A strong community is generally considered the glue that bonds a successful coworking space. If all else fails – even the balance sheet – coworking evangelists are typically laser-focused on developing and enriching their communities. Because in most cases, this enriching people-centered collaboration is what fuels innovation and draws members to their spaces.
Indeed, it’s this near-legendary harmonious balance that has led many coworking spaces to create dedicated ‘Community Manager’ roles to help keep the wheels in motion. So what do these guardians of the coworking galaxy do?
“The team has to be invested in building community,” says Rebecca Collins, Community Manager at Huckletree in Clerkenwell, London. “It’s about offering hands-on support. We introduce members to each other and make ourselves available to offer help and support. We care – and that’s important.”
This role is not just about buzzing around the office. According to Rebecca, community managers should do just that – manage their community; which includes keeping it balanced.
“We get a lot of design firms that are keen on collaboration and interaction, and agencies that use the space for an injection of creativity and buzz to break up the monotony of their standard office. We also get some interest from corporate firms.
“But we always make sure we vet all newcomers. Even though we’re not purely a startup space, we want members to bring a ‘startup’ mindset. They have to bring value to the space to preserve and enrich our community.”
Interestingly, the role of Community Manager has worked its way into more than one corner of the flexible workspace industry.
As we learned from ex-Regus employee Susan Smith, the global business center giant has decided to shift its traditional Senior Client Service Representative role to one of a Community Manager. According to Susan, this new position is responsible for fostering client collaboration and basically running the day-to-day operations of a given location.
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Susan questioned this change, pondering why a long-established business center operator would lean so strongly towards the coworking model: “Is Regus truly shifting and transforming into a coworking space provider or is this simply a marketing strategy?”
Even within strict coworking circles, the role of ‘community manager’ is not without its critics.
Alex Hillman of Indy Hall in Philadelphia is, perhaps surprisingly, strongly against the term. However, his reasoning is that the role of ‘manager’ is hierarchical, which runs the risk of eroding the very foundations of an organic community. That’s not to say he disagrees with hiring people; rather, he believes their role and title should reflect a specific mindset instead of one that intends to ‘manage’. To Alex, the role of this person is:
“They cruise the party. They listen, and they observe. They ask questions, and they earn trust. They meet people at the edges of the crowd, connect with them, and then slowly help those people discover their own way into the mix.”
Job title aside, having spoken with Rebecca, there is no doubt that she has embodied this ethos. And it’s visibly working.
With their Clerkenwell location suitably buzzing with a healthy membership, Huckletree is now on the verge of opening their second coworking space in London. Located in the impressive Alphabeta Building in Shoreditch and hot off the back of a £2.4 million funding round, the team are making the final finishing touches.
“We were a little overly optimistic with the timescales,” adds Rebecca, following initial expectations of launching at the start of the year, “but we’re on track to launch in April. It will be worth the wait!”