Hello Ladies and Gents! As always thanks for tuning in to the Coworking Values Podcast! We welcome you to another episode with so much gusto.
For this episode, we have David Brown, Founder and Director of Good Space – a Work club at Queen’s Park.
He is going to be sharing all about what is a 15 Minute City and why this concept will boost the local community and promote healthier and robust living conditions in an urban setting.
He will also be telling us all about the Good Space, and how about it being more of a work club rather than a coworking space. And how working in a coworking space gave him the idea of founding the Good Space.
What does “15-minute City” means?
Yeah, the 15 minutes city. It’s really, simply is that it’s a way to design our cities such that all your needs, all individuals’ needs can be met for work for shopping or their health care and for kind of their culture or entertainment within 15 minutes of where they live.
Whether that’s by walking or biking but really just building local, localized communities where everything can happen within a short walk.
How did the idea of building Good Space as a work club came about?
My story is that I was, I was during a previous venture and working from a coworking space. That was a central city located space.
And I didn’t live in the central city so about a couple of times a week, decide, I don’t really feel like going in today so I’ll just walk around the corner to my local coffee shop and work there.
And eventually, I was like, why, why am I making this decision?
It’s really because I want to stay close I want to support my neighbourhood barista, and then I was like, why don’t we build the workplace. Close enough to home that all of my neighbours can do the same thing.
And so that was sort of the genesis of the idea of doing this and then as we learn more about how cities work and community and really how do we build community.
Yeah. It just became more and more clear that we can do that in the neighbourhood. More so, or at least in a very clear way, compared to trying to move everyone to another place somewhere else and try to build some form of community there.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:03
Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Coworking Values Podcast, the podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. And we’re going around Europe and picking up stories of people running neighbourhood coworking spaces. We have done like 30 something episodes so far?
Zeljko Crnjaković 0:40
This episode is brought to you by Cobot, our leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out Cobot at cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:14
Normally it would be timeless content, but we’re right in the middle of COVID at the moment, and we’ve done a whole load on running our coworking spaces from our friends from Coworking Co-living and Coworking Europe. And then we had a “What are we doing in COVID?” Then we had a few episodes dedicated to anti-racism and Black Lives Matter. And now we’re into neighbourhood coworking, and we have a strong belief that people will stop commuting and stay in their local area, which brings us to the 15 Minutes City. Here in London, the London Coworking Assembly I emailed out like “I found this great thing called the 15 minutes city”, acting like I just invented the motorcar or sliced bread. And quite a few people came back and said, Oh, yeah, everyone knows about that. And one of the people that emailed back was David Brown who bravely opened his coworking space right in the middle of COVID. Our coworking space is based upon the 15 minutes city.
Zeljko Crnjaković 2:22
So what is the 15 minutes city? Everybody knows about it except the guys in Eastern Europe…
Hi guys. Thanks for having me on guys. The 15 minutes city it’s really simply a way to design our cities such that all individuals needs can be met; for work, for shopping, for their healthcare and for their culture or entertainment within 15 minutes of where they live. Whether that’s by walking or biking, but really just building localized communities where everything can happen within a short walk.
Zeljko Crnjaković 3:07
I don’t know about you, guys, I understand the pain that you’re living in a big city. That’s my city like the entirety of it. I googled your space, Bernie sent me the link. The Good Space. And I love that it’s not a coworking space. It’s a work club.
Yes. That was intentional. I sent an email out this morning I said, we’re really not in the flexible workspace business. We do actually have a space to work, we’re in the relationship and community business and we do that through a place to work for people, but we do a whole lot more than that. And so we didn’t want to call ourselves so much a coworking space or workspace, at least not primarily, even though that is a big piece of what we do.
Zeljko Crnjaković 4:22
How did the idea come about? Besides the 15 minutes city, why a work clubs? What was the idea? So was it the idea to kind of mimic a coworking space or to facilitate something else?
It was a bit of both. My story is that I was doing a previous venture and working from a coworking space that was a central city located space. And I didn’t live in the central city. So about a couple of times a week, I would decide I don’t really feel like going in today. So I’ll just walk around the corner to my local coffee shop, and do work there. And, eventually I was like, why am I making this decision? It’s really because I want to stay close. I want to support my neighbourhood barista. And then I was like, why don’t we build the workplace close enough to home that all of my neighbours can do the same thing. And so that was sort of the genesis of the idea of doing this. And then as we learn more about how cities work and community and really how do we build community. It just became more and more clear that we can do that in the neighbourhood, more so or at least in a very clear way, compared to trying to move everyone to another place somewhere else and try to build some form of community there.
