Hello, ladies and gents of the Coworking world. Welcome to another Coworking Values Podcast wherein every week we try to deliver the freshest coworking news there is.
For this episode, we have two ladies that spearheads the Coworking and Co-Living Community in Europe and Globally.
We have Jeannine Van Der Linden Director of the European Coworking Assembly and Managing Partner of Open Coworking — a non-profit organization for collaborative and values-led coworking community. We also have, Cate Maiolini the Head Ambassador and the UK Ambassador of Co-Liv — a global non-profit coliving organization that empowers the coliving phenomenon. Not only that, but Cate is also the House Mayor of StartUpHome, the first social enterprise in the coliving space in Europe where their mission is to provide accommodation and sanctuary to freelancers, entrepreneurs and innovators of any race, nationality and religion.
What we are going to be talking about with theses lovely ladies is about the difference between coworking and coliving. We are going to be also delving on the collaboration between the coworking and coliving community, the freelancers’ manifesto, and how the COVID crisis has affected both communities.
What is Coliving?
What co-living is, it’s a place where people who are very similar minded and orientated, decide to live together, it’s not just a question of I cannot afford to live somewhere or I’m doing it just for the economical reason. It’s not just that, you decided that together we are stronger.
This is working, living, exercising, anything that we do with the team around us, with people around us, which are very similar to ours empowers us even more. And this is what co-living is empowering.
So, if you live within a community that appreciates you and values you even more, you find your purpose, you don’t feel alone. You do not feel the loneliness anymore and you try much more. There is always someone for you. There’s always someone to have a cup of coffee, or to have a brainstorming session, or to have an evening out or to go and exercise with. There is always someone. It’s the cure.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:03
Hello, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another edition of the Coworking Values podcast. The exciting, amazing podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. A little word from Cobot, our favourite sponsor.
Zeljko Crnjaković 0:19
This episode is brought to you by Cobot, our leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out Cobot at cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:54
Zeljko managed to say that exactly the same, every week, even if he’s not in the room. Today as you can tell, if you follow us online, and I’m sure you do, we have been ranting about European Freelancers Week and I’ve tracked down two of the most important people in the coworking, co-living and freelancing universe in Europe. And that is the Grand Master Jeannine. Jeannine, for the few people that don’t know you, who are you and what do you do?
Jeannine Van der Linden 1:34
My name is Jeannine van der Linden and I am involved with the European Coworking Assembly. I am involved with Coworking Comm, which is run by a global organisation called Open Coworking and I run a network of coworking spaces in the Netherlands.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:53
And she’s a housewife, a mother, and she walks dogs and plays Pokémon with my son.
Jeannine Van der Linden 1:57
You forgot about my FinTech.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:59
FinTech. We should tell people about that. That is Cowork Tools. What is that?
Jeannine Van der Linden 2:09
Cowork Tools is a project still in development, but it is probably the most fun project I’ve ever done. We were having a call about it last week, and I looked at the screen, and I suddenly realized that every single person on that call was either my current co-worker or my former co-worker. And so, and that’s because you weren’t there, Bernie – what we have done as the European Coworking Assembly is, we have partnered with a financial institution known as Velvet, and we have developed a number of tools, which are specifically financial tools, which are specifically created for the new economy, which is what we’re talking about on this podcast. For the people who are running coworking spaces, the people who are in coworking spaces, the people who work in coworking spaces, we are creating you the stuff, the infrastructure you need to run your finances, without having to bend yourself into 16 different shapes to fit yourself into a box that you absolutely don’t fit into. This box is made for you. That was its purpose.
We’ve been working on it now for two years. And along the way we are adding other tools which are not specifically related to finance but are related to running your co-living co-working space. And we are hearing from new people every day for something to qualify as a – co-work tool. It has to be either developed in collaboration with us, and by collaboration I do not mean a lot of things people think when they use the word collaboration, they mean some other things like you do what I say. Actual collaboration, talking to, piloting in, launching in coworking spaces, co-living spaces, and with freelancers. Stuff has to be made for you or it’s not a co-work tool. Some of them are existing products that companies. We have essentially altered the way that you pay for them because the way we do business is not the way that corporate real estate does business. And so, the way that you pay for services, also is not that way because we are the new economy. So that’s my FinTech.
Bernie J Mitchel 4:54
Yeah, what’s funny about that is in the FinTech, you are the only person I’ve ever met in real life, everyone else is online. We could walk around going, we’re 100% remote company. I’m going to move over to Cate, who rapidly has become the linchpin between the coworking and co-living movements in Europe. And it’s a big part the London Coworking Assembly. I should have worn my T-shirt today. And what do you do when you’re not on podcasts with FinTech owners?
