Coworking is about the community – more precisely, the people

Everything I do, I can do through a combination of a computer and an Internet connection. I don't even need my own computer to do it. Everything is in the cloud, so any computer will do. Furthermore, I haven't got an employer who expects me to "show up" (once in a while). I have my company; I'm my own boss. So why do I choose to work from and pay for a workstation at Cowork Klitmøller?

To come up with (some of) the explanation, we have to go back to where it all started.

Coworking as a concept and a way of organizing work originated in 2005. It was Brad Neuberg who coined the term "coworking" (nb. header-image from the first coworking space, from Neuberg's blog) and was the first to set up a coworking space. The place was called the San Francisco Coworking Space. In 2005, Neuberg described "coworking" as follows:

"Traditionally, society forces us to choose between working at home for ourselves or working at an office for a company. If we work at a traditional 9 to 5 company job, we get community and structure, but lose freedom and the ability to control our own lives. If we work for ourselves at home, we gain independence but suffer loneliness and bad habits from not being surrounded by a work community. Coworking is a solution to this problem. In coworking, independent writers, programmers, and creators come together in a community a few days a week. Coworking provides the 'office' of a traditional corporate job, but in a very unique way."

In 2003, Neuberg had experimented with what he called The Nine to Five Group. The idea was that people would occasionally meet at a coffee shop and work together. According to Neuberg, it wasn't a success. He dropped the initiative after just one month.

The San Francisco Coworking Space rented a space at The Spiral Muse in San Francisco. The first official coworker was Ray Baxter, described by Neuberg as a sportsman, developer, and father.

A typical working day at The San Francisco Coworking Space began at 9:00 AM with a 45-minute group meditation; later, people ate lunch together. The day ended with everyone participating in a 45-minute "healthy activity." At 5:45 PM, everyone went home.

After a year, the San Francisco Coworking Space closed. Some months later, Neuberg, along with about 10 volunteers, opened The Hat Factory. At The Hat Factory each member worked on his or her projects but was invited to share knowledge and help the other coworkers.

Since then, the phenomenon has spread. The number of people making use of coworking spaces is increasing rapidly. The 2012 Third Global Coworking Survey, which had 2,700 participants, states that the worldwide total of registered coworking spaces had increased by 245% during the prior twelve months to – at the time – 2,072.

A year later, DeskMag and Emergent Research reported a further increase to over three thousand. In addition, the number of people using coworking spaces increased from 85,000 in 2012 to over 160,000 in 2013. The same study estimates that by 2018, one million coworkers worldwide will be spread out over 12,000 coworking spaces.

Surveys show that most coworkers are in their late twenties to late thirties, the average age being thirty-four. Two-thirds are men; four out of five have a university degree; the majority work in IT or the creative industry.

The Third Global Coworking Survey  reveals that a clear majority, 66%, chose "a social and enjoyable atmosphere" as the reason they chose coworking. Sixty-two percent chose "the feeling of being part of a community," while 57% chose "interaction with others."

In fourth place, with 54%, comes "good infrastructure (Internet, table, chairs, meeting rooms, etc.)" as the reason for choosing coworking. Fewer still, namely 42%, chose "knowledge sharing" as the reason they have chosen coworking.

Next comes "close to my home" (41%), "flexible working hours" (25%), "interdisciplinary collaborations" (23%), "easy-to-change workspace" (19%), "my employer or customer pays for it" (17%), and finally, "the opportunity to work in groups" (12%).

These results can of course be interpreted in many ways, the fact is that a coworker is someone who deliberately chooses to work with other coworkers. No one need (or was told to) be there to work. The coworker is there only to be a part of a community. 

Part of it can be summed up to the network and the (possible) collaborations that continuously arise from being there. Part of it is about helping and getting help, sharing knowledge and ideas. Another part is about meeting new people, being introduced to new networks. Last but not least, it's about hanging out with a bunch of nice people.

In conclusion: The only reason I'm at Cowork Klitmøller or, for that matter, any other coworking space, is the people that are there. That's how it is, and that's how it was when it all started.

Dinner during stone painting day

Case # Krowji

Tuesday we followed the signs towards Redruth, where we had an appointment at Krowji with boardshaper James Otter. Krowji is “...Cornwall’s biggest creative cluster, providing studios, workspaces, offices, The Melting Pot Café, meeting rooms and other facilities for a wide range of creative businesses at the Old Grammar School buildings in Redruth” (http://www.krowji.org.uk). Krowji as a site is owned by Cornwall Arts Centre Trust Ltd (ACT) - a charity and limited company. Krowji means “workshop” in Cornish and as a location the Krowji is providing separate space facilities to individual companies or organizations, in total over 100 creative practitioners.

