10 Guidelines to Form a Successful Coworking Alliance

By Liz Elam On May 23, 2017 In CoworkingConferencePressCommunityCoworking TrendsBeginningsGCUC 2017

One of the most notable parts of GCUC is the tight nit community.  In the coworking industry we forego the term “competitor” and instead use the word collaborator. Power is in the numbers- or something like that, right?  Haven’t you ever heard 2 heads are better than one? The coworking and shared workspace movement has all but taken over and there is more demand than we know what to do with – competition is not necessary but alliances are. Take a look at the 10 guidelines necessary to form a coworking alliance.


Forming an alliance with neighboring coworking spaces is an independent operator’s best defense when “Goliath” chains enter their marketplace, attendees learned at a breakout session at last week’s Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC) in New York City.

“You’re not going to win everyone over,” admitted session leader Ashley Proctor founding member of the Coworking Toronto and Coworking Ontario collectives, but when a successful alliance is formed, the resulting power in numbers can deliver significant benefits to participants.

Advantages of a collective, and other business relationships that connect otherwise independent organizations, extend into the long term as well, according to the Harvard Business Review, providing potential for a stream of opportunities and collaboration.

While cooperatives can take many forms, successful business alliances have three fundamental attributes, according to HBR:

Beyond the immediate goal of providing partner benefits, alliances are living systems that evolve progressively in their possibilities. Connections offer parties an optioncon the future, opening new doors and unforeseen opportunities.

Alliances that both partners ultimately deem successful involve collaboration (creating new value together) rather than mere exchange (getting something back for what you put in). Partners value the skills each brings to the alliance.

They cannot be “controlled” by formal systems but require a dense web of interpersonal connections and internal infrastructures that enhance learning.

Leading an interactive unconference session with several dozen operators of coworking spaces around the world, Proctor, founder of Creative Blueprint and Foundery in Toronto, presented some suggestions, strategies and benefits of forming a collective with neighboring communities.

  1. Reach out with an honest and personal connection. Don’t try and go undercover while touring your competitor’s space. Veterans like Proctor see right through it. Instead, send an email and identify yourself as a fellow operator in the neighborhood. Suggest a meeting on neutral ground where you can take off your business hat and meet informally over cocktails, Proctor suggested.
  2. Develop a budget and dues structure. Once you agree on a general agenda, develop a budget supported by member dues. At a Toronto collective, initial dues were $50 per year for spaces open less than 2 years and $100 for spaces older than 2 years. As the alliance grew in size and power, the fees reflect more ambitious plans and are currently $200 and $500 per year.
  3. Delineate responsibilities and delegate duties. Many successful alliances assign tasks to their members on a rotating basis. For example, one member is in charge of posting on social media for a two-month period. Tasks then circulate through the membership so responsibilities and workloads are shared equally.
  4. Institute checks and balances. Limit exposure by assuring at least two parties have access to vital records and accounts. One alliance was left in the lurch when the designated manager went MIA, taking all money, website access and social media account knowledge with her.

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