New Working Spaces – Local Coworking in Post-Pandemic Time

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Hello Ladies and Gents! We are here with another episode of the Coworking Values Podcast. This time you’ll be tuning in to a special episode. 

This particular episode is an audio recording of the recent Webinar by New Working Spaces, a gigantic research project on the geography or new working spaces and the impact on the periphery involves 90 research partners from 29 countries, it started in October 2019 and ends in September 2023 so that is 90 universities and other institutions across Europe, researching coworking maker and hackerspaces through to corporate labs coffee shops libraries, technical rooms and other creative workspaces so it’s a huge undertaking via Zoom. 

We have Irene Manzini Ceinar of Bartlett School Of Architecture who have teaching and research positions under her belt. She is currently a PhD Student researching about coworking spaces in particular local coworking spaces and their potential in terms of urban regeneration.

In this webinar, her guests are Polly Robbins, a member of Outlandish and manage Space4, Marc Navarro, a coworking strategist, content director of the CoworkingSpain Conference, a content curator in the Coworking Unconference Asia and Advisor of the Latam Coworking Summit, Emmanual Costa, a researcher from the Santa Catarina State University. And he is an urban geographer and PhD researcher of course in territorial planning at the university in Brazil. And Alberto Cossu, a researcher at the Leicester University and he has researched about the resilience of coworking spaces.

They are talking about how the Local Coworking can get back up again in the post-COVID pandemic time. And how local coworking spaces are thriving, sustaining and being resilient in the current times. 


Links

Facebook link for New Working Spaces
New Working Project page 
‘COST’ 
Rural Hub Italy  
Space4

 

powered by Sounder

Bernie J Mitchell 0:04  

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of the Coworking Values Podcast. The podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. And this week is a recording of an online panel on local coworking by our friends at the New Working Space project. This is a gigantic research project on the geography of new working spaces. And the impact on the periphery involves 90 research partners from 29 countries. It started in October 2019 and ends in September 2023. So, that is 90 universities and other institutions across Europe, researching co working maker and hackerspaces through to corporate labs, coffee shops, libraries, technical rooms and other creative work spaces. So it’s a huge undertaking. And we picked this recording of all the recordings available this week because in the last two weeks as we’ve gone round in conversations, the word ‘local’ has come up everywhere. And this session has some significant takeaways from every panel member. 

 

So Irene and Polly are active participants in our Coworking Assembly here in London. And in the last few years, they’ve instigated a lot of our actions and conversations around inclusion, diversity, how a coworking space can be part of, or an active part of the local community. And also listen up to the legend. That is Marc Navarro. And we’ll link to his earlier podcast in this topic, about local coworking, which we recorded in Coworking Europe, in the football stadium in Krokoff. I remember doing that with him. And that is about how a local coworking space works in a very early project he did and how it connects with the local community. And there’s other particularly really good points from Alberto and Emmanuel, who were from Italy and Brazil, respectively. We’ll link to all of them and all of their projects in the show notes. You can listen to this podcast on the European Coworking Assembly website on Spotify and Apple podcast, too. I’m sure there’s a couple more searching around there somewhere and before we get on with the episode. We are really looking for coworking stories from you the listener, from all over Europe about how you’re rebuilding after COVID, new ways of running a coworking space, different business models you’ve adopted and how you are connecting and growing your relationship with your local community. 

 

Because a lot of the conversation and research points to people not traveling so much and staying near a home and looking for spaces to work near a home. And you’ll hear all about that in this episode. And head to coworkingassembly.eu, I always get that wrong unless Zjelko is with me, for our weekly newsletter, and when you sign up for that weekly newsletter, you can always hit reply to that newsletter and it comes back to Jax, Jeannine and me, and we can answer you personally on that. It’s not some piece of automation software, we really like to hear from you there. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the episode. Stay safe and be excellent to each other. Thanks for spending time with us.

 

Zeljko Crnjaković 3:02  

This episode is brought to you by Cobot, a leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about cobalt is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs are the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out cobalt@cobalt.me and take your coworking management to the next level.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 3:37  

So Hi, everyone. This is the new webinar of the hour series of webinars in collaboration with Emmanual Costa and the European funded project. So, the European funded project is a project led by the Department of Planning and Urban Studies in Milan, of course, and in collaboration with the Cattolica University as well. So, we are running these webinars since the beginning of the lockdown due to the COVID situation. So, the idea of course, is to start new working spaces and very similar areas to new working spaces, it includes coworking spaces and maker spaces, other kinds of new way of working basically. So at the beginning of the of the lockdown or the beginning of more or less the beginning of March, we decided in cooperation with the Cattolica University in Italy to deliver a series of webinars about what’s going on in the European panorama with the coworking space dealing with covert situations. So, at the beginning it was quite interesting to see how people experienced the direct experience of the situation. So people were obliged to close, to shut down all phases because of the social distancing and the lockdown of course. So, basically everywhere in the world pretty much at the same time of the year, coworking spaces have been closed. And now we start again. So, a lot of spaces are starting again to open up and to be open to the members, but also be a kind of support for the local community as well. 

 

So I would like to introduce myself first of all, so I’m here in a month in China. I am part of the construction as a member. I’m a PhD student at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. And where I’m studying and doing research about coworking spaces, in particular, local coworking spaces and their potential in terms of urban regeneration. I’m interested in the peripheral and neglected areas, neglected neighbors in the industry. So, I think this is quite an interesting topic and also, today we have quite, not quite, but very interesting people talking about the same topic and their direct experience on the current situation. So, today what we will do (as for the new people, that it’s the first time they are following us on Facebook) we decided to basically have a brief introduction of ourselves and then talk about the experience of our guests and then we will leave a bit of space at the end for a public questions. So all the questions are more than welcome.

