Welcome to a very special episode folks!
We are here with Ashley Proctor of Coworking Canada and Hector Kolonas of Included.Co. They are the co-producers of the Coworking Alliance Summit that is happening this 27th of April 2021 at 9AM PT / 12PM ET / 5PM UK / 6PM CEST respectively for each session.
And we are going to deep-dive on the workings of the summit. What is it for and how it can help the coworking community work better as a whole.
What is the Coworking Alliance Summit for?
Ashley : I think for me, it comes out of the events that we’ve hosted in the past through Coworking Canada, we tend to gather at other industry events like a Coworking Europe every year, and we create a session in the unconference where inevitably all the alliances come together and share their pain points and what it is that they’re working on.
And those sessions are extremely valuable for those Coworking Alliance leaders from around the world, to be able to, to share what they’re learning and different resources and tips and tools with each other.
But I think what Hector and I both noticed is that we tend to be rushed in those scenarios. It’s never pre-planned programming for those folks. And I think that we can offer a day or a half day like we’re going to with the summit, very intentionally about these alliances, and very intentionally supporting the leaders of alliances so that we can do better work collectively.
Hector : I totally agree with Ashley, I think that the reason why we’ve kind of put this together and it is happening on the eighth on April 27, I don’t think we’ve set the date yet.
It is because the work that alliances do has always been important, but the way the world is what has changed and the way humans work has changed. Alliances are going to be even more important and impactful moving forward.
So bringing forward people who’ve been doing this for x number of years. And people who are doing this for the first time can really push forward Coworking in local economies and hyperlocal economies all over the world.
So that’s kind of why we figured now is the right time to bring together people who run spaces and have run spaces, but are involved with Coworking alliances in some way to share tips and learn together and ask the questions that we don’t normally have time to discuss. In the traditional unconference environment.
Bernie J Mitchell 0:00
Oh, my goodness. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here for a special edition of the Coworking Values Podcast. So, Hector and Ashley, who I’m sure you know, but I’ll let them say a little shout out about who they are, have put together an event called the Coworking Alliance Summit and I’m really interested in this, as a lot of us are in the European Coworking Assembly. So, actually, what are you known for and all those questions I usually ask at the beginning of podcasts?
Ashley Proctor 0:26
Hi Bernie, my name is Ashley Proctor. I am probably known for my work in Coworking Canada, and I am one of the co-producers of the Coworking Alliance Summit.
Bernie J Mitchell 0:38
So, who’s the other co-producer?
Hector Kolonas 0:41
Hey all. I’m Hector Kolonas. I’m probably most well-known for building the Coworking programme over at included.co. Recently co-founded syncaroo.com, but I’m really happy to be working with Ashley, finally, after many years collaborating on other things, co-producing an event with Ashley for Coworking alliances around the world.
Bernie J Mitchell 1:03
This is really exciting. Hector, this could be the biggest thing this week in coworking. Alliances have been secretly around for a long time. I’ve been in groups for years with people who run alliances, but it’s certainly not a new thing. But this is the first full blown, let’s get everyone together. It’s like a coming out for people that run alliances. So, where do we begin?
Ashley Proctor 1:34
I think for me, it comes out of the events that we’ve hosted in the past through Coworking Canada, we tend to gather at other industry events like a Coworking Europe every year and we create a session in the unconference where, inevitably, all the alliances come together and share their pain points and what it is that they’re working on. And those sessions are extremely valuable for those coworking alliance leaders from around the world, to be able to share what they’re learning, and different resources, and tips, and tools with each other. But I think what Hector and I both noticed is that we tend to be rushed in those scenarios. It’s never pre-planned programming for those folks. And I think that we can offer a day or a half-day, like we’re going to with the summit, very intentionally about these alliances, and very intentionally supporting the leaders of alliances so that we can do better work collectively.
Bernie J Mitchell 2:30
What do you think?
