With the number of coworking spaces in the city on the rise, Stephen Elliott-Buckley and Kevin Harding are on the brink of creating Vancouver’s first such space built on a “community first” co-op model.
After learning about successful coworking cooperatives in Ontario and Quebec, the two consultants—both members of Incipe Workers’ Cooperative, which specializes in advocacy communication, research, and strategic advice—realized how well a similar space might fit into Vancouver’s creative market.
“We know that coworking spaces have this amazing capacity to put people together to work on projects, and that’s the magic of the cooperative model; it is really one that seeks to empower its users,” Harding said.
Coworking spaces, touted as an alternative to the cafes or kitchen tables frequented by the self-employed, offer individuals a comfortable office space with all necessary amenities—coffee included—at a monthly rental rate.
Spaces like the Network Hub, with offices in Vancouver, New Westminster, and Whistler, operate on a for-profit model and charge members between $5 per hour and $500 per month, depending on location and amenities.
Though similarly priced, HiVE, located in Gastown, operates on a not-for-profit model and offers members the opportunity to give back to the community “within the social entrepreneurship, sustainability, tech and creative sectors” through various organizations.
“With the co-op model, everybody is an owner and there’s no layer of profit that has to be paid out to investors. Members have a stake in ownership, they have a stake in operations, and any profit that comes from it is something that they get to share equally,” Elliott-Buckley explained.
Though keen to bring the cooperative to fruition by early autumn, the duo has yet to lease a space, but Elliott-Buckley says that it’s all part of the process.
“One of the biggest things I read about in terms trying to make coworking viable is trying to create some kind of community among a whole bunch of individuals who are shut off in a space to work with each other, and try to convert that into working together. Our goal is to build the community first and then create a space out of that,” he said.
Freelancers, contractors, activists, researchers, and even students are just a few of the types of individuals that Elliott-Buckley and Harding consider to be prime candidates for membership, which they hope to price competitively.
“There is a way of creating a coworking space that can cost close to $100 or $200 less than some of these other places, and looking at our initial tinkering of numbers, it looks like it might be viable.”
An inception meeting will be held on March 31 at Tipper Restaurant (2066 Kingsway), where the specifics of starting the co-op will be discussed with those interested in taking part.
“I know it’s become a bit of a cliché, but if you’re spending $5 or $10 an hour in a coffee shop, that’s well within the financial model of the space we’re looking to create. Individuals who need some space to be with people in a place that’s a little more connected than a Starbucks—this would be the space for them.”