One of these is the Otter Surfboards (http://www.ottersurfboards.co.uk) owned by craftsman, designer and surfer, James Otter. His space is a board-shapery, where the shaping of wooden surf boards primarily is done with locally produced cedar wood. The main object of the business for James is the workshops, where he tutors surfers to build and shape their own boards. Of course, we fell in love with the concept already before we entered the Otter space: The idea of combining board shaping and sustainability must be the ideal birth of a board for any environmentally conscious and ideological surfer. Wooden boards not only materializes the history of surfing back to ancient Polynesia, they also symbolize the lifelong relation between a surfer and his board. With a wooden board you can choose to learn to surf your board in all conditions instead of zapping through different shapes to match the challenges of the waves. That is, at least, how James perceives it, and I like the idea.

Entering the light, wood smelling space of Otter, we stepped directly into what for us as a couple would be the dream work place: A craftsman’s workshop combined with a little exhibition entrance and an office with personal props and a dog resting underneath the table. James himself primarily chose the Krowji as his space provider because the  organization allows residents to rent their space with only one month notice, which is exactly why small start ups like Otter Surfboards can afford being there: they do not have to sign a long term rental agreement.

The Krowji as a co-working space is enormous, and ACT is an organization, that might support more agents than you could ever find within the creative sector in a low population density municipality like Thisted. But it is interesting that the cluster community serves both as an upstart facilitator and space provider for its members. By combining the two, the ACT is actually supplying the Krowji with residents - who do not have to attach themselves to the place for a prolonged period.

Additionally, the wide spectra of business types is a quite unique example in our co-working research. On one hand, James’ shapery does not belong to the group, we usually consider to be within the cultural sector or to the typical target group businesses of a co-working space. But there is a charm in combining the creative professions working with ideas with the crafts working with materials. Otter Surfboards is a brilliant example in which a craftsmanship is guided by the work of shaping an idea, and as metioned above: Imagine the combination of a carpenter’s workshop and a writers office. I like it.

otter1
otter1
tim shaping
tim shaping
otter2
otter2
otter storyboard
otter storyboard

Case # The Open Shed

Behind the Penzance Savoy Cinema in an interimistic bike repair kitchen, we walk into the Open Shed, a crowdfunded hackspace, and are kindly welcomed by Johannes (http://www.openshed.org). Here hackers, bike repairs-men, and computer-recyclers come together in a sustainable survivor atmosphere. First, we do not quite understand the connection between the so-called “bike kitchen” and a co-working space for IT-workers, but the link appears to be the re-use of hardware parts and the ability to (partly) fund the place with the small payments, the bike-fixers charge for a repair.

Johannes gives us the tour of the stuffed location, adding a grass-rooted example to the list of visited co-working spaces. Tools, bikes, boxes, computer parts, trash, worn out furnitures and bits and pieces I cannot identify are occupying the backroom spaces leaving very little floor for movement or conversation (http://openshed.org/content/empty-shelves-full-shelves). This seems to be a place where the financial state of the peninsula is most explicit: no municipal funds are given to the initiative that only charge its 50 members 10 pounds a month for a membership. Do you fix a bike, half the price is given to the space, the other half you can keep yourself.

According to Johannes, it seems as if the financial state of Penzance and Cornwall in general, forces the population of the peninsula to reinvent not only a sustainable industry (since tourism apparently is not enough), but also an identity (since being a tourist destination should not be it). The Open Shed appears to us as a complex picture of this state of development - as a revelation of the need to be part of a work community even when you are out of work and the initiative to create something even though you have no capital to invest.

 

 

Fill out our questionnaire, and you have the chance to win a holiday stay in Klitmøller

We at Cold Hawaii Starfish are in the process of exploring a new project aimed to serve both locals and visitors in Klitmøller. Our idea is to realize and construct a co-working concept and office space named “Matchmaking Zones”.

The pilot project Matchmaking Zones is funded by grants from the Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Affairs and LAG Thy-Mors. The overall aim of the project is to develop a concept readymade to be implemented in rural districts and surf destinations all over the world, but the starting point will be Klitmøller and Scandinavia. With the construction of a “Matchmaking Zone” building in Cold Hawaii we hope to create a space where local residents can conduct their business AND where visiting surfers, tourists, students and business owners (a group we define as "beta-residents") can work while they are in town, giving them the opportunity to meet with local residents regarding their project- and business affairs.

