The C in Coworking Space Also Stands for Community

We’re excited to be “syndicating” a blog post from Robin Terrell’s amazing blog on the future of work (with a particular emphasis on the location-independent variety): The Global Mobile Worker. This post in particular was meaningful to us because it’s about the meaning of community, and in particular the community Robin found (and helped create! – Thanks, Robin!) at Locus.

Along with creating this blog and being a member of Locus, Robin is a Berkeley-educated lawyer, a writer (her book, Two Broke Chicasa travelogue about her adventures traveling around Central & South America, Mexico, and Cuba with her partner–is available on Amazon), a technology / startup junkie, a proud Amazon employee.

We’re excited to be able to share her blog post here…

wordgram-of-cowork
When I first arrived in town I used Meetup to find people who shared common interest. That led me straight to Locus Coworking space. Once in the door, I quickly connected with both the startup community and the writing community, common members of co-working spaces. It has been almost three years now and although I never signed up to co-work at Locus, I realized that I spent time in one of the two spaces at least once a week.
When my new job took me away from Prague for months, my homecoming included reconnecting with my friends at Locus. I write every Saturday with a dedicated group, committed to various forms of media that involve the written word. We have bloggers, and novelists, and game script writers, and PhD students writing a thesis. We come from different countries, different generations, different genders. Our bond is a long-term fascination with words on a page.
It was through Locus that I joined my E-publishing Mastermind group that has single-handedly taken me from talking smack to preparing to upload my first ebook, Two Broke Chicas, a Travel Series, December 26th, just in time for people to use their Christmas gift cards and make their New Year’s Resolution to travel more. Mentor members, like successful sci-fi writer, Bill King, have made my dreams come true.
While plopped on a big fluffy couch to wait for the group to start, I realized how important Locus was to my social life, and sense of being, in Prague. What my virtual membership gave me access to, besides one day a month and access to my e-Publishing Mastermind group, was a community. A place I could belong with people who shared my passion for a flexible work life.

Community = Thrive

Just like we need a Tribe, we need a community. Research found that people who belong to a co-working space report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices. Read more: Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces
infographic-co-work
Grind, is a growing network of coworking spaces in New York and Chicago. Community manager, Anthony Marinos, shared, “When it comes to cultivating our community at Grind, we’re all about the human element. We consider ourselves as much a hospitality company as we do a workspace provider. Our staff knows all of our members by name and profession, and we’re constantly facilitating introductions between Grindists.”
Research in Forbes magazine showed that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger.Co-working spaces can be a place for women, known for being great communicators and collaborators, who don’t excel at building power networks can find a safe space to start. (Women tend to build deep and narrow networks women-networkwhile men wide and shallow ones.) I’ve added several women to my network from Locus, and started an informal dinner group to encourage young professional women to support each other, over a glass of wine.

Building Intentional Communities

Some experts believe that co-working space should be built more like intentional communities. Example, Brooklyn’s Friends Work Here. Founded by NYC-based Swiss-born designer and entrepreneur Tina Roth-Eisenberg, who’s also behind the international lecture series CreativeMornings (which happens monthly in Prague, but mostly in Czech) and Tattly. The space came as a response to Roth-Eisenberg’s negative experiences in “soulless” coworking places that are more focused on making money than cultivating inspiration among its members.

A Wealth of Human Resources

Locus is how I found my brief dog-sitting gig. I enjoyed several days of pretending to own a dog, forced to take several walks every day, which did wonders for my mental health. I’ve enjoyed people passing through town and people here for the duration, like my friend Sarah who first came when it was Czechslovakia, and still communist. She is at heart a historian, writes historical fiction, and loves talking about the history of this country she calls home, as a well-informed outsider.
It was hysterical and inspiring to sit in on Texas Holdem’ Poker night, where people from around the world turned into ruthless gamblers who might gut you for a pair of Ace. It was motivational to listen to Regina and Mike talk about becoming Courageously Free, and through that relationship I was interviewed for their podcast – which should be out just in time for my book launch.
There were people at Locus doing, looking for, thinking about the exact same things as I was. We all wanted to marry our fascination with social media and our passion for words. I could pick the brains of people who, like me, were inspired by Prague, determined to make their literary dreams come true. We figured out all kinds of ways to make money with words. My critique and Saturday writing buddy, Beth Green, will fix your words for a fee. Which still leaves her time to search for an agent for her first novel, represent on Booklust and @bethverde, and be a Wanderlust columnist at thedisplacednation.com.
My writing group has sustained me, in ways both creatively and emotionally, over noodles and pivo at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from Locus. We’ve discussed our lives and our loves, U.S. and European politics and the meaning of feminism.
We’ve shared critique groups and book front-cover
launches, like Sonya’s soiree for Under a Caged Sky, held at Locus Slezka, where we toasted with glasses of wine under the skylight, with Prague as the backdrop.

