Here we are with another Coworking values podcast and we are here with the Brene Brown of Coworking! Ashley Proctor- Founder of Creative Blueprint and COHIP. She is also known for her works in GCUC Canada.
She talks about how running a genuine coworking space makes entrepreneurship accessible and breaks down barriers. Ashley also stresses that it’s about bringing people together and dismantling loneliness and building a strong community. And how it promotes a healthy community through inclusivity and diversity at the same time.
How does she view coworking?
It’s not about the space itself. Coworking is really about what happens when we work together. So I’m more interested in a space that’s built intentionally that’s curated and managed to encourage community engagement and to accelerate serendipity that have staff that are dedicated to serving their members, sure, but also animating and cultivating the community itself.
And I think the movement really values collaboration over competition. There are a few things a genuine coworking space does. And it’s important to me to remind people that that’s why we do what we do in a genuine coworking space here making entrepreneurship accessible and breaking down barriers and you’re building bridges between industries.
You’re inspiring, powering your members and sharing best practices and helping people to expand their networks. In a genuine coworking space, you’re also bringing people together and dismantling loneliness and building and strengthening community. You are accelerating economic development and protecting Freelancer rights and increasing productivity and the capacity of your member organizations.
And in turn that ensure sustainability of social enterprises and small businesses. You can model diversity and inclusivity. And collectively, we’re shaping the future of work. And that is a lot more than desks and coffee and Wi-Fi.
What do you think about the inclusivity and diversity in the coworking community?
Well, I think it’s the way that I always have and I want to see people on stage that reflect the community that I’m working in and I want to see people on stage that reflect the community I want to work in.
And so when I see myself up on stage It’s great, but I want to see people who are very different than me too.
And so it’s really important to me to make sure that the speakers that are coming from all kinds of backgrounds, whether it be socioeconomic, their experience level, maybe cultural, religious, there are a lot of different ways in which we can bring something to the table.
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March 31, 2020
Bernie J. Mitchell 0:03
Welcome to Coworking Values Podcast, the Podcast of the European coworking assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of accessibility community openness, collaboration, and sustainability. Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another coworking values podcast. We’re going to say a special episode but of course if you’ve podcast and read before you know that all special, but we have the we have the Britney brown of coworking Ashley with us today. So, Ashley, what do you what are you known for? And what would you like to be known for?
Ashley Proctor 0:33
Oh, my goodness, I am probably known for launching one of the first coworking spaces in Canada 2003. What I would like to be known for is my work on juicy Canada as the executive producer, on co hip, the Coworking health insurance plan. And through creative blueprint, my consulting agency,
Bernie J. Mitchell 0:55
I think I think you were known for juicy Canada. And so, we were just let’s not pretend folks, we were just chatting about loads of stuff before we came online. And it was one of those podcasts where it’s like, we should be recording this. So, so let’s dive straight back in. So, we started off with the movement versus the industry, which I’ve seen popping around online, and it was great to hear it directly from you. So, can you say a little bit about that? Because that is a theme. I’d like to be pounding the drums on going forward.
Ashley Proctor 1:26
Absolutely. I feel like this conversation has been coming up a lot at industry events and gatherings. And it’s something that I really made the focus of my speech in the House of Commons last year in Canada. So recently, we’ve heard a lot of talk in the news and publicly about the Coworking industry. And some say this is a real benefit to the Coworking movement because we’re getting attention, advertising dollars press, but I think it’s actually distracting from the purpose of why the kirkin movement was born. And the difference to me between the movement in the industry. So, we understand coworking to be an action, as well as a model. And we’re not renting desks and providing members with Wi Fi and coffee. That is why we got into coworking in the first place. It’s not about the space itself. coworking is really about what happens when we work together.