In order to do so we need more information about our target group, the so-called “beta-residents” of Klitmøller. A beta-resident is a person with some kind of relation to Klitmøller who nevertheless does not live in or near Klitmøller. This review is a questionnaire based on some of the focus group interviews that we have already conducted. The questionnaire will ONLY be used to gather statistics on our target group in order to ensure that the final project serves this group’s real needs.

Therefore, please take 8 minutes to fill out our questionnaire - especially all you nature-loving, surf-passionate or beach-bums travellers, who flow in and out of the area of Klitmøller every year. We thank you and acknowledge your efforts with the chance to win a stay for 6 persons in a beach house in Klitmøller sponsored by Feriepartner Thy.

(Survey is completed, we will find the lucky winner on Friday September 27. Thank you for your interest!)

Case # Digital Peninsula Network

On our Monday visit to Penzance we knocked on the doors of Digital Peninsula Network, DPN (http://www.digitalpeninsula.org). The largest network of ICT and digital businesses in Cornwall is physically located in an old brewery yard behind the shopping district. Here we were friendly welcomed by an assistant manager, who was still awaiting his managing director to return from his holidays. We had a short conversation on the topic DPN, whilst the AM made a note for his boss and referred me to other places in Penzance (handing me torn pieces of paper with handwritten addresses, which reminded me that there still are people like me who exchange info in paper format).

As I had already acknowledge through my research, the DPN was initiated as a space for the creatives of Cornwall to come and use proper wifi since the peninsula did not have any strong connections. Now - almost 15 years later - the company works more in state of it's networking capacities offering tutoring courses and matchmaking consulting.

At DPN the tea and coffee are free and as we talk to two hot-deskers smoking in the yard, we realize that being around other self employees and a 3d printer is more important to the coworkers than strong wifi since fiber is now installed almost everywhere in Cornwall. The smoking hot-deskers cannot imagine living anyplace else than here, but they admit that making money is hard if it was not because of the geographical detachment of their professions.

Again, I return to Penzance on the following Wednesday but when I reach DPN the manager Janus had just left. One more time the Colombian Assistant Manager takes his time to answer some of my questions, even though he seems careful to admit his complete insight in the organization of DPN. He tells us that DPN as the oldest coworking space in Cornwall, started out of the need for strong wifi, computer equipment and hardware. The EU Regional Development Aid and the “Objective One Programme” (http://www.objectiveone.com) helped start up the DPN. Today it is an organization limited by guarantee with a board, a director and a manager. The DPN primarily functions as a networking platform, and a start up and hotdesking space. Companies that used to be located in the DPN facilities but now has grown bigger keep their virtual membership, small start ups come for tutor and network aid and hot-deskers work there to socialize. The DPN is for businesses within the ICT sector - or so it happened to be by itself, no official criterias demand the business code.

Case # The Workbox Penzance

Monday morning the plan was to go to the port town Penzance even though I had no luck making an appointment with any of the coworking spaces, I managed to locate in the Penzance area. I was hoping to find a more realistic everyday view of the Cornish life than the one we encountered in St. Paradis, since what I was trying to uncover was not the tourist tracks but the way of life of the local self-employed or the travellers staying in Cornwall for a longer period of time.

The economy of Penzance has, like those of many Cornish communities, suffered from the decline of the traditional industries of fishing, mining and agriculture. Like the rest of Cornwall housing remains comparatively expensive, wages low and unemployment high which means that local residents are struggling to make it. As a visitor, though, it can be difficult to distinguish the activities of the locals from those of the non-locals, so the strategy was to knock on the doors of my potential coworking fellows, public holidays or not, and look for the reality of the self-employed coworker in one of the most employment deprivated areas in England.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I passed the location of The Workbox Penzance (http://theworkbox.com) more than once before I realized that I was at the right address. The rather new coworking space is to be found in an anonymous brick office building in the center of Penzance. Nevertheless, from the construction site embracing the ground floor entrance, you could imagine the views to be found on the 4th floor. I did not get to see them though, cause when I rang the doorbell nobody answered.

After popping by some other spaces in Penzance equally derelict of busy coworkers, we decided to come back another day and instead turn the car towards Lands End, the most Western point of England. The beauty of it all stroke us as we made our way down the coast through narrow uphill and downhill streets, past sidewalks and gardens blooming with flowers, through broadleaf forests, along spectacular coastal cliffs and sandy beaches and a completely turkish Atlantic ocean illuminating everything below us. To most people (including myself), I am not sure Klitmoller can compete with the rock sand, hydrangeas and palm trees of Cornwall...