Zeljko Crnjaković 6:00
In listening to the story, I really hope that you move the barista into your work club because right now it sounds like you just took away business right?
Now all my members just go get coffee from the neighbourhood places and then they come work over here and more room to sell more coffee.
Zeljko Crnjaković 6:20
Oh, fantastic. How did the community respond?
We opened June 15. So it was sort of the back end of the lockdown as things were opening back up. We decided to go ahead and open and it’s been amazing. The response has been overwhelming and in some ways people are craving to get out, craving to see their neighbours or see someone besides their flatmate or their partner or someone in their home. And the space has become a perfect place for people to find that. It becomes a third place in the community. It’s not home. It’s another place where you can be, and people know you by name and you get to know them and there’s interaction there that doesn’t happen elsewhere. And so we’ve signed up members daily, and we continue to sign up new members, even in the midst of what is a very, somewhat an unprecedented environment that we’re looking at right now.
Zeljko Crnjaković 7:37
Bernie, you can chime in so what’s the situation right now with you because you opened up June 15th. It was at the end of the first wave. What is the preventive measures right now and opening up a space to gather community? I know in Serbia right now we’re in red zone and it’s still like banned, gatherings of two or more people, even outside. So what’s the situation in London right now?
Yeah, the allowance for people going to work has been relatively opened up, I guess, by the government. They’ve said that they want people to be able to work and they’re concerned with the economic reasons of lockdown, what is has caused. So, they won’t be able to go to work, though we still are having to follow primarily the social distancing rules and the other kind of cleanliness rules that we’re trying to follow. So, we’ve implemented a practice of, we’ve spaced out all of our seating, effectively cutting our total capacity by about third, maybe a little more. So, pushing seats to be two meters apart. And then we’ve instituted a variety of measures in terms of daily and multi-times a day cleaning or at least sanitizing and wiping down of surfaces with antibacterial and sanitizing liquids. One of the big things that seems to be out there is that, enclosed spaces and recirculated air is one of the major factors. So, we’ve chosen to leave doors and windows open. We’re lucky to have a space on the ground floor. We have big double doors that we can prop open and doors and windows as well that are out to the outside. And so we’ve done a variety of things; first, we have sanitizer everywhere, doing that as well. So, we’ve done our best to try to get ourselves into a secure and safe environment, while still allowing people to come utilize the space and see each other.
Zeljko Crnjaković 10:08
Yeah. And as far as the people coming in, so are the people freelancers or are they people that are working from home? Just because of the situation. Do you think that when the situation dissipates, you will see a drop in members because they will be required to go back to work? I saw a poll done in the UK that about 80% of people don’t want to go back to work from working remotely…
Our membership right now is about, I would say 50/50 split between the traditional freelancer, self-employed, very small business member who this would be their workplace whether or not a pandemic has ever occurred. And then the other 50% are employees of larger firms or major corporations that are working remotely, either because they always work remotely or because they have now suddenly become remote, over the last few months. As a sort of an imperial empirical example, we have one member who works for a financial firm in Blackfriars, that’s where their office had been. And I guess will be when things ever come back to normal or come back to where they’re asking people to come in into the office. But he has already shared with me that he’s beginning the campaign already to say, we don’t want to come back at least not 100% of the time, I’d love to work from my neighbourhood a few days a week at minimum. And so I think that’s generally the mood. I think people never loved getting on the tube and riding 45 minutes into the city and fighting all the traffic. If you look at people’s faces when they are on the tube, you can believe that. And so this has given them maybe the justification or the power I guess, to push back against their employer and say, maybe we shouldn’t come back to the office or at least not 100% of the time.
Bernie J Mitchel 12:53
I’m lapping this up, I mean, it’s like kind of 15 minutes city, Jane Jacobs’s local renaissance abundant community in a whirlpool at the moment. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, particularly the German Coworking Federation have been championing the rural local coworking conversation at Coworking Europe ever since I’ve been going and it’s just like, people don’t like commuting, particularly in, what zone is Queen’s Park? Is it zone three?
We’re in zone two, but sort of the edge, the outer edge of zone two I would say.
