This weekend I attended Socialcamp ’09 in Berlin. The barcamp took place at a venue that is in itself very interesting: “The Hub” is a coworking facility and part of a network of similar locations around the world. As they describe themselves,
“The Hub Berlin is a co-creative community of people with good ideas for the world. This means anybody can bring their projects or business here. We enable people to work, relax, network and offer daily exciting events to all our members.”
People can rent anything from a few hours to a permanent desk at The Hub; conference rooms cost extra. What you get is not only a fully-fledged bureau, but also a bunch of interesting coworkers. The venue is aimed at people working for the good of mankind. They range from NGOs via activists to social entrepreneurs. In Berlin, there’s also somebody from a regular company who persuaded his boss to let him work there, but generally businesses seem to have concerns to let their employees cowork.
There are quite a lot of Hubs around the world – including some in places where I would not have expected them, such as Cairo or Sao Paulo. Unfortunately the network isn’t as strong as it could be. Members of one Hub can book conference rooms in another city, but not desks. But through an internal network, members of all Hubs can connect with each other.
The Hubs are not organized centrally, but independently from one another. In Berlin, there are three people who work full-time for The Hub that is currently working place to about 40 people. The organization is constituted as a cooperative, but I was told that they are thinking about founding a GmbH (similar to a Ltd. in Britain) to improve financing.
What’s also cool is that The Hub Berlin has a strong social-ecological focus. They exclusively use electricity from renewable energy sources, racks are built from used paper. They are also very international internally, i.e. signs are multilingual and English is a common colloquial language between coworkers.
Coworking is a very interesting concept, since it enables self-employed and small businesses to work in a social environment. I think it is especially useful for people who spend only part of their working hours at a bureau or job in different cities, but it should be interesting for everybody. It’s a quite young movement in this form, but I am certain it’s on the right way.
P.S.: If you are in Berlin and would like to find out how coworking suits you, I have a couple of vouchers for a day at The Hub Berlin. You can even bring a friend! If you are interested, just drop me a mail at [my first name] at [this domain].