The German Coworking Federation Gets Serious about Sustainability By Learning To Play

As the dynamic landscape of coworking in Europe continues to evolve, The German Coworking Federation (GCF) is taking on one of coworking’s most vital values: Sustainability. 

A pillar of knowledge in governance

Christian Cordes plays a key role in the GCF as Head of members, Networks and Partnerships for the GCF and is a great source of knowledge about the GCF for its members. In his role, he also works alongside other head members to guide the GCF’s direction. 

Community and values are top of mind for any individuals involved in coworking and the GCF is no exception. Earlier this year at the annual GCF COWORK conference they decided to focus attention on the values in a structural way and build their planning for each year around one of their values. Always pertinent and ever-topical is sustainability, and this is the organisation’s key driver between March 2024 to March 2025. 

The GFC and coworking

Founded in 2015, the GCF trains its members on everything related to coworking – not only by educating them about coworking values, (openness, accessibility, sustainability, community and collaboration) but also by providing training modules for people wanting to start their own coworking spaces.  These modules cover everything from the most basic to an advanced level and provide in-depth training for those wanting to improve or enhance existing spaces as well as the newly started ones. 

The GCF is available to help their members ensure the coworking spaces meet safety standards, that they are compliant with coworking practices and legal requirements, and also to help guide marketing and communication within these spaces, assisting their members to build the type of networks that partake in bigger projects than they would be able to realistically handle alone.

Environmental impact and shared responsibilities

With sustainability as the theme for this year, the GCF has hosted keynote talks and workshops centred around this topic. Aside from conferences, they also regularly host events which focus on different subjects or modules falling within the realm of sustainability.  

GCF has also launched a sustainability report in collaboration with the city of Munich and coworking communities in Switzerland and Austria. This report details how coworking spaces can make sustainability practices viable. The impact their organisation and coworking have on the environment is important,  and so the GCF has also created the Coworking Climate Coalition (CoCC) to detail how coworking spaces are positively affecting the environment. The full climate protection guide can be downloaded here (in German). 

Learning through play

Using the innovative Lego Serious Play (LSP) methodology, the GCF incorporated a facilitated session into the #COWORK conference where each attendee was given a basic kit of Lego bricks. Making use of the LSP kit, attendees can join their online LSP sustainability sessions, to complete all or select modules. Using this method in facilitated sessions helps the attendees to  learn quickly by ‘thinking with their hands’

For individuals who enjoy this process, the GCF has created a certificate course, endorsed by LSP, and offered to their members at a reduced rate. At the end of the course, the members become qualified to make use of that methodology in their own coworking spaces and run their own LSP workshops. As Christian says, as far as sustainability methods are concerned it’s important to understand the broad scope of what measures you can take or what is within your control. 

For example, if you rent a building for your coworking office, you may not be able to control the central heating or the use of solar panels. But you can control using eco-friendly appliances, or taking measures that control limiting water wastage. It’s important to remember that in sustainability, no measure is irrelevant so long as these practices are viable in the long term. The LSP method reinforces the concept that each individual or space within the coworking network is a small cog in the machine and helps us to examine how we can maximise resources in a shared space.  Christian says, “Ultimately, we want to build partnerships to reach our goals. Taking coworking values and using Lego Serious Play to create hands-on learning is the most fun and practical way to boost sustainability.”

Instead of making sustainability an overwhelming concept too large to tackle, the GCF is using this methodology to encourage a change in the mindset by taking on big projects, piece by piece. Through adopting this approach, they hope to build sustainability into everyday decisions, making it as top of mind as eating or drinking. 

Their next hope apart from adapting mindsets around sustainability is to create a feeling of unity, by encouraging new kinds of partnerships between spaces to reach higher sustainability goals. 

The keys are in our hands. As a coworking community, there is quite a bit we can implement, and this goes across the board. Let’s get working together.

– Christian Cordes
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