Bernie J Mitchel 13:36
Because the idea of, waking up dropping your child at school, go into good space, knowing that you’re going to work from like nine till three and then wandering around the corner and getting your child again is beautiful. The idea of crazily charging to breakfast club for 7:30 in the morning, fighting with the commute, getting to your desk, drinking six cups of coffee just to get back online again. Since COVID happened, I’ve been taking my son and heir to school because his mother’s an NHS worker. So he’s been in continuous education, and not having that in the early morning craze and evening craze has been has been great. Can you say a little bit, I just focused on a one mile radius around my coworking space, and that’s really paid off. But can you tell me how true that is? Because in the background, so that question is, I’ve been speaking with other people that run coworking spaces, and they’ve been saying crazy things like “we’re spending 1500 pounds a month on LinkedIn advertising to get members in”. And I’m like – why you doing that? Why not just talk to people in your neighbourhood? So can you manipulate your answer to suit the one I want.
You know, even prior to COVID, we felt like our business model was built on local relationships. And those that would be the primary customer avatar, if you will, are those that were within walking distance of our location. So, you take that 15 minutes range and you have about a one mile, maybe one and a half kilometre or two kilometre radius of our place. And we said, okay, this is what we’re going to focus on. And we can actually maximize or improve the efficiency of every marketing spend that we spend in these circles. So we focused on really old school things, like an A board that we built and put on the pavement out front. We did flyering. And we’ve done some very targeted social media advertising, all of which I think, cumulatively, we spent one grand, maybe 1000 pounds in six months, on all of the marketing. And we have people coming in every day. Our Google response is actually incredibly impressive, because it’s all maps based. People are searching this radius, coworking near me, workspace near me, and they’re finding us in that way. And so you don’t have to spend a ton of money, but you need to spend it wisely and focused on the people, the potential customers and members that are directly at your doorstep. And that’s what we’ve done and it’s worked out well for us.
Zeljko Crnjaković 17:06
We kind of alluded to this at the beginning, but, are you convincing people not to commute or are you convincing people to stay local? Because I felt, as I speak to people who don’t know anything about coworking, suddenly all my friends have an opinion on the future of coworking when for 10 years they haven’t had a clue what I’m talking about. What are people looking for? Is it somewhere to work or a flexi desk thing or a way to get out commuting?
Right now, given the environment, the piece that’s resonating for many is, I don’t have to commute into my office so I can avoid the potential health risk that’s involved with getting on tube or doing all of those things. But then it actually taps into something that was already there, is that they didn’t really love that commute anyway and that was the worst part of their day. And so not having that is a major piece of the puzzle. And then, the other piece is working from home. The opposite side of that is working from home is not ideal for probably 80% of residents, we’re still zone two, so we’re relatively close to London, plus we are still small. Houses are still tight.
And so most of us don’t have an ideal working situation at home. We’re looking across the kitchen table at our partner who’s also on a call and it just doesn’t work very well or we’re sitting on the edge of the bed in our flat, where we’re sharing with three other people and it’s just not ideal, so people are looking for: I need to get out of my house, I don’t want to go to my office if I have one anymore, or if it’s centrally located far away, but I need a place to go. And so, you know, that’s what’s drawing them in. And then they come in and they see a group of people who know each other and enjoys working together. Even if we’re a little bit spaced out from each other right now, and that’s what’s keeping them in is that they’re saying I actually really love this I don’t want to go back to the office even if I have the opportunity in a few months. I want to keep working here. I want to support my neighbourhood. I want to do these things. And that’s what we’re seeing.
Bernie J Mitchel 19:41
Can you say a bit about how you actually connected with people, because in spaces I’ve worked in, we’ve gone round the shops and said hello, and people have gone : “a coworking what?” And then one big shift was a few years ago after the MP, Joe Cox was murdered in Yorkshire, they set up a campaign which was called The Big Get Together or something like that, The Great Get Together. And where we were in Houghton, the Union GMB, which he was a member, closed off a street and everyone came from the neighbourhood and the amount of people we recognized and they said: “what do you do?” And what Phil and I had done is we set up a table in the street and did like an art club there so people could come and colour and nobody knew what our building was even though it said work hubs coworking outside. Nobody knew what we did, even though they walked past it every day and we had coffee together in a cafe next door. So, how did you connect with the local area?
It seems simple, but because of both COVID and our desire to engage communities, we’ve had our front doors open. And we built our building such that it feels inviting, and so people just wander into our space. They ask me if I’m a restaurant, do you serve coffee, things like that. And we get people inside to see what’s happening in there. And this was a little harder before we had a ton of members in the first week or so. But as people walk in, they look inside and they say, Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I didn’t know this was here. How long have you been here and of course, we say a month, but the idea is that they didn’t know if we had been there forever or not that long. But having the door open and letting people walk inside gives them enough. All of a sudden they see it and it clicks in their mind. And they say, actually, this is something I need. Or my daughter or my son, my partner, my flatmate, and they’ve been looking for this, and I’m going to bring them over here next week or something like that. I think we bring people inside various ways, get them inside, and they can see what’s happening. All of a sudden, it resonates and they understand what’s happening there.
