During my research I came across an article regarding creative-based strategies in small cities. One of the 3 cases discussed in the paper was Óbidos. Had I known that the present coworking space in Óbidos, the COLab, would be such an inspirational and like-minded place, I might have gone to Portugal earlier in the project period. And brought Rasmus with me for him to experience the energy, the tolerance and the openness of the colab’ers.
The specific coworking society in Óbidos might not be exactly as we imagine ours to be. But the overall concept is precisely like ours: to develop an open source generic blueprint and to implement a pilot project serving as a test zone for the blueprint. Pedro is 6 months ahead of us and during that period, the COLab has housed more than 50 events. A high level of activity and a lot of knocking on doors were necessary, according to Pedro, since the space opened before the community was established. In accordance with the cultural policy of Óbidos, the Municipality offered to pay the rental expenses of the premises, and so it happened that Pedro from one day to the other had a COLab.
While talking to Pedro, I cannot help thinking how different the building is from my hotel and the village houses: The room is light, airy, and warm as oppose to the cold, dark and humid insides of typical South European brick houses. Pedro is aware of this, and he tells me that the atmosphere of the building actually attracts creatives who otherwise would be working at home.
Pedro himself is from Angola, grew up in Portugal and then moved to Finland and Estonia throughout a decade to be with his Finnish wife. He laughs when I politely stretch out my arm 5 meters before approaching a person to avoid the obligatory cheek kissing, he hears my African Portuguese accent and he knows the differences between being self-employed in the Southern part of Europe versus the Scandinavian countries. All of this makes it very easy to exchange experiences and ideas with Pedro, and of course - since this is what I came for - I would have loved to stay longer at the COLab.
Especially the laboratory-mentality of the COLab (COLab refers to CO(working)Lab(oratory) and not collaboration) comes to my attention as something quite extraordinary: events like “the unconference”, “the dreamlab” and “summer camp” are so unconventional and inclusive that the work/work perception of working in Denmark seems slightly boring compared to the work/life attitude, I encounter in Portugal. Through “the dreamlab” and “summer camps” children and youngsters learn how to love work even before they know what it is. Abilities, ideas and thoughts are perceived as passion, and passion is adapted into work. I might be interpreting, but this is nevertheless how I saw it.
After having a typical Portuguese lunch with Pedro, I stay at The COLab to make my notes and enjoy the late afternoon sounds rising from the market street below. Sun is still shining in the room, and as I write questions keep popping up my mind. The COLab is already to be implemented in Istanbul and Finland. I wonder if the concept would be sustainable in Denmark or if it takes to much of a coworker for the busy self-employed Danish person to enjoy and explore the social aspects of a COLab-concept. So far The Cold Hawaii Starfish is invited to a virtual “Friday’s Hang Out” with the COLab in Óbidos.