What makes a coworking click?

Reflections on likemindedness and diversity.

The place we work occupies a large part of our life. It’s appealing to want to share it with likeminded people for the ease that can offer. However diversity, with all its challenges, does have some clear perks. Which is more enticing for you?

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A delightful work session with my likeminded colleagues at our coworking in St. Martin de Londres, France.

My company, percolab, has two beautiful coworkings in two countries: ECTO in Canada and Le Relais SML in France. Though there is a likemindedness amongst our team, the coworkings we chose to help create and then work in have a common thread: diversity.

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The courtyard of the Relais Coworking on a late March morning.

Le Relais SML is in a village in the south of France. The building and land are owned by Patrice. At first Patrice had installed a swimming pool on the lush property, but he had a growing unease about the 90 minutes a day it took to keep it clean. The incredible nature surrounding the pool kept getting in the way of its cleanliness.  During the winter the pool was an eyesore in what would have been a beautiful garden, so he decided to switch the swimming pool for a natural pool. And this is where it gets interesting.

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Of course, life thrived in the natural pool. Patrice observed how the frogs did his job of cleaning for him. He observed how the natural pool invited him to let go of control. He listened in, and somehow it became clear that he should transform his estate into both a bed and breakfast and a coworking – an ode to diversity and letting go.

He hasn’t stopped. Recently, when a load of crates made their way into the coworking, Patrice invited the community to co-construct whatever they wanted in the yard. This little outdoor building popped up.

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In Montreal, the coworking Ecto is housed in a very urban context. It was founded on a belief that being able to coexist with people who are very different from us is what will help us all develop our collaboration muscles, and that working with diversity is a key skill for humanity. It is what we need to get out of the mess we have created. And thus Ecto’s specificity is its diversity. On any given day I can end up at the same table with someone who does technical translations, develops apps or is launching their company. Francophone, anglophones and a mix of cultures come together under one roof – a coworking cooperative.

12717697_10153896826669857_1978778905352316964_n It is not a surprise to discover that both coworkings have put their collective kitchen as a core and central community building block, and that each hosts a weekly collective meal – an invitation to get to know each other via our human ritual of food. Like the collective salad, where members are invited to bring one ingredient, you never know who will show up in the space and like the salads the space is richer for that diversity.

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Another Thursday, another self-organizing collective salad.

Both coworkings see themselves as a platform for community and possibility that can’t be controlled or artistically directed. They are both workplaces where we are invited to let go of how we would want things to be and discover the richness of serendipitous encounters and conversations.

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An evening at ECTO with an author/speaker on freelancing

 

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A Conversation Lab evening – a guest and a group and a good question we are all living in.

So often I am invited in to an event or community so that I may connect with other “likeminded” humans. Yes, it is comforting and inspirational to connect with others who share the same preoccupations and interests as myself though I have oodles of energy right now to get better at embracing, working with, understanding and connecting to others who are different than me. Indeed, the more I see what is going on in the world, the more I think that we are doomed if we don’t get good at this. How else will we be able to reach out across the many human divides and build bridges, move beyond the past and thrive in our collective potential?

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