It is back to school season for many Colorado schools and this month’s shared space profile features EdXChange, a consortium of public education advocacy organizations in Metro Denver. The nonprofit organizations co-located in the loft space at 1390 Lawrence Street include A+ Colorado, Colorado Succeeds, America Succeeds, Democrats for Education Reform, KIPP Colorado and Catapult. After several years in office space located close to A+ Colorado’s fiscal sponsor Colorado Nonprofit Development Center on Grant Street, Hayley Reddish from A+ Colorado explains, “the EdXChange re-located into our current downtown location in March 2015 and added KIPP Colorado to the group of organizations sharing space, with the help and support of The Gates Family Foundation which resides on the 4th floor of the same building”.
While these six nonprofit organizations are relatively new to the shared space scene in Denver, the opportunity to combine space and co-locate from their perspectives was as easy as 1-2-3. Each organization is small, in terms of staff size, but mighty. By binding together in one collaborative space, “the savings on rent and office materials are huge for each of us”, explains Reddish of A+ Colorado. The space itself offers a wide variety of office needs to its six entities and the broader community on rare occasions when EdXChange groups host a speaker or happy hour to its shared constituents and partners. The wide, open space provides many opportunities for casual meetings away from the organization’s row of cubicles where formal office space is located. Additionally, there are two conference rooms, individual phone rooms, and a few private offices for those who require or prefer more privacy.
Of course, there are a few “shared space” pains after the first operational year. In a lofted space like EdXChange, noise levels can be an issue. Sound from a group in the loft, for instance, carries down to one organization on the south end of the building while staff on the north end may not hear anything at all. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the fact that while the organizations are sharing space, they are still trying to determine the best way to share accountability and logistics for the space in a low-cost way. Hayley explains, “Without a dedicated shared space manager, groups have tried to split the necessary shared tasks equitably although some tasks end up requiring more regular engagement than others. We’re still very much learning as we go.”
Additionally, the space around EdXchange in LoDo has some of the highest market value in Denver commercial real estate. According to Hayley, “commercial parking costs have been raised $5 in the past year so the space itself is not easily operational for community events and hosting outsiders since even staff have to figure out the most affordable way to get to work on a daily basis”. Overall, there is healthy disagreement among the six nonprofits sharing space but the perks outweigh the downsides. “It make it all worth it when you can pop into the organization in the cubicle next to you and brainstorm ideas about an event, policy or their expertise where you know their values and principles align with the organization you represent”.
As the 2016-2017 school year and legislative sessions unfold, stay tuned to see how EdXChange develops shared office norms and a collaborative system to manage the shared space and conference room in real time. A few key considerations for EdXChange to make the best of their shared space and go on to teach others about its benefits are listed below:
- Learn by Example
As a new shared space, finding a authentic and effective management system around shared policies and procedure to coordinate shared operations is key. If you are stuck with the same issue of one person always cleaning up the mess or picking up after others, it may be time to look outside your organization’s four walls for an innovative and still low-cost answer. Luckily, Denver’s robust shared spaces scene and Denver Shared Spaces can provide ample support to the first-timer organizations who courageously embarked on sharing space.
- Empower the Student to Become the Teacher
With a lens toward education, high teaching standards and transformational leadership, EdXChange is in a natural position to support other shared spaces as the movement continues to grow by presenting its lessons learned, takeaways and overcoming challenges. In the spirit of collaboration, sharing failures and development areas is integral to growth and shared understanding of how to make these experiences successful for future shared space initiatives in Metro Denver.
- Be a Lifelong Learner
As EdXChange continues to grow and thrive, perhaps even inviting another education organization to join them in the space, it is important to consider the value of learning for the sake of learning. Through questions, advocacy and inquiry, EdXChange will continue to evaluate its shared space and norms and be able to articulate those to other residents or community guests.
Additional photos from EdXChange