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How to bring the Coworking Manifesto to life in your community
First, what is a manifesto?
A manifesto is a written public declaration that outlines the values, goals, culture, and philosophy of a person, group, or movement. Manifestos are often published with the intent to rally people around a shared cause or ideology, as opposed to simply stating a business purpose.
Manifestos are distinctly different from a mission statement or branding statement. A mission statement summarizes the practical objectives and reasons for being for a business or organization. Mission statements are meant to guide company operations, branding, and decision-making with clear and concise language. Branding statements encapsulate the key messaging and values a company aims to imbue its products and services with to attract customers.
Unlike mission and branding statements that help sell ideas or products, manifestos don't directly aim to appeal to or persuade customers or stakeholders for transactions. Manifestos primarily exist to broadcast the ideals of a movement in order to unite those passionate around its vision for change in the world, not court new business.
Manifestos often communicate in bold, even militant language framing clear opponents and urgent calls to action. They are typically disseminated to rally support around a radical cause or protest against the status quo rather than describe products or offerings.
Manifestos may also outline dreams for the future and make promises to adherents of the movement as it aims to reshape society. They can shape the culture of those who live by them more so than pragmatic organizational documents.
In short, manifestos aim to capture hearts through soulful writing focused on shared beliefs while mission statements capture minds with practical specifics aimed at coordination. Understanding this distinction helps businesses discern if and when they need each.
The principles outlined in The Coworking Manifesto serve to help owners, operators, and managers differentiate their coworking communities from more traditional, shared offices.
These values guide the people behind these spaces to cultivate collaborative communities focused on participation, learning, and human connections rather than transactions and profit motives.
The Coworking Wiki has been maintained over several years as a “decentralized movement of people who are building and joining collaborative communities all around the world.” It’s a free, community-owned and operated resource for everyone involved or interested in the world of coworking.
Let’s break down each one.
Collaboration Over Competition
While traditional offices often isolate employees or even pit them against each other through competitive incentives and zero-sum mentalities focused purely on the bottom line, coworking spaces consciously foster collaboration through spatial configurations and programming. Part of that is in the design: members are rarely all part of the same organization and so aren’t in competition with each other, as it were.
For those spaces looking to draw enterprise teams into their membership, this is an important distinction — helping them to maintain a more collaborative outlook as they become part of the community.
So how do you bring this into your space?
Open layouts with communal tables and ample gathering areas encourage members to come together. Host collaborative events like masterminds, interdisciplinary workshops, co-creation sessions, and peer support groups. You can also implement collaborative funding initiatives, profit-sharing programs for space partnerships, cooperative purchasing for amenities and supplies, and community governance models. The space should feel like an ecosystem where every member succeeds together.
Community Over Agendas
In a genuine community, human connections come before profit motives or personal agendas. Get to know each member beyond their professional identities.
Support ideas pitched in the coworking space — even if some don’t directly benefit you as the operator. Build rapport through weekly community lunches, evening social gatherings, member spotlights, and casual open discussions rather than overly programmed events.
Promote relationships among members by playing connector between those with complementary offerings (our recent survey proved this to be a community managers most effective method).
When members uplift each other, the whole community benefits.
Participation Over Observation
While some people may join your space to simply have an office address or networking opportunities, true participation requires vulnerability, inclusion, and contribution from all.
How can you foster participation? You can seek outmember input on space decisions and co-creating initiatives based on interest, not just what brings highest short-term ROI. Highlight member accomplishments without pressure or judgment. Have members run activities for each other, take turns hosting venues for evening meetups, collaboratively code rules for use of space like kitchen and printing services. The more invested participation members have, the more meaningful their sense of belonging.
Doing Over Saying
Talk means little without action. As the health of your community is prioritized at least alongside the income, all decisions should tie to manifesting collaborative values, not purely maximizing profit. You are running a business, after all, it’s naive to assume the profits don’t matter. Your community would cease to exist without sound business practices.
