What We Learned at GCUC USA 2017

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Chair of the Month

Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie is a Workplace Consultant at Herman Miller and the former Editor of Work Design Magazine. She’s currently based in Pittsburgh.

Notes from the “explosion of coworking awesomeness” in NYC.

Image courtesy of GCUC.

They bill the gathering as “a worldwide explosion of coworking awesomeness” and that might sound like an embellishment, but GCUC really does separate the… well… juice from the pulp, as far as conferences go. The event is geared toward coworking space providers, but there’s so much good stuff there that we went and took notes for you, too.

Key takeaways below, and check out the GCUC site to stay up to date on their other events around the world.

Coworking is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime

Liz Elam — founder and executive producer of GCUC — kicked off the conference with some meaningful figures sourced from the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs survey, notably: the number one driver of change in the world today is the changing nature of work (44 percent), followed closely by mobile interaction and cloud technology (34 percent).

Image courtesy of Liz Elam.

For a room full of coworking space providers, that’s kind of a big deal.

“Coworking is the fourth industrial revolution,” Elam said. “It’s going to change everything. It’s distinct and unique in its velocity, scope, complexity, and impact.”

“It’s the biggest opportunity of our lifetime,” she added, quoting Duncan Logan, the founder of RocketSpace, the already legendary tech campus.

“Coworking is a star, it compresses people in space and time”

In his presentation, “Cities as a Service”, author and journalist Greg Lindsay traced the history of coworking to places like the half-century-old Jamaica Wine House in London, where bankers still gather today and do business.

“There’s a direct line from London clubs to Soho House to Convene,” he said, adding that it’s outside of “skyscrapers, that are at best 40 percent occupied” where stray bits of information are shared, ideas are birthed, and deals get made.

He was quick to point out that his criticism of skyscrapers was not an indictment of cities: “Cities haven’t failed — suburbs have,” he said. “Companies fled to the suburbs in the 60s, and now look.” (Flips slide to images of abandoned suburban office parks and J.C.Penney stores.)

“The story of coworking is urban one,” he said, adding that its success lies in breaking work free from boxes. He compared the way coworking and cities work to the nuclear fusion of a star, “compressing people in space in time” to create the best ideas.

Coworkers are part of the next wave of religious work in America

Angie Thurston speaks to the crowd. Image courtesy of GCUC.

One of our favorite presentations of the day came from Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile of Harvard Divinity School. Their research centers on the “massive trend of religious affiliation nationwide” and the modern millennial search for a “sustained experience of community”.

In this age of unprecedented isolation and loneliness, where do people feel that they belong?

You won’t believe it (or maybe you will), but the resounding answer to that question is… Crossfit. Think about it: an organization comprised of four million people who participate together in ritual evangelism, honoring the dead, shepherding the flock, and caring for the sick

“It’s not just religious-like behavior,” they said, “it’s a religion.”

It’s probably not lost on you that these same ideas draw people to coworking. Thurston and ter Kuile were attracted to the trend by the conversations around community, meaning, and transformation. Religious or otherwise, they said that there are six themes communities all share: social transformation, personal transformation, accountability, creativity, purpose finding, and community.

Pointing out that Catholic nuns and people in monastic life know a thing or two about “coliving”, Thurston and ter Kuile encouraged the audience to think about the “amount of wisdom that exists within these traditions — they offer a whole new toolbox to draw upon.”

“You are part of next wave of religious work in America,” they told the audience.

Check out more of Thurston and ter Kuile’s work here.

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