The Cocoworkers trendsetters - An illustrated chronicle of rising activities in The Loft Coworking Brussels

The Cocoworkers…It all started as a joke. A few months ago, I went to the LOFT COWORKING BRUSSELS, a brand new coworking space in Forest, Brussels area, just to have a look on the facilities there, eventually to become a regular visitor tasting coffee for free. After a few days there, having a good feeling with the owner- animator, a smart and open-minded guy named Bernard, I proposed to help the launching phase with a sketched chronicle of my own, about the daily and time-to-time activities of the first attendants at The Loft. Including myself as the jack-in-the-box with round glasses and no hair, who doesn’t know much about coworking (“organized promiscuity”, said Massimo, see below), but a lot about cocooning, conspiring, costarring, consterning, colearning, cojoking, cosquatting, cocogirls… and cocommunication, of cocourse.

So I named it The Cocoworkers and started to feed FaceBook Bernard the blogger with my yellow postIt-like sketches, that I regularly produce with great fun.

Well, it’s gently growing from one week to the others, eventually becoming a collector for outsiders and fans from other coworking spaces (like Massimo in Italy, Leslie in Marseille or Marco in Maastricht). Could become a successful postcards serie if more Edgeryders like them on The Loft Facebook fan page…^^J

The LOFT – Coworking Brussels est un espace de bureau partagé et de salles de réunion, offrant des solutions flexibles aux indépendants, entrepreneurs et TPE. En plus d’être un espace de coworking, le LOFT a vocation d’être un carrefour de compétences et de networking où les relations se créent et la collaboration prend forme.

Business or pleasure?

Back when I lived in Milano, I bought a membership in a coworking space, The Hub - you might have heard about them, there is one in Brussels too. After some test driving of the space, I decided to get the minimum membership: that meant I was on the mailing list, I got invited to all the events, I had access to the hosts and I had a right to actually work from there for 10 hours a month - the minimum quantum of time you could buy.

I did this in part because I enjoyed so much my home office. The other part is that I felt that, outside of events, the networking benefits of being present in the space were really not that great: most people who spent a lot of time there (with exceptions) were more junior than myself, very happy that they had met a nurturing environment where their vision of social innovation would not be treated with contempt. But there is a difficult balance to strike there. Everybody wants to hang out with people who are a little more senior than oneself - that’s where the benefits of networking are. If the more established members see that the space caters mostly to people who are just starting, they will be inclined to drop out, therefore reducing the networking value also for the junior members!  So, the hosts are constantly struggling to retain the more expert members and keep a balance between juniors and seniors, while it’s mostly juniors that want to come in! An additional problem is that, if someone’s startup or whatever makes a breakthrough, that person needs much more space and has to move out of the coworking… and the community loses a very precious member.

I went through your sketches on the Facebook page. They are really nice, and convey the feeling of a warm, informal working environment. What about your mix of people? On the nurturing vs. fast learning scale, where are you?

Coworking: …or Business with pleasure?

Thanks for your feed-back, Alberto.

Your analysis is quite right, no matter it is about The Hub or another coworking space, anywhere including Brussels. Personaly I firstly went to The Hub in Brussels, found it a very cool and dynamic place, full of nice young webcannibals. But I didn’t stay there a single half-day for exactly the same reasons you do explain.

So I finaly tried a minimum fees formula in The Loft, another space for coworkers, closer from my home and maybe from my real age level.

Then again the balance between juiors and seniors appeared to be a problem, but a reverse one. Indeed we still can see a kind of gap between the senior generation - including Bernard the founder-owner and elder people like me (I’m often the a veteran figure in the group meetings at The Loft) - and too rare young people, who probably find the place too quiet or too straight for their mood. Or maybe too empty to stay alone there with a small squadron of seriously boring senior experts?

Aiming start-ups and independant workers, the Loft Coworking Brussels - which is not the only one cowork-dedicated initiative in the European capital - is actually a very recent start-up by itself. Thus, the ‘reverse’ struggle is to attract here both real senior open-minded people AND new freshly formed rookies. Clever enough to understand what a great opportunity it is to be smoothly coached by experienced people without any hierarchic obligations. In ideal conditions, to bargain youth energy against elders wisdom should be a profit AND a pleasure for everyone dealing in such new environment.

But the perfect mix and amount of people is far from being achieved.

Therefore, a first strategic step was to attract them with a range of events, conferences and workshops for small business, coaching sessions on creativity or more specific themes (initiations to mindmapping, webdigging, content curating, economics etc.), given by young or less young coachs and consultants.

The whole project being sustained from scratch by a good, professional and permanent online communication (blog, facebook, mail) and PR parallel program. Bernard did it very well, almost alone and with low cost tools, perfectly compatible and coherent with an image mix of economy, originality and modernity.

A second step to mye eyes is, now or never (fast learning and acting is imperative), to motivate mutual loyalty -win/win relationship for everyone abroad - and to agregate the few pionneers and newcomers around a friendly, cool, innovative atmosphere, able to nurture and spread creativity. This is a question of storytelling. I’m very glad to get your confirmation that my modest (nice, I don’t know) sketches “convey the feeling of a warm, informal working environment”, because it is exactly what they are supposed to do, with simplicity and humanity. Plus being a possible reliant tool, I hope, for better networking the coworkers from allover in our countries…

What should be the third step? To generally promote a in-depth coworking culture by a lerge media coverage? Ideally, yes,  But in fact, may-be not: too long, too late, too expansive. Furthermore, the coworking spaces network is not prepared for such a long-term corporate campaign.

Short- and middle-term should better be axed on a local and sub-regional conquest strategy,

  • targetting more starters, young entrepreneurs and freelancers, administrative and institutional relays (social initiatives and/or employment agencies), alternative activities, associative circles, temporary partnerships etc;

  • focusing on the power of mixity and hybridation of activities with a creative touch, clearly centered around a few range of crossed specificities, for instance new coaching practices, cross media creation, communication & web curation, artistic and social activism (Edgeryders is full of #keywords opening new possible tracks). (JD)

“Senior” is not age-related

I should have specified that when I say “senior” I don’t mean “old”, I mean “someone who has a high profile and useful knowledge and contacts that they can pass onto you”. At The Hub Milano, everyone knew who the cool kids (of all ages) were. But many people came to the space with little more than some vague idea “I am going to make a green communication agency”, “I am going to set up a time bank”, that sort of stuff. In principle they have to go through a selection process, but in practice the space cannot always afford to be too picky.

Plusieurs entités

Tu devrais ajouter le lien sur Facebook. C’est ainsi que j’ai découvert ce projet de toi, par le biais de Facebook.

Les dessins me plaisent beaucoup à moi aussi. Tes dessins sont aussi invitants que ta plume.

Tu as plusieurs entités virtuelles. Combien y en a-t-il?



Drobert. ‘Le genre de gars philosophe qui aime avoir la paix.’

C’est un autre projet, n’est-ce pas? Tu as décidé de le ressusciter? (J’ai remarqué que c’était un croquis de ta maison, car j’avais vu la dite maison sur la carte des #futurbuilders de CitizensLab Edgeryders.)

… « à la mémoire de l’aïeil philosophe dont le buste aussi était, comme moi, un peu fêlé… »

C’est très bien, de ne pas se prendre trop au sérieux.