Hector Kolonas 2:35
I totally agree with Ashley, I think that the reason why we’ve kind of put this together and it is happening on April 27th, is because of the fact that the work that alliances do has always been important, but the way the world works has changed, and the way humans work has changed. Alliances are going to be even more important and impactful moving forward. So, bringing forward people who’ve been doing this for x number of years and people who are doing this for the first time can really push forward coworking in local economies and hyperlocal economies all over the world. So, that’s kind of why we figured now is the right time to bring together people who run spaces, have run spaces, but are involved with coworking alliances in some way, to share tips, and learn together, and ask the questions that we don’t normally have time to discuss in the traditional unconference environment.
Bernie J Mitchell 3:35
I think that something that happens a lot is as people come to events we do, mostly in London, they go oh, I’m thinking of making an app for people to find workplaces, and how about if we had neighbourhood coworking spaces, and there’s so much stuff out there that we consider general knowledge because we’ve been reading about this for years and stuff like that. But there are so many really well-intentioned people that are going to reinvent the wheel. it’s like if I went into some formal athletics, I’d have ideas for stuff that have been around for years. And I think that’s one of the things that people will get from here because I’ve just learned so much from people like you just chatting about it. We’re having this like rush of people to stop commuting and the local 15 Minute City kind of out-of-town coworking here in London, people are rushing to open places in zone six, zone five and zone four of London, which is outer London for those folks that don’t live there. You talk a lot about coworking as part of the essential infrastructure and probably one of the first people on the planet to open a locally sourced coworking space with local authorities.
Ashley Proctor 4:58
I think that what’s really important here, and first I just want to clarify that I’m kind of riffing off of an idea that is pretty popular right now. And really what that idea is looking at caregiving, in terms of elder care, childcare, all kinds of care, health care, as a central infrastructure in the US, and it’s the core of a competitive economy, levelling the playing field, getting people back to work, and it really strengthens the community. And the reason for this is people need the confidence to be able to go back to work. And if they don’t have childcare, if they don’t have elder care, if they don’t have health care, they’re unable to do that. And so, if you really start thinking about care at the centre of the economy, and care as infrastructure for children, and elders, and disabled people, then you see how essential it is that most businesses focus their efforts on making sure we all have access to that care. And in a similar thread, I think what we’re doing as coworking operators can be seen as creating an ecosystem of essential infrastructure for remote workers. And that we need to have this infrastructure. We’ve been building it for many years, some of us for 20 years, to ensure people, not just remote workers, but people have this community, supporting them no matter where they are. And this model, as we’ve seen, it absolutely supports the 15 Minute City model. And it also helps folks who do need to commute or work remotely from multiple cities. But what’s essential here is that that infrastructure needs to be in place for this new economy where we all work remotely or at least part-time. I think that the Alliance Summit will bring folks together to be able to talk about this essential infrastructure and maybe even for some of them, make them aware that that’s what they’re doing in their community. And that can enable folks to be able to partner with their local authorities, their governments, community, and economic development offices, to be able to support or fund the alliance building growing in their city, and in turn all of the coworking members in their city.
Bernie J Mitchell 7:13
Nice. Thanks, Ashley. Hector, can you say a bit about hyperlocal because I always try to explain that to other people and I don’t do nearly as good a job of hyper localising it as you do. Because that’s a big part of what we can do with included, but it’s also a big part of building on what Ashley said.
Hector Kolonas 7:33
One of the really interesting things about coworking spaces is they don’t only create connections internally between the community members, but they also are really, really good at driving business activity and footfall into the businesses around them. The mom-and-pop shops, the service providers, everyone around a coworking space is positively impacted by the presence of a business community in their midst. And that’s a big topic that I’ve kind of seen. So, that’s the hyperlocal aspect. I think there’s also a more of a regional element that Ashley touched upon, and I think it’s something we’re going to see discussed a lot at the summit, is how to get across this idea of coworking as an infrastructure, and owning that narrative, and talking to the media, and representing spaces, which until now have all kind of been marketing themselves individually.
