What to do when your community’s members are “too busy” to participate in anything

The conversation has played out literally millions of times:

Hey, [member]! Are you coming to [event]? It would be perfect for you!

Oh gosh, thanks! I’m just too busy!

But this event is all about helping you not be too busy!

I know! But I just have so much client work, email, errands…I just need to focus on work every waking moment until I drop dead!*

…okay, so maybe it doesn’t go quite that far, but that’s what I hear sometimes when I hear people talking this way.

So, how do you get members to show up to an event that you know they would benefit from when they all seem to be too busy or full of excuses?

The simple answer is, you start by doing what you should always do when you find yourself trying to get people to do anything:


People are already being bombarded with stuff left and right. Email, social media, client work… I can’t finish this sentence without having a little panic attack myself.

The last thing anyone wants is another thing to pack their schedule even tighter.

Coming at someone with a request for their time and attention straight away is a surefire way to meet resistance.

So, what do you do instead? For this, I direct you to a few slightly rearranged chapter headers in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People:

8. Talk In Terms Of The Other Person’s Interests.
15. Let The Other Person Do A Great Deal Of The Talking.
3. Arouse In The Other Person An Eager Want.
14. Get The Other Person Saying “Yes, Yes.”
16. Let The Other Person Feel That The Idea Is His Or Hers.

Quit pulling the mule. Stop making things harder on yourself. If you’re struggling, try taking a different approach and practice just listening.

Who knows what might happen?

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Emergency Guide: What to do when you have a space, but no members!

So, you ignored the wise advice of your elders and decided to open a space before building a community. Now, you’re all by your lonesome in a big empty room, trying to figure out how to leave for lunch without having to close the place and potentially turn away your first customer.

This sucks! This is the worst. You threw a party, and no one came.

But that’s behind you now. You’re here, so let’s get to work. I’m putting on my Winston Wolf hat now.

You have to do exactly what I say if you’re going to have a chance.

Ready? Let’s go!

STEP 1: Pack up your laptop and get out of your space right now. 

Put a “Gone Fishin’” sign on the door or something. Go somewhere you can meet people on laptops. Make a hand-drawn sign that says “Looking for coworkers!” and tape it to the back of your laptop.

Don’t be a creeper. Don’t bother people while they’re busy. But do be looking out for opportunities to be friendly and make conversation, even with the barista or managers.

STEP 2: Jam-pack your schedule with events.

While you’re at the cafe, go to Meetup.com and search for any events happening tonight that feelancers/startups/etc might attend. Attend every remotely relevant Meetup you can find in the next two weeks, and maybe throw in some totally irrelevant ones that look fun to you.

Meet people, but don’t shotgun your business cards around the room like confetti. Find people you resonate with and make some quality time to talk to them one-on-one. Community is one good relationship at a time.

STEP 3: Get everyone you know drinking in the same place together.

Throw a happy hour for everyone you know in town. Find a fun spacious bar with a great happy hour special, fire up an event on your Meetup or Facebook or Eventbrite or whatever, and offer to buy a drink to the first 10 people who arrive. Talk to the manager of the bar and see if they’ll help you cross-promote.

At the happy hour, introduce people to each other and LISTEN as much as you can to what’s on the minds of the people you interact with.

Befriend people wherever you can find them. Invite them to dream about what THEY would love to see if they could be part of a (re-)launch of a new coworking community.


Do NOT think about anything to do with your physical space or anything online, aside from posting your event and contacting the people you met in real life. Don’t waste time focusing on social media, tweaking your web site, none of that. Go find real living breathing human beings, look them in the eye, and get to know them.

Whether or not this results in a successful coworking business is not to be known. That answer is in the heads of the people you are going to meet.

By going out and talking to these people, you will gain vital information that will inform how or whether your space can be a viable home for a coworking community.

And who knows what will happen? Your space can be anything. Maybe you’ll run into a few people who are dying to start a makerspace for underprivileged highschoolers, and all they need is the right venue to get the project started.

There’s a world of possibility out there, go catch some of it! And let me know how it goes. Good luck!

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Your Community’s Perfect January: My free toolkit for you!

