This edition of the Coworking Values Podcast is a recording of Coworking Europe’s recently concluded Live Stream conference, – “How to Transform Diversity and Inclusion into a Driver of Growth” which was co-hosted by the European Coworking Assembly and the Coworking IDEA Project.
Hosted by the European Coworking Assembly‘s very own Jeannine van der Linden and Ashley Proctor of Coworking Canada, our panel talks about IDEA (#Inclusion, #Diversity, #Equity, and #Accessibility) and how it applies to coworking environments. Our panel gives us the low down on how to ensure that your coworking space operations incorporate IDEA best practises.
Connect with the Speakers on the links below:
Miro Miroslavov from OfficeRnD
Cecilia MoSze Tham Tham from MOB – Makers of Barcelona
Hector Kolonas from Syncaroo
Alex Ahom from European Coworking Assembly
Carmen Lecuane from Nexudus
Shazia M. from Third Door
Mike LaRosa from Upflex
Pauline Roussel from Coworkies
Natalie du toit from Innocomm
Bertie van Wyk from MillerKnoll
This episode is brought to you by the European Coworking Assembly. We are everything coworking Europe. If you head to the Coworking Assembly website, you can connect with our European Freelancers Week, Coworking Symposium, Coworking Library, and Coworking Tools
Jeannine Van Der Linden
Hi, good afternoon and welcome to our panel. This panel is about inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility as a driver of growth in coworking spaces and their communities. My name is Janine Van Der Linden. I’m one of your moderators. And I’ll introduce myself and then I’ll introduce my co-moderator ,Ashley. I’m the founder and chief cook and bottle washer for the DeKamer, a network of eight coworking spaces in the Netherlands. I am also involved in the organization of the European Coworking assembly, which in part supports this particular panel. And I am in addition I think the longest sitting director of open coworking which is a global, non-profit organization whose mission is to protect the and preserve the community property of the coworking movement. My co-moderator today is Ashley proctor. Hi Ashley. If there is anyone in coworking who really, honest to God, does not need an introduction, it is definitely Ashley Proctor. But I will do my best.
Ashley proctor is the initiator and power behind creative blueprint in Canada, where she combines the interests of many stakeholders from government business communities. collaborators, artistic communities, and creates custom solutions to the problems that address all the needs of the stakeholders the achievements of Ashley and her more than 15 years in coworking our way to numerous dimension that would take up this entire hour, so I promise not to start. I will say that we are very proud of Ashley as the curator and initiator of coworking Canada which is the National Coworking conference for Canada and is also the initiator and catalyst for the inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility project, which is a global project and she’s going to tell you more about that but because of that project, this panel exists. Go Ashley.
Thank you, Jeannine. I appreciate the introduction. It’s an honour to be here today. If you’re not yet familiar with the Coworking IDEA project, we are an international collective of coworking operators and associations, companies, consultants and community organizers and we’re committed to making the coworking industry more inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible. We believe that by working collaboratively internationally, we can have a ripple effect throughout the industry. And we believe that each of our individual actions really matter. We each have the opportunity to make decisions in our businesses, in our organizations and in our communities. And we also often have the platform and access to a larger network who we can influence by changing our behaviour and by leading by example, each month the idea project issues of public challenge to the coworking industry to listen to learn to reflect and to take an action large or small in an effort to make great change one step at a time. And you can find us and all of our past challenges at coworking idea.org So we have so many incredible coworking leaders amazing human beings and passionate advocates here with us today. So we’ll dive right in to ensure that we have enough time to hear from everyone. So to start, I’ll ask each of our panellists to share a quick introduction and you’ll get to know a little bit about our speakers. And the fantastic organizations that they represent. Let’s start with Pauline.
Hi, everyone. Thanks to Ashley and Jeannine for having me. I’m Pauline Roussel co-founder of Coworkies. I’m actually joining you today from Berlin, Germany. And out of all things we do for coworking spaces and people gravitating around the industry. The most noticeable one recently is this coffee table book called Around the World in 250 coworking spaces, which is the outcome of five years of traveling around the world of chords and spaces. And inside the book we share coworking stories from all over the world, people we’ve personally met, and we share their passion and how they ended up opening chords and spaces and how they navigated the pandemic and where they see each and every of their spaces going forward.
Bertie van Wyk
Thank you very much for having me. My name is Bertie van Wyk. I’m a workplace specialist for MillerKnoll, if you’re familiar with MillerKnoll, it’s the kind of collective of dynamic brands who kind of redefine modern for the 21st century by building more sustainable and more kind of equitable and a more beautiful future for everyone. On the subject of inclusive inclusivity and diversity. We have about 170 other people that work on that in our organization. I’m not a specialist in that. I’ll be focusing more on specifically what you can do in your coworking space with regards to the environment how we can redesign and create more inclusive environments and spaces.
