The latest edition of the Coworking Europe Conference took place last week in Milan. It was the event's sixth year, which is one of the main dates on the coworking calendar to find out about the movement's trends, share experiences and discuss its future. More than 350 people attended the event, including space managers, service providers and people interested in the world of coworking.
The unveiling of the first results from the Coworking Survey, conducted by Deskmag, is always one of the most awaited moments during the event. Carsten Foertsch presented the main stats for 2015 on a movement that is experiencing ongoing growth. You can find a video of his talk here.
New concepts such as "coworkation", presented by Steve Munroe (Hubud), coliving and other trends surrounding digital nomadism are gaining strength and becoming a hot topic during the conference panels and "unconference" sessions.
We are also witnessing a rise in associations forming in the community. One of the unconference round tables, which was hosted by Ramón Suárez, discussed the European Coworking Assembly, its model, values and proposals.
It's interesting how, after coming to these conferences for four years, a good deal of the content seems familiar and we are able to appreciate common matters, which, in my opinion, help strengthen the bonds in the community that comes together to share experiences, debate good practices, find out about tools and suggest proposals regarding the movement's future. Here are some of my conclusions on this year's conference:
Coworking is growing stronger
Gone are the days that coworking is an unfamiliar concept: we are hearing the term more commonly used in everyday language. The main investments made in the industry this year have been the expansion of networks such as WeWork, making the headlines and putting the term coworking in the media's spotlight.
Beyond the headlines, and focussing on the movement's evolution in recent years, figures show that coworking is holding its ground and maturing on a global level. During the panel, “The value in crafting and developing a coworking brand”, we discussed whether the future would be cornered by a few large "brands" or if there would be a heterogeneous ecosystem populated by many local spaces of different sizes. All speakers (Lars Brücher, Chiara Brughera, Lenneke van Rossum and Massimo Carraro) agreed that there would be "room for all of these options" in the future.
Coworking continues to evolve
We learn new terms and find out about new tools and experiences every year we attend the conference. Regarding mobility, coworkation and coliving provide solutions for digital nomads. Specialisation is also booming in coworking spaces and we can already find examples of spaces for chefs, female entrepreneurs, hairdressers, childminders, makers, hackerspaces, etc.
In my opinion, this proves to us that the movement is young, dynamic and constantly questioning how it can respond to society's needs. Collaboration between these vertical models, which are usually local, is one of the main challenges that we face and which can add value to the entire global community.
Communities within communities
Tony Bacigalupo recently commented in a coworking Google Group thread about how subgroups could emerge in large spaces with thousands of members, i.e. communities within communities. I believe that this is more than plausible. In the conferences themselves, we can observe an open ecosystem in which we all interact with one another and feel part of the same concept, while at the same time smaller groups have started forming over the years.
The Copass Camps are a classic example as they are annual gatherings where people don't only spend the conference days together but also share a living space. Another example is the Spanish coworking community, which is very close-knit: every year we make the most of the event to get together and catch up.
"Conference" between conference
There are many new encounters, conversations, stories and experiences that we share and take place in the time between the panels, coffee breaks, breakfast and meals organised by the conference. As we've mentioned many a time before, food is one of the foundations for community building and these moments are just as important as the rest of the conference's content. However, on this occasion, I think there is room for improvement re food for the next edition ;)
This year, new dynamics were introduced, such as the Tweet express, pitches and the unconference wrap-up that helped shake up the format a little. We're sure that the organisation team has many ideas and surprises up their sleeve for the next editions so that the conference format can keep evolving.
We're happy to have spent these days coworking in Milan and we're very much looking forward to the next event!
And remember, “Every time you write #co-working, a mug dies in a #coworking space”! So let's have some fun and do some #coworking!
Images source: Main image and conference photos (Coworking europe conference). Mug image: Nexudus Spaces