Does anyone still believe in the Coworking Manifesto?

Contemporary coworking blossomed during the 2008 crash. The world wide crisis forced many workers to seek part time and freelance work.  More than a cheap desk and wifi, a coworking space offered a community of like-minded workers.

Following the spirit of the software many of them admired, many of these tech oriented workers conceived of coworking as analogous to, and maybe part of, a larger open source movement.

This concept was expressed in the Coworking Manifesto [2, 7] which appeared circa 2005 and has been copied and quoted many times since. The manifesto proclaims that coworking is “the future of working,” which is “a new economic engine composed of collaboration and community.”  It invites workers to endorse and enact the values of this “movement”, such as:

  • Community
  • Collaboration
  • Openness
  • Sustainability
  • Accessibility

In addition to these general values, the manifesto also defines a view of the proper spirit of this global community. This is expressed in a list of desired attributes:

  • collaboration over competition
  • community over agendas
  • participation over observation
  • doing over saying
  • friendship over formality
  • boldness over assurance
  • learning over expertise
  • people over personalities
  • “value ecosystem” over “value chain”

These concepts are rather hazy (and, if I may say, kind of new agey), but the general thrust is describing a non-hierarchical, peer-to-peer community of socially oriented entrepreneurs.

The Coworking Manifesto document was highly influential, and appeared in the self-descriptions of many coworking spaces (e.g., [3]).

That was then.

By 2016, the number of coworking spaces and coworkers had skyrocketed world wide, along with conferences, magazines, and, yes books [1, 4-6] <<link book>>. But more and more of these workspaces were operated by large companies, including real estate companies. At the Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC) in 2015, talk of “the movement” was abruptly eclipsed by discussions of “the service office industry”.

And, indeed, the most representative face of Coworking today would be WeWork and other corporate chains. “redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.”

This may be in fact be the “Future or Work, 2019”, but I’m not finding even the tiniest trace of the Coworking Manifesto here.

It is remarkable to see the manifesto disappear so suddenly, with hardly a peep.   I mean, the CW was everywhere.  You couldn’t open a coworking space without the using the manifesto to explain what you were trying to do.

And now no one even knows it ever existed.

Wow!  That particular “future” sure didn’t last long.  (Kind of like the contemporaneous Occupy movement, no?)

 

For more on this topic, please see Chapter 8 of What is Coworking? [5]


  1. Tony Bacigalupo, No More Sink Full of Mugs. 2015, No More Sink Full of Mugs: New York. https://sellfy.com/p/IBtB/
  2. coworking.org. Coworking Manifesto: The Future of Work. 2012, http://coworkingmanifesto.com/.
  3. Gangplank Collective. Manifesto – Gangplank. 2016, http://gangplankhq.com/vision/manifesto/.
  4. Lori Kane, Tabitha Borchardt, and Bas de Baar, Reimagination Stations: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space, Lori Kane, 2015.
  5. 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/
  6. Sebastian Olma, The Serendipity Machine: A Disruptive Business Model for Society 3.0. 2012. https://www.seats2meet.com/downloads/The_Serendipity_Machine.pdf
  7. The Coworking Wiki, Coworking Manifesto (global – for the world) in The Coworking Wiki. 2015. http://wiki.coworking.org/w/page/35382594/Coworking%20Manifesto%20%28global%20-%20for%20the%20world%29