Staying Engaged

partyOnce I’d had that moment of realization, that my co-working space was my community, I started to look around for other ways to participate. Engaged in the social media connection and found easy, fun ways to stay involved. I am looking forward to the Christmas Party catered by Ethnocatering, a social enterprise of migrant women that serves authentic food from Georgia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Armenian. You can’t find this deliciousness in restaurants. I know, I said it, that bad M word. Well, I must own it because here in Prague, I’m a migrant. A tax paying, law abiding expat seeking shelter and new beginnings.
I know I’m not alone in this revelation and would love you to share your experience of finding community in co-working spaces. Tell us your story in the comment section here at the Global Mobile Worker Project.

Member Profile: Enrique Fonseca Porras

Fonseca is one of Locus’s most inspiring freelance success stories. He moved to Prague 3 years ago from Valladolid, Spain (one of the few members to join Locus before he arrived), intent on becoming a successful location-independent marketing consultant for the Spanish market, without being quite sure how he could pull it off from Prague. He started a marketing consultancy and just couldn’t figure out a way to get it going. 

A couple months before the Spanish national elections, almost on a whim and struggling to figure out how to move forward, he and a Spanish colleague decided to write a book about how the non-Marxist political parties should learn from the marketing strategies of the Communist party. They finished the entire book within a month. Not long after, they had offers from multiple Spanish publishers and were soon launching a book promotion. El método podemos: Marketing marxista para partidos no marxistas became an overnight success in Spanish political circles (luckily the publication coincided with national elections supporting their case), giving Fonseca and his co-author immediate recognition. 

Finding success in following his passions, Fonseca turned with two colleagues to vlogging, started their own politics YouTube channel, Visualpolitik (update as of 22 Mar 2018, the Spanish-language channel has more than 565,000 subscribers, and has spun off an English-language version that’s about to hit the 380,000 subscriber mark)! From not being sure he could continue his freelance life in Prague to publishing a book to becoming a successful vlogger, Fonseca provides an inspiring example that–at least sometimes–following your passions can be the secret to success.

Why write a book on political marketing?

 

Fonseca decided to write a book on political marketing because he saw a need in the market for this type of information. He has a passion for the subject and experience from working with the People’s Party of Spain that qualified him to write on it. He wanted to explain the big picture behind successful marketing campaigns. A lot of Marxist ideas create the general philosophy that goes into political marketing. One must understand the people’s concerns and issues, then create a solution around this. Politics is not so much about the reality of a situation, but the population’s perceptions. He uses the book to detail all of this into a strategy that helps a group market themselves to the top

 

 

In your book, you write that your goal is to “sell a solution, not an ideology” can this political marketing techniques be applied to other business sectors?

 

Yes, there a small differences in the application of these techniques from the political sector to the business sector, but that central Marxist philosophy remains. There must be an emphasis on first completing market research to understand the issues plaguing people. Next is the construction of a solution that will appeal to the masses, remembering it is people’s perceptions that dictate their decisions. It is marketing this solution and strategy behind it that can transcend the business and political world.
 

What are you doing today with your YouTube channel?
Currently Fonseca is working with a few partners who have crafted a YouTube channel that posts videos on international politics and global issues. They first launched a Spanish channel in February of 2016 with the goal of providing further background and a greater context on international politics. The channel does not focus on the widely covered issues, but instead chooses issues they believe to be largely impactful and under covered global issues. Just this past February an English channel has been launched to reach a larger audience and help viewers better understand the background that goes into complex international relations and issues today.
 

How does your YoutTube Channel help you fulfill your passion for storytelling?

Fonseca has a passion for sharing ideas by means of storytelling. The YouTube videos he creates bring all of his strengths and interests together to form a cohesive story. He uses his political knowledge and background along with his illustration and graphic design skills together to create a story or video that educates the audience on current issues around the world.

Do you have any upcoming plans for expansion?

 

The focus today is on fostering the new English channel and working to expand that to more viewers. In the future Fonseca would like to try to expand the YoutTube channel potentially into new markets, more languages, and other topics. They are considering the idea of an apparel line based on the channel’s content. Fonseca also mentioned the possibility to choosing a completely new topic or perspective to share via podcast or other media. The future seems to hold many possibilities to expand reach.

 

What brings you to Prague?


