/// This post is written by Andrea Paoletti
There are many ways to nurture this partnership and different methodologies are required for various communities.
An example of this theory is the experience of developing Co-LAB in Malta.
A co-creation session was held with a team from the Social Innovation MED association to kick-start the Co-LAB project.
The aim was to guide 40 participants through a process to design their collaborative workspace and to begin introducing and nurturing the community.
At the outset those involved were asked to clear their minds and imagine what they wanted for the future of their space.
It was important they had a new and pure vision, uninfluenced by perception of what a co-working space should look like.
To begin everyone introduced themselves, their occupation and their expectations for the use of the collaborative space.
Then, sitting around a large map of the space that was created on the floor using red electrical tape, the co-creators discussed the possibilities for the physical environment.
Each participant was asked to bring an object to the session that represented him or herself, or the feeling they wanted to experience, in the space.
During the presentation round each person explained his or her choice of object and spoke to where it belonged on the map.
There was a broad and interesting range of objects including a rope, a bottle, a Yellow Pages phone directory, a tie, a box, a television controller, paint, a belt, a Rubik’s cube, a music cassette, a passport, a coffee cup, a sea star and a book.
The goal of this initial session was to break the ice among the forging community, make the event more “human”, draw out the inner self of the participants and develop the idea of giving to the project.
The next stage was an exploring tour of the space where questions were asked to activate people, to receive feedback about the use of the space and to push people to think outside the box.
Following this the participants were divided into five smaller groups to discuss four key themes:
WHO is the collaborative space created for? WHO would workers like to meet there?
WHY are they designing the space? WHY is it important to have this space in Malta?
WHAT will happen – WHAT kind of activities would you like to have? Consequently WHAT do you need to support these initiatives?
HOW do you make it real? Which characteristics does the space need?
To facilitate this discussion blank white pages were hung with the key question words on the wall and participants were prompted to write their responses together as a brainstorming exercise.
There were many colourful answers and this process really began to create the community as the individuals trusted one another and understood the feeling of collaboration toward a goal.
Finally there was a hands-on co-design session through using a floor plan of the space to fully realise the potential appearance of the environment.
It was another brainstorming situation where people could offer solutions by drawing, sketching or expressing concepts with words. The rule was to express as much as they could, however they wanted, and to push themselves in new ways.
At the end of the session two people from each group presented the results to the rest of the participants.
It was a very positive experience because of the diversity of perspectives and the spirit of collaboration that was born through working in a free and sharing environment. This is one of the key principals for the eventual co-working space so to develop this understanding from the outset was very beneficial.
It was good to see and test how, through the design of a collaborative space, we can build a community of shared vision, values and collaboration.
A survey conducted by co-working network Deskwanted.com in 2013 showed an 89 per cent increase in the number of shared workspaces worldwide in the past 12 months.
The study, known as The Global Co-working Census, showed the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia are the countries leading the charge with the most collaborative offices. Eighty countries across the world now have shared workspaces.
What will differentiate these spaces in years to come will be the community that supports them.
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