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Welcome to another Coworking Values Podcast Folks! Another episode is up, and we are going to be talking all about Making an Impact with your Local Coworking space with Elena Giroli of Creative Works. 

Elena is their Change and Communication Manager. She’s in charge of their Change Management and Community engagement, and she’s going to share how Creative Works, as a coworking space is making an impact around their local community and how it brings potential changes in the lives of the people in their community.

How do you think people see Creative Works?

I think what we’re trying to achieve here, well, 2020 was like a very interesting year for the entire pandemic. But also, it allowed us to really reflect on our mission and our values. So definitely, we are a community-driven coworking space.

We are partnering with local authorities, as we are kind of, a Learning Hub in the earth of the 17 regeneration zone. And we are working with, you know, local NGOs as well to support them.

So, and we are trying to create more and more initiatives that are linked to the local, you know, groups. We are partnering with a small publishing magazine that was actually born during the lockdown. And then we are distributing internally. We are helping like our members through also like a grant we are up we applied to a grant that is, you know, from the lottery founds, and we’re you know we would put those money Like back into the community, and we are running like business supports for members Coworking space, but also for the local communities. 


Elena on LinkedIn

Elena on Twitter

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Creative Works

London Coworking Assembly Event



Zeljko Crnjaković  0:03  

Hi everybody and welcome to another episode of the Coworking Values Podcast. My name is Zeljko and in today’s episode, Bernie talks to Elena from Creative Works in London, about impact that our local coworking space can have on a local community. Listen up. But first, a word from our sponsor.


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 and 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  1:02  

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to look at Creative Works in sunny London. And we’ve just passed a health check. We have our dear friend Elena in the studio today. What are you known for and what would you like to be known for?


Elena  1:20  

Oh, that’s a very interesting question. I’m Community Manager at Creative Works, a creative workspace for creative people in Walthamstow. What I would like to be known for is as a good person.


Bernie J Mitchel  1:42  

I would need to do some work on that. 


Elena  1:46  

 I guess I need to work on my personal branding.


Bernie J Mitchel  1:51  

I was like flicking through podcasts I’ve done with you. And one of the first podcasts we did together was in Lisbon at Coworking Europe in 2014. So, on your journey from Coworking European Lisbon in 2014 to 2020, in the middle of COVID working in Creative Works in Walthamstow, also home, to our friend Kate for more work. Where’s your head now? What’s important to you in your day and what you’re trying to achieve at that place?


Elena  2:39  

So, the journey from Lisbon to here was actually quite interesting, because I experienced so many stuff. So, I was working. I’ve worked for public institutions. I was working for NGOs. Mainly it was all about the community. So, I guess my common thread is being part of a community and being active in the community and how communities will thrive. That’s the main value that I can bring in this space. And I have to say that creative voices start with a very good base in that respect. Because the space per se has been backed by a local performing art and creative college based in Walthamstow. So, this storyline is actually interesting. The school called Be creative Education that is based in Walthamstow. Well, long time ago, the older people that were graduating from, not only the older people but most of the people graduating from the school had a common issue. So, it was very difficult for them to access the creative industry. When I say creative industry, I’m referring to digital marketing, advertising company. I’m talking about music, production labels, I’m talking about band production companies, designer studios or affiliates. And the reason behind that is because most of the time when you are part of the creative industry, you are kind of connected by the people inside already that maybe refer you. And sometimes when you come from different backgrounds and different environments, you don’t have necessarily these kind of connections inside the world. 

And so, the story behind that most of the students that are out there that are trying to thrive in this industry have difficulties in entering this kind of world. Why not help and facilitate this by building a bridge between the industry and the school. And that was the base of building Creative Works as a coworking space dedicated for creative businesses and innovative businesses that can actually support this kind of vision that they have. And indeed, how they do this is  pretty interesting. Like it is the only coworking space in London that is offering a full apprenticeship program for Creative Industries based on the 28 boroughs in London that they have, like, students between 19-25 years old that apply for the apprenticeship. And they offer this creative apprenticeship program on digital marketing, band productions, music productions, and so on and so forth for the company that decided to come into Creative Works. We also offer a free desk in addition to that, so there we will help the companies that are hiring students to just  make space for them as well.


Bernie J Mitchel  6:47  

I know your space really well and I know the area of East London where Creative Works is based. My wife used to work with young people in social services in that area. How do you think people see Creative Works? How do you think people understand the potential of your space in their lives?