Ashley Proctor 02:23
So I’m more interested in a space that’s built intentionally that’s curated and managed to encourage community engagement and to accelerate serendipity that have staff that are dedicated to serving their members, sure, but also animating and cultivating the community itself. And I think the movement really values collaboration over competition. There are a few things a genuine coworking space does. And it’s important to me to remind people that that’s why we do what we do in a genuine coworking space here making entrepreneurship accessible and breaking down barriers and you’re building bridges between industries. You’re inspiring me powering your members and sharing best practices and helping people to expand their networks. In a genuine coworking space, you’re also bringing people together and dismantling loneliness and building and strengthening community. You are accelerating economic development and protecting Freelancer rights and increasing productivity and the capacity of your member organizations. And in turn that ensure sustainability of social enterprises and small businesses. You can model diversity and inclusivity. And collectively, we’re shaping the future of work. And that is a lot more than desks and coffee and Wi Fi.
Bernie J. Mitchell 3:36
Absolutely, about five years ago, I had to stop getting angry with people who I’d be at a conference or an event or something can people go I run a coworking space and they ran an office space in the like financial district of London, and called it coworking . And I was I was wasting a lot of energy, getting upset with people. You know, they’re saying they were playing rock and roll when they were really playing, you know, ai music or something. And I found it. And I always felt a little bit petulant saying you’re not doing it properly.
Bernie J. Mitchell 4:14
And if you ever had that tantrum? How is your tantrum evolved around that kind of conversation nowadays?
Ashley Proctor 4:22
Absolutely. I mean, I’ve definitely felt that in the past, but I feel like as the movement has evolved and gotten stronger, we’re meeting people around the world, they feel the same way. I’m realizing that a lot of energy is being wasted in that direction. I think that coworking is the term itself is actually being diluted, which is kind of okay. I think over time, in the sense that instead of working, we’re going to be coworking in the future. And I think it’ll just replace the word work. But I think that we still need to really elevate the values of the movement. And this is sort of my reaction to this and it came out of a conversation that I actually had with some of the others. greats in the gallery movement Alex Hellman, Tony, Butch Filippo years ago, I think we were in Barcelona maybe or listen, I’m not sure. And we were talking about keeping the core values in the conversation and really all of these issues and the movement we’re seeing, and the only thing that we could really actively do to ensure the strength of this movement down the road, just keep talking about why it is we started all this in the first place and remaining people,
Bernie J. Mitchell 5:25
but Traveling Wilburys of the coworking movement.
Bernie J. Mitchell 5:30
Actually, both of those people have said, I think you might have been listening, they said, it is just everyone was going like, you know, I don’t even really give truth instruction they gave us like, you know, company x is just doing this and they’ve just opened quote, and they’re like, bitching and whining and moaning, and they both said, if you don’t talk about it, no one will know. You know, and, and stop giving energy to you know, whining about what you haven’t gotten what they’ve got, because those people who go there are your customers.
Ashley Proctor 6:02
Bernie J. Mitchell 6:04
There are places like we have our coworking assembly in London and some of the places that come to people that come to breakfast. I remember them when they first opened in late 2011. And they, I mean, obviously, they’ve been through a lot of things, but they’re totally fine. They have their own identity and people go there and they all those places I’m thinking of go there because of the man or woman that runs them and the commitment those people have made to making it work. So it’s like going to, you know, your favourite restaurant because you know, Giovanni or Derek is going to make your pastor or sausage roll exactly as you like it rather than going to, you know, an airport brand kind of thing.
Ashley Proctor 6:49
And we’re human. Absolutely.
Bernie J. Mitchell 6:52
So what is so the other thing I want to ask about which is a bit, grinding me is how these The industry and the movements meet at particularly, you know, the events we know like juicy and coworking Europe and not so much CO work in Spain whether, you know, there’s still that thing there. And I think what you would say is we could learn a lot of each other because I did learn a lot of them real estate people when I was a Juicy in London. But you know, how can we act in that moment? Because there’s always a tension there that people talk about?
Ashley Proctor 7:30
Yeah, I mean, so I think there are a few different things. And first of all, I do agree that it’s important to meet people who are different than you in your coworking spaces. Well, this is true in the space as well as the conferences as well as these collectives that we’re building. I really believe that diversity is our strength. And so the more perspectives we have, the more valuable that information is going to be even if it’s just to attend to meet someone to understand this is a definitely not experienced, I want my members to have to go on a tour of a space. That’s not the same as yours and find all the things that are not working for you. And to understand more clearly why your space is actually working for your members, there’s a lot you can learn from the person you don’t get along with or dislike.
