Friday, October 2, 2009

Thinking about guiding principles for coworking spaces

Coworking spaces vary in design, implementation models and philosophies/strategic views. Coworking spaces may share many attributes of entrepreneurial incubators, yet they may also have fundamental differences. A quick overview of philosophies and ground principles of coworking spaces in the US shows a few shared commonalities.

Carrboro Creative Coworking Principles (Adapted from the Citizen Space Philosophy)

  1. Collaboration – We strive to include a diverse group of people with a wide range of knowledge.
  2. Openness – Transparency is important. We all benefit from sharing ideas.
  3. Community – Creating good social connections for business and personal life benefits our work.
  4. Localism – Working in our downtown helps achieve our principles and contributes to our local economy.
  5. Sustainability – Sharing resources is good for our local community and the planet. Plus when we share we save money.
  6. Accessibility – Coworking spaces are affordable for a diverse group of people. Spaces are handicap and wheelchair accessible.

Since the very concept of coworking is rather new (arguably around 2005), having guiding principles hasn’t become yet a pre-requisite for coworking spaces to emerge. While it’s true that explicit guidelines are not yet a requirement for one of these spaces to succeed, but they are very useful.

Having principles or philosophies made explicit within each coworking space allows for potential entrepreneurs to filter themselves according to where they are located within a spectrum of collaboration.

As I had mentioned before, the mere geographical proximity does not guarantee that an entrepreneur that spends his or her time in a coworking environment will succeed. But a healthy combination of physical closeness, collaborative environment, coworking principles and entrepreneurial spirit are all factors that might lead to success.

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega is a Vancouver-based researcher, educator and consultant in the environmental public policy field. He conducts research in water governance, urban sustainability, comparative environmental policy and economic geography. Dr. Pacheco-Vega’s consulting studio has a home at The Network Hub.

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