Thank you. Welcome Mike.
Hi, good morning. I’m calling in from New York. My name is Michael DeRosa. I’m the Director of Channel partnerships at Uplex. A lot of you might know the Uplex as a booking platform. We’ve got about 5500 locations in 72 countries around the world. But more than that we actually provide enterprise companies a platform with how they can manage their workforce to not only book and search but access these spaces. So I’m so grateful to be here today because we’re working with large enterprise corporations that ever since COVID want to be able to provide access to a variety of coworking spaces to their employees, and we’re helping them navigate that and there’s you know, a lot of things that we need to learn from us. So glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Thanks for joining us. Welcome Cecilia.
Hello, everyone. My name is Cecilia Tham. I wear many hats but today I went ahead as founder of MOB stands for Makers of Barcelona and we are one the first large-scale maker and coworking community here in Barcelona and I am here to contribute whatever I can today so, thank you for having me.
Thanks for being here. Welcome Miro
My name is Miro Miroslavov, originally from Bulgaria based Europe and the CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD. We are building one of the leading coworking management platforms. We work with more than 1000 customers that manage 2000 buildings around the globe. I think we are in space in like in with countries, and we also team of 120 people, very diverse crowds in a number of countries. So, I’d love to talk about that. And yeah. Thanks.
Thanks for joining us. Welcome Carmen.
Good afternoon, everyone. So my name is Carmen Lecuane and I currently work for Nexudus. I’ve actually worn many hats in the coworking industry, going from being an operator in Paris to marrying a co-worker. And now being a specialists and onboarding specialist in Nexudus, as you know, is one of the leading platforms of coworking workplace instant management. And my function is really to help customers to be the frontlines of customers, helping them save time on resources, automating a lot of the actions but also making their lives easier. So, I’m here really, to help them coexist in places and new places, make their lives easier and support them on their everyday operations. As a company Nexus is really proud to work as a cloud platform with over 90 countries that we cover in over 200,000 spaces. So, in terms of an international background in terms of like being the first our clients represents a lot of debt, but also our internal team.
Thanks for being here. Welcome, Hector.
Hey, good morning from New Jersey. I’m Hector Kolonas. I’m actually a South African Cypriots who got here via the UK. So I’ve lived in many places and also worn many hats. Like most folks and coworking. I actually ended up being coworking back in 2013. Remember that far back? There was a huge Baylin and cypress Island up launching coworking spaces by mistake and old ad agencies. And I realized that coworking communities had this huge power to change the neighbourhoods that they were in. And I said I’m going to be in this industry. I wanted to be involved with it. I followed that passion first to live in the UK. And now over to the US since 2013. I’ve supported well over 1000 communities both launching and promoting, filling, running, and all the tech that goes behind the scenes.
But today you’ll find me leading the team at Syncrude which we work to connect all the pieces of the Tech puzzle so that you can focus on the people and not on the tech connections. But you also find my newsletter called This Week and coworking going out every Thursday morning summarizing all the great news and celebrations from across our industry because there’s a lot happening that’s just being ignored or forgotten by the public and the big media. So, thanks for having me here. I’m excited to be involved in this conversation and thank you for getting us onto the stage at coworking Europe.
Thanks for joining us. Welcome Shazia.
Hi, I’m Shazia, the co-founder of Third Door. It is a coworking and nursery space that I launched back in 2010. My focus for the last 1012 years 14 years even has been working with parents how do we ensure that their needs are met in terms of her working patterns are changing and going forward? My interest also loads very much in the intersectionality of the different groups they’ve got working parents but then how do we attract more people from underrepresented groups such as you know, I don’t like using the word beam but within the beam group disabled LGBT and going and that sort of is probably the reason why I’m here because it’s very much part of the conversation about diversity and inclusion within coworking. And that’s just me nutshell.
Thanks for being here. Welcome, Natalie.
Natalie Du Toit
Thank you very much for having me. I’m Natalie Du Toit joining from South Africa. And I work for a company called Innocomm in the digital marketing and communication space. And we’re all working remotely as a team. I’m also a motivational speaker and I’ve also served on a number of South African, African, and international athletes Commission’s on a board with the role of actually setting up structures to share voice and ultimately including the main stakeholders of the athletes in these discussions and decisions which would ultimately row sport so sitting in the disabled side and the able-bodied side has been really interesting in the conversations that come up with that. So the different organizations, just looking forward to today and growing within the coworking spaces.
