Ah, the all-too-familiar happy hour, the go-to choice of programming for coworking spaces big and small, old and new. It’s a convenient option for getting people mingling, providing some social lubricant so conversations are easier and people connect faster. It’s effective, for the most part. However, it’s a pretty lazy form of programming and does very little for your brand.
My friend and former colleague at Impact Hub is starting a series of Town Hall style meetings, paired with a documentary the night prior, to open up a community dialogue about tough issues in Salt Lake City. The first one is on homelessness, which is a major issue here that’s been getting far worse over the last decade. It’s a tough topic because there are many sides, many invested parties. The panel for the town hall will consist of local politicians, business owners in the affected areas, homeless services providers, and issue advocacy groups.
The content is important, but mostly because it’s highly relevant and highly controversial. Do we move the homeless services and shelters further out of downtown? Do we add more shelters? If so, where? NIMBY has never been in fuller effect.
The very second my colleague told me about this event, as well as the topic for the next one, and that they were doing several of them, I knew it was going to be successful. Then he told me they were already at capacity for RSVPs. The space can fit something like 300 people.
So why is this better than a happy hour? A few key takeaways:
- The content brands the space as a thought leader in the community. People think, “Wow, this took a lot of work and thought to put together. I want more of this. These guys care.”
- The content is meaningful to the surrounding community in which the space exists, to the members in the space since they work there and deal with the issue, and it affects the local economy and general experience of being downtown.
- It’s a tough topic. It’s more divisive and complex than arguing about the next technology stack. How the situation is handled has real, visceral implications on all the people described above.
- The topic bridges the chasms created by socio-economic status, race, gender, sexuality, political affiliation, and religion. Everybody is affected.
A happy hour simply doesn’t evoke any of the things above. Everybody does a happy hour. It’s boring. It’s lazy. It’s the bare minimum level of programming you can do to create some form of cohesion and connection. I believe we can do more than that.
If coworking is a force for good in the communities in which the spaces exist, it is our obligation to bring together those communities and create safe places for dialogue, economic development, and prosperity to occur. We do this through meaningful programming, not with a 30 pack of PBR and a couple magnums of cheap wine.
The selfish reason? You’ll be the better space in town (assuming you’ve done well on all the other essentials) because people will see how much you care.