 

So first of all, I would like to introduce Polly Robbins. So of course, woman first. I mean, we are a minority today. Polly is working from Outlandish. She’s working for Outlandish, basically. That is our course is based in London in Finsbury Park. I had the chance to be there and it’s quite a very interesting place because they do a lot of things with the local community. And the neighbourhood is quite, it’s quite interesting. But, I don’t know if I can say traditional because for London traditional, it’s quite weird to say, but the local community is very strong. So the idea of Outlandish is to build a tool for positive social impact. So this is your kind of slogan in the website as well. So it’s very interesting because it’s also quite related to the Italian reality. I am Italian, of course, from my accent probably you can guess. But also because I’m saying these things because in Italy mostly, in particular, in the middle part of Italy we have what is called comparatives or compare Akiva. So that is a way of working and also there are lots of coworking spaces that has this kind of comparative or working on kind of structure. So I’m really happy to introduce Polly. She can introduce herself. I would be happy to ask you a little bit more about your experience in Outlandish and why it could be considered a local coworking space. 

 

Polly Robbins 9:14  

Probably, 

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 9:15  

Sorry, before I start, maybe I can just go around and introduce all of you guys, just because I don’t think it’s so nice to leave you just listening to Polly and then Polly can start. So Polly will be the first one talking about Outlandish and then we have Marc Navarro, and Marc is a content director of course, coworking spaces and asphyxiation in Spain and Chief Creator of Coworking Academy. Being our Chief curator of the Coworking Academy is also part of Coworking Unconference Asia and advisor of London Coworking Summit. So basically I call him coworking strategist because he is a lot of things. And he does a lot of things as well. And he also was on European Coworking Assembly webinar a couple of weeks ago, and I think was really interesting his speech about rural coworking spaces. So I am very pleased to have him here with us.

 

 And then there is Emmanual Costa. He’s from Brazil. He is a researcher from the Santa Catarina State University and he is an urban geographer and PhD researcher of course in territorial planning at the university in Brazil. And, he researches coworking spaces and the urban structure practice. So basically, we do something very similar I guess. And it’s quite interesting to see also how, not only the European, let’s say, perspective, and the UK, Italian and then Spain and then it was quite interesting to see what’s going on in Brazil in terms of coworking spaces and how the COVID-19 is impacting today – the coworking situation in Brazil. And the last one, but not in terms of importance, basically, is Alberto Cossu, he’s Italian so I’m very proud to say this because of course when we have some brilliant people from Italy, always very nice to have them as a guest. He’s a researcher in Leicester University in Brazil. So, he also, like his publishing, he published already a lot of things. And in particular, I was very fascinating about your description of resilient coworking spaces. So, of course for everyone I’m very pleased to have you here today, but also I think having Roberto as the last one of our list is critical, because this kind of a rough path discussion from the research report from the research point of view about what exactly is a local working state, how we can define and how we can structure the different topologies of local coworking spaces, and we try the implication in terms of the current situation of COVID-19. So thank you to everyone, to be here. I will leave the floor to Polly, and for a description about her experience at Outlandish. Thank you.

 

Polly Robbins 13:09  

Thank you very much for that fantastic introduction. It’s a real pleasure to be here today, particularly with such a fantastic panel. I’m very impressed. I should start by saying that Outlandish isn’t just a coworking space. Outlandish is actually mainly a worker Co Op, which builds websites and data tools. And we work with a lot of NGOs, charities, trade unions and progressive businesses. But we’re a non-profit. So that means that any profit that we do make, we reinvest it back into projects, which use technology to make the world a better place. And so the coworking space is actually called Space4 it’s a brand that we use, and that’s the project that I run, we’ve been running that for three years now, since 2017.

 

And I would definitely say that it is very much a local coworking space. So we set the coworking space up as a way for us to invest our profits. And there’s a way for us to be able to network the sector better. So network, the tech for good sector, and the co-operative sector, and also to support our local neighbourhood. And we started out in private rented or combinate premises, so just a private landlord, and we built up a relationship with the local council. And last year we moved, we were successful in a contract with the local council to manage a workspace for 10 years. So we recently moved into a slightly larger workspace in the same area and this has really, cemented the fact that we are a local coworking space because we now work in partnership with the local council to deliver some of their strategy which is about local economic development. 

 

So we’ve always provided workshops and training in the tech sector, and also in skills around cooperative development. And we’re now doing a little bit more of this, particularly focused on skills within a local area, and also being able to kind of measure our impact and collect data. And so we run all sorts of training and drop in workshops for local people, which are anything from an hour to many weeks. And they focus mainly on digital skills. And we’re also working quite closely with the local council to help them support new coworking spaces and affordable workspaces and also for them to refine their local investment policies. So that they can commission services locally and invest in the local economy rather than having to use external businesses to supply their techniques. And, as mentioned we’re in we’re a bit of an unusual organization for our area. So the road where we’re based, is mainly small, independent fashion businesses, many of whom are, I guess, quite traditional, many of whom I would say are not adopting digital tools. So lots of them don’t sell online. They don’t have a website. They don’t use social media. So some you might say that it’s a bit of an unusual fit for us with the fashion shops, but it’s actually proved to be really fantastic because we provide all sorts of services and workshops aimed at getting these businesses online.

And actually, are you happy for me to go on to talk a little bit about what we’ve done during COVID?

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 17:08  

Yes, please.

 

Polly Robbins 17:11  

So it’s actually been quite a fantastic opportunity for us to get to know the needs of the local community more. And it’s had to accelerate the local council. And they came to us immediately to ask us to make some instructional videos for local businesses about how they could get their businesses online. And so myself and a small co-worker were based in the space, and we got something up and running really quickly. It was not the highest quality, we just had to do it in basically a week with a small budget. But we’ve now been creating videos for the local community about why it’s so important to use digital tools and the types of digital tools that they can use. And we’ve run two webinars where we’ve had I think about 50 local businesses come along to those and that’s meant that we’ve got a better understanding of what the needs are with regards to technology and business development in the local area, it means that we’ve also worked more closely with the Council on a commercial project. Yeah, so far, it’s been actually a really big opportunity for us to get to know local people better and for us to foster our reputation as a socially minded tech organization. In terms of other opportunities that it’s created… Will you give me a note when I need to finish?

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 18:37  

Yeah, don’t worry, you’re good, don’t worry. It’s very interesting.