After writing his book and beginning to do freelancing work Fonseca decided he wanted a new adventure and wanted to move abroad. He spent a lot of time researching places and looking into what would fit his wants and needs best. This included practical things like taxes, and living costs, along with lifestyle categories like livelihood of the city. At the end of the research Prague came out on top as most favorable overall. Three years ago Fonseca moved here and has not looked back.
 

Favorite part of the city?

Naplavka is Fonseca’s favorite part of the city, especially during the spring and summer because it’s so lively. He likes that there is a quaint farmers market right on the river always with fresh air and nice outdoor scenery to take in.

 

Why did you choose to join a coworking space, and specifically Locus?

 

Fonseca wanted to join a coworking space as soon as he came to Prague to help him find his own community within the city. Locus ended up being the choice because “Locus answered their phone.” Fonseca explained that he really appreciates a business who will answer and get back to you promptly. He was able to speak with Will and immediately felt like it would be the right space. Will has continued to positively influence Fonseca as a mentor of sorts.
 

What have you gotten out of your membership at Locus Workspace?
Locus has reached and exceeded Fonseca’s expectations for finding a community in Prague. He has used the membership to make some professional connections and network with people to help advance his career. However, more important than that to Fonseca has been the personal connections he has made. Fonseca considers many of the Locus members his friends. He even said that his life in Prague is very much connect to Locus and its members.

 

Interesting fact about you that we wouldn’t otherwise know?

 

Fonseca prays every morning despite being an atheist. He explained that being from Spain and growing up Catholic and having the religion in his heritage it is something that will always have a shaping impact on his life even though he does not practice the religion. Now Catholic prayers offer a way from him to keep time during morning workouts.

Negotiating Like a Pro at Locus

On Wednesday February 22 Locus Workspace had the opportunity to host one of our own members, Martin Bednář, to speak on the topic of negotiation. The event Negotiate Like a Pro gave us all insights into the best practices for negotiating, with a focus on business situations. 
Martin is an experienced businessman and today a trainer and coach on topics such as sales, marketing, and negotiating. We learned and discussed what it truly means to be in a negotiating type situation followed by the behavior and language necessary to be a skilled negotiator. Martin was a very engaging and knowledgeable speaker on the topic.

Thank you Martin and thank you to all who participated for making the event a great learning opportunity! 

Please stay up to date with our facebook page and meetup groups to attend similar seminars in the future.

Locus Member: Gerardo Robledillo

Name: Gerardo Robledillo
Hometown: Madrid, Spain
Occupation: Web Developer, Website Owner of International Schools Database and Expatistan.com


Gerardo is the owner and founder of International Schools Database, a website that helps relocating families find the right English-language schools for  their children, and Expatistan.com, a crowdsourced price comparison website that provides current information about the cost of living to both companies and the employees that they relocate.

Expatistan is a cost of living calculator that allows you to compare the cost of living between cities around the world. The comparisons allow you to get a better understanding of the cost of living of any city before you move there” (Expatistan.com). 

This database is compiled from information received from it’s users. The more data is entered, the more accurate and reliable the information is. Gerardo’s website is a unique and useful tool that arguably outperforms the best cost-of-living indexes otherwise available.

Gerardo Robledillo

Why did you choose to make your own website?


“At one point, I was moving a lot in a very short period of time, and I was working for other companies. They would offer me a salary, but I wouldn’t know if that was enough to sustain me in that city. There was nothing that was reliable for me to find online, so I built it myself.”


What is your favorite part about working for yourself?


“Freedom. I have much more freedom. Freedom of working when and where you want.”


What brought you to Prague?


I started working in Madrid right after university, but I was looking to go abroad. I have always traveled, but I have never lived abroad for a long time. I wanted something different and interesting, but not too different. Central and Eastern Europe was distant enough, yet close enough to home. The first offer I accepted was in Prague, and I loved the city so I remained here. I was briefly in Frankfurt, then I moved to Barcelona, and then I came back.”


How did you get into coworking?


“After two months of working at home it didn’t work as well [as I wanted]. I tried the library and cafes but it didn’t work that well either. I started sharing an office with a friend for a while, but it didn’t work. Then I found the concept of coworking, and it was the perfect balance: really nice office, interesting people, social benefits of an office without working at a big company, and freedom.”


How did you find Locus Workspace?


“I was looking for different coworking spaces and I tried locus because it was very close to my place. Will gave me the tour and I tried it, and it was perfect, so I stopped looking.”

What is your favorite part of the city?


“Vinohrady.”


What is one interesting fact about you?


“I love planes and flying.”


Interested in finding out how much it would cost to live somewhere else? Check out Gerardo’s website here.

If you would like to be featured on a Locus Workspace Member Monday in the future, contact Dani Crepeau at dcrepeau@bryant.edu.