Hi there! This is a new creative project I’m working on. Subscribe to follow along!

Happy New Year! If you’re managing a community, the start of a new year is a tremendous opportunity to reconvene your community, welcome new members, and chart the course for the coming year. People are often in a mentality of looking at how to shift their identity, whether by losing weight or getting up earlier or getting out of the house and joining a new coworking community.

That means there’s an opportunity for you to invite those people to make your community a part of that new identity. People want to lose weight, but they know they’re almost certain to fail. Do your community members have something they can offer each other? Accountability? Encouragement? Tips?

What about people who, fresh from the holidays and perhaps a change of job or of living situation, are looking for a new community to join? How can you set yourself up to welcome them with open arms?

In this edition, I’ll be aiming straight for the kinds of things that will welcome both current and existing members to integrate more with fellow community members in ways that align with the kinds of things already on their minds: the start of a new year, and the fact that it’s (depending on where you are in the world) rather cold and dark outside.

Ready? Here goes!


A New Year-related Conversation Starter

Post these in your online forums or use them as topics to bring up when you talk to members in your space. Feel free to copy and paste!


How are you tackling your New Year?


Hey there, coworkers! Happy New Year!

What kinds of systems are you using to make and keep New Year’s resolutions this year? Does anyone have a handy new resource to share?

As for me, I’m practicing getting up earlier and using Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning to get a head start on my day. The book highly recommends using an accountability buddy, so if anyone wants to practice something similar with me, let me know!

Space Captain Daisy

Of course, replace the placeholder paragraph with something that’s yours. The more personal and inviting, the better!


A 2016 Planning Coworking Session

Use this event template to gather members (and perhaps prospective members) to do some 2016 planning together.


Kick your new year off right with a 2016 planning session!


Want to kick off the New Year right? We’ll be gathering for a special coworking session on Monday, January 11 from 10:00am to 12:00pm in the front cafe area. Bring your notebooks, your ideas and any handy resources you’re planning on using to help you follow through with your intentions for the new year!

Need inspiration? We’ll have some helpful resources on-hand, including:

We’ll start off by going around and briefly introducing ourselves and our current plans, if any, and then dive into a coordinated, focused coworking session to work on our plans alongside one another. At the end of our session, we’ll discuss how we did, answer any burning questions, then break for lunch

RSVP is free to members and $10 for everyone else.

Of course, customize the date and time and specifics to your heart’s content.

If you decide to organize something along these lines, make sure to look for opportunities to empower and encourage self-organizing amongst members wherever possible. The more the members feel permission to take an active role in running their own gatherings, the more self-sustaining and robust your community will become.


A fun winter gathering to kick the cold weather blues

Every season comes with its strengths and weaknesses. This is a time when, for many of us, it’s darker and colder than any other time all year. That means you have a chance to make your community a warm and glowing beacon for people to break out of their cooped-up winter lives with some fun activities!


  • Hot chocolate pot luck!
    • Bring your favorite ingredient: raw cacao, chocolate, milk, non-milk alternative, marshmallows, (…brandy?) and mash it up with what everyone else brings for a warm and chocolatey good time! Does anyone want to melt some chocolate in a pot on the stove?
  • Hot toddy lessons
    • Warm up with a classic winter drink after work on Thursday, January 14 starting at 5:00pm in the kitchen. We’ll show you how to make your own, so you get to control just how boozy and honey-ful you want your drink to be!
  • Waffle Wednesday!
    • You’ve given up on your New Year’s resolution diet by now, right? Warm up your morning with a crispy gooey Belgian waffle, freshly made from our waffle iron*. RSVP by emailing Space Captain Daisy with a favorite waffle ingredient you can bring to help us put together the topping station!

*(your coworking space has a waffle iron, right?)

Shameless plug: Now is the absolute best time to start a Cotivation group. If you haven’t heard me describe it before, it’s a simple but extremely powerful accountability program for members of coworking spaces, and it’s perfect for catching folks who are working on resolutions and looking for a community to connect with. My collaborator Susan and I are recruiting new organizers this month. Learn more about Cotivation here.

Want to be notified when I update this with more handy resources? Register here!

