Christian Cordes is one of the pioneers of coworking in Germany, and what you might call a multitasker. We sat down with the expert for Urban Digital Development and talked about his connection to coworking.
As Urban Digital Development Officer for the City of Wolfsburg, Germany, you started Schiller 40 Coworking Space in March 2012, which is where it all began. Tell us more about this first project of yours.
It was an innovation at the time. Schiller 40 is part of Wolfsburg’s digital strategy. The goal was to develop more and more digital formats for citizens. Schiller 40 was set up as the first municipal coworking space ever, built by a municipal institution. It quickly became one of the city’s hot spots for interdisciplinary networks — a meeting point for society, economy and science.
What did you learn from this project?
Schiller 40 has been growing steadily and organically since the beginning. One of the most important things we have learned is this: coworking is more than just offering a space for people to meet and work — coworking should be seen as a service. That is why we are now working on taking the next step. In early 2019, we will start a new project called Markthalle Wolfsburg. People have already been able to join the pop-up version since earlier this year.
So, what is Markthalle Wolfsburg all about?
Basically, Markthalle Wolfsburg is growing the idea of coworking into an even more complex concept of collaboration. Our partners will contribute various perspectives: Volkswagen on Smart Mobility, the City of Wolfsburg on digitization, Aalto Design Factory on scientific support and the VfL, our local soccer club, on E-Sport and the digitization of professional sports. Schiller 40 Coworking Space aims to be an interface for the citizens here.
The Markthalle is included in the Memorandum of Understanding, a strategy paper by the City of Wolfsburg. It is intended to function as “Wolfsburg’s digital living room”. Located next to the train station, directly in the city center, it will be Schiller 40’s new home. Besides a coworking area, the Markthalle will include a café, an event space, a community kitchen, a maker space, a collaborative studio, a broadcasting studio, experimental areas for augmented reality and more.
This sounds very exciting. Please keep us updated about the opening!
You are also an executive board member of the German Coworking Federation (GCF). Can you explain to us what the federation stands for, and what’s on the schedule for next year?
The Federation is a national initiative, founded in 2015. Over the last three years, it has brought together around 80 members, coming from coworking spaces and concepts of all sizes, from cities and towns. The association is characterized by its diversity. And of course, the federation is an interface for the worldwide coworking scene.
What started as a bunch of volunteers with the idea to present coworking in a broader community has since become more professionalized. We follow the same motto I mentioned above: coworking is a service, therefore the federation can position itself as a consultant. Independently, if you are a business owner that already has experience in running a space, the federation can provide you with many services, such as workshops and legal or tax advice. We also arrange contacts and organize network events. Our annual highlight is the German Coworking Conference. The next one is already set up, so save the date: March 22–24, 2019 in Mannheim!
What kind of sources, news feeds, networks and events are you following to stay up-to-date about coworking?
The annual Coworking Europe Conference is definitely worth joining. This year, coworking community members from all over the world will gather together in Amsterdam from November 14–15.
How can new coworking spaces get connected within the coworking community?
Join your national network associations, like the German Coworking Federation! Meet like-minded people at our workshops for space founders, local meetups or national and international conferences.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Christian!
The Cobot Expert Interviews are a series of interviews with people who stand out in the national and international coworking movement. We love to share their unique perspectives and experiences. Who do you want to see here next? If you have any suggestions or would like to share your own insights on coworking please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.