 

Polly Robbins 18:43  

So yeah, in terms of other opportunities that COVID has brought along, and of course, it was very stressful at the beginning and we’ve been closed. We operate a ‘pay what you can’ model so that means that we’ve been, that’s been the set of the situation for, for the whole time we’ve been running, that means that some people actually pay more than what we asked, and some people pay less. And that model has continued throughout the whole lockdown. And so quite a lot of people have continued to pay the full amount of their desk fee, because they can. And that’s been really uplifting for me, because it shows that there’s like a lot of faith in the community and that people, we’re not just providing a service for people. But we are really trying to foster a community. And I should have said earlier that everybody who uses the space is supported to have an impact, have a say on our governance structures and our future strategy. 

 

So it’s been a bit of an ego boost in a way for me in this place to know that there’s such a strong community around us. And it’s also meant that we have been able to include a lot more people in our workshops. So, because in the past, we’ve always hosted our events physically in the space. That means that only people in London can count more or can travel in. And we’ve actually had people now from all over the world, come to some of our workshops. And that has been really inspiring. And so it’s been that of course, we will go back to doing physical workshops and physical training. But we’ll always, keep a digital presence so that we can engage people from more sectors or, or people who have other commitments. And it’s also given me an opportunity to sit back from the normal day to day coworking management, like all the taps broken to actually think about some strategic goals. So yeah, for us, it’s been a worrying but positive experience. And I should have mentioned sorry, we’re not in very central London. We’re not on the outskirts, but we’re in zone two.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 20:58  

Thank you, because it’s such a good thing to hear, positive thoughts are always welcome. Also, because in this situation, a lot of coworking were obliged to close, because in terms of financing and economical point of view or loss of the Yes, prefer a loss during the pandemic situation. So, it’s very good that you have such a strong community, and also that you have, indeed, during the year, during the very short period, basically, built this kind of very good interaction with their local administration as well. So they supported you guys and it is very, very important as well. Really. Yeah. So you’re also very good because otherwise it’s quite difficult, and not only lucky. So thank you, Polly. I think that we will be back to you later and now, we have Marc Navarro. I invited Marc because he is also the creator of the first working with social Ritter in Barcelona actually. So I think it is such an amazing experience. And he already described to me what it is exactly. And I think it’s very interesting to see his experience with this project. And the project is call Barra de Vivre.

 

Okay, thank you because my pronunciation is not the best one in Spanish. So yes, Marc, if you can introduce your experience and in particular these experiences with this project, I think would be really great for everyone, thank you.

 

Marc Navarro 23:02  

Hi. And first, thank you very much for inviting me. I’ll go straight away to the story. So back in November 2015, at the time I was working for a coworking space in Barcelona, the name is CREC, and when we had been approached by a city council, and they asked us to create a greenhouse for companies, right we are in Brussels and in Spanish, which is a fancy name of saying ‘I’m going to Rand you under the market price’. So I can say to my boaters that I’m helping intrapreneurship some of them are a little bit more nice and they do some activities but mainly are, below the market price rent offices using public funds, which I don’t like. At that point, we were approached by them.

 

And I remember that the CEO of the company came to us with a meeting and he said, a City Council asked us this. And I said, we are going to do a great coworking space for them. And he went to the City Council, and he told this phrase directly to them. And at that meeting, I came up with an idea because I have to confess that I’m a public money nerd. And I really believe that it’s the money of the taxpayers. So we have to treat them. I treat those that morning with real respect. So my idea was that there’s a public service, which is coworking, but it’s not as essential as healthcare or safety, that everybody needs it. And I think that in Europe, it’s quite widespread this kind of mind-set. So the people who are really receiving coworking, because getting coworking paid with public money, they are pretty reliant. So because not everyone needs it. It’s not like it’s not mainstream. So I think in my opinion they have to pay back to who’s paying for that service. And that those persons who are paying for that are the citizens. So, my idea it was really simple, if you get coworking and if the coworking was organized by a private company working for a City Council, our expenses are covered by the City Council. So that the people who are getting that service have to pay back – how? By time. They have to work for the community around.

 

Some of the payback was not like rocket science. The first one was a poster, designing a poster for their neighbourhood celebration. But, there was another one which I liked it a lot. It was seven members of our space working together to make or break them and what they study. So they did the research, starting with the old people in the neighbourhood, gathering pictures and trying to cover all the memory of that neighbourhood. So another one would say loved. I love it, especially, I have to confess because it proved that I was right. Because I said that the children of that neighbourhood were a feature so we have to impact them really soon. So we can maybe deviate there that are actually just one degree but it will cause a much bigger impact. And there was a co-worker that did something different for his personal life, but he was a nerd with robots, etc. So he did a robotic course. Workshop for the guys and girls at the neighbourhood school if your families can pay for that kind of teaching, that kind of lesson. 

 

So it was really cool because we had an impact and in the beginning it was difficult because there are some spaces free in the neighbourhood. So everybody wants those space to whatever and we were like strangers that arrived there and wanted to do cool things. But at the end, we were able to because to, I think, make their lives a little bit better. I don’t know if you want to talk a little bit more in some issues or it’s just okay.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 27:33  

I think it was very interesting. I think that now we can continue and then maybe we can push, or we will be back in order to understand which is your opinion about future trajectories in the post pandemic situation. So Yeah it will be so interesting to do some hypothesis on a project such as this one about the social coworking with social return, how this can really challenge the postman dangling situation, like in future months. So thank you very much.

 

And I would like now to leave the floor to Emmanual Costa. He’s from Brazil. He’s a PhD student as well. And he’s studying local coworking spaces and the effects on the urban context. So I would like to ask first of all, as he’s basically the outsider, not because it’s different, but because he’s outside from Europe basically. So also, Polly and Alberto you are quite nearly there. Sorry guys. No, I think I can say for myself, but anyway.

 

Now, Emmanuel, I would I really would love to know about what is the situation in Brazil in terms of coworking space and the COVID situation.  First of all, okay, we can say first of all, how is the situation in terms of coworking spaces in Brazil? And then how the situation has been challenged by the COVID? Okay, thank you.

