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On Creating a Federated Coworking Organization

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I read a lot of posts on the international Coworking google group, I just don't always have a lot to say there. Today I had a whole lot to say, it seems. You may want to get some perspective by going and reading a few of the original posts.

From SXSW Panel on Federated Coworking

Hello everyone. I'd like to point to a few external examples that can help lend some structure (or lack thereof) to this discussion.

Firstly, anyone participating in this thread who has not yet read The Starfish and the Spider should go and do so now... I'll wait. The audio version is only 5.5 hours long... It really nails the "federated yet united" idea - the story about Alcoholics Anonymous' attempts to centralize should be a very telling case study.

Second, I suggest you take a look at what the folks at Fractured Atlas have already conjured up. RE: Health Insurance and centralized services that don't get in your way. They are an association that provides support services for artists and arts groups.

In their home state of New York, they have a few health care options available, and in most other states, they just default to Aetna with 3 pre-selected plans. They also do liablility insurance if, for example, you need to run a big event.

Fractured Altas can also act as a non-profit surrogate if you need 501c3 status, but you may only need it one-time, or don't have your status yet. They even work with the person donating the money and make sure you are using it for the activity you promised. Accountability++

The other things they provide are clearly demarcated on their site, but among them are access to training (mostly online, like tips for running your business, much like Indy Hall's videos), discounts on software and resources, a social networking site, and a few other things. At the same time, there are several social networking sites for artists, they don't claim to be canonical, they just want to provide for their members.

The organization is VERY lightweight. I think they have 10 people in the office at most, but they are serving a national member base. They don't try to make policy decisions or tell artists how to run their business, or give them a cohesive mission. That is up to each individual.

My point is to not think too hard about this - take the Akim's Razor approach. What is the absolute minimum required to create a connection between coworking spaces who opt in to the federated plan? What are a few things that can be done to reduce duplicate efforts?

People who tend to create movements - space catalysts - often feel that they are the only person in the universe who has had the idea - how do we make those people feel welcome and unique in the face of a national / international body with membership dues and rules and... and... and... and...

Then there is the obvious bike shed problem, which is why the discussions about an "official" coworking social networking site tend to be so circular. It's hard to get all these people to agree on the right way to create something - let alone a bank.
Link to the discussion about creating a Coworking Landing page

I'm not claiming to be infallible over here, I get really excited about the possibility of making life easier for other people who are fighting the same battle, and I start thinking the big thoughts all the time.

My question would be "How can we make the Visa program something so amazing that it ends up spawning this organization by its very existence?" i.e. will there reach a point that Visa is centralized, and we are able to use that as a thread to tie the rest of this stuff together? Visa is the one thing most everyone seems to be able to agree on, aside from the core values. So maybe that's where this discussion should start.

Ryan Price
CoLab Orlando
Orlando, FL
rprice AT ryanpricemedia DOT com

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