Anyways, on my return to The Workbox the following Wednesday, I was buzzed in by Nigel who, unfortunately, had very little time to chat. Entering The Workbox from the escalator, you are taken by the views overlooking Penzance, and even when trying to focus on the interior or the man speaking in front of you, eyes are drawn towards the light and beauty outside. Truth is, I do not recall much of the decoration, maybe because it was still too new to be personalized and did not leave any sign of its users. While talking to Nigel, though it was only shortly, I tried to neglect the smell of new furnitures, wishing I had a little more time to explore the flexible and transparent interior choices of the space.

The Workbox opened in April this year and now has approximately 30 members, primarily within the IT sector. Through seminars and workshops on various topics and in close collaboration with local colleagues and other organisations such as Outset Cornwall (www.outsetcornwall.co.uk) the space provides its residents with start up help and other networking opportunities. It seems that this is the most common coworking space service in Cornwall: To enable people to start as independents through financial advisory and marketing guidance.

The model of start up business assistance is currently being implemented in The Municipality of Thisted through Thy Erhvervsforum. I am excited about the outcome. Seems that the service is an important entrance to funding and realization of coworking spaces.

Case # Cornwall

Coworking has been a well-known phenomenon in Cornwall for almost three decades. Creatives, IT-workers and self-employed went to places like The Digital Peninsula Network (http://www.digitalpeninsula.org) to be able to work with a proper wifi before any private household wifi could do anything. Today every nook and cranny of the county Cornwall has got the superfast broadband and when it is installed in the Cornish cities also, Cornwall will - according to http://www.gradcornwall.co.uk/living-working-cornwall - “be one of the best and fastest connected places on earth, offering businesses a clear, competitive advantage”.

After the awesome output from especially the visit to Portuguese Óbidos, I was afraid to get my hopes up too high before taking off to the British south-west peninsula Cornwall. Luckily, I chose to buy a ticket for my own personal chauffeur (and boyfriend), so at least I would not have to worry about many hours of driving whilst chasing the good cases.

We landed in Bristol on a cloudy Saturday morning, thinking that we had a hole day of research in front of us. Apparently, we knew nothing about the British highway queues! Arriving in St. Ives six hours later, we only had the energy for a stroll, a chit-chat with the lifeguard on duty and a veggie burger at the local café (though it should not go unnoticed that this was the best beach burger I had in my life).

Waking up at dawn the following morning, we went for a long walk & talk in St. Ives (that quickly became St. Paradis in my vocabulary). A large percent of the the seaside town’s income is based on being a popular holiday resort, and faced with the scenery of the place you get a clear picture of why this place is preferred by so many British tourists. Unfortunately, the main surf beach of St. Ives, Porthmeor Beach, was empty and the Atlantic Ocean flat. In our quest for the surf spirit of Cornwall we headed North towards the very long surf beach Gwithian. Here the crowds were going in the water, though, even for a surfer coming from Denmark, the conditions looked ridiculously shitty. So we went back into the car and made our way up to Portreath, where the surf historian geek inside me had the satisfaction of visiting the Portreath Surf Life Saving Club (http://www.portreathslsc.co.uk). Inspired by the Australian and South African models, the British Surf Lifesaving Clubs were the starting points for many committed and progressive young surfers of the late 1950s and the 60s. Out of the love for the ocean and the meeting with visiting lifeguards (and surfers) from Australia and South Africa grew a passionate community of surfers and by 1964 the new social groups of British surfers had adapted the surfie lifestyle of the Californian surf culture and became an important asset in the tourist industry’s branding of coastal Britain. The story is repeated in many different locations and shifting decades throughout the world, but especially the Australian and British popular surf scene is still closely intertwined with the Surf Life Saving Clubs and the voluntary work they perform to educate, train, encourage and support the local communities of watermen (or waterkids).

The patrolling life guard at Portreath beach told us to go further North searching for waves, so we continued towards Chapels Porth after a stop over in Aggies Surfshop (http://www.aggiesurfshop.com), where we had to rescue ourselves (or rather our personal capital) from the temptation to buy some of Aggies beautiful boards (among these I fell in love with an original second hand Cord longboard). At Chapels Porth rain was falling, current was strong, tide was low and waves were breaking in a messy mess, but people were still hanging out on the beach and eating their picnic with surf boards set as tables.

