In the runup to this year’s Global Coworking UnConference (GCUC) USA (#gcuc, #coworking), Sensei Cat Johnson (@catjohnson) reposted her comments from last year’s GCUC  (reposted to her Coworking Out Loud newsletter this month).
Like me, Sensei Cat finds the former “not coworky”. “[I]t feels like community as a commodity, and it’s not my jam. It might not be your jam either.”
She wants to reassure people that it’s OK to not be interested in billion-dollar projects, and that you shouldn’t be afraid that they’ll crush you. She uses the analogy of the “coffee industry”, which has giant corporations and chains, but also multitudes of local, friendly, craft roasteries. There is little danger than Starbucks will put all other coffee shops out of business (though the chances of a small indie getting a contract at an airport or mall are slim).
I have used a similar analogy to restaurants. There is always room for a good, local eatery—so long as you find your niche and do it superbly. It is good to see that Sensei Cat is saying the same thing!
But what should a little guy, interested in doing something authentically coworky, do? Just do the right thing.
“You do you. Take care of your business, take care of your people, make your space better every day, and make sure your members and community are your priority.”
It was also good to read Johnson’s sage comment that
“The best coworking communities could thrive in any space because, in the end, coworking—real coworking—has very little to do with the spaces and everything to do with the human connections formed within them.”
I’ve been saying this for years: think of coworking as participatory theater. The space is the stage, which is necessary but not sufficient. A great play can be acted out anywhere. For more on this viewpoint, see my earlier comments here, expanded in Chapter 7 of my book , and also my Pecha Kucha talk .
What should we do about GCUC? Sensei Cat is rather more sanguine about this weird schizoid conference than I am. Some people view it as a “barbell shaped industry”, but I view it as two different industries with the big one parsitizing (is that a word?) the little one. For me, GCUC was just broken, and I have no interest in it. But then again, I am not, and will never be, a coworking space operator.
It seems clear to me that there is room in the world and reason enough to split GCUC into two conferences. One focused on infrastructure and one focused on people. I don’t expect this will happen, but I would bet that GCUC may well evolve to have parallel tracks that run along these lines.
- Cat Johnson, A GCUC Follow-up: Don’t Panic, Focus on You. 2018. https://catjohnson.co/gcuc-follow-dont-panic-focus/
- Robert E. McGrath, What is Coworking? A look at the multifaceted places where the gig economy happens and workers are happy to find community. 2018, Robert E. McGrath: Urbana. https://whatiscoworkingthebook.com/
- Robert McGrath, What is Coworking? Is It Participatory Theater?, in Champaign Urbana PechaKucha Night. 2018. https://youtu.be/CTFrYzzCOj8