Co-working goes vertical : the rise of sector specific communities

“Coworking is redefining the way we do work. Inspired by the participatory culture of the open source movement and the empowering nature of IT, we are building a more sustainable future. We are a group of connected individuals and small businesses creating an economy of innovation and creativity in our communities and worldwide.”

The value of co-working is well documented. Research by Harvard Business Review in 2015 found that people using co-working spaces reported seeing their work as more meaningful; through flexibility and mobile working they report higher job control; and most importantly - they feel part of a community.

But in the proliferation of co-working spaces - with Deskmag estimating that over 10,000 will be open by the end of 2016 - how do you pick your tribe?

From general to specific

Many co-working spaces are generalists - bringing together people from many different professions into the same space. The benefit of this is that diversity is key to innovation - tests show that diverse teams produce more creative results than teams in which all members are from a similar background. 

But at the same time, there are distinct advantages to being in a sectoral cluster, such as a tech, health, education or or social venture hub. Members can draw on each others’ experiences, knowledge and networks; and share solutions tailored to a specific field. Emergent opportunities arise from investors, researchers or policy leaders and the curious, seeking access to a sector specific field and wanting to find a wealth of connections in one place.

So how should you decide - pick a workspace that is open to all, or go with your sector?

Best of both worlds

What if you don’t have to choose. Imagine you could have both the specificity and shared experience of a sector vertical, and the diversity necessary for innovation.

Imagine a place where an early start-up team developing youth leadership programmes sits opposite a medical student building surgery training tools; an education strategist and school founder offers advice to the developers working on a revision app on the next table; and an early years play specialist is helping a start-up around careers support access new school markets. Charities, companies and sole founders share lunch. Members come from Mexico City, London, Lima, Berlin and beyond.

The thread that ties everyone together is a shared mission, to transform education.

The place is Edspace - and it isn’t the only sector specific workspace to emerge from the pack. Whether you are into cooking, crafting, technology, energy, music, education —you name it— it is most likely there is going to be a place for you. And if there isn't, then maybe it is time to create it…

10 vertical specific co-working spaces:

1. Edspace, London UK
Innovation in education
Housing over 100 education pioneers on the grounds of Hackney Community College in Hackney, Edspace is supporting people to transform education and improve the life chances of millions.

‘There is a growing movement of people who are dedicated to transforming education. The power of that movement will be amplified many times over if we join forces and work together.’ James O’Shaugnessy, Co-founder.

‘Edspace shares the college’s values of developing ambition and opportunity for local people and valuable mentoring opportunities for our students.’ Ian Ashman, Hackney Community College principal 

Key strength: co-location and partnership with an education institution, beta testing opportunities for education ventures, industry contact for students and teachers.

2. Impact Hub Birmingham, UK and global
Social impact
From humble beginnings in a leaky loft in Islington, the Impact Hub network now has over 82 spaces and 12,000+ members worldwide. Impact Hub Birmingham is bringing together mission driven innovators and advancing the model of a new type of Town Hall - for systemic social change, not just enterprise support.

This Town Hall needs to combine the best of a co-working lab, civic accelerator and social impact financing platform – powered by an agile understanding of collective impact – to create a new class of civic institution. Indy Johar and Immy Kaur, Co-founders

Key strength: open project nights and collaborative childcare prototype to create low barriers to entry.

3. Fish Island Labs, London UK
Creative and digital arts
Fish Island Labs is a collaboration between Trampery - a social enterprise providing spaces for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and the Barbican - Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue. It follows on from Hack the Barbican a month long summer festival which saw site-specific projects hijack areas of the Barbican’s interior and turn them into games, performances and installations run by theatre performers, computer scientists, sculptors, hardware hackers, teachers, musicians and everything in between. 

“With the landscape for culture and the arts undergoing its greatest change for a century we have a historic opportunity to pioneer new models.” Charles Armstrong, director
Key strength: strategic collaboration between institutions, reinvesting profits into new projects.

4. Techhub, global
Spaces around the world for tech entrepreneurs to meet, work, learn and collaborate. 

Key strength: One vision global community - every member is working on a tech project.

5. Co:Energy, Chicago, USA
Green energy

Companies working in clean tech, smart grid technology, energy consulting - changing how the world is powered. 
Key strength: Coalition runs several mixed co-working spaces and is currently beta testing sector specific sites with energy as the first test.

6. Rise, UK and global

Partnership between Barclays and Techstars, creating the future of financial technology.
Key strength: access to banking technology.

7. La Cocina, San Francisco, USA
Food entrepreneurs

La Cocina cultivates low income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities.

Key strength: surfacing and supporting existing but under-used skills in local population.

8. Digital Health Incubator, London UK
Digital health innovation

Powered by Guy’s & St Thomas Charity and scheduled to launch in the summer of 2016, the 325 sq. m. space aims to support start-ups and SME’s working in digital health.

Key strength: strategic alliance with health care trust

9. Greenspaces, New York USA

Solar powered building filled with over 1500 socially conscious green businesses and entrepreneurs.

10. Naeh Institut, Berlin Germany
Sewing and
Small-scale designers and talented people that manufacture their own products in the isolation of their homes now have a place to work together. 

Key strength: access to specialised machinery, with costs that a single designer most likely cannot afford otherwise

Written with support from Marina Melani, industrial designer, teacher and business student.