How to build a coworking community beyond superficial perks

- September 27, 2018 2 MIN READ

In 2017, there were approximately 1.27 million people working in coworking spaces worldwide, and it is estimated this figure will only increase over time.

With a global trend towards coworking, there has been a substantial uplift in the number of coworking spaces available. What draws people to different spaces, however, varies significantly.

For some, the advantage of coworking stems from a need to accommodate a global team and house them in flexible office locations worldwide. This market is well serviced by global conglomerates such as WeWork and coworking space aggregator platforms such as www.coworkbooking.com.

However, the other key motivator driving the growth in coworking is the way in which spaces build community for residents. This factor extends beyond the free beer and coffee, table tennis or complementary wifi that has become the norm of coworking to what makes a coworking space not just a space, but a home for your business. How this is achieved or not achieved varies from space to space.

For the team behind the coworking space Inspire9 in the heart of Richmond in Melbourne, building community has been at the forefront of our business model from day one.

We started 10 years ago as a small group of socially minded entrepreneurs working out of a significantly smaller office space. What brought us together was a desire to share our knowledge and experience and build a support network in an emerging business sector (startup land), and in the process hopefully turn ideas into business that generated positive social change (and profit).

When Inspire9 was born, startup land was a much smaller place – nowadays there are a lot more people finding their way here, so supporting our community is less about linking a marginal business group and more about creating an environment where solo workers, freelancers, and startups feel supported on the best and the worst day of their professional journey. We don’t want to just be their network, we want to be like family.

For serial Inspire 9 resident David Chung, it is this level of the support that keeps drawing him back to the space.

“We moved out of Inspire9 and into an investors office whilst working on a previous project. However, as can happen in startup land, things didn’t work out as planned and we decided that a separation was necessary. Immediately we knew where we wanted to be and that was home at i9. We haven’t looked back since and it has now the home of our new business baby LIMBR.”

A number of coworking spaces have also begun to emerge, servicing niche industries.

One such coworking provider, Worksmith, has created a community for the hospitality industry.

“As an industry, hospitality offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities for business owners,” said cofounder Roscoe Power. “In creating Worksmith we wanted to build a space that understood the specifics of the industry and in doing so, create a community that nurtured innovation through collaboration not only for Melbourne, but for the global hospitality industry.”

Whilst approaches to community building vary significantly from space to space the common advice from those tasked with fostering community in coworking was the same – avoid being dazzled by perks and look for personality.

Emily Young is Resident Experience Manager at Inspire9.

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