, of course, in the face of a global pandemic, we are all forced to isolate.  All we have at this moment is digital community, for better or worse.  (And we should all be thankful that back in the day my generation was down in the basement booting up the Internet designed to survive a nuclear war.  We sure need it now.)

It is impossible to know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that coworking as we knew it has completely halted along with practically everything else.  Freelance workers and coworking space operators are facing extreme losses, no one can work together.  It just isn’t safe.

So whatever coworking used to be, it sure isn’t that right now.


We will make it through this.

But for a blog about “What is Coworking?”, we must surely turn to the question, “What Will Coworking Be Next?

I can’t answer that question today.  But here are a few thoughts.

The gig economy will likely reboot, and there will be plenty of freelancers.  (Who knows whether there will be a living wage, though.)  These workers will still need and want places to work.

Absolutely everybody knows about digital remote working now.  A lot of people are going to be (indeed, already are) hungry—starving—for face-to-face community.

So, yeah, the basic psychological drivers for coworking is and will be there.

The big question is, how will this demand be met?

Another interesting question is how existing coworking communities may weather a period of digital only contact.  One scenario would see communities coming back together in person as soon as it is safe to do so.  But it is also possible that community will disintegrate if the separation is too long.

So, we’ll all stay tuned.


Stay safe.  Be good to each other.  Hang in there.

Peace.


  1. Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/11486279/Coworking_Connectivity
  2. 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/

 

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book and blog  “What is Coworking?”)

What is Cowworking?  What Will Coworking Become?

 

Coworking in an Urban Forest [repost]

[This was poster earlier here.]

This spring Nicolas Carvajal reports on a new coworking space in LA “in an Urban Forest” [1].

A green village of offices creates a community for the working individual surrounded by a dense urban forest in the middle of busy Los Angeles.” [1]

OK, this sounds pretty cool.  Goodness knows, a bit of “forest” would be very welcome in LA.

In fact, it sounds too good to be real.


First, this doesn’t look much like a “forest” to me, urban or otherwise.

It’s more building than trees (sixty “rooms”), and the entire area between buildings appears to be paved.  So, this looks more like a garden than a forest.

Other than the extensive gardens, the workspace and facilities are pretty similar to a lot of rental office space.  Presumably there is more external light and air than a office tower (though that is not necessarily all that great in the LA basin), and it seems to all be on ground level, so that’s good for those of us not in love with high rise buildings.

In the end, there’s nothing wrong with a workspace in a garden, IMO. In fact it sounds nice.

As their web site suggests, this is a “post-WeWork” space.  Or at least a “different that WeWork” space.  So yeah, that’s good.  Though I’m not really looking for a “WeWork” of any kind, myself.

I don’t live anywhere near LA, so I can’t easily visit in person to check it out.  Maybe the next time I’m there, I’ll pop in to see what it is like.


  1. Nicolas Carvajal, Co-Working in an Urban Forest, in Pop Up City, March 11, 2020. https://popupcity.net/observations/co-working-in-an-urban-forest/

 

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book “What is Coworking?”)

What is Coworking?

How Digital Technology Enables Freelancing [repost]

[This was posted earlier here.]

For the past twenty five years or so, many people point out how digital technology, especially digital networks, enable remote working, including freelancing, coworking, and general digital nomadism.

My own view is that the technology is necessary but not sufficient, it enables but does not really drive these trends in work.  (See the book!)

This winter Anna Medina reiterates this case, explainingwhat the cloud means for freelance workers” [2].  Writing in the Freelancers Union blog, she declares cloud technology to be “a game-changer”.

Cloud-based technology has been a significant game-changer responsible for propelling the growth of the freelance industry.” (From [2])

Now, to me, “cloud technology” is as much a business model as a technology.  The stuff in the cloud is pretty much what we had all along in large organizations (and which I helped pioneer).  The new thing is who owns it, and the fact that you basically rent your critical infrastructure rather than try to run it yourself.

I think Medina’s basic point is that this approach (renting form the cloud) is especially beneficial for freelancers.  I would say that it levels the playing field, making it possible for an independent worker to have the same high-quality infrastructure as a member of a large organization.

She lists the kinds of tools available, including Communication, Sharing, and Payments.

I think Medina is completely correct that a lot of contemporary freelancing and coworking would be infeasible without access to these cloud services.  Technologically, the array of services cited would be “the easy ones”, services well perfected long before “the cloud”.  She doesn’t even mention virtual machines specifically, which make possible a variety of “on demand” computing, including software development, simulation, large computations, and lots more.