I led the ambassador, program of Co-Liv, the global non-profit co-living association. And we’re now present in 22 countries, I want to say and four continents tackling the fifth one by the end of the year, hopefully. I’m also the London mayor, as I’d like to define myself for Start-up Help. Start-up Help is a co-living space in London for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and start-ups.
Bernie J Mitchel 6:17
What else do you do? I think you are selling yourself short, lady.
With Co-Liv, I also have podcast, which is all about the co-living world, also the coworking world, as there are so many synergies. You can find a lot of our events as well in there; they’ve been recorded and edited by yours truly. When the London Coworking Assembly was a bit more active in a live way, we used to meet every month for our breakfast. Every month, we’d have breakfast in a different coworking space. And that was definitely one of my favourite events. I absolutely love doing it. It’s that sort of bonding and community and connecting that happens so organically when people actually meet in the same space and place.
Bernie J Mitchel 7:23
We three and lots of other people shared a house in the Coworking Co-living Conference last year in Belgrade. Can you both say a little bit about that? Because when we say we all stayed in the same house, it is a lot that happens outside of going to talks and stuff. Every time myself and Jeannine go to Coworking Europe, we’ve stayed in a Copass place. And when Copass stopped doing that, we organized our own European Coworking Assembly camps at places. We had a mini camp at Coworking Spain as well. But getting together as a community like myself, it sounds so right to me. It’s what I’ve always done all my life in different places. But how does that work, folks?
That was my first conference that was outside the UK with regards to coworking and co-living. And I went to an event, in France before, but as a conference, that was my first one. And I remember you are the one who told me, and it was that day when we were up at Kofi’s, place Urban MBA, and we were doing the breakfast, and we were talking about that, and you convinced Kofi to come as well, because he then became one of the keynote speakers by which a brilliant, brilliant talk. And I remember he was saying we are organizing this. So, I already wanted to go anyway. And I was looking for my accommodation. I already had my flights booked. And then you both were saying no, we are organizing this. What we aim to do is to rent a place and literally in true spirit of what the conference is about, we are actually going to co-live and co-work together. And I said to you, that’s brilliant. Yeah, let’s do it. And it was fantastic. Because I know Jeannine and Caroline were fantastic, obviously with the help of Misa who is one of the founders of the conference. He founded this hostel for us, which was like a smaller hostel because I think we had, if I’m not wrong, 16/17 beds, something like that. And we all rented it for those four/five days, and we all lived together. Some of us shared rooms. I shared the room with Kelsey from Cutwork. Kelsey is also one of the Co-Liv ambassadors. She’s a college ambassador for France, and she’s going to be a speaker actually at the conference coming up on the 22nd of October. And then I think you, Jeannine, and Kofi because you’re posh, had your own rooms. It was really nice, because we had the boys like Matthew, Christian and they were all sleeping together in this massive room. And then Antonin as well had his own room. And it was just nice. I remember the first morning we woke up early, and Kelsey led a meditation for everybody who wanted to be really present and kind of like up early and started the day, that sort of way. But it was just really nice, all of us working together. The organization of the conference was fantastic. We did dinner after to get to know everybody, to socialize even more and to connect in the true spirit of what coworking and co-living is. Because the ‘co’ stands for collaboration, connection, cooperation, all of that.
Bernie J Mitchel 11:41
Jeannine, what is it you’ll enjoy about those copass camps in our coworking camps?
Jeannine Van der Linden 11:53
The first Copass camp you talked me into. I had ever done that because I had this feeling like I’m one of the oldest people in coworking and I’ve gotten a little old for dorm rooms. That’s a fact. It’s not about being posh, I’ve always been a bit twitchy about that. Because the notion of a lot of people go to conferences, live conferences, and they always punch up that in their end party there’s going to be beer flowing like water, and etc. And I have always found that just a little off putting. I am just under five feet tall; I weigh just under 100 pounds. And the idea of a large number of people ranging from 30 to 50 and me walking drunk at one place is not my idea of fun. It’s my idea of hell. All of that stuff was around in my head when we talked about the camps. And in the end, I went to the first Copass camp in Amsterdam, because it’s right up the road and because it was on a boat, and how could I not? And it was delightful. One of the things that I like very much about it, and it’s why I keep doing it, is that you can indicate what your comfort levels are in terms of privacy and contact. And everybody in those places and each of the camps that I’ve been to has a very different place where their boundaries are in terms of privacy and contact. And it’s just completely stress-free.
I am not a person who experiences completely stress free all that often. I am a little high strung, inclined to being anxious about things. I always have plan A, plan B, plan C and plan D, which is why I like Cate so much because she just solves those problems, she sees them, and she solves them. And all I do is dream up problems. It is a very great freedom for me to go to those because there is a very relaxed approach where people just effortlessly determine where your boundaries are and just respect them. And that’s honestly not an environment that is particularly common in the professional world for much of my life.