 

Emmanual Costa 29:30  

Okay. Thank you very much for having me. And also, I’d like to congratulate Polly and Marc. This initiative sounds very, very interesting. Yes, it is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate and be able to contribute with a vision, the global south, it’s a bit different, maybe. But I’m looking forward to seeing what similarities and differences there are between our contexts. I think, that’s it. It might spark some insights. So thanks a lot for having me. And, it is clear that as in all places as everywhere the pandemic affected all sectors in several ways. And that includes coworking too. And regarding the way this pandemic landscape is connected to coworking here in Brazil. 

 

Well, first of all, maybe Brazil as a whole is quite a large focus because it’s a very big country. And we have several regional and local agencies here. So it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of Brazil’s inside of Brazil, but from my perspective, and I speak from  Annapolis, a medium sized city that is top three national heard in the IT sector, and we have here the highest density of coworking spaces per inhabitant in the country. So coworking is quite a big of a deal here. And from this perspective, I have had conversations with managers and partners of coworking spaces. And I’ve been asking around what was the situation after the pandemic. And I think that the best way to summarize. There’s a lot of stuff happening.

 

The best way to summarize this, I think it’s from three main aspects. And the first aspect regards the solutions that coworking spaces have found to continue to providing the services and keep the business alive. Sadly to say two coworking spaces here have lost the battle to COVID-19 and had to close their doors for good. And this implies people losing jobs first of all. But even with those spaces who are still leaving to fight out a day, they are operating at reducing capacity. It may also have some consequences in downsizing staff, or breaking contracts with suppliers and that kind of thing, which is also bad for local economy as well. Yes, many contracts also with coworkers were broken. One coworking partner even told me that he lost 70% of his revenue. So by February, he had a full house with a considerable waiting list for people wanting to get a spot in his space. And now like he just lost 70% of his revenue. So this is a shock, right? In three months. 

 

But I think that the most common solution for the moment that coworkers here have found is, of course, reducing prices for customers and avoiding losing accounts. So this policy varies according to each space. So some spaces offered upfront discounts like I’ll give you a 50% until this over and others asked how much can you pay to me now and just accepted when others waited for the customer to ask for the discount and then negotiate case by case and so on. Besides that, all the spaces are also intensifying services that were already provided in addition to coworking. I think the most common one that we have here is tax address services. So if you are freelance and you’re doing home office, you can pay a monthly fee and you can use the coworking address to file taxes. So that’s basically the service. And everyone is doing this here right now. It doesn’t have to be a lot but it’s definitely a helpful resource these days. And another services is the digital secretary, but on a much smaller scale, that’s for sure. And there also has been a great deal of effort in bringing community activities to the virtual environment that the core community brings into the future environment. So, at least at some extent, networking events, workshops, webinars, this kind of stuff. And subspaces are also offering, let’s say, hybrid plans. 

 

So if you want to go to this space and work, you can, but if you don’t, that’s okay. Because if this plan got access to some remote tools and some amenities or some facilities for teleworking from home office, and that’ll be one aspect. I think that another aspect that helps us to tell this story is about how coworking space managers are living in this new experience day after day, like how this is going through the daily routine of the managers. And of course, by all means, everyone is taking every possible safety measures and all this kind of stuff like visual signs and cleaning the environment several times a day and inspecting internal routines to see if co-workers are using masks, are using hand sanitizer – the basics, they’re doing days of force. 

 

But on the other hand, obviously that movement dropping a lot. So where there were 200 or 300 people a day there are now 10 or 20 at most. So it’s a big difference. It’s a large difference. And managers told me that they are not really encouraging customers to return to coworking now, on the contrary, they reinforce social isolation and be safe at all times, but if you need the space, the space is open. It’s safe and sound just come and work but we’re not encouraging this. This is like the general policy here. But on the other hand this allows managers to provide, let’s say an almost exclusive assistance for these few coworkers that are still eventually going to work once or twice a week. 

 

And then things like providing individual hand sanitizers every day, and related daily, small supplies. And let’s say keeping this like spoiling the customer, so to speak, has been also a creative practice that some spaces have done. And I think that a final aspect that I think is worth mention, is about the different ways the pandemic has affected coworkers in their conflicts. Because first of all, I need to say that at least around here, I’m not sure how this is goes, how this builds in Europe, but at least here, coworking spaces and flexible offices are quite the same thing.

 

So I think that over nearly 40 coworking spaces that we have in (Napolis), I would say that 38 offer both traditional share and collaborative spaces and also flexible offices at the same site. And maybe there are one or two strictly classic coworking spaces, so to speak. But anyway, everyone ran away, no one is going to go coworking, of course, and I’ve heard about companies that have elsewhere, let’s say a company that that is based in San Paolo or in Rio, and they have five or 10 spots in the coworking space, and they’re shutting down operations for the Napoli’s and send everybody back to their hometowns or is small businesses who were already in tough times before the epidemic and they just took the opportunity to break the contract. And then managers told me we have to deal with it. Like some had them pay a severance fee to break the contract.  And others just let it go. I deal with a guy wasn’t bad. He’s an older client. He’s a friend of mine, I cannot charge this guy. I cannot say, yeah, you’d have to pay the fee to break the contract, just let it go. And eventually he will come back and it happens. But I think that the most important thing to acknowledge is that it is hard to say whether it was the shared space tenant or the flexible office tenants who are most effective because it’s more about this guy’s business or whether he’s an individual or he’s in the front. However, flexible office plans are more profitable.

 

On the other hand managers and coworking partners and working spaces are expecting that home office workers will be the first ones to return to coworking to defend them because of it. And more than that, they are expecting a massive comeback. Because although home office has proven to be a viable work model for these times, people were locked up at home for months. And these will make them want to go at least once or twice a week and walk outside and do some guided stuff. And also home office is not a model that works for everyone. Like if you have kids equally with other people, it affects your productivity, you need the space again, or if your business involves privacy policies, then compliance will be an issue for you to keep working home office, or maybe just like you need to be in touch with other people to generate these opportunities and you’ll need to return. 

