If you follow our blog, you might have come across a few coworking stories from our community, like Hatcham House, who recently shared with us how they managed to expand their business in times of COVID-19 and what was the role of andcards technology in their success. Today, we are coming back not with one new coworking story but… 250! How so? We invited Pauline Roussel, co-author of the recently launched coffee table book “Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces” to tell us more about this unique project.
Ready to travel? Keep scrolling down!
Hello and thank you for having me today! I am Pauline, I am French but a Berliner since 2014. My background is in communications, so quite far away from coworking, but, in 2015, coworking entered my life as I got hired as General Manager (my exact title was cooler actually, it was Chief Happiness Officer) of a coworking space that was targeted at early-stage startup founders.
The space was started by business angels from Berlin and we also had a startup accelerator in-house called Startupbootcamp, which was quite a unique setup in itself. What that meant for joining members is that the moment they were becoming a part of our community, they were given plenty of opportunities to connect, learn and grow in various ways.
I witnessed, on a daily basis, amazing stories happening there. From funding opportunities to the national TV coming to our space to film a startup that participated in the german version of the TV show The Shark Tank (with our logo in the background, great promotion! It was quite incredible to realize that not one day was like the other. I started to discuss that with Dimitar, who was Entrepreneur in Residence for that startup accelerator and was noticing the same things happening to the accelerated startups.
Together, we started to wonder what was happening in other spaces around town, what were the daily stories and the impact those spaces were having on their members. To figure it out, we wrote to a lot of spaces and asked them if they would be keen to tell us their stories and show us their spaces.
A lot of them did more than that, they invited us to their community breakfasts or their community lunches to allow us to experience the space for ourselves. It was incredible! The diversity of the community we met, from parents to musicians, from makers to digital nomads and social entrepreneurs, everyone was thriving and finding a lot of meaning in being part of their community.
That triggered our curiosity enough to wonder what it was like outside of Berlin. Meeting the founder of an Italian coworking space, who came to Berlin to see our space, was like the match that lights a fire. He told us “come visit us and see what we do, it’s quite different.” We packed our bags, booked a flight in a low-cost airline, and went to Milan for three days. The moment we entered his space, which was way bigger than ours and was filled with its own history from the past, we understood its difference. It had a school in-house where joining students were learning about digital jobs. Since then, we never stopped traveling.
We found hacks and tricks to travel as much as we could, in a budget we could afford. Over the last five years, we visited 420 coworking spaces across 47 cities, from Tokyo to Bangkok, Istanbul, or New York. The reason why I am saying this is because that’s where the idea of the book came from.
During our time in New York, we met a coworking space in Chinatown called Based In, started by an architect. After telling him our story (I believe at the time we had visited over 100 coworking spaces already), he told us “wow, you should write a book!” Somehow, the idea sounded great, but we didn’t do it just yet.
It took us a bit more travels and more and more people telling us the exact same thing to actually start making it happen. Seeing founders, community managers, and members of coworking spaces with whom we were interacting, projecting themselves in a book where they could read the stories we were sharing, felt good. So we decided to make it happen and brought to life “Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces.”
Sure! I might have touched base a bit on that in my previous answer but, the idea behind the book is to gather the stories of 250 unique coworking, coliving, and maker spaces from around the world.
We let their founders tell us how they started, how they conceive their spaces, or even how they got that building and transformed it into something completely different. We invited community managers/community builders to share stories from their members, from weddings to babies, or from memorable events they experienced altogether: anniversary parties, secret Santa, opening parties, celebrating member’s biggest success and achievements, going away somewhere together, moving in together during the lockdown and more.
We also have a special story, one that is told by members of a coworking space. Both of them shared how the community they belong to has helped them tremendously in their personal and professional growth.
But that’s not it. We’ve also invited two companies that inspire us for different reasons: global furniture provider Kinnarps, and access control systems company SALTO to share their insights and their perspective on how to design better spaces and better experiences for members.
That was quite a challenge, but in retrospective, it was a great one.
We started working on the book at the end of 2018/early 2019. So by the time COVID-19 came into the world, you can imagine that we were pretty advanced in the process.
But, when spaces started to reach out to us to say they were shifting or reinventing themselves, we understood we had to pause the project. We want the book to be as close to the realities of our time when it comes out as possible. Hence, not talking about COVID-19 would have made it less impactful.
So we almost restarted the entire project. The design changed entirely and we rewrote a lot of the stories (if not all). While we didn’t want the book to be all about COVID-19, we included it in a natural way, as part of the spaces’ histories.
The purpose remained the same though.
We still want the book to “inspire the curious, give knowledge to the seekers and encourage the indecisive”.
That’s a great question as a lot of people might think it is targeted just at coworking operators. The book is for everyone. Whether you already know a lot, just a little or nothing about coworking, there will be something for you to learn and get inspired from.
Our aim, with the book, is to reach out to the widest audience possible. We see many companies currently trying to understand how and where their employees will work in the future. While remote working was not on the radar of larger companies prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has shown them it is possible. Now, they need to give their employees the right tools to keep on doing their best work and find the right environment for themselves.
Commuting for long hours should not be a thing someone does every day when we now all know that alternatives, aka coworking spaces, are available anywhere: from busy metropolitan areas to remote islands.
“Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces” is like a guide for them, showing them what’s coworking, for who it is, and what kind of impact it has.
We have put a lot of thought into our design because we wanted design lovers to be surprised. Thanks to our designer, Madalena, we created a book that stands out, in its colors but also in the way it is conceived. We wanted it to beautify any shelves it would be on.
As per coworking operators, we wanted to offer them the opportunity to find inspiration in a new way. While there is a lot of online content available for coworking spaces, there are very few printed books on the topic. We believe the book is like a moment they can take for themselves, to reflect, ask themselves questions, find inspiration and see that they are not alone.
Sure! The book offers a great global perspective on what coworking is but not just. We also interviewed coliving spaces or maker spaces in various regions of the world to understand their impact and hear their stories.
We also want to highlight that coworking is not just for startups and freelancers. It is for everyone.
Hence, in the book, you’ll read the story of a coworking space targeted at the elderly (from 60+) or a coworking space targeted at beauty professionals where instead of desks you have make-up stands, a blow-dry bar, and more.
There are also a lot of amazing architecture stories: like the one of Creative States a beautiful coworking space located in Kyiv, Ukraine in a building that was formerly the hangar of an arsenal factory!
Until mid-February, and in order to raise awareness about the project to a wider audience (as said earlier) we decided to do a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, offering our extended community the opportunity to become an active contributor to the project by pre-ordering a copy so we can initiate the printing process.
During that time, we will create quite a few online events on our Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coworkies inviting some of the spaces part of the book to show us their spaces and tell us their stories.
Once the campaign will be over, the book will be available on our website https://www.coworkiesbook.com