Leaders in Coworking Flock to put people and planet firstMike Zeidler
I’ve just published a piece on my Medium page about how I’m helping to bring coworking leaders across the UK together for the benefit of people and the planet.
The impact of coworking on UK society is hugely underestimated. It’s a hotbed of innovation and change, and rich in people whose work reflects concerns about the ‘big’ social and environmental issues of today.
This is partly because the sector is full of very driven independent entrepreneurs – so it’s self-organising by nature. Just like nature, it’s power to make vast changes comes through the magnifying effect of many small actions.
The magic of self-organising comes from the freedom to act swiftly, experiment and learn. But! There are flip sides to everything, and duplication occurs if lots of independent people act fast, responding to similar conditions. That’s not a bad thing – often it’s part of the way the problem gets solved, but it can make things feel fragmented and confusing.
I just happened to be in a great position to help seed the system with a self organising assembly to help people understand how their efforts add up and be more ambitious about what they can do together.
The UK Coworking Assembly invites people who run work, community and event spaces to mix with the people who build them, study them and use them. They’re united by their passion for embracing diversity and innovating ways of making a living that are good for the wellbeing of people and the planet.
When personal and collective ambitions come together like this, you’ve got all you need for the open, collaborative, fluid magic of self-organising to do its work.
I found myself well placed because seventeen years ago (around the same time I started running a coworking space), I helped set up another self-organising company called the Association of Sustainability Practitioners (ASP). It ‘came into being’ whenever a group organised something in its name. We ‘made nature our boss’ and aimed to keep things as simple, low cost and high impact as we could.
What we’ve learned (again and again), is there’s a tension between wanting to
‘know what it is’, and wanting to ‘make it my own’.
This is the phase we’re in at the moment with the UK Coworking Assembly.
It’s the meeting point of shared purpose and personal ambition.
So what is the UK Coworking Assembly in February 2021? It’s the sum of projects and initiatives coming out of the EU Coworking Assembly, London Coworking Assembly plus the company formed by the Funky Spaces Network to serve the UK. There’s no shortage of action, so you can get a sense of what it is by listening to the Coworking Values podcast, visiting the Library of Coworking Research, improving inclusivity with IDEA, or getting involved with the Urban MBA. There’s plenty more where that came from.
Which takes us to the issue of ‘making it your own’. We all know that failures are as certain as successes, and some are great for learning, while others cause a lot of harm. So self-organisers need both the freedom to act and the safety net of a way to manage risk….
At the time of writing, the setup includes a Wisdom Council, a company board and a Leadership Process group.
The Wisdom Council is there for people leading projects and initiatives to exchange knowledge, skills, experience and resources – basically it’s the seat of all the action – the forum where the self-organisers can do their thing.
The company owned by the UK Coworking Assembly is there to hold money, contracts or resources for shared activities when required. To have that facility, we have to be accountable to the authorities, so we have a board. Since the board has to sign off the company’s responsibilities, they act like the safety net, using their overview to ask great questions or make helpful suggestions.
The Leadership Process Group sounds a bit like an alternative fuel, and it kind of is. This group has a special interest in how self-organising is going, so their role is to help people embody the values the community agrees. This is what fuels a culture where levels of trust in the system are high.
For the visually minded, here’s a picture to show the simple principle of the design.
So how are we doing right now? The Board (8 people) is meeting this month to agree how they wish to hold their responsibilities and bring their support. Working groups have formed (self organising of course) to look at how the UK Coworking Assembly should communicate, make plans for the future, and how it can analyse what’s going on to share valuable data.
The key point of all this is that coworking spaces, even in lockdown, are places of community and connection. The community we attract is full of innovation and action, and by improving national connection, we expect standards to be raised and impact to increase as we self-organise our learning together.
Though many of us are small, we are definitely many. Add us all up, and you get mighty big scores. Change is definitely coming!
If our purpose can serve your ambitions, your ambitions will serve us all. So get in touch today to join.