Thanks for joining us. Welcome, Alex.
Afternoon, everyone. My name is Ahom. I’m from London, but I’m based in Hamburg, Germany. I’m a coworking founder, a Future of work Diversity, Inclusion, and workplace experience consultant. And just happy to be here today. I think it’s a great stage for us to discuss and really make some changes in the world of work. super passionate about all of that, as I said, DNI community building and we’re really focused on where we can take work and the workplace. So thanks for having me, and I’m looking forward to the discussion.
Thank you. And I know we’ve taken some time here for introductions, but I think it’s really important for our viewers to get to know all of these folks. I know who that they can go to if they want to have further discussions offline and after this event. I also just want to acknowledge really quickly Bernie Mitchell, Jax, everyone who’s helped behind the scenes to make this event happen today, so thank you to all of them who aren’t on screen as well. So, let’s get to it. The first question, conversations around inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility seem to be happening much more frequently. And it’s great to see this topic on the mainstage at coworking Europe this year. So are these questions? Are these topics coming up in your own organizations and work? If yes, which ways are you working to make your organization or staff your team your events, your community or even your region’s more diverse, inclusive or accessible? And if not, then why do you think these conversations are not happening? And I’d like to open that up to anyone.
I’m just going to jump in and make a comment. I think for us, unfortunately, a lot of these issues. We don’t deal with it unless there is a problem. And there’s a crisis that we’re forced to kind of handle and invite and then a lot of times it’s way too late and we have had a couple of different experiences in that, and I have to say that, uh, you know, I’m really grateful for the coworking community because you know, from that experience, we realized said, Because coworking isn’t a company per se, right? The co-workers aren’t our employees. A lot of the kind of the framework that we know of, they don’t really apply. And so with the coworking community, you know, the code of conduct and all of these different tools that have been created. We need a new framework. And so we were basing on those themes. And so, I would like to see that we are more intentional. In terms of dealing, you know, handling equity, diversity, and inclusivity on a preparation basis and not as a reactive base. And so that, you know, I just wanted to kind of contribute in that sense.
I’d like to take off from there. I get, I’m really lucky, I get to work with a whole lot of coworking space operators, and I’m seeing the same things that Cecilia mentioned, a lot of folks were reactive to these situations. But over the last 1213 months, we have seen more discussions happening about how do we prepare as space operators as community builders. How do we implement Code of Conduct how do we bring in best practices? How do we make sure our events are inclusive and are giving opportunity to people within our neighbourhoods who may not feel represented in our spaces? The conversations are definitely happening. We also host a weekly call over on clubhouse and this these topics keep coming up regardless of what the news is, but looking at how it affects how, you know huge funding rounds affect the people who use those faces or the users’ communities and how does it you know, connect, and diverge? People who want to engage that community, so the conversations are definitely happening on the store, of course, a lot of work to be done, but it is moving to that proactive instead of reactive stance. So, I’m really glad to see that.
I can also jump in with a little bit of a bigger organization at the 120 people we actually get to implement a lot of all of these things as a proper framework. And, and really streamline the process of educating people and build trainings. Because when you when you start scaling up, it’s extremely easy to actually sleep in the wrong direction. And as a founder I assume most founders get a really good understanding of inclusion, diversity, and all that and they can naturally limit all the negative impacts of folks that don’t necessarily understand the importance of these however, when the organization start to scale up, that can actually start losing ground and it’s important to set up the processes so that you ensure things run smoothly.
So for example, we introduce zero tolerance towards any improper behaviour and all that and also because we are in four different operating containers in four different countries that are completely different actually like Eastern Europe and the States for example, is a massive gap of understanding of what is diversity, what is inclusion and what it actually means. If you don’t educate people, and we actually get to expand on that, it’s really a dangerous position to be in. It’s extremely important. And the sooner you do it in the lifecycle of the organization, the better the chances to make successfully because otherwise it’s a big bump, and it’s a huge bomb.
If I can also add my two cents to the discussion for me, from what we see because we are also quite connected to spaces all over the world and when we discuss with them I also feel that those four words Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility are like a topic of their own. Each of them are very different and I feel certain coworking spaces also are sometimes very advanced in one of them, and not necessarily having the time or the resources to look at the tree others. I believe to echo what Nico was saying that sometimes also there is a very big misunderstanding. What does it actually mean to be an inclusive space? What does it mean to be a diverse space or an accessible space? I think it’s not very clear for everyone what stands behind those terms because sometimes spaces or event organizer, we are very diverse.