Bernie J Mitchel 22:22
How would you suggest to other coworking space owners and community managers to like articulate what a coworking space is. A lot of calls I’ve had over the last couple of weeks where we’re going deeper into this like, in our nice little cosy, coworking bubble where we’re all about coworking, but there’s like millions of people outside of that that have no idea what it is.
The way we typically like to articulate it, is that it’s a shared space where we all can work together, but separately on our separate things, but the benefit is not that it’s a cool desk or that it’s a nice chair, but it’s that there are people there that, all of a sudden your productivity increases and your ability to focus on your work grows up, because you see people around doing their work as well. You’re encouraged to come back because you want to chat with that person who was there the other day and so it’s building a culture of sharing and working that lifts all boats. And that’s it’s abstract, which is why we try to get people in to see it because it’s hard to explain. And I think that’s your point, Bernie is that it’s hard to put words to what happens in a coworking space in this kind of community, because you just have to see it happen and feel it. And so that I think that’s the challenge. But we have to keep encouraging people. All of our marketing has gone away from anything about desks, or we have offices or we have desks, we have chairs, because that’s not what we’re pushing. It’s; “we have people and these people are cool people and they want to be on your team and on your side and encourage you to do the thing that you wake up in the morning, excited to do”. And it’s not the desks, it’s the space. It’s the place, the people that are in the place.
Bernie J Mitchel 24:54
That’s beautiful. Thank you for reading from my scripts, David Brown. Zeljko, have you got anything to add to that?
Zeljko Crnjaković 25:01
No. I think that it’s a good thought for the end. And even though I do believe that advertising “we have people” is bold in the sense that I know from my experience that gathering a community can sometimes be hard. So when I say I have people, I better have people when somebody comes, and not to an empty space. But the feeling of gathering the neighbourhood community is something that we’ll see more of in the future.
Bernie J Mitchel 25:45
Just to wrap up here, folks, I’ve got about 175 links I’ve collected over the last couple of weeks about the 15 Minute City. And what I’d like to claim, I’m sure David would too, like it was our idea. It’s actually from a professor called Carlos from Mineirão. He is Colombian and studying in Paris, and he was part of the Smart Cities movement. And then he’s made this little kind of like splinter group that is saying we shouldn’t be so worried about smart cities, we should be worried about living cities, and then that’s developed this 15 minute city idea, which was great before COVID. And I think it’s even more relevant where we are now. And one of his points is that it is about people. It’s not about being smart and technology and getting obsessed with that. It’s about the human connection. So go and look. I know some of you might be thinking how on earth has that helped me get members in my coworking space, and David’s just explained that.
This is part of a very ongoing conversation and we’re moving towards a webinar at the end of September with Laetitia, who is from Welcome to the Jungle, and she’s an author and she writes a lot about the feminist city and future of work and everything like that and Antonin who is the co-founder of CoWork, which is a Paris based design and architecture firm. And both of those two people are very animated about how we should work, how we can work, how we can connect, and how important community is moving forward as a city, and how we work and everything like that. So we’re going on a journey with seeking stories like David’s and about people that are actually doing it in real life. So, we’re moving away from thought leaders telling us how we should run our coworking spaces and we’re seeking people like you who actually do run a coworking space that can tell us how it is in the trenches, and there’s people all over Europe, we know who you are. So, contact us before we have to find you and hit reply to the European Coworking Assembly newsletter which is at coworkingassembly.eu. A lot of you have already. It’s just exhilarating and amazing for people getting in touch that we’ve never met in our lives before telling us about their coworking spaces. So, if you haven’t replied to the newsletter, get in touch with us on LinkedIn or any other platform. David, thank you very much. I was massively inspired when you said I know about 15 minutes city because I, as you know, I had high hopes for your Queens Park Coworking Space and the neighbourhood theme, so to see it explode like that is really good.
Thanks, Bernie. Thanks for having me today.
Zeljko Crnjaković 28:34
David, Bernie, take a breath. Thank you for listening people.
Bernie J Mitchel 28:41
Stay safe and be excellent to each other. See you next time.