We need to talk.
I hoped that this year’s conference would be good.
It was freaking, over-the-moon fantastic. Whatever you’ve done in the last year, keep doing that.
I left GCUC USA 2016 feeling displaced and disappointed that the coworking movement had been co-opted by a bunch of real estate dudes who didn’t really know what coworking was and weren’t all that interested in finding out. Their biggest concern, as far as I could tell, was how someone could divide up real estate into workstations, then do that over and over and over until they had millions of dollars.
By lunchtime of the first day last year, I was over it.
By lunchtime of the first day this year, my soul was lit, my heart hurt because I was so happy and my brain was working overtime to process everything I was hearing and experiencing.
Last year, strangers asked for my business card because they wanted me to help them get press for their real estate empire.
This year, strangers quickly became friends who shared ideas, resources, challenges and conversations.
Business connections were made, but they were made because those of us talking found ourselves aligned in a vision for storytelling, community and coworking, and felt a resonance of purpose.
Generosity fueled the event as people, from new space owners to longtime industry professionals, shared their thoughts, experiences, advice and insights. Unconference sessions were masterminds of what to do and what not to do. Pros shared tips, ranging from big picture perspectives down to the smallest details, with newbies and people considering opening coworking spaces.
We talked about cities, and spiritual communities, and the importance of in-person connections—even when you’re as big as Google, and transforming underserved areas and underutilized buildings, and negotiating with landlords, and how we need to demand diversity in our spaces, and how a good plan executed today is better than a great plan executed tomorrow.
We took a group photo that I heard someone refer to as a family photo. It rang true.
I keep describing last year’s event as a head-on collision of industries—coworking and real estate—with real estate dominating. After the event, the only thing I could write was a takedown, and warning to community-focused coworking spaces.
Before this year’s event, I was cautiously optimistic. The buzz was that you were going to be different—that this year would be a return to the soul of coworking. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was glad to hear you also had issues with the direction the conference had taken.
From this year’s outstanding presenters and panelists, to the open-hearted participants who shared their hopes, vulnerabilities, vision and and power, I was—and remain—blown away by what I experienced, and I’m not alone. People were saying things like, “I don’t know what it is, but this is the best conference ever.”
I agree. Never have I been so moved and felt so connected at a conference.
The unconference sessions were exercises in community, resource sharing, passion, insight and smarts. The sessions I attended, including Women Who Cowork and the Regional Coworking Alliances conversation, reflected the best of coworking: community, diversity, mutual support, openness, friendship, sustainability.
Last but not least, props to Convene. They have the event thing dialed in. The space and flow were flawless. The sparkling water on tap, nine choices of tea, milk alternatives, delicious and healthy meals, fridges full of drinks, good coffee and random snacks put the conference over-the-top. And New York City captured my heart. I can’t wait to get back and explore more.
So, my dear GCUC, Liz, Stormy and the crew: Thank you for circling back around to what makes this event and movement great. After last year’s conference I described Liz, as “trying to hold on to the community aspect of coworking as though it were a rooted tree in the middle of a hurricane.”
This year, you planted a massive tree of community and global transformation and we all gathered around it to learn, share and connect. You reestablished GCUC as a visionary gathering of changemakers and clarified that coworking is, indeed, a human revolution.
With love, gratitude and deep respect,