No surf, we thought, and decided to try to get to Fistral Beach for the Boardmasters final and maybe even the chance to hear Ben Howard play at the festival (http://www.boardmasters.co.uk). To put it in few words: No Fistral for us, no Ben Howard this time. The hole Newquay area was one big traffic jam and there was no parking space to be found anywhere near the fistral festival area. We had to settle with the downtown tourist track and some browsing in surf shops (with views).

Heading back to our hotel we decided to try Gwithian again, and since I am no longer allowed to surf (that is my perception of it, of course, I do not have to mention I would probably give birth to a flat baby if I continue lying on my stomach on a board), I was forced to try the Sunset Café while Claus went into the ridiculously shitty waves. Nevertheless, I had some quality time observing the Sunday living life of the vacationing British surfer families, interrogate the far to busy café people and hang out with a very lifelike poster of Kelly Slater. By the end of the day, I did not feel like neither a researcher, a surfer nor a tourist. I just felt lucky.

st. ives harbour low tide
st. ives harbour low tide
st.ives:st.paradis
st.ives:st.paradis
gwithian
gwithian
aggie the board shaper
aggie the board shaper
beach patrole
beach patrole
surfshop with a view
surfshop with a view
show respect, gain respect
show respect, gain respect

Case # CoworkLisboa

Following the recommendation of Pedro, I only scheduled one visit in Lisbon during my 20 hour stay in the Portuguese capital. I was told to go and see CoworkLisboa located in the LX Factory (Fábrica LX) in the old industry district of Alcântara underneath the Ponte 25 de Abril.

Determined to walk the entire way from the hotel to my destination, I was not just fashionable late on a Friday afternoon and my semi-appointment with founder and owner of CoworkLisboa, Fernando Mendes, became a rather short talk since Fernando was off to have Friday night supper with his family. Luckily, I could continue the conversation with the manager, Laura Alves.

The LX Factory almost cannot be compared to anything - but since we like to understand things in matter of comparison it is sort of a nicer, more ambitious, newer and less stoned version of Danish Christiania. Here you will find lots of creative business, shops and showrooms, organic cafés, sushi bars, ice cream joints and Indian clothing. Mixed with the raw appearance of the graffiti covered old warehouses.

CoworkLisboa is located on the 4th floor of one of the central aisle streets with stunning views of the city. The place was established by Fernando 3 and half years ago, being the first of its kind in Lisbon. The coworking space is one of the biggest, I have visited, yet also one of the most original and thought-through. Looking around I found myself in something emerging as a fusion between an artist studio, a private living room, a cozy bar and a serious work space but, from my point of view, the mixture was successful.

Treated with organic strawberries and friendly smiles, I circled around for a while after talking with Laura, and in my quiet mind I added Lisbon to one of the places, I want to bring my work whenever I can. That is the sentiment you get, when visiting CoworkLisboa.

http://coworklisboa.pt

LXFactory1
LXFactory1
LXFactory2
LXFactory2
Cowork-Lisboa-flow
Cowork-Lisboa-flow
Cowork-Lisboa-organic-veggies
Cowork-Lisboa-organic-veggies
Cowork-Lisboa-workflow
Cowork-Lisboa-workflow
Cowork-Lisboa#leginatub#
Cowork-Lisboa#leginatub#
Cowork-Lisboa#whythisleginatub#
Cowork-Lisboa#whythisleginatub#
Cowork-Lisboa-Fernando&SweetWife
Cowork-Lisboa-Fernando&SweetWife

Case # COLab Óbidos

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.

CoLab-entrance
CoLab-entrance
CoLab-sun
CoLab-sun
CoLab-desks
CoLab-desks

Case # Óbidos/ Technology Park/ ABC Incubator

After a very long day of queues and flight delays in Schiphol Amsterdam Airport I finally reached the village of Óbidos late Tuesday night in my little rented Fiat mobile. The following morning while facing the deprivation of travelling without my daughter, I made my way through the medieval town surprised by the up hill chill. Despite the cold weather, the small narrow streets were crowded with tourists and school classes and I started to realise the iconic significance of Óbidos in the Portuguese cultural heritage. The village is geographically placed just one hours drive North of Lisbon, while the surf town of Peniche and the surrounding famous beaches are only 25 kilometres away. The history of Óbidos goes all the way back to the Romans, but the present ruins of a previous fortifications were builded by the Moors before the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, conquered the town in the 12th century. Óbidos remains a well-preserved example of medieval architecture and its streets, squares, walls and its castle are a popular tourist destination.

