What is social return coworking?
Updated on October, 15th 2019
Coworking of social return is a coworking variant characterized by its involment in promoting projects with social values. This new way of coworking has emerged in the past few years as a result of the growing interest in coworking as much as in Barcelona as in the rest of the world. Associated to the public model, we will explain here what is it about, how it started and at what point of its development it is at the moment.
Coworkers skills to the citizens service
To explain it in the best possible way, we need to go to the root meaning of it. CREC define it as Marc Navarro, one of our first community builders, did at the CWSC 2016; “Coworking is a shared working space were the management team brings value to the community”.
A social return coworking, to be as such, needs to compile first and foremost with this concept, that is to say, a shared working space between professionals, businesses and/or agencies where the main mission for the community builders would be to facilitate the coworkers work, to make connections between them or with other external activities and to look after their wellbeing on a daily basis.
So what is it different about them from the “traditional” coworking spaces? Mainly that the members of these type of social coworking join the spaces with the will to bring their skills and professional experience for the benefit of the community and its citizens. All this is done through the active agents existent in the community such entities, agencies, schools, health centers, civic or culture centers, etc.
Such contribution from the coworkers can have different motivations; a social will, the aim to get known in the community or the chance to get granted for their project and/or their coworking space.
The origin of social return coworking
Back in December 2015, Sant Andreu’s district contacted us to raise a coworking proposal for few old empty buildings in Baró de Viver’s neighborhood. These old empty buildings had the purpose to develop the area’s entrepreneurial network and to bring some security to the community.
Our proposal was to turn around the coworking concept that we had work with until then, associating our experience in community creation and management with those social values. This is how Sinèrgics was born, as much as we know, the first social return coworking. The objectives we had at the time were the following:
• To restore the buildings with new spaces and increase the feel of security among the community.
• Attracting professionals to a remote neighborhood in the best way we know, creating coworking spaces.
• Commiting with the point that if they receive founding from public money, they will bring in return supporting the community with their professional skills.
Three years later we are proud to see that the proposal has come thru thanks to Barcelona council’s innovative and professional spirit. In this past year there has been many other cities showing their interest in applying similar projects such the Synergètic performance.
Social return coworking characteristics
From our point of view a social return coworking space should apply the following criteria:
1. To facilitate coworking, although it may seem obvious, we know from experience that this concept has been generalized including the latest version of shared offices or business centers. Those are viable options but to us, they are not coworkingspaces as we understand them.
Coworking means having community builders helping coworkers in their everyday life and work, being available all the time, offering personal and professional collaborations and spaces to keep growing.
2. Create a coworker’s community involved with society. The coworkers profile can be very diverse but they all have something in common: the will to offer their skills to the community. It would be normal to think, and in part it is like this, that we find entrepreneurs initiating their project and through this model, they can start in a coworking space cutting expenses, acquiring experience and getting the chance to get known by the community. We also find consolidated entrepreneurs with just a will to get associated to social projects
3. Make the project sustainable. To be able to convert a coworking project with social implications into a sustainable one is a challenge in itself.
Due to Sinèrgics success, we bet for a second social return coworking space in Barcelona. Is La Clota Cotreball, a new facility located in Horta-Guinardó quarter which started to work in 2019. It also wants to energize the neighborhood, fight against unemployment and support every entrepreneur who wants to make a huge impact in his environment.
Up until now, initiatives such Sinèrgics and La Clota that have managed to be sustainable, are of the public sector, which is fully reasonable. A social project that gives professional support to entrepeneurs, regenerates the area and offers a service to the community, it is a project with a public nature; that is why we understand that they may get founding from public money. But, can a private space do the same? Yes it can be done as such, although in some occasions that social implication is generated indirectly; it can be difficult to keep it sustainable when that is not the main objective.
We are sharinghere a video developed at Sinèrgics with the coworker’s collaboration where it is explained its function as a coworking space.