From my point of view, cloud computing makes a kind of “average” infrastructure available at low cost to even an individual worker.  “Average” isn’t perfect or ideal, but it definitely places a solid floor on the quality of infrastructure, raising all boats.  Only the wealthiest organization could afford the quality that you or anyone can get in the cloud.  That’s good, for sure.

Now, the cloud does not provide everything you need.  For one thing, you need a physical place to work, and most people need other people.  That’s what coworking spaces are for.

But even technologically, cloud users have to “bring your own” stuff: computer and networks, and users have to take care to use the cloud well.

For example, earlier in February in the same blog, Samuel Bocetta discussedHow to secure client data when you work remotely” [1]. The essential point is that, no matter how great and how “secure” cloud services may be, you, the worker, must still take responsibility for protecting you clients and your own information.

Obviously, using well designed cloud services is a good foundation.  But, as Bocetta outlines, you still need to operate defensively and practice safe computing:  passwords, cryptography, and policies.   You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again.

The good news is that the steps he outlines are little different from any Internet user.  The bad news is that they aren’t any more fool proof than general Internet security.  So watch out.

To me, one of the scary parts of freelancing is that, as an independent freelance worker, you are on your own, both responsible and liable for protecting you clients.  One of the great benefits of belonging to a large organization is when you are helped by and at least partly shielded by the larger group.  A big company or university has lawyers on retainer, and also has experts who work hard to defend your systems.  You are not alone.

Yes, cloud computing is certainly a good thing for freelancers.  My own view is that it is an enabler, but not exactly “responsible for propelling the growth of the freelance industry.”  It also is hardly the whole picture.  Freelancers are still “on their own” in many ways.  This is why coworking spaces and communities are so important and valuable for freelancers:  so you aren’t all alone.


  1. Samuel Bocetta, How to secure client data when you work remotely, in Freelancers Union Blog, February 18, 2020. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2020/02/18/how-to-secure-client-data-when-you-work-remotely/
  2. Anna Medina, What the cloud means for freelance workers, in Freelancers Union Blog, February 28, 2020. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2020/02/28/what-the-cloud-means-for-freelance-workers/

Samuel Bocetta, How to secure client data when you work remotely, Anna Medina, What the cloud means for freelance workers,

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book “What is Coworking?”)

What is Coworking?

Continue reading How Digital Technology Enables Freelancing [repost]

Sara Horowitz on “The Future of Workers” [repost]

[This was posted earlier here.]

I have long said that, if we’re going to talk about “The Future of Work”, I want to talk about “The Future of Workers”.

This is why I have been so interested in Platform Cooperativism, Coworking, and why I eagerly joined the Freelancers Union.

This month Sensei Sara Horowitz asks, “Is the future of work stuck in the past?” [1]  As a founder of the Freelancers Union, she has long been involved with futurist punditry on this topic for many years, and she expresses dissatisfaction with discussions that “focus on the impact on businesses rather than individual workers”.

The perspectives (let alone the interests) of actual workers are absent.

“In fact, “The Future of Work” takeaways are often radically disconnected from the needs of American workers.”

Eternal optimist Horowitz is happy to note that workers mostly don’t know and don’t care about these pontifications. She sees workers “charting their own course, building that new workplace in real time and creating the social organizations they need”.

Horowitz has her own agenda, of course.  As any good social scientist (such as me) or union organizer (such as SH) will tell you, “Workers are social creatures” (all people are social creatures), so it is a mistake to talk about gig workers as if they are isolated units, one person companies.  For Horowitz, the implication is that it is important to organizing workers for economic and political power, and, these days, she is busy creating worker owned insurance and other social safety nets.

““Future of Work” enthusiasts should focus their attention and energy on the institutions that organize workers”

Of course, labor unions are the (lost) past for most workers, so this is hardly a ground breaking prescription.  And I’m not as optimistic about the feasibility of organizing workers in the way SH talks about.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be a member of the FU,  I just don’t think it is likely to gain enough power to matter.

(However, coming up with decent insurance and other benefits will be a huge plus for ordinary workers. So, you go girl!, on that front.)

I am considerably more optimistic about other kinds of worker driven “organizing”, especially coworking spaces.  Independent workers may not be able to wield a lot of political or economic power, but we definitely can create and control our own work places, and our own communities of co-workers.  This is a huge win for workers, indeed, potentially life saving.

But IMO, the secret to success for a coworking community is local, in person interaction, which is not a large-scale thing.  Everybody can belong to a coworking community, but it will be a zillion small, independent groups, not one large group.  So, coworking is very important and beneficial, but it is not really an “institution that organizes workers” in the way SH is thinking.