 

I think that connects to future trends, for the past perhaps never but I’ll stop here. We can leave this conversation for the other part.  But yeah, I don’t know if it fits like an overall reading of the situation, but I think that that is the main aspects that we are seeing here right now.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 40:19  

Okay, thank you. Thank you. Yes, very good to hear that. There are some positive, there is hope for the post pandemic situation so it is very cool. Now, we will leave the floor to Alberto. As I said, he is a lecturer at the Leicester University. And he’s also like recently I’ve been publishing a paper on the Brazilian Coworking Spaces. So, first of all I will, I would love to hear more about what you mean as a resilient coworker face. And then I also take the opportunity to ask you like to start again. So how to ask you how basically, in your opinion, COVID-19 has impacted the future trajectories of the local or, the state of Brazilian and co working spaces. So, okay.

 

 

Alberto Cossu 41:27  

I’ll try to do my best. So, thank you for having me here. And of course, something that I would like to start saying is that the paper you mentioned, is called The Third Wave of coworking spaces. It was done jointly with my dear friend and colleague Alessandro Gandini, who by the way, I don’t know if he’s listening to us. He was one of the two. Okay, we have two case studies in our paper, one is a rural space in the south of Italy. I have done the Hypsography on in London, while Alessandro was living in London, now he is in Milano, he did his case study at Outlandish in a coworking space. They managed to get something, so it’s interesting to have all of this connection. So, basically, I will try and say very briefly how we came to speak on resilient coworking spaces. At the same time, we defined them as coworking spaces, who are in a new phase, who are entering a new phase. And in this sense, we envision the first phase of coworking spaces, let’s say 2005, 2010, more or less, in which we have this Avant garde phase in which social value is prioritized regardless of space sustainability. So this pioneering moment in which people wanted to escape the corporate offices, so to speak. So, there was a process of crafting the pre-existing working cultures into new meanings and practices. Then we go to the mainstream, what we defined a new corporate phase, which we can think of somebody exemplify this trend. 

This would be of course, giants like WeWork. So, as we can easily say economic value is prioritized over the community aspect, although there is a lot of rhetoric, in this case it’s about the community, what you get is not just a desk of course. The promise is to have a thriving environment.  We all know of this I think, also in the audience we know that there are different moments and currently, these are phases that are not one exactly chronologically after the other, but these coworking spaces, these trends are coexisting right now. And still we have new corporate, coworking spaces. And we have seen the sprawl of this third phase of resilient coworking spaces. I would say that to describe them, I think we must first agree on what resilience is and what it means for us, and we try to approach this question of what can resilience be in this context. Basically going in the direction, and the prep who was a leading theorists in the creative industries set out when explaining what resilience was and he said it was an open perspective that does not resist, but embraces change. And he says, this is a quotation, “This is closer to a notion of sustainable living, a process of organization and adaptation who work in harmony with others. The surroundings and the wider world, one that enables adaptation and thriving.” So, this is, let’s say the ethical foundation of a resilient coworking space. Something that of course, hopefully is best suited, or I was hoping was most suited to cope with the current crisis. 

So there are a number of other elements, more empirical elements that actually define what a resilient coworking space is. So, of course, as we can extrapolate also from this starting definition that we use also in our paper is, the territorial root is being connected with the territory and valuing the possibility of interconnections that you can have there as perfectly explained, how it links with a specific sense of place and the people living even in smaller areas, not just the city but a smaller neighbourhood. The second point I think is also a sense of informality, a sense that derives also from the tradition of self-organizing of a certain practices of political engagement with contemporary life. Something which is heritage or overlaps with a sense of activism, so to speak. So in this sense, I think the choice, which is a politically motivated choice I read. Polly I would like to hear your voice. Often the choice to have a cooperative, of course it’s a very, very telling structural organizational aspect that comes to the fore in this new way of dealing. So, it was as a response to this increasing corporatization. So, maybe, the question was, we lost some part of the initial meaning of being together.  This togetherness and solidarity. We need to get out of the grey office corporate world right. And of course also there is another element we could say about organizational fluidity. 

The fact that sometimes coworking spaces are rigidly designed to be flexible. So the idea of having the tables with wheels for a certain number of elements or a certain number that people expect in every place. In this case, we can think of, WeWork giving a similar experience in different places, and you can expect always a certain number of features for people to recognize, “okay, this is a coworking space”, so free food, depends on values, could be just fresh fruit, or it could be more selected food. So the idea also for desires of the people of the members of our community that are not only paying members of course they pay, but there’s a possibility from time to shape what the place is. I think that also very, very important dimension that talks about a communitarian aspect that is present to this resilient. Coworking spaces. And so, what I would say. So I think this is a scenario in which we’ve seen sprawling, of course, coworking spaces in non-obvious areas, some non-central areas and big cities in rural areas, as some of us have already mentioned, and I was surprised about the case that also started a little habit with south of Italy. And I know that Southeast Asia, also in Japan, they’re opening this radically small coworking spaces like basically opening up their own houses to have five people going there in more in this extension of coworking which becomes a bit of co-living, which overlaps with the idea of a digital nomad.