If you’re interested in custom-tailored versions of these resources for your community, contact me at tony [at] nwc.co!


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Tony’s 2016 Plate & Plans

Hi friends! In case you’re curious, here’s what’s happening in my world at the start of the new year:


I want to do work that helps people, in a way that sheds ego and expectations, and doesn’t buckle under the pressure of needing to make lots of money right away.

I want to focus on feeling and being purposeful. There’s a lot of important work to be done. I know I can help people build better communities. I know I can help people be happier in general. But I don’t want to be false in how I approach that.

I can see a place I want Coworking to go, and along with it the world’s relationship with work and each other as we know it. I want to see how I can work towards that in a way that is harmonious.

I want to settle and have a sense of home with Amy, in a truer way than anything we’ve had since we met. I want to seek a sense of belonging and community and friendship, but not be too attached to grabbing at it right away. Seek it but let it find me.


  • Moved to Boulder!
  • Healthy in body
  • Wanting to find a better relationship with work
  • Wanting to develop a better sense of:
    • Belonging
    • Community
    • Friendship
  • Working on maintaining and growing healthy relationships with Amy and with family
  • Wanting to find a balance of wanting consistency and sense of home (in Boulder) vs. desire to do things that require travel (visiting Amy’s family, my family, friends, potential consulting clients)


  • Open Coworking
    • Developing management structure
    • Working on idea for local.coworking.com
    • Working on unified brand for coworking
  • Consulting
    • Working with Vi Hub at Bell Works in Holmdel
    • Working with a new destination coworking space in Montenegro
    • Growing relationship with Ashley & the 312 Main project in Vancouver
  • Cotivation
    • Working with Susan on retooling the program for 2016


  • Open Coworking
    • Make progress on all of the above things
    • Set healthy boundaries, so my work on it doesn’t consume more time than I can afford but also doesn’t fall into neglect
  • Consulting
    • Complete existing engagements
    • Set up the next engagements to be even better aligned with my interests, strengths, and goals
    • Take on at least one new virtual consulting client
    • Take on at least one new local consulting client in Boulder
  • Cotivation
    • (Basically what I said above)
  • GCUC Radio!
    • This month, I”ll be kicking off a new podcasting project with GCUC. It will mark my first formal working relationship with an organization I’ve been deeply involved with from the very beginning, plus I get to get back into broadcast! I think it’s going to be really really fun and great.
  • New creative work
    • Develop ideas for new work directions that take into account the lessons I’ve learned in 2016:
      • Don’t try to make something big fast
      • Don’t try to force something that people aren’t ready for
      • Don’t worry about expectations and ego
      • Do seek work that feels natural and right
    • Possible projects:
      • CoBoss shared structure system for indie workers
      • “NWCx” franchise-like resource/club for new & existing coworking organizers
      • CompetiCleanse
  • Boulder
    • (See previous item)
    • Organize fun things
      • Dynamic Coworking Meetup
      • Explore Fake Startup Weekend idea
    • Attend fun things
      • Sangha
      • Get to know Boulder better
  • Relationship
    • Make healthy transition into living together with Amy
    • Practice
      • Setting & communicating boundaries
      • Speaking from a place of truth and integrity
      • Keeping commitments
      • Being on time to things
      • Staying out of blame space
    • Read Conscious Loving Ever After & discuss progress
      • Sundays
      • 5th of the month



  • Discipline
  • Financial planning & prudence
  • Planning ahead
  • Being proactive and not reactive

It’s easy to be foolishly optimistic on the first day of the new year. But it’s also lame to be unnecessarily pessimistic. Change is possible. In fact, it’s inevitable. Today’s a great day to start playing with new approaches, to start new streaks, and to play with the fact that every day is truly a new opportunity.

Sending you love, wherever you are!


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How to plan a holiday party: the easy way and the hard way.

So, you manage a community and you’re planning a holiday party.

You want everyone to show up, and you want everyone to have the awesomest time ever. How best to approach this?

Like everything else, there are two ways: the easy way and the hard way. With the easy way, you recruit the help and participation of your community to make an event that is not just valuable to everyone involved as attendees, but as people who have helped to make it happen. And as much as people like a great party, they like it even better when they feel like they had a hand in helping throw a great party.

