Coworking Europe (CWE) is known for bringing together coworking professionals and industry insiders across Europe and the world. This year, while we were in Poland, we took a short journey outside of the official program to attend an illuminating, informative, and interesting event called the Researchers Meetup organized by the Coworking Library. You might have seen that we already shared our thoughts on CWE 2019, but given how entertaining and relevant the content of the Researchers Meetup was, we felt it deserved its own follow-up article to chat about some of our highlights from this offsite event.
What is the Coworking Library?
Johanna Voll, longtime coworking researcher and founder of the Coworking Library, organized the event. She opened with the origin story of the library project, which you can read about right now on the Coworking Library blog:
On a sunny afternoon in 2016, Johanna, Carsten, and Akki — the famous coworking dog — sat on the green fields of a park in Berlin. There we developed a form for collecting submissions of publications for what would become known as the Coworking Library — a place online to collect and browse all the coworking research from around the world.
They’ve made good on their promise to provide high-quality coworking research and distribute it as freely and openly as possible.
Kicking off the researchers’ presentations was Victoria Heinzel with new insights into the different coworking models. Beginning with rural coworking, she shared key observations about the ways in which coworking models must respond to their unique challenges. Rural coworking is seen as a driver of revitalization and community engagement on multiple levels, and must therefore engage with the community differently than their urban counterparts. On the other hand, her findings from corporate coworking suggest the potential for spaces to excel by driving an entrepreneurial mindset among employees and allowing for more flexible leadership and creative structures within larger organizations.
What makes a coworking space a coworking space, and what separates one from the next? Pinning down the answer to this question means diving into the heart of what coworking is, and it’s a lot more than what kind of desks they offer. Marko Orel, a researcher operating in the field of socioeconomics, introduced his taxonomy of coworking spaces. This taxonomy is useful for understanding coworking’s social and economic dynamics. Plus, it helps build a space’s own understanding of itself and how it can provide the best values and services for members.
Miryana Stancheva led a stellar talk that applied the social science concept of personality development to understand the journey of coworking. Growth and financial success hide a deeper reality: coworking, like all future of work trends, has it’s own ebbs and flows, as well as prevailing beliefs and concerns. Over the past decade, we’ve seen enormous successes, but we’ve also seen shifts in mindset that have shaped the way coworking has developed. Miryana’s lens put a finer point on the competing ideologies, methods, and perceptions that continue to shape the narrative.
Finally, Anita Füzi shared her research into the economic impact when coworking spaces take an active role in community engagement. It’s an area of debate that often pits small and large coworking spaces against each other and yet, is a great unifier for old and new coworking spaces. How much economic impact do we really have, and how much should we try to have? There aren’t easy answers, but it does seem like the economic picture that we like to talk about (like helping our local communities) is rooted in fact, and there are many ways in which coworking can economically support our communities even further. If you’re interested in more of her work, Anita Füzi currently leads a coworking research consultancy and has directed years of work into analyzing work trends. We’ve even featured her on our blog.
Researching coworking brings its own challenges. But based on our time at the Researchers Meetup, it also offers huge rewards in the form of some of the most interesting and relevant information for coworking space operators. We highly recommend this format, and encourage interested operators to seek out places where they can hear from the researchers listed above. It’s easy to make big statements but it’s hard to get good data to back them up — so listen to the people who are taking a critical and academic look at coworking and we’ll see you at the next meetup!