Ashley Proctor 08:17
So, I think that’s really important. But I think a lot of it is you get what you put into these gatherings and events. So, I attend the conference almost every month around gathering or coworking and somewhere in the world. And the theme that really, I pulled out of it is that if I show up and really give of myself, I will get so much more in return. And if I show up and be negative and criticize, I really leave with nothing of value. So, I think a lot of experience is about what you bring to the table. And if you bring an open mind and a willingness to collaborate rather than compete and to learn from others, even if you know you’re going to disagree, you’re going to be stronger and your business and your community will thrive because of it.
Bernie J. Mitchell 8:55
Is that that is really hard to do. It’s essential to do but it is really hard to do because When I when I get tired on the second day of a conference and slipped into autopilot I go Oh my God, look what they’re doing and it’s just not it’s not the way to be and if you ever catch me doing that people you can pull me up on it, what is so what do you do you run as everyone knows you run juicy Canada and how do you keep the integrity of that around like, you know running a you know any event is a it has to be like commercially sustainable and what we talked about here
Ashley Proctor 9:35
Yeah, so do you think Canada it is one of the branches of the global coworking unconference. The Canadian edition is produced by me, so I do have some creative control. What I really find most important is to make it accessible and to try it and as I was saying before, keep the Attendees and the speakers diverse and the sponsors as well. I want partners who are going to help support the movement and support the conference and who are really thinking about the best interest of our attendees. Those are the people that I want to work with and the people that we receive sponsorship from. I think it’s also an opportunity an event like this.
Ashley Proctor 10:24
I’m in a very privileged position to get to stand on a stage and to also gather some of these incredible minds in a city once a year to talk about things with a really passionate group of changemakers. So, we use every opportunity like our sponsorships, for example, to engage these folks in a more meaningful way. So instead of simply renting a booth space, they have the opportunity to help with a paid internship to help with skills development and training opportunities for juicy Canada. They can donate the sponsor tickets to a juicy Canada scholarship. program so that we can invite some folks who wouldn’t be able to attend financially because of the cost of the ticket price or travel potentially, Canada’s quite a large country to get across. And there are other ways that we ask people to dive a bit deeper. And I think the general theme around juicy Canada, which has in the past been referred to as the Kumbaya conference.
Bernie J. Mitchell 11:22
Good on you yeah.
Ashley Proctor 11:24
It’s really, it’s about a deeper dive. And we do spend a little bit more time diving deeper into these conversations, but it really allows people to pull out a bit more information to share to be a bit more vulnerable. And we’re all acknowledging that there’s no better way to learn than on the shoulders of giants. And so, when we show up in an arrangement like this, we are open and we’re willing to receive information, but also to give for the people who are coming behind us. So, it’s definitely a coworking community favourite. Cheese again, it is now 50 And we’re going to be in Toronto this year. So, I am in the depths of programming and sponsorship and speakers right now. And I’m really thrilled about some of the diversity and inclusion initiatives that we’re taking this year.
Bernie J. Mitchell 12:16
also, let me let me jump on that because that’s one of our favourite topics in Europe at the moment is the diversity and inclusion thing. And we’re there’s a few a few other conferences that I love this, who they’re saying we are making sure that we have a more than equal balance of men versus women. Because there’s enough people like me, who are white, middle aged men standing on stages, mansplaining things. So how do you handle that?
Ashley Proctor 12:46
Well, I think it’s the way that I always have and I want to see people on stage that reflect the community that I’m working in and I want to see people on stage that reflect the community I want to work in. And so, when I see myself up on stage It’s great, but I want to see people who are very different than me too. And so it’s really important to me to make sure that the speakers that are coming from all kinds of backgrounds, whether it be socio economic, their experience level, maybe cultural, religious, there are a lot of different ways in which we can bring something to the table. And so, I think it’s really important, especially that we’re gathering in Toronto, one of the ifs not the most diverse city in the world with the most languages spoken.
