By April 11, 2012 Read More →

‘Curated’ coworking – the future?

Coworking continues to develop

Curated coworking - the future?Yesterday morning I spotted an article on Twitter about curated coworking, a term I hadn’t come across before, so I read on to find out what it means. It seems that some coworking spaces, including Grind in New York, are now selecting members on the basis of an application form and interview, a very different approach from what we’ve seen up to now, which has been all-inclusive – turn up, pay your dues and join in.

I haven’t made up my mind yet what I feel about this development, so what follows is just some thinking out loud:

For me, the whole point of coworking is the attractive possibility of bumping into someone you’d never otherwise meet, who thinks totally differently and has a completely different background and experience. Is this possibility going to be reduced if someone has already selected the group?

If you have to make a written application and go through an interview, aren’t the selectors testing your aptitude for that, rather than the contribution you’d make to the space? We’ve all known people who are charming at interview and complete pains to work with.

Will coworking spaces anywhere outside the major cities be able to afford to do this? Much has been made of the difficulty many spaces have in making a profit.

Or will it enable them to put up prices – Grind is significantly more expensive than other NY spaces apparently – and so exclude those who earn less?

In choosing people we naturally gravitate towards those who are like us. Will this reduce the variety of people in the space and, coming back to my first point, make the possibility of inspiring encounters less likely?

Do you think this spells the end of the idealistic phase of coworking and its move towards a profit-directed industry not much different from serviced offices?

Would you apply to join a curated coworking space, knowing you might get turned down? And what’s next – Jelly organisers, are you tempted by the thought of private Jelly by invitation only?

Posted in: Coworking

18 Comments on "‘Curated’ coworking – the future?"

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  1. San Sharma says:

    ‘Curation’ and ‘Coworking’ are two buzzwords at the moment – mashing them together makes them extra special!

    Curated coworking makes the experience a bit more exclusive, like a fancy members club – and I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s that old adage: I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member 🙂

    I agree with you that open coworking can lead to chance encounters, and that’s great. But curated coworking could be less about its members and more about its workspaces.

    I like the idea of coworking happening in different places, rather than just one. An idea for you (and us) KindredHQ?

    • Judy says:

      That Groucho Marx line popped into my mind as well, San!
      What do you have in mind, a merry band of coworkers roaming the workspaces of the city?

  2. VP says:

    It sounds like a more formal version of what probably happens from the informal gatherings – you find some like minded people to work together on a project and do it separately from the informal group.

    It did strike me as being v similar to serviced offices when I first read it – so it’s reinventing the wheel and calling it something trendy 😉

    Having benefitted immensely from the chance encounters that social media affords, I’d be reluctant to go back to the more formal atmosphere curated coworking suggests

    I’ve just received your book – a very good read thus far 🙂

  3. Judy says:

    As San says, it does begin to take on shades of a private members’ club, very different from the aims of the original coworking spaces. In fact it’s more like an expensive networking club by the sound of it. Interesting to observe how a new movement develops and morphs over time.

    Glad you like the book 🙂

  4. Rickie J says:

    I agree with all your comments so far. I think this would work for say some of the ‘geeks meet ups’ that are popping up everywhere, so people have a similar skills & want to work with other similar people. I wouldn’t mind trying one with writers actually (please, don’t give me any more ideas, I have enough events to organise!)
    But really, like Judy, I like the chance encounters.
    I have thought about having a roaming Jelly in Birmingham, going to a different indie coffee shop each time but I think it would be too much for people to have to keep up with! In London, where you could go to a Jelly each week, that’s totally doable. Thanks for the piece Judy.

  5. Judy says:

    Hi Rickie, I suppose with our Jelly background we’re bound to have doubts about this kind of set-up, when we’ve experienced such benefits from the random mixes, always different, that Jelly produces. Maybe it would get tiring on more than a one-off basis!

  6. Great post and discussion, Judy!

    I initially had visions of velvet rope and beefy bouncers pushing aside not hipster-enough freelancers from the door. Keeping out the riffraff and vagabonds.

    For me, putting up a layer of selectivity detracts from what made coworking exciting in the first place. Coworking at its most raw always felt like a kind of a cool Wikipedia experiment with people and work. Everyone and anyone could contribute to the dynamic…it was an open and friendly place where independent professionals, otherwise working in isolation, could be around people and network when they wanted.

    There’s a part of me that wants to rail against this cliquey trend in coworking, but then again, I also understand it’s a business model that makes sense.

    With a limited amount of seats at any one space, it makes sense from the owner’s perspective to put in some filters, whether it’s a mandate (“only social enterprises and nonprofits need apply”) or a hefty price (a $500 a month price tag will deter a lot of people from even applying).