Elena  7:33  

Yeah, I think what we’re trying to achieve here, well, 2020 was a very interesting year like for the entire pandemic. But also, it allowed us to really reflect on our mission and our values. So, definitely, we are a community-driven coworking space. Majority of our members, I would say around 90-95% of our members are from Walthamstow east London. So, someone is from Layton,  someone is from Tottenham, but mainly Walthamstow northeast area. We are partnering with local authorities as we are kind of a learning hub in the areas of the 17-regeneration zone. And we are working with local NGOs as well to support them. In 2019 was the very first year that Creative Works was part of the arts trail. So, this kind of art mile in East London, where we were kind of hosting local artists to display their artworks and art pieces. We still have artworks on our walls. We are trying to create more and more initiatives that are linked to the local  groups. 

We are partnering with a small publishing magazine that was actually born during the lockdown. And then we are distributing internally. We are helping our members through a grant. We applied to a grant that is from the lottery funds, and  we would put that money back into the community. We are also running business support for members of the of the coworking space, but also for the local communities. So, it’s mainly like one to one with a consultant around business development, financial planning, and life coach support as well. We designed this program around personal branding. So far, it’s been quite successful because we have  between 70 and 100% attendance to this master classes online.  And then what COVID actually helped us to literally listen to our members and try to understand what they really needed. Unfortunately, we cannot run in-person events for obvious reasons. But it doesn’t stop us from having daily communication with them. So, we improved our internal channels. We have a Slack channel where we actually have our community marketplace where people can actually share things that they don’t use. We try to engage them as well. We have started conversations with a couple of members to build a self-healing business support in a way.


Bernie J Mitchel  12:04  

 Can you say what you mean by self-healing?


Elena  12:10  

I know that sounds like a bad word. But it means that members can gather and talk about what they’re doing,  where they are struggling with their business, but also like sharing best practices or mentoring each other in terms of how to deal with clients that maybe don’t want to sign contracts, or they just promise you this, and then they do that. So, it’s like a cohort where people can actually just meet over a tea when it’s possible again. And then start this conversation. 


Bernie J Mitchel  13:00  

What’s really interesting about this is that both you and I have been listening to things like this for ages and you hear people say what you’ve just said, oh we get our members to do this. And can you say a bit about how much effort it took to work out? Because I’ve seen you doing this for a year, and it wasn’t like you sent an email and everyone showed up. To me, it’s like, can you spend a couple of minutes talking about the process, because I think this is where spaces, even spaces I’ve worked in, like a bathtub to boardroom is really easy, because it was already based upon like connecting with people, whereas in work hubs we have to work out what to do. What we’re seeing in the London Coworking Assembly and wider European Assembly is people’s kind of social value measurement, or understanding, or need to find out about it has shot up. And there are places that possibly were just not, I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but they would just go along really happily renting a desk to some people who would turn up and pay their rent, and that was it. And now they need to find this other extra bit. One of the best places in the world, folks to go is if you go and watch what Adam is doing in the hall in Philadelphia. They’ve got this whole online community. And then one of the few places that has managed to find the magic ingredient to have people show up online just to have a chat. And then that’s kind of all you’re doing, but there’s a way. What was that magic ingredient in London?


Elena  14:42  

As you well said. In our adventures that we both know that engaging people is an effort, it is like a 24/7 job and it’s not just about the emails. As you said, it is literally like taking the time to mentally listen to what people need to say. I think Creative Works, in that respect has the opportunity to have people that are ready. They have a very strong value that reflects what this space is based on. So, they are creative minded, they are environmentally friendly, they are local, so, they can actually mingle together outside the space as well. And they have an inclusive mindset.  They are open to explore new possibilities, and they have ideas. So, when I came here in February 2020, it’s almost a year now. So, I actually had the opportunity to have a cup of coffee with most of them and just have an honest conversation and give us feedback. And feedback can be negative or positive for some people, but for me, and for Creative Works team, it’s mainly like possibility to grow. 

