Recently, in the Coworking Google Group (you’re on that, right?), Trevor Twining from Cowork Niagra started a conversation about the difficulty (or relative lack thereof) in establishing a coworking space as a co-op.
Many other founders, including me, looked at the possibility of doing this, but judged it too complicated/scary/confusing to dive into. Trevor, thankfully, not just powered through such resistance, he succeeded in flying colors AND shared his story with the world.
His outline of how they did it, excerpted from this thread (emphasis mine):
- We were already meeting as a jelly group for 18 months before we started with our space, so we had a core community from which to build.
- As we were talking about the mutually-invested community we wanted to build, someone who was already working on a food co-op in our city asked if we had considered the model.
- We looked at the resources at the link above (here) and enough connected that we decided this was the model for us.
- We filled out the incorporation forms ourselves. It took a couple of hours. (I can walk you through if you get to this stage)
- The membership fees from the founding members gave us the capital we needed to create the corporation and get the initial paperwork filed.
- Members pre-paid first, last and as many months as they could up-front so that we could build a nest egg. Some members provided member loans.
- Our membership model also encourages participation that doesn’t directly involve the space, so we have a larger group of members than space users. (our current membership is 70, but less than 30 use the space 1d/week or more)
- With that money in the bank, we were able to sign our lease, get our utilities set up, and hang our sign on the door.
- We have a board of 8 directors, and they help guide the long term direction of the group. I’m still chief resident volunteer cat-herder/tummler, and we’re working on expanding our service offering so we can pay someone to be in this role.
- Annually we have a meeting to review finances, vote on key changes in direction, and when we get to the point where we’re managing a surplus, the group will decide how that’s allocated.
It doesn’t stop there… first of all, what was that? Their model encourages participation (awesome)… that doesn’t directly involve the space?! Gush!
I’m eager to learn more about their model and what kinds of participatory activities the members engage in.
And check out their simple, intentional events programming. Useful to the members, opens up opportunities for forging stronger bonds, and easy as heck to manage.
There’s Consumer Community, then there’s Authentic, Participatory Community. These guys are rocking the latter.