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How to Support Ukrainian Coworking Spaces: A Call to Action

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In response to Russia’s assault on Ukraine that began in late February, many Ukrainian coworking spaces were forced to cease their operations and close to members. Those that remain open have opted to become temporary relief shelters, providing assistance in the form of food, shelter, and supplies to both refugees and territorial defense forces.

With many team members located in Ukraine, andcards — a coworking management platform headquartered in Poland — has compiled a list of Ukrainian coworking spaces that need help.

By booking a room or desk, purchasing a membership, or making a donation online, members of the global coworking community can directly support local activists in Ukraine and the good work that spaces, even under siege, are doing.

CEO of andcards Igor Dzhebyan, who is also a Vice President of the Ukrainian Coworking Association, offered an inside look into the situation in Ukraine today and shares ways that those outside of the country can help.

1. Please provide a bit of background on the situation in Ukraine today. When did normal coworking and business operations halt?

Russia has launched a ferocious military assault on Ukraine on February 24th. At 4 AM local time, our customers and staff woke up to the horrifying sounds of explosions and air raid sirens. Sure, there were multiple warnings of an impending attack. But I think up until the last minute, people couldn’t believe in such a scenario. At first, people were shocked and distressed.

Whether you are building your business, investing, hiring, working to reach goals and OKRs, or helping as part of a team, living a normal life, — imagine all of that becoming of secondary importance all of a sudden. Your priority is the safety of your family, friends, and people you care about. You face a moment of hard choices.

A hard choice of leaving everything behind, hopping on an evacuation train towards perceived safety. A hard choice of letting your loved ones go, so you could stay behind and defend your home. A hard choice of staying under heavy shelling to care for your elderly parents. Every hard choice Ukrainians were forced to make is heartbreaking and incomprehensible.

Consequently, on February 24th at 4 AM, normal coworking operations stopped as businesses entered the war regime. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the life of Ukrainians changed forever.

2. How did the coworking and flex office community in Ukraine react to the crisis? What immediate plans were put in place?

Just like any other country, the Ukrainian coworking community is rather multidimensional, consisting of operators, brokers, tech companies, service providers, and others. Everyone reacted in their own way.

There are around 130 coworking spaces in Ukraine. The vast majority is in the capital city of Kyiv. Besieged by Russian troops, they were forced to largely cease operations. Some, however, turned into humanitarian aid centers to provide assistance to refugees or territorial defenses.

For instance, Creative States created a special fund of humanitarian aid, which is directed to the needs of civil people affected by the military aggression of the Russian army in Ukraine. 

An image of WorkIt coworking in Ukraine.

Workit is using their kitchen to cook and deliver 100-150 hot lunches every day and help migrants from Gostomel, Bucha, Irpen, and other cities largely destroyed by Russia.

An image of WorkIt coworking in Ukraine.

Coworking spaces in Lviv, such as Startup Depot and Futura Hub give temporary shelters to refugees relocating from the most dangerous places in Ukraine.

Many more examples demonstrating the community spirit and responsibility of coworking business operators in Ukraine are summarized on andcards’ blog.

Multinational brokers and operators have taken a stance. CBRE is shutting down its Moscow office, Colliers discontinued operations in Russia and Belarus, JLL is “separating” its domestic operations in Russia. IWG, which operates multiple locations in Kyiv in Lviv, has also announced the closure of its nine offices in Russia.

Tech companies have also reacted swiftly. Without any delay, andcards condemned the war and announced a decision to withdraw from the Russian market, where we had a small presence. I’ve personally appealed to all major coworking tech companies and got an overwhelmingly positive response.

Related  Opinion: Why We Need Coworking Communities

3. As VP of the Ukrainian Coworking Association, what activities or initiatives is your organization putting in place to help those impacted by the ongoing war?

The Ukrainian Coworking Association (UCA) is led by Vika Zhurbas-Lytvyn, an enthusiastic entrepreneur with more than 10 years of experience in startups and coworking industry, current project manager at workcloud24, social media and communications expert at New Work, the head of Kyiv IT Cluster, and partner/sponsor handler at StartupWomen.

As a VP of the Ukrainian Coworking Association, I help Vika, the Board, and the entire team, to strengthen and develop the Ukrainian coworking industry. The UCA has three main directions of operation:

  • Research and development of the Ukrainian coworking market through running surveys and covering their results on various online resources, establishing international relationships, participating in international events, helping Ukrainian businesses enter foreign markets, and facilitating the entry of foreign brands into the local Ukrainian market, etc.
  • Support of the Ukrainian coworking space operators through holding meetings and other community events, connecting locations with potential customers, giving advice and consultations on improving the location performance, and more. 
  • Educational activities such as access to success stories of foreign locations, highlighting upcoming industry trends, organizing classes and training for startup coworking and flex workspaces, helping operators with recruiting, etc.

UCA’s efforts to support the Ukrainian coworking community are vast and multidirectional.

  • We’ve partnered with some amazing coworking organizations around the world, like the Coworking IDEA project, European Coworking Assembly, and others, to support Ukrainian coworking businesses, help refugees, and provide humanitarian assistance.
  • Inspired by Airbnb’s story, we’re working with coworking tech companies like Syncaroo, Upflex, Popdesk, and others, on the withinUkraine initiative to make it easy for booking platform customers to donate to Ukrainian coworking communities.
  • We’re doing our best to collect the necessities for the Ukrainian territorial defense through our international partners.
  • We’re building a network of local “ambassadors” — coworking leaders all over Europe that are ready to help Ukrainian refugees.

4. What can other coworking spaces or users do to help the situation in Ukraine?

The easiest way for coworking and flex spaces as well as their members to support their Ukrainian peers directly is to book a room/desk or buy a membership online.

Here is the list of Ukrainian coworking spaces that need your support, verified by the Ukrainian Coworking Association. All you need to do is choose the space you want to support and send your donation.

You can also use the “Contributions” form listed on this page to help the Ukrainian Coworking Association and the global coworking movement recognize and promote contributions to local community leaders.

This project is led by the team at the Ukrainian Coworking Association and coordinated by Coworking IDEA and the European Coworking Assembly, so you can contact any of these organizations via their websites and donate via the Coworking IDEA Project, directing funds to the Ukrainian Coworking Association and other humanitarian initiatives aimed to support Ukraine.

As President Zelensky said, and we deeply believe so, “Life will win over death, and the light will win over darkness.” Let us live guided by the light of the values of the global coworking movement, such as cooperation, collaboration, dignity, diversity, and inclusivity.

The war in Ukraine is unprecedented and unacceptable. But it also gave us a chance to achieve greater unity to fight for the values we cherish against bullying.

To learn more about how coworking spaces in Ukraine are navigating these trying times, check out andcards’ recent blog, which features video interviews by several space owners.

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Chief Editor and Media Director @Coworker.com

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