So, as you plan your holiday parties, consider the following:

How should we decide what special drink to make?

(1) Take a bunch of time to think about what different kinds of drinks people like, research recipes, buy the ingredients, try to teach yourself the recipes, and hope you don’t screw it up.

(2) Ask your community members who has a favorite holiday cocktail recipe. Enthusiastically invite anyone who responds to concoct their favorite beverage at the upcoming party. Ask the rest of the members if they’d be willing to chip in. At the party, enjoy a cocktail made by someone who knows how to make it.

How should we decide what music to put on?

(1) Spend hours compiling a list of music that’s “just right,” in your estimation, or just throw on a Spotify playlist or Pandora station, after doing extensive research to see which ones would be most appropriate.

(2) Invite members to contribute links to their favorite playlists. Elect the most enthusiastic contributor to be the guest playlist-DJ. Enjoy new music you’ve never heard of before and watch as members talk to each other about their selections.

What kinds of fun activities should we have?

(1) Do hours of research into various activities, go shopping for the appropriate goods, spend money on materials, spend time setting up the activity on the day of the event, recruit people to participate, hope it’s worth the trouble, deal with the leftover materials.

(2) Find out what activities your community members loved doing with their families growing up. Invite anyone interested to have their very own station at the holiday party. Give them simple sign-up boards to post throughout the space, inviting fellow members to participate and to help bring the appropriate materials.

How should I run this party in general?

(1) Try to do everything yourself. Do all of the planning where no one can see. Pay for everything, provide all of the food and drink and entertainment, and clean up everything yourself afterwards. Hope people show up and have a good time. Resign your own good time to the quiet moments you’ll have with the leftover eggnog while you deal with the trash by yourself in your space at midnight after everyone’s gone home.

(2) Invite everyone to participate in every way possible. Encourage and celebrate everyone who responds. Watch as your party takes shape in ways you could never have anticipated. Be surprised by how much fun you have at your own party. Be even more surprised when you find that people are more than happy to help you clean up, so you can all continue to hang out somewhere else afterwards.

…could this kind of thinking apply to more than just the holiday party?

You betcha.

Want to learn more about how to cultivate this kind of culture in your coworking community? Susan and I are convening our next team of community builders in January through our Cotivation program. I’m also available for one-on-one consulting

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Communal management: An idea I can’t shake

Maybe it’s just my own lack of discipline, but I keep coming back to this idea of taking the coworking model and applying it to management of our time and goal setting. It just makes too much sense.

I need structure. I need accountability. But I don’t want a boss. So what should I do? I think the answer comes by way of peer groups who help each other replace the traditional role of a manager with something that preserves individual autonomy while still providing that external perspective that so many of us desperately need.

I’m thinking of developing a system whereby I can allocate time to work on particular types of things that are pretty universal, like managing my finances or focused creative time.

Then, I can invite others to work on those things at the same time, side by side. Everyone buys into the system, so there’s some skin in the game, and a gentle sense that someone out there will be disappointed if you don’t show up.

There’d be a consistent meeting format: some time for introductions and intention setting, then some time for work, a short break to regroup, back to work, then a recap.

Some topics I’d love to focus on:

  • CLEARING: Allocate some time just for doing those things you need to get done but have been putting off, potentially for way too long. Making that phone call you dread. Scheduling that doctor’s appointment. Paying that bill. Whatever it is, if you mark a spot on the calendar and take a deep breath, you can plow through that hard thing with the help of others doing the same.
  • MANAGING FINANCES: Whether it’s bookkeeping or sending invoices or setting and managing a budget, financial management is just one of those things that’s so easy to put off.
  • GOAL SETTING / LONG-TERM PLANNING: How is what you’re doing now supporting what you’ll be doing next month, next year, and in the years after? Without a plan, one is prone to drifting along, just treading water to make it through the first of the next month. What if we made some time to ensure we’ve got at least some kind of a plan, and we keep checking in on it on a consistent basis?
  • SALES & MARKETING: How do you get new customers or clients? How do you draw the line between getting work and doing the work? Surely it wouldn’t hurt to take some time to look at your strategy, make adjustments as needed, then get to work on what makes sense as the next step.
  • FOCUSED WORK TIME: Sometimes you just need to shut everything out and jam. That can be really hard to do, but perhaps with the help of others we can more easily ensure we have allocated the time we need to just focus on the work that really needs doing. Sometimes, just a couple of hours of truly dedicated focus time can make up for weeks of divided attention.

