Spaces for co-working have existed as long as there have been cafes and libraries. The mix of activities that takes place at these public places overwhelms any attempt to define them by tugging at the edge of the boxes we try attempt use to simplify our understanding of them. The current mix of coworking spaces, cafes, libraries and business centers expands the fuzzy set of social business interaction even further.
For businesses who thought that the addition of social media to the mix of marketing, pr and sales was confusing, the physical world is no less given to transformation. Business is changing.
My local community, Tucson, Arizona in the Southwestern United States, exemplifies the systemic change in how, where, and with whom we do business. A Tucson location is fortunate for the business innovator. “Try Tucson First” has changed meaning over the years, but one aspect of this descriptor that remains the same, if it is novel and worth doing, someone in Tucson is doing it. Coworking is evolving and maturing at a record pace here in the Old Pueblo.
Basic Definition of Co-working
Coworking is a place for, a community for, and approach to working. The basic idea is that freelancers, work at home business owners, and professionals who work in virtual environments, often creating digital products or software have collegial needs centered on having a designated and non-isolated workspace which address a variety of challenges that entrepreneurs, e-commerce sole proprietors, and creative freelancers all face in work alone environments. These challenges include, but are not limited to:
- focus and distraction
- professional meeting space
- inspiration and collaboration
- brick and mortar costs
Local Tucson Examples
CoLab Workspace, formerly known as and previously affiliated with Gangplank, is a rapidly evolving co-working space in downtown Tucson. In its first incarnation it lived in the Bookman’s Event Space in Southeastern Tucson. With the move to Tucson’s downtown and the tightening of its affiliation with StartUp Tucson, the trajectory of the business is veering off from the freemium model and moving toward a more premium model.
Juvenile systems in ecology and cracks in the grout of traditional spaces always collect the most vibrant and novel inhabitants. The energy and innovation often associated with collaborative working spaces reflects this same characteristic.
CoLab now describes itself as “CoLab Workspace, an Innovation CoLaboratory located inside the Pioneer Building in Downtown Tucson, and an initiative of Startup Tucson.” The use of the word laboratory may signal a shift toward blending coworking space offerings with business center practicalities.
Spoke6 works off of a model akin to a flexible space or business center model that is more corporate in its structure than a simple coworking space. There is some offering of the space for community group meetings, but this seems to not be a mission-central aspect of the shared space.
They do offer a free day at their space for those folks who might be interested in membership. Drop-in rates are available as are memberships.
This coworking space is outside of downtown proper, the location is still quite close to the heart of Tucson in the Arts District. And for those individuals who travel, Spoke6 has membership in the Coworking Visa program.
One of the newest coworking spaces in Tucson, Maker House is no less tech-focused nor tech-capable than other Tucson spaces, but it incorporates the material creative’s needs in its design. Maker House is closely associated with ArtFire.
Like CoLabs, Maker House has an educational bent and encourages the use of space for formal and informal meetings, as well as expressive gatherings. With its offering of coffee, pastries, and beer & wine, as well as the distinct variation in theme between the various spaces on the premises that include patio, classroom, coffee shop, and performance space. This is in addition to the business ArtFire, self-described as an “interactive online community designed to bring together buyers and sellers of artistic goods,” also operates its out of the space.
It would be remiss to discuss coworking in Tucson and overlook a new coworking space that will open in the Rialto building this spring: Connect Coworking. The actual space is not yet open, but the business has a temp beta location and will offer various levels of membership with varying access to shared spaces all the way from drop-in to complete business location levels of services. Opening Spring 2014.