Ashley Proctor 13:29
It’s really important for this event to look the way our community actually looks in our members like in our in attendees slick, and then I think having the attendees taken into consideration from day one in terms of affordability of the event, so maybe not adding a couple of features or maybe we won’t have champagne, but we will have more people from across Canada that can participate because of the scholarship program. We’ve set out this is the fourth year now we’ve run the scholarship program in Canada. And that just provides opportunities for people to participate, who wouldn’t be able to otherwise. And some of the most incredible people we’ve met in the movement have been introduced to us through that scholarship program. So, I’m committed to expanding it. And the sponsors that are getting on board for that are really some of my most favourite people because they really get it. Their intention is to do the same as what we’re trying to do, which is to make it accessible to people and to bring them to the event and that really thrills me
Bernie J. Mitchell 14:32
That is great. How do you can you say a bit about how you seek speakers and attendees because what we’re looking for is to you explain the difference between an announcement and an invitation? Because I think because people have certainly, you know, done this on events over the last hundred years is saying we’re doing we’re looking for speakers and people aren’t really sure How to do it. But then you have, you know, how do you find the speakers and invitees. You want to come there? beyond just like telling people they can buy a ticket or come?
Ashley Proctor 15:09
So, for the speakers, I’ve never done an announcement and I generally don’t program from people who asked to speak, because there’s just really some other motivation. So what I’m looking for is the narrative of the event and the theme, and then trying to find speakers who support that who come from all different backgrounds, not necessarily coworking, so some of my favourite talks and all of the juicy series like there’s been 26 of them around the world now, I believe. In the last seven years. Some of my favourite all time talks from Juicy have been people who are not talking at all about coworking but someone like Casper talking about gathering and church and talking about there was a talk about
Ashley Proctor 15:54
coworking, replace or coworking and CrossFit replacing church but meeting some of the same needs. in the community, and there is a really interesting talk ones just about sort of human interaction and what we get from being around each other. And being able to apply these things to the Coworking model is really amazing. And I’d like providing a broader base of information for people to pull what they need out of it. And then that way, it’s really applicable to people coming from the artists sector, for example, providing creative space and when coming from a more traditional office or executive suite can also take some of those gems back and implement them for their community. So, trying to make that
Bernie J. Mitchell 16:39
we did a we did a stunt like that.
Bernie J. Mitchell 16:42
So, in a past life, I used to run this breakfast networking group that was very small businesses. And one day, a friend came along, who used to work for a big company, and he left the big company to be a consultant. And he was just experimenting with these options. workshops. And he came to the breakfast and whereas, you know, he talks about, you know, business he things, he got us all drawing, and it set the tone for the for the rest of that group. Because everyone was some people who hadn’t drawn for since they were at school. And we all learn so much and then ended up becoming like an art club we did in Coworking spaces like five years later, and all from that scribbling breakfast meeting. And everyone thought was a bit weird when he showed up to do that. And I let him do it instead of, you know, talking through tax and VAT and yeah, insurance and all the other business development things.
Ashley Proctor 17:39
Well, that’s exactly it. And I feel like so there’s a perfect example of that from Juicy would it be do Vancouver in 2017, we invited one of the incredible 312 main team members, Vanessa Richards up on stage, and she was the Director of Community Engagement at the time and was invited to speak about that. So, I think people were expecting a talk. And when she came to the stage, she got everybody up. And as she does, and another part of her life, led everyone in song like a choir. And had I put on the agenda, we’re going to stand up and sing together at 11:30. I think most people will probably want to show up. But everyone that was there, I really got into it. It was a very powerful moment for a lot of people. I mean, I think there’s a podcast came out of that moment, even.