 So, what I see there is now. For now, this huge crisis, I must say that I’m surprised about some news, I can also share the link. I shared the link on my Facebook. I was in Yahoo News a couple days ago. I was expecting that the most capital intensive coworking spaces, would actually suffer the most, right. So because they were already exposed, I’m thinking that we weren’t very exposed, and indebted. The main investor Soft Bank is being sceptical of the management. Now it’s the moment in which WeWork will collapse. Actually, because a bigger transformation is taking place which is corporate – traditional corporate workplace, will need to lay off a lot of people. They will need to save money on office space, and they will actually benefit from giants like WeWork to basically act, not as really coworking, but as software’s to displace the workforce flexibly across different locations. So seeing a city or a country, as a campus in which we have a number of hundreds of workers misplaced in this organization that basically they are outsourcing the management. So in this sense I see the future of this capital intensive coworking in corporations, acting as a supplemental software for normal corporations, so I see that as a direction. On the other hand, I was witnessing, before this crisis struck, this intensive movement. So in more capital, more space, monopolist kind of ambitions of certain coworking corporations, all at the same time, I was seeing, an extensive expansion, so to say, unification. So, a production of multiple niches that are very different types of coworking spaces, we’re serving. And this, I think it was a sign of the vitality of the coworking movement that I could witness, at a Coworking Unconference in Asia. In this multiplicity of forms and talking about co-living. I’m talking about co working in London that match with psychological support and training for example, say you’re an exhausted worker from the corporate world. You come here, you work and you get some session of psychotherapy, so to speak, or you have family, you want to move to Thailand. Yes we offer a crèche in the garden. Or you want to move to a rural space. So I saw this multiplication of offers so now, for the future. I see that I don’t necessarily see the COVID pandemic stopping or limiting this expansion. I hope that this resiliency of the spaces can actually help them foster the relation, and the working. Of course there’s a problem with traveling, there is a problem with feeling safe on the other side of the world. And probably, some people predict that we will go back to real normal in 2023. Wildly predicting, this could probably see an expansion of this coworking strands, more in a local way. So, there probably will be less of a digital nomad but more people will actually see reconfiguring their work. And also because many workers have tried smart working, many people will increasingly do smart working, probably staying in their cities, or who knows, actually moving for good to another countries so this is up in the realm of speculation, so to speak up. I close my mouth on that.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 53:16  

Thank you. Thank you very much. And thank you because it was really interesting. From my point of view, but also I think from the point of view of everyone. Yeah, and those on Facebook, who are following us. Just because you mentioned the local coworking gang, you mentioned Outlandish, I would like to go back to Polly, just to, not start again because we don’t have time, just to have a couple of minutes talking about, which are, in your opinion, not only in Polly’s opinion but in everyone’s opinion, the trajectory for the future and in particular for Polly for Outlandish, are you taking in place any kind of discounting for local community. What are you doing to deal with the post pandemic situation?

 

Polly Robbins 54:20  

So, we already have a ‘pay what you can’ system, so we don’t really need to discount it further. I just thought everything that everybody just said that was so interesting and so I want to say loads, but I think that one thing that we will see well of course we will see spaces like mine I think will benefit because we’re not right in central London, and we’re not very large, so people feel comfortable to come there. They can pick their kids up from school or they can cycle and it didn’t have to travel into London on the tube. So I think that there’ll be lots of positives from that. One thing that I think is going to happen and hey, I am not an economist, but it does definitely seem like there’s likely to be an economic recession. And that economic recession, I really don’t give a damn about the digital nomads for them. I mean, they’re great, but I’m more worried about the communities who are already massively marginalized. 

So people who are coming out of school, people who are already in precarious employment, people who are now using services like Uber or Task Rabbit, and they already are existing on very small incomes and those types of people are going to increase and at the moment they don’t always have that much access to coworking spaces or accelerators or incubators. And I think that this is now a time where we have to coordinate how we’re going to support those people who maybe aren’t already in our communities but will be unemployed, because we have so many resources, including our existing communities, our skills, and our spaces. And I think that there is a huge amount of opportunity and also need for coworking spaces to boost employment and that will help the local areas, and also their sectors whether they work in tech or the creative industries or anything. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do that, but I think it’s a really exciting thing to come along. Exciting is not the right word because of course it’s negative for the people who are experiencing economic hardship, but it’s a new field that coworking spaces I think can move into.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 56:40  

Yeah, I think would be kind of step by step phase basically. So, we will see. Nobody has experience of the situation so nobody can have right or wrong the answer to this. Of course, I think everyone will try to do, to the best they can do. Thank you very much. I would like to go to Marc. I would like to jump into the Spanish reality. Like my question for Marc is more about, basically in your experience, do you think that local coworking or, as you call it, coworking with social return will benefit the local neighbourhood where it is located in the future and even in the post pandemic situation or there will be more complex implications?

 

Marc Navarro 57:40  

I mean it could before. So, it will, it will actually do it, even in a greater way in the future. This has been mentioned by Alberto but there’s a lot of people from the real estate industry, big players talking about this. There was an article in Fortune today. From Eugene CO, co-founder and millionaire who runs it. He was explaining that they are now in a better position than, for example, WeWork to handle this post lockdown situation, because they have not only coworking spaces in the city centres, not only coworking spaces in the main cities but more widespread. So, if a guy like this, no offense taken, but if a guy like this that it’s like with big players big numbers, not with the kind of coworking that we know and we understand, but with a different kind of coworking with an absolutely different mind-set that will be arrested mind-set, which I have worked with. And it’s completely opposite of what we do. For some people it is better, for some people it is worse, but for these guys is the right way to go. Imagine for regular people, freelancers, and really small companies. Any of you is willing to commute for one hour, including transportation to go to their workplace. It was a bad idea before, right now it’s an even worse idea. So, there are other players like, for example, the Instant Group that they’re talking about having certain scopes, so that the companies will have a main office like their headquarters. And then they will have a lot of scopes, located close to their clients or close to the home of their staff right. So they try to avoid this kind of commuting. Before, everybody liked or preferred to go to city centre, because you have a lot of services. It’s a short distance from everyone if you have a really widespread staff. But right now, it’s a moment of rethinking things for sure, as you said, none of us has the crystal ball. We cannot read the future and this has to be how long it will take to come up with a vaccine. There will be some small spikes of the virus next winter, maybe even the summer.

