Regional Coworking Alliances : What I learned at GCUC Canada Part 1
This is part one of a multi-part blog series.
Earlier this month I had 4 wonderful days out of the U.S., surrounded by big-hearted, generous changemakers. It was energizing to lose myself in the passionate conversations about how coworking is supporting the holistic development of people while enhancing their business and personal lives. I re-entered the election frenzied U.S. filled with hope for humanity and a renewed awe at the life changing aspect of coworking. In addition to the hugs and kumbaya moments I also learned some stuff, actually lots of stuff! I thought I’d share my learnings with y’all, but then when I wrote out the blog post it was so long, I divided it up into a few different blog posts. Look for the next two over the next week.
Regional alliances are still new, and some people still want them while others are still scared of joining them. I’ve participated in various versions of this conversation since 2010. Here’s a few pointers from the unconference session on creating alliances.
- Ally with the people you are in alliance with. Not everyone is suited for creating an alliance or as I say “Not everyone in coworking is into “co”ing. Decide what your collective values are and determine these as the core values that define your alliance. This way everyone who decides to join knows up front what the expectations are. The Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance allows any type of shared workspace to apply, the Kansas City Coworking Alliance requires that each member space be “actual coworking”.
- Invite everyone to join. In Toronto, the individual members of the allied spaces identify as part of the alliance. This causes members of spaces that are not part of the alliance to inquire about having their space join the alliance. If you have invited their operators to join, you can let the members know this and they can either choose to stay in a space that is not collaborating with other spaces or they can join one that is.
- Take everyone out for a beer. Some space owners/operators will be on board at go, others might feel threatened by the idea of an alliance. Invite everyone out (or to your space) for a beer and a gab session. Talk about people’s concerns and ideas, you’ll find that people are more likely to join once they feel the automatic inclusion created by the community you build in the room together.
- Decide how decisions are made before it’s time to make decisions. Do all decisions require consensus? Is there a governing board with a “meta decision maker?” This is a very important first step as the decision-making process will influence the culture and effectiveness of the alliance.
- Consider collecting dues from member spaces. This is where the money to operate the alliance (website, advertising, regional passes) comes from. The money collection can be as simple as a donation jar or as formal as a recurring payment feeding into a bank account.
- Consider creating a participation requirement. Doing so – and tracking accountability – will allow an alliance to be high functioning and effective. There’s always a possibility that a few select people will end up doing the majority of the work. Having a participation requirement can help even out the workload.
- Build a website. Seriously, put whatever money you get into your collective website. The representative collectives at GCUC were in agreement that the alliance website gets more hits and traffic than any of their individual spaces do!
- Consider offering an alliance pass. While it might seem complicated when every space has a different policy for day users, doing so can spread the word about your space as well as give prospective members a chance to try out all of the spaces to see which one they like. Don’t forget to charge for the pass! Revenue is your friend. See “Build a Website”.
- Celebrate International Coworking Day together! What’s better than having friends to make August 9th more special? Some alliances even celebrate the entire week and brand it, ie: KC Coworking Week. Any excuse for a party is good in my book.
For more specifics on creating regional collaborative space alliances, you can check out this video and podcast I did with Melissa Saubers, founder of the KC Coworking Alliance.
Also check out these alliances and consider reaching out to them to learn about their structure and processes. COSHARE and Open Coworking are collaborating on a set of resources to help regional alliances form.
If you’re thinking of starting an alliance with the spaces in your area, what’s keeping you from getting started?
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