The Future of Work: What We Can Learn About Collaboration and Community From the Coworking / Coliving Movement

In Coboat by Karsten Knorr / September 15, 2016 / 2 Comments

I am in awe of individuals who against all the odds achieve great things and by doing so they serve to educate, change perspectives and make the world a better place.   

I believe platforms such as TED are extremely important for inspiring action and putting some great role models on the world’s stage. One of my favourite talks is Drew Dudley’s Everyday Leadership where ‘Lollipop Moments’ are emphasised as important acts, which no matter how small, could positively impact another person’s life and even change it’s course.

It has made me question how we can encourage people from being passively empathetic to taking action. Imagine what we could achieve if we came together? What I truly believe the world needs is global communities to overcome some of the challenges facing our world. These days, to me, it seems communities, in the traditional sense, are dying out. Neighbourhoods, villages and towns are more disconnected than ever. The rise of individualism has resulted in failing societies and fewer communities.

Perhaps we would be willing to better understand and support one another if we realised just how connected we are. Hats off to Momondo for their DNA campaign. What an eye opening exercise and a powerful catalyst for changing people’s perspectives. 

The Emergence of a New Community

I chatted about this recently with Christian Zirnig, friend and coach. He made a point that resonated with the experiences I was having and observations I was making. He reminded me that people will act when united by a common goal or mindset with others. And he’s right.

I spent time this year, away from my home in the UK and meeting many people from all over the world because I was acutely aware I have a very British view of the world. In the words of Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of the Single Story”, it is not that this view is untrue. It is incomplete.

What I found was the coworking and coliving movement which is transforming the world of work. It has created a collaborative global community and the spirit of the movement is inspiring action.  

Coworking is the gathering of a group of people to work together but not for the same company, instead of working remotely in separate offices or from home. It suits independent professionals, telecommuters and others who work from anywhere allowing them to come together in one space.

Coliving is the new movement and takes this one step further, offering living accommodation alongside a place to work.

Coworking and coliving and the changing nature of work sees a new community emerging. I believe this shift away from traditional working practices will prove to be an important one and will positively impact the world in which we live.

Amarit Charoenphan, startup ecosystem builder, serial events organiser and entrepreneur passionately believes that coworking can change the world.“Coworking spaces are the communities that bring the cooperative and collaborative cultures back to our cities, our communities, our society”.

The Culture of Collaboration

Here’s why.

My experience of coworking and coliving started with Coboat and through this groundbreaking project I have met an array of people from all over the world. Coboat is a coworking space on a Catamaran. Everyone on board, every week, upheld the coworking core values as outlined by the coworking manifesto, ‘community, learning, collaboration and sustainability.’ And they had this in abundance. The support and offers of help were always given with such energy and enthusiasm that it became addictive.

Punita Malhotra, who launched, published and edited India’s first HR magazine has just begun a life as a freelancer. She recently explained her experience in the Digital Nomad Girls Facebook Group, “Made my formal foray into the travel-blogging world only 10 days back, but even in this short period of time, I have drawn one big conclusion about the travel community: There seems to be so much generous give-and-take, people freely share tips for success, and support each other’s growth. In the cut-throat competitive world of today, this comes as a breath of fresh air. Especially for someone like me, who has been been a corporate professional for several years.”

My experience has been no different. Every week on board Coboat people connected, shared ideas, challenges and everyone pitched in to support and help. It is a form of collaboration I had not experienced before.

This collaborative spirit was highlighted in an article by Economia which explained that 84% of Impact Hub Westminster’s members have collaborated with other co-workers, be that finding someone who’ll design a website for them, helping them with their marketing, or going into business with them. (Impact Hub is an innovation lab, business incubator and a global network of social enterprise community centres with more than 15,000 members).

The Impact on our world

At the core of the movement is a socially conscious mindset, something that’s cultivated by travel and a connection to nature, places and people. This connection and experience essentially results in more socially driven actions and decision making.

If you haven’t heard of the programme Healing Lesvos you soon will. You may remember Lesvos as the Greek island most hit by the migrant crisis in 2015. A year on and the island is crippling from the impact of the influx of migrants. Eleni Astikabasis, local business owner, is driving a programme to re-build the island and sees huge opportunities to redesign life on Lesvos.

The coworking/coliving movement is a key component of the plan. Digital Nomads Lesvos (DNL) is based out of Bird’s Bay in a beautiful setting on the island. Eleni’s vision is to host digital nomads and location independents on the island thereby bringing in an alternative form of tourism. As well as boosting local economy DNL will connect the coworking community to the challenges of the island, and by tapping into the skills of the members will drive global collaboration for the Healing Lesvos programme.

One of the most exciting outcomes from Coboat’s first five weeks sailing is the ongoing collaboration between Eleni and three guests she met onboard. Each guest has offered skills and connections to support Eleni’s mission, including marketing skills and connections to universities in the US which has resulted in the birth of the Lesvos1000 project. The project invites 1000 students from universities all over the world to take part in a living lab on Lesvos, set up to rebuild and rebalance the island.

My learnings

True to form, the coworking community has come together to collaborate on a socially founded project. To have been part of this, and seen these collaborations form, has opened my eyes. I see now, more than ever, the importance of growing this movement. Changing the way we work will change the way we interact with the world and each other.

In the short time I have spent within this movement I see two important consequences:

1) Travel instills more empathetic and social awareness, arguably a necessary form of education

2) Coworking/coliving establishes global communities, binding connections, breeding collaboration, social engagement and action.  

The future of work is becoming a popular topic to write about and for good reason. According to a recent survey, coworking spaces have grown by 36% in the last twelve months, which puts the number of coworking spaces worldwide at around 7,800. Today, about half a million people are working in coworking spaces. These numbers are set to rise.

But what is the potential and other impacts of this movement? My observations and experiences are in their infancy so to gain a deeper understanding I will be exploring this topic further by speaking with leaders and members of this movement. Coming up is an interview with Eleni Astikabasis about the social impact and potential of coworking / coliving.


Other articles in this series are:

The Future of Work: The Social Impact of the Coworking / Coliving Community

The Future of Work: The challenges with remote work and how employers can overcome them

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