But members will only emotionally connect when your claims of community ring true. Doing over saying means sacrifice at times — lowering rental margins to avoid exclusivity, funding special projects that give back, enduring unexpectedly high utility bills from community gatherings, creating ways to serve delinquent members facing hardship. Members will only buy into a collaborative community if the operator’s primary goal is sustaining it rather than self-gain.
Friendship Over Formality
Warm rapport comes before cold transactions. Make it a priority to learn your member names quickly and foster friendships through appreciative language, not formal titles and impersonal etiquette.
Your floor plans should spark spontaneous connections with playful decor over minimalist aesthetic or corporate luxury. When you host frequent laugh-filled community events, you show members how to bond as friends first, businesspeople second. And when you yourself model vulnerability and authenticity, your make yourself relatable before expecting the same from members. When genuine friendships emerge, a sense of belonging and care will organically grow. Your space transforms into a welcoming home for meaningful work.
Boldness Over Assurance
As an early pioneer of this burgeoning movement, coworking attracts the bold — dreamers, radicals, entrepreneurs unafraid of risk and experiments without predetermined outcomes.
While mainstream offices represent stability and assurance through formal hierarchies, rigorous oversight, and redundancy checks, coworking requires boldness. Have patience and courage amidst the uncertainty. Continuously try new initiatives and hosting unpredictable speakers and activities. Allow creative experiments and change, mess and failures along the way rather than tightly regulating operations seeking flawless efficiency. Support good people over perfect executions. Though chaotic at times, boldness enables the magic of collaborative innovation the mainstream misses out on due to excess assurance.
Learning Over Expertise
Coworking attracts learners and rejects rigid expertise claims. We all have room for growth, and members can learn as much from an amateur’s failures as a veteran’s successes if shared openly. Promote learning opportunities through workshops, skill swaps, mentorship programs, and show-and-tells over formal lectures or knowledge silos. Have members across disciplines share works in progress frequently to normalize missteps and democratize expertise. Occasionally bring in unconventional speakers and coaches to introduce ideas members may not have encountered through their domain-specific work. By framing the community itself as a classroom for life-long learning over a showcase of expertise, creative breakthroughs unfold.
People Over Personalities
While the business world often focuses branding efforts on highlighting impressive personalities, true community requires showing up as human beings over personas. This helps with marketing your space as well, where a persona is used to generalize your demographic… as opposed to identifying the real people with real needs in your community.
You can have members share personal stories and real-life challenges at times, not just polished professional achievements. Seek diversity in background and hold space for difficult dialogue amidst differences.
Shared struggles, hopes, and visions connect people profoundly despite contrasting personalities. Provide quiet spaces for solitude balances alongside creative collaboration zones; not everyone socializes the same. Impressive resumes mean less when people openly talk about things like mental health, parenting, aspirations beyond career achievement. Embracing the whole person fosters empathy and care.
Value Ecosystem Over Value Chain
A value chain depicts linear economic transactions, while ecosystems represent multidirectional value creation through complex interdependencies.
Adjusting mental models can be challenging. Have members see each other as partners in a larger mission of shifting society’s consciousness, not just convenient resources for a business objective. Develop engagement pathways where people can contribute beyond their formal roles. Small exchanges through childcare shares, carpools, or even lunch buddies can spark joy and meaning absent from task optimization models. Help your members see all activities in the workspace as interlinked from community gardening initiatives to meditation sessions. No effort is too small or indirectly related if it nurtures the health of the whole.
And that’s why a manifesto is so much more than a mission. Your space might have a unique mission and community but share the belief in the manifest as another in a very different city, with a different purpose, and an entirely different population.
Implementing these principles requires patience, courage, sacrifice, and faith in the collaborative process itself at times over concrete strategic planning. But done mindfully through continual community participation, human-centric design, and values congruence, the seeming chaos organizes into a symphony greater than any single composer could direct alone. The evolving coworking community becomes a transformative living system and welcoming home for changemakers pursuing meaning over self-gain.