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Is Coworking Created Equal?

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Photo credit: Brent (just Brent)

The concept of coworking is fast becoming ubiquitous, at least in the places I and many of you pay attention to. Also, many places to which we pay very little attention around the globe are going through the coworking renaissances that our regions had at various points over the last decade.

The continued rise of coworking has created the perception that it’s perpetual growth is inevitable; that eventually everybody everywhere will be coworking, even in places such as Djibouti, Bhutan, or Ulaanbaatar.*

But is this even possible?

Between our current global political climate and what appears to be the widening of wealth inequality there are certainly a lot of obstacles to such a notion. Certainly, if we think about it, most places in the world won’t achieve anywhere near the density and variety of coworking spaces that exist in places like New York City, London, or Berlin, with their vast wealth and large populations of digital workers.

And perhaps they won’t.

But if we think about what coworking actually is, sharing a work-related resource with others in order to save money, gain access, and/or build connection, then you should be able to understand that coworking can happen anywhere that people exist.

In fact, in my search to find well-known places that hadn’t been hit yet by the coworking movement, I was quite surprised by the places where I did find coworking. Places like Kabul and Baghdhad, Kathmandu and Vientiane, Ouagadougou and Marrakesh. My surprise is probably due to ignorance, which comes from the westerner in me. Now, some of these locations possibly popped onto the coworking map due to the recent rise of digital nomads, but this doesn’t account for some of the more unlikely coworking locations.

I found this article that talks about Daftar, Kabul’s first coworking space, which is surrounded by armed security and blast resistant concrete walls. I plead ignorance here regarding the day-to-day of the situation in Kabul, but it strikes me that if coworking can start and survive in a seemingly unstable and hostile environment like that, it can probably survive anywhere.

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If we think about it, when we get to the essence of coworking, as in the definition I provided earlier, not a lot is needed to create a coworking space. In fact, a space in the traditional sense isn’t required at all (i.e. we don’t need an office or hipster-remodeled warehouse). All that’s really required is a group of people, a shared work-related resource, and perhaps the desire to connect with those whom we’re sharing said resource. Whether that resource be an office space, a wifi connection, a biotech lab, or commissary kitchen is of little importance. Whether that office space has all the amenities I and other coworking veterans have come to take for granted is also pretty unimportant.

What matters is the act. The coworking itself. The coming together of just a few people to not only share resources, but to share their excitement, their ideas, and the newfound passion smoldering inside their chest. What matters is that people everywhere are using the model of coworking to come together.

So no, coworking spaces are not created equal. But coworking is. And as the idea spreads coworking will, in enough time, be everywhere.



(Fun fact: there are actually already two coworking spaces in Ulaanbaatar, the capitol of Mongolia.)

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