11 Steps To Increase Collaboration In Shared Workspaces


Following-up on last week’s article on lack of collaboration in shared workspaces, this week we share The Collaboration Project findings on best practices.

Lack of collaboration in shared workspaces isn’t due to lack of interest from members or staff. More often than not, collaboration is lacking due to absence of information, know-how, and not having a system.

So, what exactly does it take to drive collaboration in a shared workspace? More importantly, how can you measure it? Or how can you tell if it’s happening effectively?

The following tips and insights were gathered from The Nonprofit Centers Network (NC) “The Collaboration Project.”

To begin with, Lara Jakubowski recommends that you assess the current level of collaboration in your workspace. where your workspace is. “Reach out to members and get their input and perception of collaboration in your workspace. Find out from them whether it needs to be more member driven or staff driven.”

Keep in mind that when it comes to collaboration, everyone has to ‘win’ and yet, at the same time, not everyone needs the same thing. So try to deliver on and create opportunities based on what people actually need; while some might need help with marketing, others might need help with talent acquisition, etc.

Regardless of what it is your members are looking for, you need to have a system that captures what is going to be done and who is going to be doing it. Having a system will create accountability, both for members collaborating and for your community manager to check back in and figure out whether the activity/event/project worked out, and whether it gave the desired results.

Within said system, you have to have a way of documenting each step of the process and its progress. “Just like you would go through with a strategic plan, get everyone involved to sign off on something, however small that something might be,” Jakubowski recommends.

Collaboration Best Practices as Reported by The NCN

The following were taken and slightly edited from the report sent by Nonprofit Centers Network to Allwork. If you’d like a full copy of the report, you can purchase it through the NCN website.

  • Intent: know what you want to accomplish as a shared workspace operator. Clearly establish why it’s important to you that your workspace members collaborate.
  • Define what collaboration means to you.
  • Effective communication: clearly communicate your expectations with all parties involved. Do this continuously.
  • Resources: make sure you have all the resources you need to meet your collaboration goals. Fostering collaboration is time-intensive, so make sure credit goes where it’s due and encourage members to assume a leadership position.
  • Know how to use your resources at the right time. Start with group events if you have a new workspace, then as your workspace and your members mature, organize more individualized approaches.
  • Variety: both in terms of channels and collaboration initiatives. Send newsletters, have a collaboration wall, host a luncheon or happy hour, do in-person activities. Get creative, try them out, and determine which works best with your members.
  • Build relationships: talk to your members. They’re the ones that know best what’s working, what’s missing, and what needs to stop. Reach out to members that aren’t participating and ask them why they’re not as involved. Change your tactics accordingly.
  • Build on self-interest: remember how we said that when collaborating, everyone has to win? Curate connections in your workspace by knowing and taking the time to get to know the individuals and organizations of your center, and understand what their motivations and goals are.
  • Tools: implement tools that will help your collaboration efforts move forward and progress. Create short agreements, conflict resolution policies, have a community platform, etc.
  • Tracking: again, make sure you have a system that allows you to easily track collaboration efforts and progress. This means setting clear and measurable goals, having a collaboration plan, and following-up on it regularly.
  • One size doesn’t fit all: remember, collaboration will vary from workspace to workspace depending on the member base and their interests. Figure out what works best for you and your members, then tailor and hone it accordingly.

In order for collaboration to take place and give results, it has to be meaningful. It has to have a shared purpose or common goal for all involved parties.

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Collaboration will start in your workspace when you get to truly know your members, when you take the time to introduce one another, and when you open up and share your goals.

Let us know how your collaboration efforts are progressing and if you’ve found a system or tracking method that works for you and your workspace members.

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