CO-llaborative working, CO-working, and CO-llective working are all words currently in fashion. What is the difference?

Mowat and Company Office Space in Kennington
This book reveals more about the Danwei collective working model.

This book reveals more about the Danwei collective working model.

As a Company, that has “CO” embedded in our name and ethos, Mowat & Co are very aware of genuine “CO” use and some uses of the “CO” buzzwords that are a bit fast and loose. We wanted to share with you our view of the small yet important differences.

CO-working space

A Co-working space is based around sharing physical facilities, printers, meeting rooms, old school post boxes etc. Anyone can join a co-working space for a fee. You can be from any industry, profession or trade. It works like gym membership or even like an old-school club. You may get some crossover between people, but it is more likely to be by chance than design.

There are notable examples of this format being produced. The Office Group (TOG) and FORA are leading the way and providing new facilities, thinking and design. Javlin Block are doing it their way in Birmingham successfully. It is great for start up’s and people who need to flit between different towns and cities.

CO-llective working

This one is trickier to explain. It has more power and depth than C0-working. For those of us in a digital and capitalist society it has surprising roots in the collectives of communist society. Chairman Mao developed the Danwei model prior to the “great leap forward”. Danwei’s were set up in collectives of 500 workers. Each was focused around one industry or product. For example, in a bicycle Danwei one group would make steel, the next frames, a rubber group would make tyres etc. Collective effort! Each group in the Danwei could share labour across the groups to cope with ups and downs. People both lived and worked in their Danwei. There is a well-written book by Michele Bonino / Filippo de Pieri (ISBN 978-3-86859-382-2) that explains this idea in more detail if you want to read more.

There is a perfect example of a collective workspace just around the corner from us at the Foundry in Kennington. It’s a building dedicated to small office spaces, conference facilities for social justice and human rights focused organisations. Each tenant is independent but together they form a centre of excellence.

Collective working spaces are clusters of like-minded organisations who support each other, complement each other and collaborate to make a bigger effect. Collectives share ideas, work together, enhance their public profile and have a combined output.

CO-munity working

With many commercial property developers in capitalist cities now advertising their developments as “urban villages” perhaps we have come full circle. More of us want to avoid the time, effort and sweat of physically commuting. We want to belong to a real community. As the macro digital and political worlds keeps flitting around, we want to feel a loyalty to a place. Collective working can provide this. It can provide the stability of community in both work and life. When developers get this right, they really do create urban villages.

CO-llaborative working

This is a working method and approach more than a type of property.

Collaboration means sharing. Sharing means trusting the team that you want to collaborate with. It means treating people fairly, paying them properly and on time. It means doing what you say you will.

Sharing applies to both the good and bad.  The upside of collaboration is that teams generate far better solutions more effectively when everyone shares and understands the problem. Honesty about problems creates better solutions.

Working spaces, from factories to offices can be laid out to encourage people to collaborate but without trust it’s probably just overused marketing jargon.

We hope that helps cut through the jargon. If it is useful please collaborate and share this article with your co-workers and community!

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