Our community lost a dear member this weekend, and the world lost a remarkable human being. And today, for International Coworking Day, I want to focus on a member whose life and community engagement shaped the fabric of NextSpace Santa Cruz.

Jay Dautcher was, during a period of NextSpace history, an instrumental catalyst in building a strong and fun culture of work in a community setting.

Jay originally came to NextSpace as part of our first experiment with having a product based research and development team embedded into our community. Jay and nine other colleagues from the Ricoh workplace R&D team took an office at NextSpace and spent six months in conversation and research with our members.

It was an experiment that went very well, mostly because of Jay. A cultural anthropologist, Jay was brilliant at developing creative ways to study the way people work, making the study subjects feel both comfortable and engaged in the process. From contests to group surveys and game after game, Jay’s team brought the community together for fun times and intriguing discussions about the future of work and technology’s role in helping people work smarter.

A product was developed out of this research, which Ricoh ultimately decided not to bring to market, but NextSpace got to keep the one-of-a-kind smart screen in our conference room, which only recently came down.

After leaving Ricoh to pursue other interesting future of work projects, Jay would visit NextSpace and ultimately decided to maintain a membership. His role in the community was quieter than it had been on the Ricoh team, but he was still the shiny human with a fascinating way of seeing the world that we had all grown to love. Most recently, Jay moved into coding and spent hours working in his NextSpace office, writing his code and emerging for food, beverages and a brief chat with fellow members.

Not only was Jay brilliant, he was a warm and kind man with a calming presence and a huge heart. In 2015, when I was going through a very rough patch in my world, Jay surprised me with a gift of 3.5 hour massage. That massage was exactly what I needed at the time, and I can still remember today what an amazing treat and treatment it was. Jay came to my son’s first birthday and brought him an obscure Dr. Seuss book, “Happy Birthday to You!” with a simple inscription on a Post It “From Jay”. This book was meaningful to Jay and my son has loved it as I read it to him each year on his birthday.

Last year, when our community lost another dear member, Bennett, many of us grieved together and indeed, it was a helpful experience to do so as communal grieving is a very different experience that grieving alone. Jay was gone during the initial time period and when he returned we checked in and he expressed to me how much Bennett had meant to him and the help Bennett had given Jay through long hours of code trainings and discussions. Jay expressed that he had chosen to grieve privately and yet, over our lunch, he was able to allow me to share in his grief which was a uniquely powerful experience I was honored to be part of.

Jay’s legacy will live on in our memories of him and in the hearts of those of us who had the treasure of conversation and connection with his brilliance. In the words of my friend, Jeremy

“(Jay) taught me the word “latrinalia”, which is the anthropological study of stuff written on bathroom walls. 🙂 Like, what can we deduce about a society based on what they write on bathroom walls. Only Jay would know that!”

Jay understood coworking immediately and the value that a highly engaged work community can have for product teams. He also got the value of true community, in fact he embodied it. Jay was the perfect coworking member, someone I think of as a friend and a wonderful human.

Happy International Coworking Day, Jay. Thanks for making coworking even better. Who loves ya? NextSpace does.


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