As you said, Bernie, there are a lot of folks who think that it’d be great to have a map of all the coworking spaces in my local town, or an app where I can book them or a way for me to contact them if I was in the media and I wanted to comment on coworking. I think that’s a lot of the responsibilities that coworking alliances can pick up on and lead that conversation from the right place, from the right strategy. It’s just that no one’s really shared the pro tips of how to do that on a sustainable and scalable way. So, I think that there’s a lot of regional activity that can be done by alliances that derives that hyperlocal results and hyperlocal economic impact.
Bernie J Mitchell 9:27
I’m loving that, like in London, we’ve had the, it wasn’t called the London Coworking Assembly, but when we came back from Coworking Europe in 2014, a group of us set up a Facebook group and it kind of went along and then, and when you lived in London, Hector, we actually got to try to get people together. And then it went a bit flat and there were like 300 people in this Facebook group, and not many people knew who was there. And then we started to meet once a month, and that was back in 2018. And it’s just blown up in terms of how people relate to each other, how people have helped in their businesses before COVID when people had to close coworking spaces. People went and helped each other out with furniture and people shared members with each other. And it was a beautiful thing to be part of. And if you had to write out why it’s good to do this, you’d never have enough paper. Showing up and connecting is huge. So actually, who shouldn’t come and who should come?
Ashley Proctor 10:40
Well, first of all, everyone is welcome. And I think that the summit is particularly designed for existing alliances, so people who have already been working together, or those who are hoping to work together, it would be a great team building activity, if you’re a new alliance, and looking to learn from those who have already been doing this. And I know that there are a couple of up-and-coming alliances, people just thinking about starting, but I think this would be a really valuable resource for them to get to really sit down and work through some of these issues with the alliance leaders who have more than a decade of experience.
I think it’s for anyone who’s really interested in collaborating in this way and sharing their best practices. It’s a very participatory event. So, it’s not keynotes and you just sitting in listening, it’s a very engaging event. And you’ll be able to choose your own adventure so that all of the sessions you attend are relevant to your regional alliance, very specific to the needs you have for your group. And we’re also allowing some sponsors or brands that serve these alliances. There are a lot of folks out there who create incredible tools or resources for coworking alliances in particular and we’d love for those folks to come out as well as participants, but through our sponsorship programme, so that they can attend as a brand, but in a supportive role. And this is an event where we’re not asking sponsors to be showcased. There’s no booth kind of scenario. It’s really to have them engaging side by side with our participants and getting to know them and their needs.
Bernie J Mitchell 12:20
On the website, there’s different pricing things there. So, obviously if you can afford it, please pay, but then can you explain a little bit about the pay what you can model?
Ashley Proctor 12:31
This is actually really important in terms of accessibility. So, all of the events that I produce, and that Hector and I produced together, have two key points. One is that a portion of the proceeds from the event we’re going to be donating to the Coworking Idea Project. And I would like to start modelling this behaviour through the events industry and in coworking. We have a pay what you can ticket available, so if you’re just starting out, or I know everyone has had a really rough year, if it’s not financially possible for you to contribute in the way you’d like to, there are pay what you can options available. And if you are sending multiple folks from one alliance, there are discounts available for multiple people attending from the same organisation as well. So, lots of different ways people can attend.
Bernie J Mitchell 13:17
And can we say a little bit about the Coworking Idea project because that’s one of my favourite things at the moment. What’s it about? Because we’re making a lot of effort with that in London and it’s going really well.
Ashley Proctor 13:35
Just to touch on that the Coworking Idea Project is an alliance. It’s an international collective of folks working together to make coworking more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible. And I know we’ll have a lot of representatives at the Coworking Alliance Summit. Basically, what we’re doing is issuing challenges to the industry every month, so that we recentre the meaningful human connections and the communal care, and the creative collaboration that coworking was founded upon, and we’re helping folks to improve their spaces and improve their organisations with really easy manageable challenges.
