The Global Coworking Unconference Conference

We were fortunate enough last week to travel to Austin, Texas, for the second annual Global Coworking Unconference Conference. Our co-founder, Elton, was invited to speak on a panel regarding the use of technology in coworking spaces. While there, we met, mingled and brainstormed with some of the best and brightest coworking minds from around the world.

The conference was organized into two tracks – a conference and an unconference. The conference featured a predetermined series of
sessions, focused both on spaces already opened and spaces still in the planning stages. Sessions ranged in topic from how to design your space (flexibility is key!) to the best way to utilize and recruit interns. All the sessions were panels, and we learned from seasoned coworking leaders and people working in the industry, such as DeskMag/DeskWanted (you can read their recap here), and Turnstone (makers of some of that fine furniture we have in our space). We saw photos of other spaces, and shared some of our own. The coworking industry is growing at an incredible rate, and the number of people attending these sessions, especially those getting ready to open new spaces, is inspiring.

The best action of the day, however, arguably happened at the Unconference. Topics for an unconference are determined by the group interested in that track meeting in the morning and deciding what sessions should happen that day, and who will lead them. The sessions are structured more as group discussions, rather than a lecture or a panel of speakers.

During the unconference, we learned about what other spaces do for member events, and shared some of our own successes, including this week’s Coworking Week. Events at other spaces ranged from tech swap meets, potluck cooking events, book clubs and “many hat huddles,” members-only chats where coworkers can share where they are stuck and where they need some advice. The variety was incredible, and highlighted how each coworking community develops its own personality.

We also got to hear several sides to what is fast becoming a rather heated discussion in the coworking world – whether or not the coworking community should have some sort of governing body, or standard of excellence. Groups are beginning to form, and this looks like it could very well be a rather divisive issue in the community.

While in Austin, we took the opportunity to visit a couple of the local coworking spaces in the area, Link and Conjunctured.

Located in a shopping center, Link is a beautiful space. Our members would probably think it looks rather familiar – it is kitted out in  most of the same Turnstone furniture as CoWork, though with different palettes and patterns. Link is a bit smaller in square footage than CoWork Jax, but manages to fit a lot into their footprint. The community was lively, even though we were there during lunch. They had a lot of fun touches that really made their space stand out, and gave us some ideas for doing similar things at CoWork Jax.

Conjunctured is built out of a beautiful older home with a wide front porch and original molding. Two rooms have been widened into one to make one large working space, filled with desks and several coworkers collaborating. A small room off the front entrance has a couple of desks and long, low couches, making for a cozy place to relax or daydream. The floor plan makes use of all possible space, tucking bookcases into corners and fun touches, like a giant “@conjunctured” sign on the wall.

Coworking is all about collaboration and sharing. Having the chance to spend a couple days in concentrated coworking goodness meant we were able to come up with some great ideas for our community, share some of our own, and come back knowing we made some amazing new connections.

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