We are very inclusive, and then you look at the panels and you look at what they do and in reality to the standards of what we expect. It’s not exactly inclusive or diverse. So, I think, in general, and maybe one of the outcomes of this conversation should be should we set up standards to help people figure out where they stand on a scale of inclusion, diversity, or accessibility. Or equity, for instance, just so people really get a sense of what we mean by that. And I think it’s coming up in the conversation later, but there are great examples also that viewers right now or later can take inspiration from if they want to start somewhere with one of those topics or the four of them.
I have to strongly agree with Pauline in the need for a specific framework. But just like mirror from a perspective of Nexudus which is a software system. We deal with so many occurrences we also deal with so many events in the industry. Why is that internally and both externally? We’ve tried our best for the past few years to implement things closer to a framework but it’s still missing.
So for example, in terms of internal work that we’ve done, we’ve paid attention to workplace behaviour to the communication how it’s done between people from different backgrounds. And even for example, in terms of our internal team, people that are making decisions, and I think this is one of the biggest things when you talk about diversity inclusivity is the people that are making decisions to people on boards is to show diversity. So this is one of the things that we’ve also focused on, we’ll have all in on board. We have people from different backgrounds, making decisions that actually bring so much wealth and richness to what we are as a company and then externally because of course we’ve been 10 years in industry.
We’ve actually had the ability to work with operators for example, in London, there’s a great community to Urban MBA, so we are involved in like recruiting and hiring people from local working spaces and actually attending these shows, ensuring that not just because we are a software and not so much an operator that we cannot do something but I definitely agree reporting when she mentions a framework and I think as a result from this whole conversation, if at the end, right in a couple of months or a couple years, we could come up with an excellent framework that of course would be a work in progress. I think there’ll be one of the biggest achievements we’ll have as an industry.
I wanted to add to Pauline and Carmen’s points with coworking, a lot of it comes to design as well. So if we imagine that the default for most designing office spaces is men, white men, and then go from there so for example, women, they react to temperatures differently to men, if anyone’s read invisible women by ourselves, get them wrong as it currently in their careers, Paris, but she talks a lot about the gender data gap and how officers are catered towards women. And then if we look at intersectionality and like for example, working moms, have they got a space where they can go if they need to pump milk or even if their babies nearby? Can they breastfeed? And then if then we’re looking further into intersectionality and say we’re looking at people who are religious, a Muslim, is there a prayer room for them that’s clearly marked that they can go to without asking. What we don’t want them to say is, sorry can we use that meeting room and go there? It should be clearly marked. Those are just few examples of where design comes in. And how it sectionally works throughout that and just in those different layers and it’s just like a massive topic. I can go on and on. But I just wanted to give a few examples.
Thanks. Yeah, I just wanted to say that I agree with that 100%. The question was around the conversation, right? And, yes, it’s great to see this topic on the mainstage. But we can’t fall into the trap of thinking that talk is enough. You know, in the DNI world, organizations, for example, spend a lot of time talking, and maybe these days, trying to move towards action on diversity, but diversity or you know, the first step talk diversity, it’s not enough, you know, we must move forward to inclusion, equity, equality, these kinds of things sustainability. So as I said, I think it’s great that we’re talking about this on the mainstage. But isn’t it time to recognize that the talk talking must finish, and we must take responsibility? So, I want to ask everyone, when is it time for transparency? When is it time for accountability? You know, change in action is what we need to have a not just talk I think talk is the first step.
Natalie Du Toit
I think if maybe I can jump in here and I’m not going to answer that question at all. We’re going to move that on but ultimately I think there’s something that’s really interesting and something that we’ve come across and that is, ultimately how tight do you make the rules and regulations, or you know, every culture is very, very different. So for example, here in Africa, to try and get females on a stage as a director is really, really challenging. And sometimes we can really fight against the belief systems and cultures that are out there. So, I think every culture, every region, has something slightly different that they work towards that they look at, and it’s going to be very challenging to common, you know, go across all the barriers.
For example, I’m a disabled person. I am an amputee. And if you had to give me a ram, I would probably say things that I shouldn’t really say. So as you can see every disability is also very different in how you manage disability. What is equity? Is it equality, is it equity? You know, a lot of speakers have spoken about, you know, the understanding of exactly what the terms mean. And I think in every region they will mean something slightly different to the people that come into your workspaces that, you know, here in South Africa, I’ve run into a number of spaces that are so different. Some you just walk in, order a cup of coffee and you sit down, some are more controlled, and every workspace is completely different. So I think it’s also being able to listen to the other person or the people that are actually coming in your clients and understanding what it is What is the culture that you’d like to bring about? And maybe if I could put it out there that, you know, the group does, you know, sit together, and put together a few ideas of what can be done or what shouldn’t be done or what should be the right words?
