Updated June 6, 2023
Everything I know about building community, I’ve learned from the community builders that came before me and the communities they built that I’m fortunate to be part of.
I’ve been a key-holding member of seven coworking spaces and have learned a ton about what to do … and what not to do.
And these days, I produce Coworking Convos, power The Lab club for indie operators, run the Park City Marketing Club and I’m an active participant in several communities that have nothing to do with marketing or coworking.
So I’ve picked up a few things along the way that you may find valuable.
Here are 22 ways to build community in a coworking space. I hope these tips help you in building community in your space.
1. Keep it real: Community can’t be built on BS. Show up as yourself, encourage people to be themselves and set a tone of realness in your space.
2. Don’t be all things to all people: The best communities are diverse and multifaceted. They don’t, however, try to be all things to all people. Know who you are and who you serve. If your community is “everyone” it’s no one.
3. Invite people into your community: Be proactive about inviting the people you want to be in your community into your community. Who isn’t there? Who would be a great addition? What’s missing? Reach out and bring people into the circle.
4. Create a spirit of belonging: Everyone wants a sense of belonging. Everyone. Understand that you are not renting offices, desks and wifi—you are giving people a place to belong … and do their best work.
5. Publicly celebrate your community: Share your wins with the world. Share them internally (some spaces have bells to ring when someone has a personal or business win) and share them externally to give your extended community a sense of your vibe and space.
6. Create a culture of support and friendship: One of the Lab members recently shared that, when she was a new member, she saw how generous, supportive and friendly the other members were. Her thought was, “Oh, this is how it is here. This is what we do.” So she jumped in with generosity, support and friendship. Find ways to do the same in your community.
7. Play together: Coworking isn’t all about work. It’s about the in-between chats, the social events, the watercooler conversations and the fun stuff that happens inside and outside of your space. Take a field trip, schedule recurring member lunches to local eateries, go paddleboarding, take a trip to a museum, hit a concert in the park together. Not all your members will want to join, but the bonds formed at these kinds of gatherings are priceless.
8. Model and celebrate generosity: If you want your members to be generous, model and celebrate generosity with your time, expertise, connections, personality, experience and resources.
9. Trust your community: You can’t make a community thrive. Your community does that. So let your community members step up and help define what you’re about, how you help and who you’re a perfect fit for. Trust that people will bring their best selves in, and they generally do.
10. Give people ways to connect without you: If everything needs to go through you in your community, you’re a single point of failure. If you’re not there, the community is adrift. This is the exact opposite of what you want. Give people platforms, tools, support and permission to connect without you.
11. Support your members’ interests: Your members are not one-dimensional, and neither are you. Create community around books, food, fun, music, kids, outings, humor, hobbies etc.
12. Be part of the community you’re working to build: You can’t build community from on-high, or from the outside of the circle. That’s not community. That’s a hierarchy. Show up as yourself, learn from your members, ask questions, let them support your humanness and stay right in the mix of what’s happening. You’re not a receptionist—you’re a community builder … and community member.
13. Keep it simple: You might be overthinking your community building and getting in your own way. Keep it human, keep it open and keep it simple.
14. Let members shine: Feature your members in blog posts, your newsletter, social media, lunch and learns, workshops, presentations etc. They’ll shine and you’ll have some good user generated content.
15. Bring new members into the community immediately: Being a new member of a coworking community is hard. You’re a complete unknown, you’re in a sea of new faces, you don’t yet have a sense of norms and the vibe. It can be overwhelming. Help shorten and soften this experience by introducing new members around immediately. Your members will take care of the rest and you’ll jumpstart interesting conversations, connections and maybe even collaborations.
16. Get to know people: Take the time to chat with your members about who they are beyond what they do. This nicely separates community from office rental and networking events.
17. Host recurring events: I learned this one at NextSpace Santa Cruz. Every Friday, at 3:58 on the dot, we would have a happy hour. It was a fun, standing social event and an easy way to get the community gathered in one area. We humans love traditions and familiarity. So create some no-brainer traditions in your space.
18. Share your vision: You’re in coworking for a reason. What is it? Share that vision with your members. Help them understand who you are, why you do the work you do and what you’re working toward.
19. Educate your members about coworking: Coworking has a rich history of mutual support, collaboration, connection and fun. Educate your members about their place in this movement-now-industry. Doing so will boost their sense of belonging, increase their coworking IQ and help them understand their history.
20. Share your values: Make sure your community values are clear to anyone who enters your space. This can be through posted community norms, signage around inclusivity and belonging, and part of your tour and onboarding experience.
21. Food and beverages: Humans love food and drinks. And we tend to gather around them. Proceed accordingly.
22. Ask people to contribute: It may sound counterintuitive but asking people to contribute to your coworking community is the best way to help them feel part of the community. Provide opportunities for them to share their stories, experience, tips and expertise. I don’t truly feel connected to a community until I’m contributing to that community. Help your members do the same.
Set an intention to build a strong (or stronger) community in your space. It will transform the coworking experience for your members … and for you.
Indie coworking space operators
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