So all that the health situation, and also a medical solution for it like having a vaccine to know the full impact. Regarding local coworking for sure, it will be better. And I think that for coworking in general, it will be much better in six months, nine months when we end the year, none of us believed that it was going to be like this. Can we remember that in 2020 goals, we never expected it to be like this? On the other hand, for coworking with social return or projects which, I know for sure Polly said that they have discounts. And I think that coworkers like her, as a friend of mine talked about Polly’s project, and how great they are what do you do you have discounts for members to help them. And you find a way that’s not unfair for others, making them having collaborations or these kind of stuff that all good coworkings do. But on the other hand, social coworking, has that for everyone. It’s kind of different in the coworking space. And we have to find a balance, so public working spaces, should not compete with private ones. There should be some sort of introductory level so they can go there and avoid the fees. The private ones need to work and to pay the expenses. And on the other hand, some sort of jumping up like a trampoline, so they can go to the second step, and that would be really cool. And if it’s actually working like that. And in Spain some of my colleagues, copied me and I help them and I’m really happy with that, don’t get me wrong. So, it does show that this model makes sense. Also the city council asked the company I was working for to create second coworking space of this kind. In another district. So, it’s a model that is working. And I think that this kind of coworking spaces, run by individuals or groups of individuals who care about their community. People will be much more successful in the future. The only thing is that we have this absolutely huge impact that the lockdown had. We have been struck by this, and this will make the next month a little bit more difficult. So I hope that most of them can survive. Because the future looks great. If we are able to help each other and withstand these impacts.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 1:03:50  

Thank you very much. I want to hear the voice of the last two people regarding the future trajectories. The other thing is that we have a couple of questions so maybe I can, ask the question, open to everyone. And then, if you want to reply. Everyone who wants to reply you can jump into the discussion. Okay, so basically we have a question from Hector Tailor. So the first one is: Could employers offer salary sacrifice to enable employees to pay for remote space? And the second one is: Have people seen a growth of employers paying for remote space for employees?

 

Marc Navarro 1:04:52  

Can I pick the first one? If I understood it correctly, is if an employer can ask you to go to a coworking space and not pay anything? I think that right now, the labour associations have been quiet because the situation, was not good enough, it was really critical to start asking for benefits for the workers, who have to be working from home. But in the future for sure when this new normal becomes the new normal. Which, by the way, in a space, not like this because we didn’t know if children are going to come back to school in September. So, these parents have to take care of them. There’s only reality. So when this happens, we have to think about that – and for sure labour associations will fight that, because if they are asking you to work from home and there’s a lot of people talking about this, you have seen your electric bill rising. You have seen your food bill at home, rising. You’re seeing all the expenses at home rising. And for sure you are paying a mortgage or you’re paying for your flat. So, you are forced to use certain square of a space in your home for work. And the companies must pay for this. 

I mean, you cannot leave your home for free or increase your expenses for free. For sure. Some companies may try to behave. But before you had to commute and you spent a lot of money. So then, depending on each country regulation, this will be legal or not. But on the other hand, for example we have a regulation, about a workplace. How much light should we have in the surface of the table? How many wheels does the chair have to have to be safe, and all this stuff? And that is something that companies cannot just skip. That’s mandatory by law. So, we have been fighting until the pain from the Industrial Revolution, to get better working conditions. So, this will for sure have to be granted in the future. So, the nice part for coworking for a company, it will be much easier to assign them a budget for a coworking space than to do this at the employee home. This is a discussion that must have a national level, because the regulations are not the same. Right, for example in Europe is very common under people who have this kind of mind-set that maybe in the US, it’s something completely different. Maybe in Latin America it’s something completely different, because they tend to see Europeans as these kind of people that always try to grant them employee rights. But I’m happy that we are like this. So I think that this replies the first question.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 1:08:23  

Thank you, Marc. I think so, but anyway you will see like the line will remain on Facebook – on the Facebook page so I really encourage you to reply to the questions from the top because we have more of this one. Of course we don’t have time. I just want to ask to the research side, so basically to Alberto and Emmanual what they think about future trajectories and if it will be possible for employers to request the questions, first of all, but also I think it’s related to future trajectories. So, how they will be like. Of course you should guess because nobody knows what will be the future situation for coworking spaces and, particularly, if the rhetorical coworking spaces will be taken in a way kind of benefits from the current situation. I don’t know who wants to start.

 

Emmanual Costa 1:09:49  

I think that, like I said, managers are expecting that independent people will be returning to coworking before firms, before employees. And as to firms, it is definitely a trend here. But you want to know the truth, hardly anything will happen before next year hardly, at least for the firm landscape. And I was told that larger companies are asking around. How does this coworking model work? What is coworking? What coworking does and does not for my firm? Do I need a flexible office, or can I put my employees in a shared space with other people? And I think that this is a reliable indicator at firms that companies even large companies. They are considering this position. I think this is a reliable indicator. But they need to think about it. They need to know if the coworking model works for their business model. And if it does, they need to plan how they’re going to do it, like Marc was explaining what the legal implications, the regulation implications are, they need to figure all this out before making a decision. So, that’s why I said hardly anything will happen before next year at least here. And I think the main issue here to attract companies to coworking spaces. I think that there is a key aspect that is about culture, like, the question is – How do I keep my organizational future, if I start to work remotely or sharing the workplace? Or, how do I maintain my company identity, if I’m moving to a coworking environment that has its identity. And it’s regardless of WeWork or rural coworking or suburban coworking. Coworking environments have a pretty strong identity. And how does it mix with the company identity that are looking to this position? And I think that that’s the true million dollar questions for the moment. Regardless, I think that overall regardless of being a nomad, freelance, employee or entrepreneurs.

I think that Alberto is 100% right. Location matters and matters a lot. And let’s say like, if you can live at a walkable or a cycle distance, or if you can call the taxi or Uber once in a while and it will cost you a bargain, then you can think about not having a car for example, or if your child studies at a school close to a coworking space and you can organize a routine for working while your kids are in class. It’s a win-win situation. Let’s say the stuff that I was discussing yesterday with a partner, a coworking partner, and he’ll say like, yeah, so let’s say that you save it a couple of hours every day doing this. By the end of the month you save like 60 hours is almost three days, it’s a pretty good deal. And their location really matters, location will be an issue of course. But I think that it’s not an agenda but of course, if we’re talking to the independent worker, he can already start thinking about this. Maybe moving to a coworking that is near his home, if there are more spaces opening and this is a trend that will be spreading. But if you want an employee or if you own a company and you have 20, 30, 50, 100 employees, you have to figure out legal stuff, of course, like, how can I legally operate remotely or spread. But also what is it, what does it tell us for my company culture, identity you know kind of stuff. And then, I think that once this is sorted out. That’s why I said, it’ll take some time to happen. Maybe this location pattern I think it will be a topic that certainly will emerge. But, yeah I think this would be pretty much what I see, what I cannot predict but what I can see happen like this, whoever is independent it will be starting now and whoever is a firm will have to go through this process.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 1:15:05  

Thank you very much.  I will. Yeah, of course. Probably, I don’t know in one year we’ll meet again. We will discuss which was the level of guessing? And what is, what will be real.