So, rule number one is like, don’t get too personal. If someone is saying, listen, I had 20,000 ideas that I shared with you, but nobody came back to me saying, oh, actually, we can do this and that. I had no response. So, in that respect from a coworking point of view, from a community manager point of view, this is definitely an area that I need to improve. I run to two things. First of all, I opened up a survey, touching all the things that I was curious about from the business support that we launched, if it was useful. But also, if they had any ideas, and if they had skills to share, if they were willing to share with the community. At least I had feedback on that respect. And at the same time, I was talking to the newest member of the Creative Works, the one that is like, well, I don’t have any much to say. And then in the end, we had very nice conversations around what was their idea of a coworking space when they actually signed up, and what actually was in reality exceeded their expectations, or if they were just disappointed about it. And then I talked to people that were here since the beginning of 2018. We have people here for more than two years. When we sat down with a couple of them it was like reading a history book. They can tell you every single moment that they had fun, that they actually thought something could have improved, or it didn’t work, but they actually, understood the meaning of it. So, it was like literally having organic conversations around growth and also the possibility to be honest from a space where we want to be and also be vulnerable about it. So, I’m not  moaning because it’s just counterproductive for any space, but be honest in terms of not just membership and stuff, but like, how do you feel about it? And talk through this because we’re all human. 


Conversations can be a starting point of something really great. I also had an opportunity to have conversations with people that are not freelancers. And that opened to me an entire new world. Because With COVID, you can see a lot of people from part of the company that are tired of working from home or they cannot work from home, and they just reach out because they want a space where they can have a routine, you know, wake up, just like having a space where you leave your laptop or your computer, and then just work, and then go home and do your stuff. Because that’s just like a diary tool that we always had. Also, having hybrid combinations of like freelancer and solo entrepreneur, but also like employees, and what we can offer to them, because we have big companies that already have their own packages of HR training courses, internally. We don’t add anything extra. But having honest conversations with a lead designer of a big company told me that we can have his  extra information about how the design industry is going. There are careers for them to grow personally, as designers, as creative. Maybe they will not interact with the community as often as like someone that is a freelancer, but they definitely want to be involved in it and they want to be part of it. So, also having this difficult conversation as well with people that have never been in a coworking space is very interesting, open- minded.


Bernie J Mitchel  21:33  

 I’m listening there intently on because all those little dots you joined up on your journey around the space. There used to be this assumption when we would assume that everyone who works in a coworking space was a freelancer. Somewhere else that does really well, we both know where we met. There is Main Yard, there’s this mix of people in there. I’m not saying you shouldn’t niche down in your space, but when there’s this mix of people in there, it makes it way more interesting. Hats off to you because it’s even harder in a COVID environment to have people interacting because you can’t organize those crazy breakfasts that I love to organize all the time. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an event in London which we’re organizing, and I had completely forgotten. We’ll have a link in the show notes. I know this is a European Coworking Assembly podcast, but the London arm is doing a monthly event with local authorities and people who run coworking spaces or work in the industry, and Elena is joining us to talk about Creative Works and how that impacts a local area which you just heard about.  Gerald, who is the cofounder of Impact Brixton will be here and also Rachel from Westminster council will be joining us and there’s a link in the show notes to that if you go to London Coworking Assembly dot something with that there too. So, where’s the best place to find you online?


Elena  23:05  

The best place to find Creative Works online is on our Instagram, creativeworks.space, on our website creativeworks.space and then you can link to Twitter, LinkedIn and everywhere. So, happy to join conversations around coworking spaces and inclusivity as well after we had this honour to be accredited by the Mayor of London as an accredited coworking space. I would say that there are a lot of conversations there that they are starting and I’m very happy to be part of it.


Bernie J Mitchel  23:57  

How do you get that great sound in your background?


Elena  24:05  

 I’m in a nook and wow. A nook actually adds value to a coworking space, I would say because then it became an added value of display since we started this partnership  with Nook Wellness Pod. I like the vibe because it’s being built for introverts. And by nature, I’m an introvert. I’m socially extrovert, but I’m very much introvert. So, having a space where you can actually have a meeting, a conversation and not feel the background noise and feel completely like in your room. It is kind of awesome.


Bernie J Mitchel  24:50  

And I love it. Just for those who are getting scared. David didn’t pay for that. Absolutely love sitting in it and when I go to that space, that’s where I hang out. So, we will see you next week. Thanks to my partner in crime and brains behind the soul operation, Zeljko, who always produces and makes it happen. And then if you go to coworkingassembly.eu and hang around for a little bit, a little thing will pop up and you can put your email address in there. And there are so many events and connection opportunities and research opportunities coming up. If you’re thinking of starting a coworking space, looking to grow your coworking space, we’ll get reset after the COVID. We can connect with people that can do that. So, stay safe and be careful. It’s a jungle out there.

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