Bernie J Mitchel 14:35
There are a lot of people listening to this who have heard the word Code leaving bounded around. In 2018 I went to the Co-Liv summit and I really expected it to be full of incredibly annoying people in white clothes and tattoos talking about traveling the world with their Tim Ferriss. And most speakers said – this is what people think co-living is, but this is what it is. It was a much more sophisticated way of approaching how we’re going to live as a human race going forward. What is co-living? When people ask what’s co-living? Is it like coworking? What do you say?
There are two approaches. The first approach is, I normally ask them just to understand in a social way who am I replying to in front of me? Often, exactly, as you said, when I explain to people that I live with 11 others, there’s 12 of us in in start-up home. When I explained to them that I live with 11 other people, they look at me and they say, what do you mean? Like? Well, I mean I share the place where I live with 11 other people, it’s 12 of us, and we’re a community. And so, they say, like a commune? And I say no, a bit less hippies. No, we’re not hippies.
What co-living is, it’s a place where people who are very similar minded and orientated, decide to live together, it’s not just a question of I cannot afford to live somewhere or I’m doing it just for the economical reason. It’s not just that, you decided that together we are stronger. This is working, living, exercising, anything that we do with the team around us, with people around us, which are very similar to ours empowers us even more. And this is what co-living is empowering. So, if you live within a community that appreciates you and values you even more, you find your purpose, you don’t feel alone. You do not feel the loneliness anymore and you try much more. There is always someone for you. There’s always someone to have a cup of coffee, or to have a brainstorming session, or to have an evening out or t go and exercise with. There is always someone. It’s the cure.
Bernie J Mitchel 18:25
How is that developing in Europe? Because it seemed to be crazy for a bit. And then COVID hit and there was indecision about where it’s going to go. Has COVID helped it or hindered it?
On the overall picture, I have to say that COVID has actually helped a lot. It has helped because many people have felt even more alone during COVID. If they were living alone, or they felt even more out of their own space and environment if they were living with people that were just random people. So, the main difference between a place that you share with other people and where either the owner of the property or the landlord or the property manager has interviewed you to understand who you are, can you afford to live here, roughly how old you are to make sure that you’ve got some similarity with the rest of the household. And the difference is that in co-living spaces, the community is always very curated. And the onboarding of people is always very curated. So, when someone comes in to join Start-up home, I take about an hour and a half, sometimes even two, to get to know them, for the community to meet them as well to understand it’s synergy, to explain who we are and what we do.
However, the thing is what kind of people are already living in the community, and what are you bringing into our community? And what can the community do for you? And therefore if something like a strict and strong lockdown that happened a few months ago, during March to July, if something like that happens, again, actually, you will find more strength in the community that you are. For example, in our community, two new businesses were born during COVID, or they started just before COVID. I switched completely from just being one of the attendees and the supporters of Co-Liv the association to become a big part of it, and to start to run all the worldwide events, so to build a team of ambassadors and everything. And why did that happen? Because I had the support of many people around me, it was obviously easier virtually to reach everyone around the world. I didn’t really have to travel to Australia to be a John, who is our Australia’s ambassador. I didn’t have to fly there to be at his event. I could be there just five minutes before he started.
There are a lot of things that COVID made easier. And I think another thing that was beneficial, and I think is still beneficial for quite a while is that we are going to see a massive increase in rural co-living spaces, where people want to go a little bit further out from cities and big urban centres, and be a bit more in touch with nature and everything else, because it doesn’t really matter. Even if they are employee and they are employed by a company, now they are a bit of freelancers as well, because they are able to go somewhere free, as in, they don’t have to stay in one place, in one office or anything. And that has really opened up a lot of doors in a sort of way for operators have decided to push. The rural co-living is no more.
Bernie J Mitchel 22:25
I love that. Jeannine, we’ve been banging on about 15 Minutes City and not being in town anymore. Can you say a little bit about the freelancers’ Manifesto and a little comment on how we’re moving away from city canters and moving out to enjoy fresh air instead of commuting?
Jeannine Van der Linden 22:51
I think one of the things, at least in the coworking universe, one of the things that has been a hot issue at every coworking conference, at every gathering that I’ve ever been to has been, we call them rural coworking spaces, but it’s a term of art, rural coworking spaces means a coworking space in any city that has a population less than 50,000. So, my original coworking spaces were what we would call internally rural coworking. And it was very clear to me 10 years ago when I opened my first space that really in a very meaningful way, where you are doesn’t matter anymore, that this was going to be a major change, and that people were not seeing it yet. And that has developed over the 10 years.