Jeannine Van Der Linden
Well, I think that gives us an excellent transition to our second question. I think that one of the because the questions always come up immediately we have been doing at the European coworking assembly. These kinds of events and discussions for some time and this is where the conversation goes. It goes to the how first we talked about the what we talked about the why. And we talked about the how and so how do you measure the impact or the progress or the status of your coworking space in terms of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility and can do can any of you share an example of real success in your region in your organization?
Natalie Du Toit
So, maybe I can jump in and just I don’t work in a coworking space, but we have really seen the positive nature of actually speaking with people that are part of your stakeholders, having calls or taking a questionnaire or going around and you know, spending a minute or two minutes asking and for example, in our case, it was about classification in sport, for example, and, you know, everyone was complaining that it’s unfair, and that there are some disabilities that are in classes that shouldn’t be, etc. So, I think it’s to include everyone in the conversation in some shape or form, that it’s not always about the top-down approach, but it’s about the bottom up and bringing together the thoughts and ideas. And ultimately, you know, getting everybody on board and taking them on that journey as well. So that they also understand that you care and that you want them to have the best experience possible.
Just to add on what Natalie was saying. I also feel sometimes the topic is so important and so big that for a lot of operators still a bit stressful to start tackling this issue. So, I would also say that you can start as small as you can. There are no big or small actions actually every single action camp if you want to start somewhere, and I think reaching out to communities like European quirky assembly, or like regional communities that can occur in Deutschland or Switzerland and ask them to highlight or directly direct you to coworking spaces who have already worked that work. And who can maybe mentor you or guide you somehow somewhere is already a good first step if you’re interested in going into one of those directions and understand how you can do that. But I would also like to point out that you shouldn’t do it for the wrong reasons because sometimes I feel coworking spaces would use it as a marketing tool. And I think this is not okay. You have to do it because you believe in it and not because you want to use it. You can of course be proud of yourself and proud that you’re doing it. But I think afterwards using it just because it’s marketing, but you don’t really believe in it. For me, this is also where I want to like kind of draw a line that you have to really understand where you want to spend on this.
Bertie van Wyk
At MillerKnoll, I think almost 50 quarterly reports on inclusivity, which we share globally. If you’re interested, you can just Google a better world and have a better and it’ll give you some insights. And there’s some reports that we that we constantly publish. There’s also some ideas on how to be more equitable, more inclusive. I’ll share all this information, even things like committing some of your spend into kind of diverse groups. Making sure that you’re, if you have money to spend, if you’re going to go get some resources, make sure that it goes to women owned organizations or diverse owned business organizations. So there’s loads of these ideas if you just go for the Google to try and Google it. There’s some great ideas online that we share.
And also just like to add here, for some folks who are looking for challenges that they can take on the coworkingidea.org website each month there’s a new challenge and if you’re interested, for example, in how to make your space more accessible, Ivana, Lucia and David created a challenge this year with a checklist to go through your space and look at all these different elements. And obviously it doesn’t touch on everything. But each month there is another challenge and checklists that you can use as at least a starting point for conversation and taking actions and measure your impact as well.
I mean, if I may, I’d like to share a very successful case that we have, we have managed to create. A couple years ago we have identified that there is a lack of women in tech, especially in coworking spaces. And so this was in 2017. We were in a conference where you know, out of the 28 speakers, there were 26 of them more men. And so with that conversation in mind, with one of my former employees now my co-founder, we decided to launch a kind of a boot camp for women to drive more women in tech space. And so going out of the community, we were, you know, running these boot camps inside the coworking that that we had, and now I had spun off into its own its own start-up and now one of the largest women in tech community in all of Europe. And we are training more than 200 women per year in machine learning and data analytics and launching quantum very soon. And so we’re super happy about you know, this particular initiative.
Thank you for that. I’m wondering along the same lines if anyone might have an example of something tangible that workspace operators could do to make their communities more diverse or inclusive. What small or specific action might folks take something they could do today, in addition to checking out the challenges that we’ve issued?
Well, again, just to give a very basic example we know we spoke previously about the endless talking about these issues, and I was recently in a series of meetings where an organization wanted to give their female members a better work experience. And they came to me because they had kind of almost hit a wall in how they could kind of kind of make things better and can you imagine that this this five-person team that was put together to try to make the lives of women that their female members better in their spaces, this five-person team, they were all men. So it was kind of ridiculous to me. They felt that they were all very open minded. There was a woman on the team before, but they were all open minded. And they felt it wasn’t a problem. But that is the issue. You have people who don’t believe they’re the problem. Talking about a topic that they don’t have inexperience and they don’t have skin in the game. So of course, I suggested wholesale changes to the to the team. And we brought in some other changes as well.