Obviously, we can expect both coworking and the FU to continue in the future, both serving the needs of future workers.  These two movements are different ways to address the needs of individual workers, and both are powerful because they are social.


  1. Sara Horowitz, Is the future of work stuck in the past?, in Freelancers Union Blog, February 6, 2020. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2020/02/06/is-the-future-of-work-stuck-in-the-past/

 

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book “What is Coworking?”)

What is Coworking?

“Broad City” Portrays Freelance Life? [repost]

[This was posted earlier here]

For the record, following a post wondering “Where are all the freelance characters on TV?”, the Freelancers Union* posted an earlier item that tells us that one place to look is the TV show, Broad City [1].  The article, signed by “Trupo” (which is an insurance company partly owned by the FU), discusses the fictional life of the characters.  (Caveat:  I haven’t watched more than a few minutes of this show myself.)

“The characters don’t explicitly say they are freelancers, but they continue to work side jobs throughout the shows five seasons.”

These two working women live the real life of a freelancer: many gigs, mostly very short term. Intermittent income, no benefits, little security.

The show plays these challenges for comedy, of course.  The point is that this is slice-of-life comedy, representing the real experience of a lot of workers living in New York City.

The FU concludes, “hopefully this is just the beginning of a more accurate representation of the growing norm of non-traditional work.”

I don’t know how “normative” or “non-traditional” gig working is, will, or should be. But it’s certainly good to see some realistic fiction about working lives.

As I commented earlier, why not a fictional life set in a coworking space?  I have described coworking (and by implication freelancing) as “participatory theater”, in which workers create their own story of the Future of Work.  That sounds like a decent scenario for scripted theater.


  1. Trupo, What Broad City got right about financial insecurity and episodic income, in Freelancers Union Blog, January 31, 2020. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2020/01/31/what-the-show-broad-city-got-right-about-episodic-income/

*Note:  I am a proud member of the FU.


(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book “What is Coworking?”)

What is Coworking?

What is Coworking?  Saidat Giwa-Osagie on Coworking and Community [repost]

[This was posted earlier here]
What is Coworking? One answer has always been, “Community, community, community”.  (See The Book)

Of course, short term, seat-by-seat rental is great for rental companies.  It squeezes every last penny out of their properties, with minimal extra investment.  So, of course, major real estate companies love the idea and want to get in on it.  So there is now a “Service Office Industry”.

Everyone tells them that what these customers want is cheap office space and “community”.  We got the first, so all we need to do is sprinkle on some community, and bingo!  The future of work!

This corp-rat nonsense has prompted numerous objections from leaders of what is now called “authentic coworking”, including Cat Johnson, Liz Elam, and Alex Hillman.  (Readers of this blog know where I stand on this issue.)

This winter, Saidat Giwa-Osagie takes an uncompromising stand, “No Community, No Co-working” [1].  Apparently addressing the real estate industry, she emphasizes that “success depends on the special bonds between its members”.

As I have said, “Community, Community, Community”.

This advice is not easy to follow, because “Community is something you have to build. You can’t buy it,” (Liz Elam, quoted in [1])  I would add, the emphasis msut be on the “you”, which is plural and includes the workers.

Giwa-Osagie points out that community is also not to be achieved through technology.  No end of companies are selling the usual surveillance software, that aims to help a workspace operator track the workers.  That’s not likely to do much good, IMO.  In fact, I would argue that workers already have all the digital community they can stand, and coworking is all about face-to-face interactions.  “a respite from our isolation”, (per Klaas [2])

Giwa-Osagie agrees with Elam that real estate companies generally lack the competencies to do “community” right. This is not their lane.  Therefore, they should collaborate with people who do understand community.

She also points to the success of “niche” coworking (which I consider to be the only kind of coworking that works).  Community isn’t something generic, and it doesn’t really scale. There are many, many kinds of communities, and each community is specific.  Think lot’s of little operations, not one gigantic one.

In short, Giwa-Osagie encourages real estate to stay in their own lane, and not imagine that they can just conjure up “community” to sprinkle on office space.

I agree.  And I’s you don’t have ot look farther than the rolling catastrophe that is WeWork.  Of the many mistakes WW has made, ignoring this advice is the most fundamental.


  1. Saidat Giwa-Osagie, No Community, No Co-working, in Propomodo, November 24, 2019. https://www.propmodo.com/no-community-no-co-working-why-your-co-working-spaces-success-depends-on-the-special-bonds-between-its-members/
  2. Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/11486279/Coworking_Connectivity

 

(For much more on the Future of Work, see the book “What is Coworking?”)

What is Coworking?