Bernie J Mitchell 14:08
I forgot to articulate it as an alliance because just the very short, little monthly chats we have around that have already forged connections and conversations that I don’t think any of us could have, like put an event programme together. And it’s bringing into the spotlight things that we don’t really have a space to talk about. And this has created that space to talk about. Is there anything I’ve missed, Hector? Because I’ve been shouting out things, but is there anything I need to add to this?
Hector Kolonas 14:44
I wouldn’t call it shouting out. I think it’s all been fascinating. I think it’s also worth highlighting that it is an international event. We’ve already got participating alliances from Europe, from Canada, from Switzerland, from Atlanta or Chicago, Toronto, and in London. So, it isn’t a US centric event. It’s not a European centric event. It’s talking about the aspects and elements that can be used in any form of coworking alliance. So, it’s a thing that’s worth noting as well.
Bernie J Mitchell 15:25
And Hector, I can’t let you go without talking about This Week in Coworking. I’m not on their payroll here, folks, the whole Clubhouse thing is one of the best things to happen in coworking for a long time. Getting people together from all over the world in a very democratic way. So, how does This Week in Coworking arrive? And of course, we can put a link in the show notes.
Hector Kolonas 15:48
This Week in Coworking is basically designed to showcase some of the biggest or important news from the coworking industry that people may have missed each week. And it’s just a summary, it goes out in the newsletter. And the idea is not only to make sure that people can have a quick summary at the end of the week, but also can join us on Friday to discuss, not only the topics and events like the Alliance Summit, but also the trends they represent. And what it means for all of us who are involved or have been involved in coworking for what feels like decades now. Some of us have been for decades, but I’ve only been in coworking for about eight years now, nowhere near a decade yet, but when we do, I’m sure we’ll have a fantastic discussion on that in This Week in Coworking.
Bernie J Mitchell 16:56
Sign up for This Week in Coworking, there’s a link in the show notes. And also, that is a really good way of finding out what other people are talking about around the world. I mean, obviously, this is the best podcast in the world. But there are at least five other people that podcast on a regular basis. Jamie Russo goes into more detail about how to run a coworking space. Caleb talks more about the prop tech side of it. And I’m sure there’s another one that I’ve forgotten, but it’s a great way to connect with real people who are actually doing it in real time. And most of the people that show up in This Week in Coworking are active on it and creating content around it that they’re sharing already. Is there anything you’d like to add before we run and catch our plane, Ashley?
Ashley Proctor 17:38
I’m just really excited to see folks at the Alliance Summit, we haven’t had the opportunity to gather in person for quite a while. But it’s usually the highlight of any event I attend. And why I attend all of these industry events each year is I want to see these people and I want to get into a space where we can share our ideas and share our pain, and share solutions, and really co-create this path forward. It’s really difficult to do this work on your own and most of us don’t have peers to support us. It’s a unique industry, and by gathering in this way, we really can create this network of support for other alliances around the world. And so, I think it’s really important for us to be there. And I am so excited to do this. This is probably one of my favourite events I’ve produced so far, I’m so excited.
Bernie J Mitchell 18:26
Me too. I love the energy. I love the fact that you two put this together. I love the idea of Coworking Idea Project. I think they’re two really simple and very important things. And the crew that you’ve gathered around you to have these conversations is some of the best people in coworking, so thank you very much. And, folks, we’ll put a link. I think if you google Coworking Alliance Summit that will get you to it, right.
Hector Kolonas 18:29
You could also go to coworkingalliancesummit.com.
Bernie J Mitchell 18:56
I should have known you’d done that, Hector. Always one WordPress step ahead of the nation. And then we’ll put links in the show notes, and if you go to coworkingassembly.au and we will email this podcast and all the other written content and events that are going on around the European Coworking Assembly. I say the word coworking so much nowadays, it’s like crazy. And then we can put links to where you can hang out with Ashley and Hector at the end. And sorry, we’re a little bit deranged here because we had our COVID vaccines, and we’re just too excited about what’s going on. So, take care ladies, gentlemen, be careful out there is a jungle. Thank you.