We are starting to move much more slowly than I would like. But we are starting to move as a society towards the idea of a networked economy, which has a lot of excellent side effects in terms of accessibility, in terms of people who have historically been marginalized. And those things need to also be included in our models. And that change has been, of course, abruptly accelerated by the crisis of this year that everything was already in place for that. And I think what we are seeing within the network of coworking spaces that I have, there are a fair number of people who are in urban, we’re having the reverse situation where people are in large urban centres, and they are specifically asking me; I want to actually go work in a village. And it’s important within the context of a network. It’s very easy to do that without it being a danger to the people in the village because that’s one of the things you have to look at as well. But there has always been a certain attraction to it because most of the people who are coworking in the large city locations that we have in Amsterdam don’t live there. About half lives there and the other half commute to go there. And the whole notion of the commute, I think, is right now being re-examined under the pressure of the crisis, and it’s frankly about time.
I love the fact that you are a visionary and I support, especially women who are visionaries even better. Just one thing that I would like to add is that both in coworking and co-living, often the critic I receive is that we are changing, we are pushing a change. We are moulding society, but I actually think is quite the opposite. I think that what we are doing, what we started to do a long time ago, we are coworking and what we are doing, we believe in and what we will carry on doing is actually listening to what people, especially anyone who is a bit more innovative in any way, which doesn’t need to be in technology, the way in which they’re living, what they want from life and everything. We’re just listening really to what they’re asking us, I guess.
Jeannine Van der Linden 26:25
I couldn’t agree more. I say continually that coworking is the infrastructure of the new economy when I’m trying to make clear that we in coworking are not, it took me seven years to see this but when you see it, it’s blindingly obvious. We are not creating the future. We serve the economy of the future. The people who are creating it are record surfers. They agree they are co-workers. And I think we are in the beautiful position of being able to provide that infrastructure while they create the new economy. The one that doesn’t forget people.
I agree. And I think Co-Liv is doing exactly the same. People have moved away from wanting to be on their own and having their own space and saying it’s all about me, me, me and my space, because I think on the long term, what that does is you become so intolerant about anything else, because when you live with other people, you have to learn to be very tolerant. And the same is when you work with other people. If each of us will have our own office, however big or small that is, you can do anything you want. You can play the music you want; you can wear whatever you want, you can speak loudly, you can do anything. When you are in a communal space there are rules and regulations. There are certain people that do certain things, you might not like it, but you have to accept it. And I think that will make a much better world.
Bernie J Mitchel 28:04
And that’s a great note to end on. I was listening there because we could go on for a while. I felt like I was in our little camp back in Belgrade listening to you two chat and having a hot cocoa just before we go to bed. So, we have a few things to shout out. One is run to freelancersweek.org and sign up for the Freelancers’ Manifesto. There will be a link in the show notes to that. I’d also like to draw your attention to a book called New Aging by Mateus Hollow which, which is a lot of what Cate and Jeannine were talking about how we live in communities and live and work in different communities. Going forward, he spoke at the Co-Liv summit in 2018 and blew me away and I’ve been ranting about it ever since. I’ll put a link in the show notes if you go to coworkingassembly.eu and sign up for our weekly newsletter where we put all the blogs and interviews we do with people running local coworking spaces and local coworking projects around Europe, and this podcast, you’ll get emailed to your inbox every day. And also, we’d love for you to take part in Freelancers Week. And that is in the show notes as well. If you run a co working or co-living space, you can run a small event whether it’s two people or 10 million people. Any final words before we hit exit, folks?
Jeannine Van der Linden 29:31
I do have an ethical statement which I would like to make, which is the fact that the European Coworking Assembly organizes the European Freelancers Week does not in any way mean that people who are not members of coworking spaces cannot organize events. Also, those of you who are not members of coworking spaces, please by all means organize events. They can be organized anywhere and if you can’t find a place for one, if you want to have one live, let us know. We will find you a coworking space. You don’t have to be in a coworking space to create an event. It can be anywhere.
Bernie J Mitchel 30:08
As part of our ongoing inclusion and diversity.
Jeannine Van der Linden 30:12
Connection, cooperation, and collaboration.
Bernie J Mitchel 30:15
I say that a lot, Jeannine. And that’s absolutely right. I’d be horrified for people to feel they have to be in a space to be able to do that. Anything before we hit exit?
No, I think that what you guys do is amazing, and I am so happy that we get the possibility of collaborating and creating more and more synergy between co-living and coworking, and to create a bigger community collaboration, cooperation and connection and empowering each other by changing the world.
Bernie J Mitchel 30:49
Stay safe, folks. Take care.