For example in meetings where oftentimes you have meetings and men are taking over the stage talking over other people or talking a lot asking more questions. And one of the things I suggested was that you can’t have kind of two men speak back to back there has to be, for example, at the time this is a while back now but have different speakers or different genders speak not just only men only put their hand up so that to kind of bring in in force the case that we had to make a change because without that it happened where men were the only ones talking in these events or they were talking for a long, long time as I have now but the examples I said is we had to make changes that people didn’t always find comfortable but in the end it made behaviours shift.
Bertie van Wyk
I’ve got something else to just add around actual environments and spaces. We’ve been looking at inclusive design since 2014. And what happens is people design for most people for the middle group and then kind of trying to accommodate the edges. But when we’re looking at inclusive design is actually designing for the ages, which means that everyone gets a fantastic, wonderful experience. And when we try and do that we try to make sure that we don’t get hung up on just one group. Because it’s very easy to just think of just one group and then think you’re including you’re doing inclusive design but you’re just thinking of one group and the groups are many and fast. So we ‘ve got three guidelines ,three censes that we that we follow with.
The first one is like beyond barrier free when we look at spaces that eliminate real or actually perceived barriers of successful use. Basic things like that you can do it in these environments, provide generous circulation space, preventing unexpected kind of hazards, kind of intuitive kind of ability. And variety and choice in these environments is absolutely key if you really want to create a wonderful kind of good experience. The variety of spaces where you can choose the temperature you can choose how much stimulus there is this how much light there is how much colour how much noise, how much privacy you can have, you know designing the surroundings, the furnishings the tools to ensure that you have a neutral body position and it’s easy to reach wherever you go. moveable elements, make sure that if you have moveable elements that they’re very easy to kind of move and easy to control. The other thing that we talk about is you know we actually feel before we think so our senses have consciously kind of read the world around us when we’re looking at environments we want products that are clearly communicate their kind of their function and the direction that they’re pointing and their purpose. We shouldn’t have to figure out what’s happening in that space. It should absolutely be automatic for us to figure out. This is exactly what the purpose is for this is how I can use it through colours through textiles through the textures that we actually use within these environments and these spaces and sometimes it can be something as simple in your coworking space right now you might have a beautiful standing height table. And guess what if there’s no privacy screen below it, if you’ve got a dress you can’t actually use that environment. So ,we had quite a few more of these things that we talked about this great examples of wonderful inclusive design even Ah, okay, the architectural practice of some wonderful things, free guides around kind of designing for neurodiversity, but the more variety and choice and really good variety and really good choices do we create, the easier and more accessible we make it for a larger group of people to use your own environment.
So, this is something that Bertie said in terms of accessibility of physical space. Think of your website. Think of the images that you put on a website Hong Kong easier is to access certain things like a search button, for example, as a platform for example, the colour scheme that we use, the directions that we put in place on the platform correspond to accessibility like how easy for someone that has a huge background in technology to someone that is just a coworking space and has no idea who needs help. How do they interact with your system? When they look at your website? Can they see diversity?
For example you partner with decision makers for example, in our company, every single department has as percentage of diversity from women from different people from different backgrounds from different sexuality from different abilities, for example, so I believe change first is done internally, then shown externally. So the coworking space itself the website how close the toilet is to people, for example, physically and also web-oriented changes the show the first line the front line, which will then replicate into the users into the people that work for you into the people that use your products and services.
So, let’s think of change and diversity internally first, and automatically I promise you that will attract people if I see a website that talks about a coworking space Daskal sustainability or encourage encourages diversity. I’m very much more inclined to want to join this space as a person versus someone that looks like me on the decision board, or just the pictures of the coworking rooms. I feel much more welcome. So just even little twitches here in their space like Bertie was saying, but also your websites can make a huge difference.
Can I just echo also what you guys were saying with an example? Basically, when we were in Paris, we met a coworking space there who made inclusion, their core focus but inclusion to inter design and what they were doing which was very interesting is that they were each and every new member that were coming to the space. You were meeting with like an ergo therapist, so someone who looks at how tall are you? What’s like your height and then depending on who you are because for instance I’m rather petite so the regular size chairs and desks they don’t fit me and ergo when you say Ergo therapist I don’t know in English and sorry but like those people who look at your body and everything.