“Embarrassing confessions of a coworking space”; or “The evolution of a ‘clean your dishes’ message”

Dirty dishes have a negative effect on the coworking space for all members. The vast majority of members clean their own dishes and are annoyed by those few who don’t. It’s usually just glasses and mugs and spoons: easy things to clean. Given most coworking spaces’ strong commitment to the value of community it might seem that getting members to consistently pitch in and clean their dishes would be one of the easier challenges in running a coworking space.

Not so. Dirty dishes persist. And it’s not just the case for Locus Workspace: it seems to be an acknowledged problem for coworking spaces generally, including those well-known for their strong sense of community. Nonetheless, perhaps for the reasons just noted, it is not without some sense of… embarrassment? fear? impropriety?… that coworking spaces admit the problem. And now it’s Locus’s turn to air it’s dirty laundry dishes. Or at least to talk about some of the things we’ve done to try to end our tragedy of the commons (unfortunately without the greatest record of success).

We started from day one with the “Locus Rules“. Every person who joins Locus has to read the rules and click a box indicating that they read them. The rules are short, and cleaning up after yourself, including doing your dishes, is one of the few things members commit to (just in case they thought they were renting a serviced office rather than joining a coworking space). That worked for the most part when we were a very small coworking space, probably because members are more inclined to clean up after themselves than not, regardless of the rules.

But over time as the space grew, more and more dishes seemed to pile up in and around the sink. We joked about different things that might put a stop to it. We could just put a picture of a person looking at us above the sink. That seems to work! Better yet, make the onlooker in the image of Jesus (can you tell that one of my other hats is as a moral psychologist?).

How about surveillance cameras! But Locus (or to be fair, just I) had already been the butt of some members’ parody of the “Locus Rules,” turning it from a “Community Workspace” into a “Communist Workspace”.

Maybe surveillance cameras aren’t the key to building a strong community?
Instead we went for increasing the number of days the cleaning person comes and just reminding members periodically to clean their dishes and not be jerks. The problem persisted, but until recently seemed to stay pretty stable without getting too out of hand.

But over the months and even years the dish problem has occasionally reared its ugly head. Inspired more recently by a blog post from another coworking space owner who seems to have done wonders at building a strong sense of community (hats of to Angel K., founder of Cohere in Fort Collins, Colorado), we tried blatant plagiarism.

An image from Angel’s blog post, “the most effective message to date”:

 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? Anyway, here was our version:

There are a lot of reasons I’m not crazy about this note. First, I’m not a big fan of plagiarism (neither is the community manager who put it up at my suggestion), despite the fact that in this context it doesn’t seem like a big deal, the original version was posted as a recommendation about what works to other coworking spaces managers, and adding a citation in this context would presumably undermine the message.
Second, it’s not the kind of language Czechs would use lightly, and Vlaďka is Czech (I remember signing a letter to a Czech back in the day when people wrote letters, “Love, Will” and being told–uncomfortably–that she didn’t know I felt that way about her). I guess Czechs have since become more familiar with English peculiarities, but the experience has stuck with me.
Third, it just doesn’t communicate how many of us feel about the dirty dishes in and around the sink. “Don’t be a jerk,” or, “We’re not your maids!” better sums it up. But I generally feel extremely lucky to have the group of members we have at Locus, so an angry sounding note that only applies to a small fraction of the members doesn’t strike the right tone either. But the “Cohere” message still felt to me like it didn’t have an authentic Locus tone.
So I was somewhat happy to see another community manager make light of the first message:
In case you can’t read it, here’s what it says:

“Washing a dish is not torture /

Unless it ends up in the mortu- /
ary.”
Still, while I like keeping things on the humorous side, the more words we use, the less likely people are to read them, and the more fun we poke, the less likely people are to take the whole thing seriously. Unsure what to do, however, I succumbed to a classic case of decision paralysis and did nothing at all.
Still, the dish problem has not improved.
Happily, I’m lucky to have another incredible community manager who has a knack for saying things directly and without pulling punches, without it being offensive. So here’s the newest version of the “do your dishes” wall of fame:

 

In case you can’t read it, here’s what it says:
“GUYS,
WE DO HAVE
DISH WASHER!!!
IF YOU DO NOT LIKE
WASHING UP YOU DO
NOT HAVE TO.
BUT! DO NOT LEAVE!
CUPS & GLASSES IN SINK.
IT TAKES 3 SEC TO
PUT IT IN DISHWASHER
& KARMA IS FOR FREE.
NO LOVE, LENKA”
Now there’s a message I can get behind. And behind that “No Love” don’t you just feel the love?!
Now what do we do about the kitchen without a dishwasher?