Curating a Coworking Community

Back in May, I joined the team at Radius CoWork as the Community Manager. Since then I’ve shared a lot with members, from brainstorming on business ideas to networking and attending community nonprofit events. I’d like to share some of my thoughts and observations with the broader community. This is what being a community manager has been like for me:

If you haven’t heard, at Radius CoWork we provide professional, affordable office space to connect and create with other professionals in downtown Erie. It’s like a gym for freelancers, startups, and remote workers. Memberships depend upon fit and need, what we call “Dedicated”, “Flex” and “Nomad” members.

Membership at Radius provides access to the fastest internet in Erie, on the raddest floor (yes, I am biased) in the tallest building in the city, and an invitation to a private Slack team full of industry articles, community insights, job boards, and all the jokes.

“Ultimately, it gives each person a better chance to impact our broader community, because we have each other.”

As community manager, what I love most is that I get to be a part of it all; the local coffee, the fantastic view, the entrepreneurial support system, and of course, the Radius community; it’s most especially about the people. The people here are a network of talented, creative professionals that choose Erie, whether they’re native Erie-ites, Erie-adopters, half-time residents, or digital nomad’s and day pass users that connect with us as they pass through. It’s this diversity that has become our greatest strength. Some of the people I’ve met here have been building their business for a decade, some just graduated and are striking out on their own, others went independent after a career working at a fortune 500, a handful I see only when they stop by for a client meeting or are traveling back into town. Ultimately, it’s people, all day, every day.

The style of “life-lived-in-transition” isn’t new. I find it poetic that fourteen thousand years ago, across the globe, another kind of “Nomad” roamed in southeast Turkey, living a lifestyle of herding livestock, gathering nuts and berries, and generally just wandering. There in Catalhoyuk some few thousand years later one of the first permanent communities was formed, and this Neolithic Revolution is still widely studied by archaeologists today.

Why do I bring this up? Because communities have always fascinated me. Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying my role in coworking. As reflected on my time here, I’ve realized Radius has fostered a new kind of community in this city.

Community: 1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Taco Tuesday Parade

One thing that I think about a lot, perhaps more pronounced as I’m working in the role that I do, is how truly important communities really are. No individual has ever truly changed a tide without the help of others, and this is certainly true throughout Erie, PA as well.

The smaller community of Radius is no exception. Radius members are diverse. They range in age, race, gender, and occupation. They’re small business owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers, and startups. It’s a collection of creative professionals who pull their resources, best practices, and their backgrounds to bolster the community as a whole, a kind of kinship reminiscent of  cooperative groups all the way back to those nomadic Neolithic peoples.

What’s most striking about Radius is the amount of support in the community. It’s a “here, you take the last pour of coffee in the pot,” “we live in the same neighborhood, want to carpool?” “can you review my social media strategy?” – kind of community. Where collaboration and connection occur unplanned as a natural inclination, it’s the serendipity necessary to stay relevant and competitive in our independent work, especially in a small city. Much like most historic and prehistoric small communities, who prioritized cultural values and a community of shared support, our mutual care has been key for a community intent on growth.

As our city changes due to resource constraints, the job market, politics shifts, and increased global awareness, the need for community increases. That is the type of community fostered here at Radius, and I feel lucky to have the privilege of facilitating it.

One of the best perks about it all is that I’ve become a member in a community of confidants, boardgame-night goers, digital masterminds, and remote workers who are not confined to interacting in our shared physical space, but are accessible to one another in our own online space, where someone is always willing to listen, lend a hand, give feedback, or just trade jokes. I would go as far to say that some of the best moments of connection I’ve witnessed in this community have been outside of Radius’ physical location; Taco Tuesdays at El Amigo, run-ins at Gallery Night, happy hours at 1201 Kitchen and Cloud 9, and weekend trips out to enjoy Presque Isle State Park.

Members of the Radius community are particularly engaged. These are the types of people I have been lucky to foster relationships between and collaborate with, ones that launch organizations, businesses, social causes, and are mentors to one another; they participate in cultural enrichment opportunities and advocate on a daily basis to hold ourselves to higher standards. This doesn’t happen independently, and members here celebrate that. They are mindful, not pushy; considerate, not strategic. They create safe places in our open space where ideas are shared, productivity is crushed, and people are empowered. We are a community of people without expectations, where clique’s are dissipated, politics are left at the door, and character and talent are welcomed daily.

How does one person manage this you might ask? Well, for starters, a large cup of coffee ;) – but seriously, I believe “managing” a community isn’t one person’s job, but that it happens collectively. The best way to foster an environment of genuine connection while also serving as an economic building block for the community, is to all lead by example. For me, that starts with being present, actively listening, creating a safe space where experiences are made and trust is built. Beyond that, I solve operational problems and “ok” the plans of members, while also building my own business, Mindfully Social, a social media management company. Even our cofounders, Sean Fedorko and Bill Scholz, act more like regular members, mostly working on other projects of their own, rather than acting as any kind of gatekeepers.

Happy hours are routine, yoga classes are shared, and ethnic pot-luck lunches are coordinated—this is where the real magic happens—and here in these moments coworking becomes personal; similarities, differences, and passions intersect in the shared space, and that is how we continue to flourish.

What’s most exciting for me is to see how much stronger the community is together than apart, that even as we individually seek, question, and tackle our own work and lives, we’re sharing our lessons, and growing our network. Ultimately, it gives each person a better chance to impact our broader community, because we have each other.

The community continues to grow as we grow individually; it changes. New members move in and seasoned members move on; in of itself, it’s alive, and must adapt and evolve to continue to be inspirational and transformative, because although we might just offer “desk space”, we – all of our members –  are here to support and encourage one another to be the best people they want to be.  So, if you haven’t been up to Radius, this is my invitation. Come on up! We would all love to meet you.

Cheers, Aubry

Asian Pot Luck Day with Proximity Space!

Bio: Aubry Regan DeMarco has operated as the Community Manager since May 2016, while also owning and operating her own communications strategies company, Mindfully Social Co.  Find her (sometimes) on Twitter at @aubryregan and check out her work at www.mindfullysocial.com

2018-01-09T14:47:38+00:00 1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Pat January 16, 2018 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Congratulations! Article well written. Very encouraging to other people. If I was younger, I would join your group.

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