They were analysing what you are and how you work and how you stand. And based on that they were recommending you the right chair the right table and I just because Bertie we’re talking about feeling and just talking with that person I felt very included into the career right away. I was like wow; they care for me. Like they care for my well-being enough to actually don’t go for the traditional chair or the regular desk. They actually say hey, you rather boutique comes here. And they were doing the same to technology. And maybe here making an actor I have some things to add to to get but I also feel that good use of technology or even new incoming truth to your platforms. But I feel that technology also in a way can feel make people feel way more included. And it feels more inclusive in a certain way depending on how operators can use it. Because sometimes when you use your coding software, there are many functionalities but how can you look at them in a way that actually you make your community feel included and you make your community she connected tricked. So yeah, that was my two cents on that. Thanks, Bertie for the reminder of that great story.
I would love to visit that space just to find out what chair I’m supposed to be using because I have no idea, to be honest.
I also didn’t know, but you know what, they recommended me some sort of like bow which is I think from synapse or something. And it was like for the best and it was absolutely incredible and the courage and space in question for people interested is called Kwerk.
So yeah, from a tech perspective, one of the things that I’ve noticed is using a very motivational you post three kinds of way if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re always going to get what you’ve always got. So if you keep marketing through the same channels and partnering with the same brokers, the same distribution channels, you’re going to keep reaching the same people you’ve always reached. So we’re I’m really excited to see spaces who are looking at new ways to reach into local communities or local community hubs that don’t traditionally use coworking or engage with coworking spaces much in the past and really creating and starting those conversations. That’s kind of where what a lot of the work we’re doing with sinker is making sure people can reach new things and new platforms and new distribution channels. Really easily and efficiently. But stepping away from tech just for a second if you allow me there’s three notable examples of intentionality that I’ve seen that I’ve loved. T
he one is, you know, folks who are still under math mandates using masks with kind of see-through visors, allowing people hard of hearing or people who need to liberate that ability of being able to communicate even from behind the mask, small thing, huge feeling of being included and being accepted and welcomed in a space. A second is hygiene products. Why they only in one set of bathrooms or in every bathroom. Are you even supplying hygiene products for your members without them having to ask? The same thing goes right now for baby changing tables, are they only in your female toilets are there in all toilets? So big challenge I’ve faced recently going around with the pram is finding places that only my wife could change the kid, which is a really strange thing to think about, but you know, it definitely makes people feel more included. And yeah, those are just some great examples that I’ve seen, that are actionable and tangible and they’re pretty simple to implement, but they go a long way to make people feel that you’ve taken those steps to be more welcoming.
Natalie Du Toit
I think maybe I can add on to the conversation that’s going at the moment and that is, I think also it’s up to different age groups. So for example, sometimes you actually want to meet other businesses and you want to talk to people, and you know, being accessible to be able to do that having an opportunity to, to communicate in a safe environment, obviously. But ultimately, you know, there are some, you know, newly What did you call it, children, those that are just coming out of school, that are wanting to jump into business, they want to meet people. For example, I would go to a workspace.
Sometimes I just want to be quiet. Sometimes I want to meet people and see what they’re doing, you know, what can we take away from it or implement into what we’re doing? And I think that that is something that has been really important. And so choosing your space based on what you would like to achieve for the day has also been really important for me. And I think you know, as the generations move on, and as the, what I would call them, youngsters come up and join the working field and as hybridized style of work, you know, moves on and, you know, people start working from home more and moving over to workspaces more. I think it’s really important to also consider that and, you know, what is accessibility it can be within the space, but it can also be being accepted accessible to different generations that come to your space.
Jeannine Van Der Linden
Yeah, I think that’s right. So again, Natalie has a genius she have Natalie has given us a terrific transition into the last question for today, which is sort of the meat of this seminar because we’ve worked our way through, you know, what is inclusion? How do we go about it? What can we do? How can we measure it? And so, here’s the meat of the question. Many companies focus primarily on growth and profit, particularly large ones, but some of them are starting to wake up to expanding markets, the benefits of that engaging in providing services to new and a more diverse set of members. So can you make for me, a financial Case for diversity and inclusion? And we’re going to start with Mike.
Yes, for sure. You can make a case. So it’s really fascinating. I’ve worn a couple many different acts in the coworking world, right. Recently, I’ve been engaging with kind of commercial real estate large enterprise organizations. And just a few weeks ago, I was like the first you know, in person conference, everyone’s back. And the number one question or the topic was about accessibility. And everyone’s like, mind was kind of like blown like, it was like something new that they were kind of, you know, talking about, not so much within their own space, but accessibility for where everyone that all of their employees want to work, which is get swept not in the office, right. And so this is why I think it’s so fascinating. That really coworking time has come. A lot of these people on the screen with me are dear friends but like we’re early adopters, right? We’ve been beating this drum forever.
