Curious About Coworking
Coworking has taken our city by storm. Coworking differs from traditional “working” in that various individuals and organizations share the same work place. In addition to providing smaller and leaner organizations (and various sole proprietors) an affordable workspace, coworking, according to advocates, allows for the cross pollination of ideas.
I took the time to speak with founders and staff members of three successful coworking spaces to grab insight into this “movement” and see where Philadelphia stands. Each space made their presence known and are making an impact every hour of every day in this city and beyond.
First up: Indy Hall, one of the oldest co-working spaces and communities in Philadelphia… and the world (according to Wikipedia, the term “coworking” was first popularized in 2005). Established in 2006, they primarily place emphasis on community and the individuals within it, looking forward to meeting people with different personalities, perspectives, ambitions, and skill-sets. Indy Hall’s (self proclaimed)“Point Man”, Adam Teterus, took some time to explain why Indy Hall specifically, and coworking in general, is a perfect fit for the city.
“Coworking as a culture … nurtures continuous learning for people who are like you and for people who are very much unlike you. We are clearly a very diverse area, at an intersection of a ton of different cultures. In terms of where [Philadelphians are] in our acceptance of coworking; we’re very healthy in accepting it and there’s no way in hell that we’re going away.”
Philadelphia’s rich cultural diversity makes it an attractive place for such a scene. But are we late to the party? Where are we compared to other cities such as San Francisco or New York?
“We’re right where we should be…. As far as co-working goes, it’s not a race. It doesn’t work for everyone. It only works for the people who find it or create it for themselves…. It’s not an end goal, it’s a tool that we use to have better lives.” said Teterus.
CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, founded by Thaddeus Squire, is another co-working entity. [Disclosure: Thaddeus is a former YIP board member.] While not as seasoned as Indy Hall, it’s focus on building a creative economy sets it apart. “It’s not about good, better, or best; it’s just about what feels right…” said Squire.
At CultureWorks, coworking is just one of three shared resources that they offer. They also offer services called ‘Prep’ and ‘Venture’. Prep provides project planning services and business training. Venture focuses on bringing a business model to scale. CultureWorks highlights specific projects and has a comprehensive directory focusing on each member’s endeavors.
Squire’s view on the coworking in Philadelphia is that of promise and the ability to overcome obstacles.
“I think co-working has sort of exploded because everyone thinks it’s a nifty idea. It’s an idea with a lot of market, but I think we need to do some work at this point to understand exactly what areas of coworking do we need to build out…I think there’s been a huge amount of growth in the last couple of years and I think the jury is still out on that growth…. I think Philadelphia is still struggling with decentralizing power, funding, and institutional relationships…. A lot of the coworking movement is about decentralizing, distributing and democratizing access to resources. I think that culture is still jockeying for position next to some more entrenched, long standing, hierarchical structures of how resources are distributed and delivered to the (cultural) community.”
Squire in particular feels the next step for coworking involves including more shared services.
Jeff Shiau of Impact Hub in Fishtown acts as the sherpa of the Philadelphia branch of this international company. That global network sets Impact Hub apart from the others coworking spaces. Members may be working on different projects but each member has access to 60 other Impact Hub communities and offices worldwide simply by letting them know they’re involved.
“The concept of Impact Hub is across 6 continents. By the end of this year there may be well over 100 communities all around the world. The whole point is to really advance and inspire those ideas that build a better world…. In the context of the coworking landscape, coworking is very very important part of one of the sectors or industries that members of Impact Hub really want to drive forward, which is a sharing economy movement,” said Shiau, who mentioned while Impact Hub was not built on the idea of coworking, it is something that members have a strong belief in.
Indy Hall, CultureWorks, and Impact Hub are all coworking spaces that have added to a flourishing movement within the city. Even though the meaning behind each coworking’s place in Philadelphia may be comprised of different ingredients and viewpoints, the main goal is a cohesive one; to share, collaborate, and build in a connected effort to make this city better, and to contribute to making a more prosperous world to live in.
One of the unique aspects about the coworking community is that there is the sense of camaraderie: All of the featured coworking spaces have nothing but respect and admiration for one another.
“I think the best thing that could happen to co-working is it doesn’t became ‘special anymore,’ it’s just what we do. It’s the way we decide to live and have fuller lives,” said Adam, who looks for Indy Hall to become even more connected to its surroundings as it continues to prosper; from neighbors to city newcomers, becoming apart of Philadelphia as a whole, and making a better Philadelphia instead of a ‘bigger’ Indy Hall,” said Teterus. ”Bigger is not better. Better is better. That’s all we can possibly aim for. We just want to be the best version of ourselves, of our community, of our city.”
J-B Hyppolite is a freelance writer, YIP supporter, music fiend, and recovering pop culture.addict. You can find most of his work at www.chestnuthilllocal.com