…I could go on and on and on.

The hardest thing for me in thinking about how to set this up is around maintaining a consistent schedule. How can I maintain a schedule that’s consistent enough for others while traveling and potentially being in different time zones?

Maybe, to get this rolling in a social setting, I’ll just need to focus on one range of time zones that should reasonably work for everyone, and plan to develop things in such a way that I can work my travels around those constructs.

Keeping a consistent routine is a challenge, but that’s the point, right? Externalizing the structure compels me to find ways to stay consistent even while maintaining a lifestyle of constant motion.

Which of the areas of work I mentioned above resonates with you most? What would you add? Let me know in the comments or email me!

PS: The code name for this project is CoBoss. Just saying. 

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New Interview Series: Coming soon!

In the course of my travels, I’ve had occasion to meet with some of the most brilliant minds of the coworking world. Recently, I decided to start sharing the fruits of those conversations by finding time to turn on the recorder and just dive deep into what’s happening, the remarkable stories behind the people leading this movement, and of course where things are headed.

There’s unsurprisingly much to learn.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting audio (and, eventually, some video) interviews with some great minds in the coworking world. These are people who have each accomplished something remarkable and who have been involved in the coworking world for some time, so they have much wisdom to share.

I’ll update the list of people I’m interviewing as I go. Here’s what I’ve got lined up so far:

Upcoming interviews


Steve King of Emergent Research


Kevin Penstock of The Profile in Vancouver


Tonya Surman of the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and NYC

Subscribe for updates and stay tuned for more!

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Attending Coworking Europe? Get my FREE guide on finding more members and more special offers!

I’m involved in a lot of coworking-related stuff right now. If you’re attending the Coworking Europe conference, then chances are good that there’s something I can do to help you. To that end, I’m offering special deals on all of the products and services I offer, exclusively for attendees of the conference, for a very limited time.

Check out all the fun things below!

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Get a FREE guide on how to get more members.

It’s one of the most common questions, and one that’s been answered many times. I decided to finally take my answers and put them in a simple but helpful guide, complete with actionable tips, worksheets and more.



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Get $5 off my handy eBook.

No More Sink Full of Mugs is an eBook I wrote to address one of the most common and annoying issues with managing a shared space: what to do when everyone starts letting the sink fill with dirty dishware, leaving you to constantly be cleaning up after them?

This, of course, is simply one example of a larger challenge, and opportunity. My book will show you how to get your members to help you not only maintain a cleaner, more autonomous workspace, but also how to build stronger culture and ultimately have a more impactful workspace through relatively simple management shifts. Learn more about my book here.


[button style=”btn-primary btn-lg btn-block” type=”link” target=”true” title=”Register now and get all the goods!” link=”http://eepurl.com/bE23Aj” linkrel=””]


But that’s not all! If you’re interested in one of the more valuable services I have to offer, learn how to get even more out of your investment with the following offers, also open only to Coworking Europe conference attendees:

Cotivation is a simple but powerful accountability group you can organize in your coworking space to build stronger culture between members. It’s a system that’s been proven to strengthen communities in Brussels, Burlington, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, New York, Seattle, and more. Learn more about Cotivation here.
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Get $50 off the Cotivation Organizers Guide.

Using our guide, you’ll have everything you need to research, launch, promote, manage, and improve your Cotivation group from start to finish. You’ll also have the benefit of ongoing guidance from both myself and Susan Dorsch of Office Nomads, who took my initial idea for Cotivation and ran with it to make it the amazing service it is today.



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Get $50 off the 10-week Cotivation Training Program.

Our training program will take you through the whole process from start to finish. The next group kicks off in December for the January new member rush!