Corporate America now knows that they have to follow certain kind of minimums that their employees but more importantly, their customers expect of them. And that’s, you know, we see that in developing these different DiDi initiatives. But you know, I respect what, what Pauline said, you have to be respectful from marketing. You don’t want to lead your marketing with the fact that you do these things. But a little kind of shameless plug to like, you know, Hector, you know, you want to make sure that when you do something, it’s properly acknowledged, right. And so when you know spaces have all these different listing platforms, you know, where all these companies are turning to use to funnel their employees through if your profile is not properly updated on every single listing profile, or if you don’t have these things, and then kind of speaking to the folks at Nexus not this RnD. There’s different things that you can add to your, your software, where the space operators can acknowledge what type of locations they have, what type of amenities they provide, because we’re seeing those employees, it’s really fascinating. They’re searching for space for far different types of reasons than we ever expected. They’re not just picking a space because they want a sales meeting for 10 or maybe they want to pick a space for a certain meeting that’s a female focus coworking space. Or maybe they want to have a space where they know that you know, in the US, I think there’s a lot more buildings that might have accessibility built in, but I know not everywhere in the world has like ATA mandates, right. So if you’re trying to book a meeting, you need to make sure that, you know, to Natalie’s point, you know, we’ve had a conference actually there was a coworking conference that wasn’t accessible. And I remember attendees had to carry someone in a wheelchair up two flights of stairs, right? Because it wasn’t noted on the conference site. And no one even thought to ask that question. And so you know, it’s one of those things where it’s really important that you do it, but then it’s how do you not just market it? But the business case is very simple. If you don’t have some type of, you know, element that provides a welcoming, safe space, you’re not going to be considered. And we all know that like the quickest way to lose business is not to be evil, be on that list. And so it’s doing good by doing well by doing good or doing good by doing well. Like you’re not doing it for the business intentions. You’re doing it because it’s right, but it also helps bring your space to someone you know, considering sorry, I hope I didn’t write on
Bertie van Wyk
I just want to say I think it might be slightly dangerous to build a financial case for it for inclusiveness, and just in my view, inclusive design is already good design, and it creates a great experience for everyone. But when you start building a financial case for it and potentially not hitting it, then people might even lose interest. I think it’s a very, very difficult thing. It’s a great thing. It creates a better experience for everyone. That is kind of the focus point. For me the financial case. I think it’s a little bit difficult because I pretty much think and I work with multi muscle mass importers all around the world. coworking is purely part of the answer of creating an equitable experience for everyone. So for me, that should be a really big focus specifically because coworking is an answer for a lot of corporates to creating a better equitable experience for their employees.
Jeannine Van Der Linden
Well, to wind it up because we’re running out of time, I have to say that I have a somewhat different perspective and I think at this moment in time, we can no longer make a financial case for non-inclusive business. We can no longer make a case for non-equitable business, non-diverse business, non-accessible business. We can’t maintain this model. We have real pressing crisis level concerns by excluding let’s face it, add up all the marginalized folks, and we are excluding the actually the majority of working people around us by doing that we deprive ourselves, have their ideas, their resources, their initiative, their innovative approaches, and we can’t afford to do it the other way anymore. So I guess that is my two cents worth for this panel. And I think in in winding up I think everybody is in agreement that our biggest takeaway is be conventional. Our second biggest takeaway is it’s good to be proactive and our third biggest takeaway is we need to get all do this together. The as all of you know, actually the elephant in the room. I’ll name it. The European coworking assembly has been working for some years. I think everyone almost everyone on this panel has in some way been involved in that project. In the project of developing a workbook for coworking spaces to provide that framework for what you need to look at and how you need to approach taking your coworking community into your local community and making it more inclusive diverse, equitable and accessible. So, and I think that’s it. Ashley, do we have any other items that I skipped?
Well, I just like to invite everyone to join us back at coworking idea.org For more conversations and we’ll be doing further challenges and inviting these panellists and others to join us to help co facilitate challenges in the new year. And if you’re interested in joining that conversation we meet monthly you can participate as an organizer as a sponsor as a co facilitator, as someone who issues challenges, or who’s someone who simply takes them each month and uses them to make improvements in your own community. So thank you all for being here today. I hope you will reach out after this panel to many of our fantastic speakers and guests in the industry for more knowledge and that you’ll join us for future events. Thanks for watching.