Since I did not have an appointment with CoLab founder Pedro Reis before the next day, I spent my time pacing the town, admiring how the attempt to brand the place as a Literary Village (Vila Literária) had resulted in several alternative and stylishly appointed bookshops: an old barn-like cantina redecorated as a literature-lounge, the walls covered with wooden vegetable boxes filled with books in several languages. Beanbags on the floor next to organically shaped low coffee tables illuminated from beneath.  At one gable end an organic vegetable stand materialized the associations with a farm-like ambience, at the other end tables and mics were set up for writers to debate and sign their books to the audience.

By the end of the main road a chapel was renovated and subsequently the designed interior shaped in different formations of book shelves. The quiet and respectful atmosphere of a church room gave way to the sentiment of being in a library, making me wanna stay and surrender myself to the works of Pessoa, Saramago and Jorge. Even though no information was to be found regarding the ongoing literature festival, I liked the idea of first and foremost displaying books in non-traditional locations, encouraging people to buy and to read literature.

Thursday morning I finally found myself in the place, I had been looking so much forward to experience: The CoLab Óbidos, located on the first floor of an old farmhouse just above the market street that leads the way into the main gate and the village of Óbidos. Designer, innovator, nomad and surfer Pedro Reis is managing the coworking space, but I will get back to Pedro and his ideas in another post, since on my arrival in the CoLab my Portuguese academic contact, Elisabete Tomaz, had already made an arrangement with the people from The Óbidos Technology Park (Parque Tecnológico de Óbidos) to come and pick me up.

In the light common room of the CoLab, I was introduced to the cultural policy of Óbidos by Miguel, the director of the commercial foundation Obitec. Afterwards the Obitec Communication Manager Ana Lima took me for a ride to the Technology Park building site just a little north of the village of Óbidos. The park is actually still under construction so what I came to see were two buildings housing some medium sized enterprises and a big construction site supposed to be an energy efficient frame and base for 50 enterprises within the creative industry by January 2014.

The initiative to the Tech Park was made by the current mayor of Óbidos. He really is the man with a plan and a lot of visions. To develop the economy of his Municipality he made two main focuses within the cultural policy, the one being creativity based development, the other being an extensive reformation of the public schools. As it is today the two things go hand in hand, since the creative class of the region moves to the district of Óbidos, so their children can join the public schools of the municipality.

The Technology Park is the first of its kind in Portugal, targeting primarily the creative industry. To fund the place the Municipality of Óbidos, the University of Lisbon and some private investors founded the commercial foundation Obitec. Obitec administrates and communicates the plans of the Technology Park to the world, demonstrating that the foresighted thing for a municipality to understand is, that helping create spaces for creative businesses is not a cost but an investment.

Whilst informing me of the organization of the Obitec, Ana Lima drove me a little further to the ABC Incubator (Incubadora ABC), which residents in an old medieval convent, Convento S. Miguel das Gaeiras. The Obitec offered to renovate the buildings in exchange for a rental contract and so it is, that small innovative enterprises and start up companies occupy the cloister cells, that events like TEDx has been incurred in the chapel, the rostrum being the ancient pulpit, and that matchmaking and coworking events have been conducted in the shady convent garden while operas and theatre plays have been performed in the surrounding park.

Overloaded with useful information regarding the cooperation between a progressive municipality, a commercial foundation and a team of enthusiastic people, Ana took me back to Pedro in the CoLab. Not alone was I by these officials received with approachability, kindness, interest and Portuguese kisses on the cheeks, I also encountered an open source attitude very similar to the one we try to demonstrate.

Last but not least, even before my visit to Óbidos, I compared the case of the Portuguese village to the place of Klitmøller: a small village where the traditional way of life is slowly becoming extinct and by some place specific qualities replaced by the culture of a creative dominated class. The crucial difference, though, must be the political attitude toward the development. As highlighted by Miguel, the path chosen by The Municipality of Óbidos is very untraditional in a local policy context: The municipality actually takes the initiative, pays the costs, believes in the projects conducted by the citizens, incubates the start ups and shares the knowledge, mistakes and inspiration it encounters along the way. Now here’s something to think about.

www.pt-obidos.com

https://www.facebook.com/Parque.Tecnologico.Obidos

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creative-schools-create-creative-people
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no-phone-cards-to-be-found
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TechnologyParkObidos
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ABC-eventspace
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ABC-conventgarden