Living out here in the flyover states, I have been watching how coworking might happen outside cities.
This month Sensei Cat Johnson interviewed Torill Bye Wilhelmsen about her coworking space Fjellflyt (“mountain flow”), in the Norwegian countryside .
In a small town (pop 3500), “there are not a lot of entrepreneurs to recruit”. There actually was shared office space available, but Wilhelmsen wanted to create a community of coworkers, not just offices.
How did she do it? She spent a year getting to know here neighbors. The coworking space opened only after she created the community.
“We invited people for dinner in our home, we’ve had wine and cheese evenings, we’ve gone on trips together, we’ve taken our families on outdoor adventures, we make dinner in the evenings, the adults have gone on mountain biking or kayaking trips, or other social activities.”
Now that’s what I call “community leadership”!
Her coworking space is also kind of “destination” coworking. Located in a wonderful area of National Parks, many of her community have moved out from the city to find a nice life. Obviously, not every rural area is as attractive to refugees from the smoke.
Her community is also focused on “creatives”, including actors, writers, designers, programmers, and, she says, one “ecological, small-scale” farmer. With the exception of the farmer and mountain lodge business, this is not that different from many urban coworking communities, is it?
Wilhelmsen also says that her coworkers were remote working from home. This is the classic use case for coworking: a respite from the loneliness and isolation of working at home. This, too, is pretty much the same as urban coworking.
Special challenges, aside from low population? Connectivity cannot be taken for granted, and is actually an important asset for the workers.
Special advantages? Well, most coworking communities are not recruited one by one over the dinner table, are they?
One open question is how this fits with the “native” residents and the long term health of the rural communities.
Reading between the lines of the interview, it seems that most of the interest is from “immigrants” up from the city. The locals are involved in their own businesses, such as tourism. I suspect that young people who want to be “creatives” probably leave town to go to the bigger city. So, with a local coworking community, will more local kids stay home, or maybe come back home? If so, that would be a huge benefit to the rural area.
- Cat Johnson, Bringing Coworking To A Norwegian Mountain Town: A Q&A With Torill Bye Wilhelmsen, in AllWork. 2019. https://allwork.space/2019/07/bringing-coworking-to-a-norwegian-mountain-town-a-qa-with-torill-bye-wilhelmsen/
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