    “Curation” can also be wielded in a way to un-skew the concentration of certain fields or industries. What if you had 20 freelance web designers and 1 independent consultant from a law firm that joined a space? The demographics have to be balanced or else the community becomes homogenized– everyone doing the same thing. Not fun. It would be interesting to see how rigorous the actual application process is at Grind and at other spaces that require screening…Do they vote by committee? Do the existing members have any say?

    Hey, I’ll join your merry band of coworkers!

  7. Kaitlyn says:

    Really good discussion and post. I agree that it does sound buzzwordy and a bit too restrictive to me. I like the idea of a more casual space. for me, part of being self employed, is the fact that I don’t have to abide by someone else’s working structure.

    But then, to each their own. I know some people would probably really benefit from a space put together in this way so it’s probably good that the option is there.

    • Judy says:

      Interesting that so far here and in the many comments on Twitter nobody has declared an interest in joining a curated coworking space. But then maybe that’s not surprising for a site with such a strong affiliation to Jelly!

  8. Tim Dwelly says:

    Sorry to throw a cat among pigeons here but I’m not even convinced about co-working as a central idea. I do think that workhubs can make excellent venues for jellies and they will often attract some regular/daily users who might be considered co-workers. But the problem with over-emphasising co-working is that it sounds a little forced: to ‘be a member you have to co-work’.

    It can also play into the hands of those who want to reduce/stop homeworking, when in fact the trend is and shoudl be towards this. I find that the key word is collaboration.

    You can collaborate in a jelly session or by co-working, true. But you can also do so by having coffee in a workhub with a colleague. You may then want to return to your quiet corner (or go home to get work done uninterrupted!)

    I have seen workhubs fail on the back of selection procedures and cliques. So for me the curator idea is a definite no no. And I’d go further and suggest that people should question co-working a bit more. It’s only a part of the workhub jigsaw and it will only appeal to people to a certain demographic in my view.

    Share resources, have a place to avoid isolation, go in and join in when you want, but don’t feel forced to co-anything. Choose who to talk to, when and how it suits you. That’s the way to see most self-employed and homeworkers benefit from connecting with each other!

    • Judy says:

      I’ve always thought of coworking as simply working alongside others, with no obligation to do anything unless you want to. In my experience there is plenty of value to be obtained just from occasional chats, and that’s where I agree that a wide range of people is best.

  9. Interesting discussion. In my mind co-working really relates to anything from working in the same place (employees in a building, where often there’s little or no collaboration), through to collaboration despite location, and ultimately it’s down to what the individual needs and wants from the experience. Aligned with Tim’s comments, what I think’s probably key is enabling and encouraging the experience of co-working (actually or virtually) when there’s a void, resulting in business owners that choose to work from home being isolated in a business sense, to the detriment of themselves and their businesses; you can probably guess that’s why I introduced Colleagues on Tap co-working days for homeworkers!
    In terms of how, I do think it’s horses for courses. The more options that are available the more people can be engaged, and just as there are lots of different types of networks and networking events out there to meet the needs of different people, a whole range of co-working initiatives will increase the proportion of people whose businesses are positively impacted. Personally I don’t sign up to the exclusive networks that only allow one of each business type to join, for fear of internal competition, but there are many that do, and whose businesses gain as a result. It takes all types 🙂

    • Judy says:

      ‘Collaboration despite location’ – I haven’t thought of that before and it certainly broadens my definition in my previous comment.

  10. When I looked at the Grind a while back, I saw that they never called themselves a co-working space, but that the major distinguishing feature from conventional co-working is that it is more like a club:

    “Every Grindist was recommended by another Grindist, so you’re surrounded by people who share your worldview.”

    I am not certain that it is good for business or life to only surround oneself with people who share each other’s world view; look where that has led in American politics.

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Lloyd, that detail wasn’t included in the article I read and adds a whole new dimension. Having one’s world view challenged can be uncomfortable sometimes but rather that than think in ever-decreasing circles.

      Lloyd wrote about Grind back in September 2011 – click here to read what he made of it.

  11. Judy, this movement is bright even here in Brazil. The Hub, a coworking space in Sao Paulo, is one of the Hub spaces around the world, and here (I don’t know exacty about the rest of the world) the coworkers are only admitted after a interview about its social perspectives about your job and what kind of good is bringing to the world.

    It’s the niche of the niche in coworking, but I think that all the models could coexist. If there’s a need for curated coworking, it’s about gathering people in a same mood, for accelerating the conections even more.

  12. Judy says:

    I’m not sure whether The Hub interviews prospective members here.
    I used Google Translate to check your link in case the photo was of a new sleepover coworking space – have I just stumbled on a fantastic new business opportunity?