How to Design a Co-working Space Aimed at Collaboration and Creativity
For years, Austin has been known as the "Live Music Capital of the World." Willie Nelson statues adorn the streets, over 2,000 bands perform at the annual SXSW Music Festival, and local musicians serenade you while you’re in downward dog. While this motto absolutely represents the Texas capital, some of us are working to establish a second global identity: one that symbolizes entrepreneurship, purpose, and creativity.
Enter the new Austin: the "Social Innovation Capital of the World."
This self-dubbed designation was born from conversations at Center61: Austin’s first and only co-working space specifically designed for nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Co-working is a cost-efficient, shared office space model that provides its members with access to traditional office amenities and connection to like-minded individuals. Located in East Austin’s budding "Social Profit Village," Center61 is the physical destination for changemakers at the intersection of social justice and entrepreneurship. We are home to Urban Roots, a youth development organization that uses sustainable agriculture to transform the lives of young people; Esperos, an apparel company that provides children in the developing world with access to education through the sale of premium bags; and East Side Compost Pedallers, a community-based composting program powered by bicycles.
For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of working as Center61’s Community Manager, a role that grants me the opportunity to connect with people that are actively making the world a better place. If you’re interested in establishing a co-working space that’s aimed at fostering collaboration and creativity, here are a few key ingredients that I’ve learned along the way...
Make It Beautiful & Functional
The visual elements in your space will greatly influence your members’ behavior and emotional state. Ask yourself, what do you want your community to think, feel, and do in your space? Vibrant colors like red and orange are great for generating ideas, while cooler colors like green and blue might evoke feelings of tranquility and steadiness. Try using a refreshing color on your walls, like mint green, coupled with a pop of color in your furniture, like bright red. Then sprinkle a few live plants in there to give it that earthy feel.
In addition to making the space beautiful, it’s also important to make it functional. At Center61, our members love workspace variety. You’ll rarely see one person sitting in the same spot for eight hours straight. To inspire creative minds, it’s important to offer your members diversity in spaces. For instance, lounge spaces with comfortable couches are great for reflection and casual conversations, enclosed conference rooms with whiteboards are perfect for collaborating and roundtable discussions, and standing desks allow your members to feel less sedentary and more active.
Put Community First
At Center61, we have a community-first mentality. This means that every decision we make, from changing business process to re-designing our website, goes through our members before we broadcast it to the world. For example, when we wanted to lower the cost of our packages as a means to increase membership, we held meetings where our members could openly air their thoughts and concerns before any decision was made. This degree of transparency will build trust, create an open dialogue, and allow your members to take ownership of the space. When you set up shop, be sure to treat your members as more than just occupants; think of them as partners. This type of relationship will foster a healthy workspace where all parties are equally committed to the space’s values and vision.