Ashley Proctor 18:28
It was really an incredible experience, but something that just shake it up a bit. And that moment where we were all singing together, and we could hear our voices united echoing through this space. It used to be such a negative space and turned positive because of the work we’re doing really resonated with everyone I think showed them the meaning of the work and the power of a collective voice. That’s something that you can get creative with. And so, every year at Juicy Canada, we have some surprises. Last year, we did a retreat in Banff, which was really shaking it up. people showed up for sort of a conference and for some of the sessions we saw hiking or swimming or meditating and doing yoga, in the woods in the mountains in a deeply spiritual and healing place, and recognized by indigenous folks as well to be so it’s a really out of the box experience. And hopefully the people that attended got exactly what we intended for them, which was a fresh perspective and feeling rejuvenated to be able to go back and do the work that they do in a more meaningful and sustainable way.
Bernie J. Mitchell 19:29
That does sound great. There’s only there’s only so many times you can sit in a hotel and be talked out from a stage in your life. And being you know, having an experience is way more important than getting through the content. And I want to round up with like,
Bernie J. Mitchell 19:48
I just do a shout out like why do you think people open a coworking space?
Ashley Proctor 19:57
I think there are a lot of reasons. I mean, I’m counting consulting with people through creative blueprint so I hear a lot of different reasons for people to open a space, I think the most common is still meeting a need for themselves they’re finding a gap and looking for a solution for themselves and friends or peers and stepping up to the plate which is how I started and how many people in the early movement started just looking for a solution. But I think there’s also another way for people who see it as a real estate play or see it as the next big thing and just want to get in while coworking is hot.
Ashley Proctor 20:32
Yeah, a little bit of mixed feelings about that.
Bernie J. Mitchell 20:36
So I’ve been around this for about eight years from you know, thinking about it and all the spaces that started from I have a need, or my mate seven need and I need to try and solve that are the ones that have like really gone the distance. And because I think they like to think that they have that that core Reason for getting together at the beginning you know there’s you know like co work one of the ones that know best is coworkers Boehner run by Fernando sorry and Anna in Lisbon is was like we need someone to go do our work if you want to come with us and you know it was there this year is still rock solid and growing so I think that’s my secret sauce anyway.
Unknown Speaker 21:28
Yeah, I think a lot of it has to do with that personal attention to what it feels like to be a member and also how you’re selling it. Most people who started at to fill a need are not inviting you to come work at a desk or rent a space that has Wi Fi and coffee. They’re asking you to be part of a community or be part of something bigger than yourself.
Ashley Proctor 21:48
So where can we find you and all your work and all your events
Ashley Proctor 21:58
The easiest way to get a hold of and to see what I’m working on is through creative blueprint.ca. That is the headquarters for all of the projects I’m working on. And it links out to all the other pages. But you can also find out about Juicy Canada on the main Juicy page.
Bernie J. Mitchell 22:15
And when’s Juicy Canada this year?
Ashley Proctor 22:21
Juicy Canada will be held in Toronto, Canada, October 29 to 31st with tours on November 1. Tickets are going to go on sale very shortly.
Bernie J. Mitchell 22:33
snag a ticket? Um, where are you? Where else can we find you around the world over the next, you know, whatever month we’re now between December.
Ashley Proctor 22:45
That’s the thing I can’t reveal exactly what I’m working on. But I can tell you I’m going to be in Bordeaux and then I’ll be in Amsterdam, that I will be in Seattle. I’m going to be in the UK hopefully for juicy UK. I’ll also be at juicy Canada turn Anto and then hopefully see everybody in North Africa working Europe.
Bernie J. Mitchell 23:04
Yes, come on. Okay. Thank you very much for your time today Miss Proctor. It’s been an emotional as always. And I would encourage people to bang that drum and further the conversation of movement versus industry because that’s a really interesting thing. And we’re always up for the diversity, inclusion accessibility. And there’s one other thing their compensation too, so thank you very much. Be careful out there. It is a Junker. Ladies and gentlemen. This podcast is brought to you by social BS. Stop wasting time on social media and get back to building your business to take your free 14 day test drive with no card required head to coalescent network.com forward slash social v check the link in the show notes
Transcribed by Otter.
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