Lessons From GCUC 2018: It’s About The People, Not The Furniture

Pictured: Iris Kavanagh and Laura Shook Guzman of Women Who Cowork (Image: GCUC). The duo discussed how coworking is helping to close the gender gap and empower more women to start and run their own businesses.
  • More takeaways from GCUC 2018, which took place at Convene in New York City
  • The afternoon sessions of Day One focused on how coworking can facilitate connections and drive positive change
  • “In times of crisis, people don’t go hug their desk for comfort. They reach out to people” – Angel Kwiatkowski

The afternoon of GCUC Day One featured several presentations that focused on how the human factor and connections that are inherent in coworking can drive change in cities and lives.

Women Have The Power To Change The World.

Coworking has changed the lives of women, and through coworking, women can change lives, according to Laura Shook Guzman and Iris Kavanagh, cofounders of Women Who Cowork. The organization was founded to create a culture of inclusion based on the principles of openness, collaboration, sustainability, community, accessibility and inclusivity.

Coworking is closing the gender gap, with women accounting for 38% of cofounders, owners or self-employed operators of coworking spaces; 72% employed space managers or employed operators; and 86% employed staff members.

Many women are discovering that coworking, a model designed to not only embrace female leadership style, but one inspired by it, is a possible solution to the gender disparity they face in today’s world of business.

While many women are getting in to the coworking market, they represent only 4.4% of venture capital deals and less than 2% of VC dollars.

Dedicating Resources To A Single Woman Has A Ripple Effect On Her Entire Community.

According to UNICEF, women reinvest 80% of their income into their family; men invest only 30 to 40%. Quoting Oprah Winfrey, Guzman and Kavanagh noted: “When you invest in women you invest in the people who invest in everyone else.”

Jenny Poon of Co+hoots was cited as an example of the power of women entrepreneurs who have “paid it forward” by investing in community, youthful entrepreneurs, adding new jobs, and scaling companies. Jenny showcases what happens when you put money into the hands of women.

Tales From The Front.

In a humorous, biting and emotional-tinged “tell all” about the truths in coworking, Angel Kwiatkowski of Cohere in Colorado reminded the audience that things like air quality, coffee origins and high end furniture take a back seat to people in times of crisis.

Sharing real-life member stories of health scares and deaths in the family, Angel emphasized that in times of crisis, “People don’t go hug their desk for comfort. They reach out to people.”

She added: “At the end of the day, the decisions don’t matter. The people matter. Coworking is about connecting, whether it’s sharing a shoulder to cry on together or celebrating with high fives.”

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Coworking Can Impact Cities.

Coworking spaces are revitalizing neighborhoods in cities, making a meaningful impact not just on the members, but on the surrounding community, providing jobs, improved healthcare and hope.

“We’re bigger together,” Liz Elam, GCUC producer, reminded the audience. “We’ve got community. It’s not about the desk. It’s about the humans.”

“To work collectively you need to look outside your four walls for meaningful impact,” suggested Ashley Proctor, whose 312 Coworking in Vancouver has been a model of how coworking can revitalize a community providing opportunities in the midst of an opiate crisis.

“You don’t need to be a nonprofit. If you leave things a lot better than you found it, if you build community and alliance, you can do a lot as far as inclusivity, diversity or social and economic democracy.”

Jayson White, Executive Director of Adaptive Office Resources, likened coworking’s opportunity to that of city libraries 100 years ago. “A variety of funding sources and organizations came together to create 12,000 libraries where none existed. It produced knowledge across the economy.

“Fast forward 100 years. We’re in the prototypical moments right now of a movement to create what could become a set of institutions of 12,000 or maybe 100,000 small coworking spaces.

“Instead of knowledge — these buildings, these spaces, these communities — can create opportunity. This is a way of using the movement and the spaces that we run to help communities and people flourish.”

In recognition of the people and spaces that are doing just that, Day One concluded with the announcement of the 2018 Coworky Awards.

Coworky Award Winners:

  • BEST COLLECTIVE OR ALLIANCE: Kansas City Coworking Alliance
  • BEST SOCIAL IMPACT PROGRAM: All Good Work Foundation
  • BEST FURNITURE SOLUTION/PIECE: S.H.E.L.F. (custom)
  • MOST EXOTIC OR UNIQUE LOCATION: Coworking Nest
  • BEST NICHE COWORKING SPACE: Work and Play
  • BEST COMMUNITY MANAGER: Kyle Crabtree
  • BEST TECHNOLOGY TO RUN YOUR SPACE: essensys
  • BEST FURRY COWORKING FRIEND: Buckley
  • RAINBOW UNICORN AWARD: Fuse Factory
  • BEST COWORKING SPACE DESIGN: IOS Offices Arboleda