 

Polly Robbins 1:15:30:30  

Should we place a bet on it?

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 1:15:34  

Yeah, exactly. We can bet by money as well. To close the session I want to ask Alberto to do this for me, not for me but like to have the last comment on this regard.

 

Alberto Cossu 1:15:55  

What I would like to do actually is to talk about a story. I mean I think it sums up a little bit. These stories of resilience. I think they can apply quite well in the pandemic times, and also in the comments on Facebook – Bernie Mitchell was like “I’ve been to rural hub” and I think you shared a folder with photos. And I’ve been there many times, they are dear friends, I’m not sure in the article if I went in all of these details but I can tell you definitely more than what is there. Okay, so imagine that Rural Hub is positioned in the mountains. There’s Naples in the south of Italy, then there is Salerno which is a bit south. Still, and then you have some mountain summit there so it’s 10-15 minutes to a high speed train that basically connects Italy from Salerno, Naples Rome, then you go along and then you go Ilana right so it’s a very high speed train. So it’s kind of easily connected. There is an interesting University doing experimental stuff there. And there are local communities that are young people, especially in high school, who do not really have access to many interesting things so it tells a story of how this and  many others also many others about the people who are speaking here, representing and connecting fruitfully with the local space in a very informal way like we used to make events in that place, and the local youth would come and take a camera on the shoulder and start learning and filming, editing, uploading stuff on YouTube on Instagram, create presence. Actually, it was an informal way to upskill an otherwise, difficult way, people living in villages of 500 people, 1000 people, what they do not have that we sociologists call social differentiation. There are not enough people to have that kind of different roles and so what happened is that I think is that Rural Hub have already had a hit of a pandemic proportion in economic terms during peacetime. So what happened is that they had applied for public funding. Okay so here we are again, this issue of private funding, public funding or community self-sustaining support. So the idea was okay we’re going to get a lot of money – talking hundreds of thousands of euros, probably a million euros. And they won, and they started spending money and the Italian system, so bureaucratic so crazy, your project is good so you’re in control of the money. But, paradoxically enough, you have to ask banks to have the money. Place the guarantee of that public loan. And then you spend the money and then you get, it’s kind of weird. What happened is that for your bureaucratic problem, bureaucratic issue, they never got all the money, most of it, they never got it. And so this – and then manage to stay alive. 

So I think these talks about this kind of octopus style so – of course public funding is one way and probably in Italy it’s not always the best way. This applies to different contexts, because it exposes you to political dependency, exposes you to bureaucratic madness. At the same time it weakens you because if you don’t get it, normally you’d fall. Why did Rural Hub not fall? It did not fall because it was based on a web of dense relations of people who were putting their, some kind of voluntary work, let’s say, and we’re finding other ways to volunteer, hospitality sector having youth to sit on the countryside learn agriculture. Because it was a space was a hack space. So you would have courses to learn about technology. You would have courses that recognizes herbs and roots, making proper bread, something that is now super up and coming. 

 

So it managed to survive because of the local support it had built on a network of sympathizers and a network of volunteers.  Also, these talks about what sort of temporality, they’re working on. They’re working for years and they establish relationships with the territories for years. So for example, there was this event was created, not exactly where we were but one hour, driving on the south in a very remote location. The occasion for promoting the local territory again. So okay, my point is if I had to wrap up, in general what I said earlier, I summed it up quite succinctly. I see the possibility for this capital intensive coworking to act as software’s to support big companies having flexible working arrangements. At the same time, I definitely see as probable these hyper localization of coworking spaces that probably is or will be coupled with his niche nichefication. Okay so different services, different audiences, psychological support, support for kids, support for fashion so you want to learn and do fashion. These kind of niches. Most of all, I’m curious, this is the last point, if coworking spaces, I mean this observation comes from the fact that social movements and activist places for social change, radical social change never had enough spaces and cities like London. And in big metropolis. So I wonder if, in this situation the coworking spaces will become open radically open places in which the citizenry, in which the people can meet, something that has lacked completely in this moment in a safe way, of course, but from which we can start to rethink and rebuild. So people together, so this is something that I may see as a social mission of coworking space in a wider view. So, becoming the laboratories of the social change. Normally what happens during crisis, you have huge opportunities to establish new paradigms. So my hope is that maybe coworking spaces can act and keep acting on this direction.

 

Irene Manzini Ceinar 1:23:17  

Okay, thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Alberto for sharing the experience of Rural Hub. I didn’t know the story so it’s quite interesting. I’m really proud that this happened in Italy, to be honest, because it is because I know how difficult it is to build something like this in Italy and to be successful as well in the South of Italy. So, this is a very good experience thanks for sharing. So I think we should close, it’s quite late. We are like 20 minutes late, but okay. I saw on Facebook that there is a kind of discussion about all the stuff that you’re talking about. So if you want to follow up, go to the questions, comments and so on, feel free to do it. So thank you all for being here. Thank you all for sharing your own very, very super insightful experiences, and all different because  we are talking about the UK, about Spain, Italy, Brazil as well, so it’s very interesting. I don’t want to wrap up because I think others already did it. I just want to say that it has been very, positive from my side, too. To know that there is so much hope and positive vibes and let’s say about the coworking situation for the post pandemic life, for the new life of everyone. So, it will be great. I will be very pleased to follow up later. I don’t know in six months or one year with you guys. And to see what we discuss today to see what was happening, I don’t know, one year I think would be would be such a good thing to do so. Yes, thank you very much and thank you to all the people that follow, follow us on Facebook, and thank you for the comments, questions and so on. And I would just like to remind everyone that the next webinar will be on the 30th and will be Nina DiMartino, my colleague. She will moderate the webinar. The webinar will be about coworking spaces and coworking space essential library in the north region countries. So, yeah, please continue to follow us and to support us as well. And thank you everyone. Have a good evening.

 

 

 

Transcribed by Otter.

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