Michelle and I have been working with other L&Ders on bringing like minded professionals together to co-work. Here’s a bit about how it’s gone so far….
I spent most of last year’s CIPD L&D Show in the Members Lounge. Nice tea, nice company and nice move all round, it turns out. As a freelancer the one thing I was struggling with was a lack of colleagues. My dogs are great company when I work from home, and warm my feet up nicely by sitting on them, but they are rubbish at making the tea, sharing a joke and giving constructive feedback on whatever projects I am working on.
I feel that everything I put out into the world is a draft, because I don’t have anyone to sense check, to co-create, to share ideas with. I had been thinking a lot about how I might be able to rectify this situation, how if I only had a place where there were other freelancers hanging out I could have colleagues. My subconscious was thinking about this too, and as often happens, I found myself awake very early one morning. Quietly tapping exciting ideas to avoid waking a sleeping household, out poured my ideas into a note on my phone; thoughts on office space, on working together, on solutions came from within. I even wondered if I should totally change my business into a rented co-working space. I would call it Kairos Space, drawing on the reflection and thought provoking nature of my current business name, to create a place for freelancers to share and work. I decided this was too big to think about on my own, and my dogs were certainly not adding any value, so in late March 2015 I put the idea into iPractice, a Google+ community of L&D thinkers & HR gurus which I fortunately belong to. The iPractitioners had a great deal to say on the subject, recognising the value of community, of co-created work, of working together.
I knew there was something it in, but it took me to physically be with people to push it further. In the Members Lounge, I was chatting to Fiona McBride & Liam Moore about how I miss chatting to colleagues; and yes, that irony wasn’t lost on me. I wondered with them if they too felt like everything was a draft, that not having colleagues pretty much sucked, and if they liked the ideas of working together on our own stuff but in the same space. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone, we were co-creating, we were energising each other. Goodness knows, I had missed good colleagues for that. I’ll let Fi pick up the story from here.
Ahh… the Members Lounge.. Loved that place last year! I had wonderful catch ups and interesting conversations with many people. I was in there so often the lovely man serving the coffee stopped asking me what I wanted and would just hand me a latte. 🙂
Michelle, you started sharing your thoughts with Liam and I and it was like you were reading my mind. I’ve always been someone who enjoys working with others, someone who likes being part of a team. When I made the decision to move to the L&D freelance world I knew that would be my biggest challenge, not being around likeminded people everyday. I love my freelance business and getting involved with such a variety of projects, however I do miss being able to chat an idea through or ask for constructive critique.
I had started looking into shared co-working spaces in my local area and in central London, there are many to choose from and some nicer than others. They all charge a fair amount of money for membership, but anyone who has started their own business will know sometimes you have to keep costs down.
I really liked this idea that was forming of an informal, friendly meetup with shared interests. Twitter but in real life! I was definitely up for getting involved in any future planned meetups.
Spurred on by Fi & Liam’s enthusiasm, out came the phones to start checking calendars. Keen to seize the moment, Liam & I arranged the first get-together within a few short weeks on 3rd June, sadly whilst Fiona was sunning herself on a beach – it’s a tough life for freelancers!
We spread the word on Twitter, we talked about it to everyone we met, we agreed to meet at the National Theatre for an afternoon of co-working – apparently, it’s a thing, who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. We turned up, excited and fresh faced (well, I was, it is breezy walking along the Southbank, can’t speak for Liam). We looked forward to a room full of people…
Now, I’ll be honest. There was just Liam & I. But do you know what, it was ace! It was everything we could have hoped. I got a webinar written, Liam worked on his stuff. We chatted about some learning ideas. We had coffee. We worked. It worked. This thing was born. And like all new babies it didn’t have a name, it was just a thing, our thing, a good thing. Then in a stroke of genius, Liam christened our co-creation in a tweet;
So far so like working in an office. 1 hour's (productive) chat followed by a tea break. If you're near the NT come join us #LnDcowork
— Liam Moore (@ismooreliam) June 3, 2015
And so it began in earnest. We tried to meet up every 4-6 weeks last year, and through the power of Twitter and word of mouth, each event grew, and each event had its value. We have experimented with different locations, different times, different days. It seems that we have a formula now which seems to work, don’t you think, Fiona?
Definitely, #LnDcowork is a real thing now! I have loved seeing it grow and meeting the different people that have joined in. Everyone who has come along so far have said to me they have found #LnDcowork very useful.
Like Michelle said, in 2015 we held these meet ups in a variety of locations, we were at The National Theatre, Ziferblat London and Manchester, Charlotte’s W4, Albert House (The Office Group) and BFI Southbank.
The beauty of this is that you can join in as much or as little as you wish. Some people come along for the whole day 1000 – 1700, others join in for the morning or the afternoon and we’ve even had people pop in for an hour because they were passing by! Everyone brings their own work and laptop etc, some come along just to work alongside others, some people come along to network and learn from others, some bring an issue or a piece of work they are stuck on to get input from others.
We have had a variety of professional people come along too, freelancers and permanent peeps working in L&D, HR, OD, Marketing.. you name it! Anyone is welcome.
Our next #LnDcowork is on Monday 20 June 2016 and we will be at the BFI Southbank (South Block, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT).
If you’d like to join us at #LnDcowork then send a tweet / DM / email to let us know. We really look forward to seeing you there and working together.
These are the dates for the first half of 2016. Venues will be announced on Twitter a couple of weeks before each one. We are open to venue suggestions, so let us know if you have a good idea. We aim for low (no!) cost venues to enable inclusivity for all.
Friday 22 January 2016 – The Office Group, Angel
Wednesday 24th February 2016 – National Theatre, Southbank
Thursday 31st March 2016 – WeWork, Old Street
Tuesday 26th April 2016 – WeWork, Old Street
Wednesday 25th May 2016 – The Office Group, Holborn
Monday 20th June 2016 – BFI Southbank
Fiona McBride is an experienced consultant, facilitator and coach specialising in developing managers and leaders at all levels within organisations. Fiona loves to work with others to make a difference in the workplace through effective learning and development. Find her @fionamcbride or in person at #LnDcowork.
Michelle Parry-Slater runs Kairos Modern Learning, a consultancy to help people move away from old school ‘injection education’ to embrace the best of social, digital and face to face workplace learning. Find her @MiPS1608 or in person at #LnDcowork.