Open Coworking is committed to maintaining and improving the publicly available resources that power the global coworking movement. This includes the Coworking Wiki, Coworking Blog, Coworking Google Group, Coworking Visa, Coworking Leadership Slack Channel, and more. Learn more about Open Coworking here.
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Get a free consultation on how to make the most of coworking’s public resources.

Since 2010, thousands of people have contributed to free online resources covering every possible aspect of the coworking movement. If you become a supporter of Open Coworking at $100/year, we’ll add in a personal consultation to ensure you are getting the most out of these free resources by evaluating where you’re already set and where you can still benefit. One small adjustment could be hugely valuable to your business!



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Get a personal interview.

If you become a supporter of Open Coworking at $1,000/year, I’ll conduct a personal audio interview doing an in-depth look at yourself, your community, and what makes it special. An invaluable experience for everyone to have!


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OK Tony, this is great! But how do I get in on this?

Get your free guide to getting more members when it comes out on November 11 and get access to all of the above offers by registering here:

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Watch my talk from the GCUC Canada conference

At this year’s inaugural GCUC Canada conference in Toronto, I had the distinct honor of giving one of the first talks of the event.

Check the video of my talk here!

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Competitor or Collaborator? How to make the absolute best of a new coworking space opening in your city.

Coworking is not a zero sum game (yet). New spaces are opening all over the world every single day, but if we keep thinking of this simply in terms of desks and chairs then we’re missing the bigger picture.

Do you know why WeWork is valued at $10 billion? Because they’re betting big on something that we all intuitively know: work as we know it is fundamentally shifting forever. How many people work 9-to-5 for an employer who has an office of their own today? How many will still be working in the same way, managed the same style, in a space owned by their employer, in 5 or 10 years? I don’t think nearly as many will be, because more and more people will be working in increasingly flexible, creative, independent ways. WeWork and their investors are betting big on it, and the proliferation and success of so many coworking communities with no signs of slowing down serves as continued evidence of the fact.

So when a new space opens in your town, why consider them a competitor? Compared to the potential size of the market, how much market share are you really going for, anyway?

If the successful coworking communities I’ve seen are any measure, your best bet by far is to become friends. Offer your help, in a way that is true to you and that maintains the integrity of your community and your brand.

Make your community a place people will know as not just a great place to work but as an ambassador for coworking in your region. Make it THE destination people will tell others about when someone wants to learn more about coworking.

Xenophobic coworking spaces:

  • Have to do all of the marketing themselves
  • Can’t celebrate when other like-minded people start similar communities nearby
  • Can’t tell members about valuable happenings in other places that you know about
  • Can’t celebrate when members “graduate” to another space
  • Must educate people on what coworking is and how it works all by themselves
  • Face increasing pressure as more and more spaces open and rents go up

Magnanimous coworking spaces:

  • Celebrate everything that’s happening around coworking in their city and the world
  • Happily share good news and valuable information with whoever asks
  • Off help and advice to other space owners, and get their help in return
  • Have an easier time raising awareness of not just their space but of coworking in general
  • Open themselves up to more expansive possibilities
  • Increase the chances they’ll be recognized by the local governments
  • Feel less alone

…in other words, it makes a lot of sense to be friendly with your fellow coworking spaces.

If you’re an established early adopter in the coworking world, then you have an opportunity to deepen your role as a space that not only has operated for a long time, but has led the charge in growing coworking across the city.

If you’re a new space in a crowded city, paying your dues by befriending fellow space owners opens up new avenues for people to find your place.

In Milan, in 2008, Massimo Carraro opened a coworking space as a part of his advertising firm’s office. Once he got the processes up and running, he set out to make it easier for other companies like his to implement the same kind of model in their offices, the Cowo Project was born, and since then has grown to 161+ spaces all across Italy and now Switzerland as well. In exchange for an annual fee, each participating space gets branded promotional materials, professional photographs of the space, listing on the project’s online network, access to online discussion groups, and an invitation to a bi-annual convocation of all participating members.

In short, Massimo didn’t build a coworking space and then hang back and brace himself for competitors: he actively went out and recruited people to build new spaces like his, and put himself at the center of the emerging ecosystem.

In speaking with Massimo, he told me a saying they have in Italy:


Unity is strength.

Cowo – Coworking Project

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