We believe the professional development of our local coworking managers is a key part of ensuring Metro Denver is home to a thriving ecosystem of shared spaces.  While there are lots of ways to grow your skills, we are honored that 8 managers have chosen to join our Roundtable as a part of their professional development plan.  This peer-learning circle is professionally facilitated by Katie Edwards at NCN, and provides a monthly forum for participants to exchange information and hone in on best practices as a community.  In this new monthly feature, I will be pulling out Nuggets of knowledge, Inklings of Inspiration, and Bastions of Best Practices from this powerful learning group.

Over the past couple of months, our group has been grappling with how to balance organic community culture development with the necessity of policies and procedures to guide how their centers run.  In this month’s “lessons learned” I want to highlight a particularly juicy conversation we had back in February.  Yes, it’s been a couple months, but I’ve continued to mull it over and I think that means it’s worth sharing.

So the context of our conversation was, broadly, “What do we make policies about and why?”.  As we started down the path of answering this question, participants quickly hit on a critical tension hidden within this relatively benign question.  What makes shared spaces so meaningful for the people working within or being served by them is the community that is created inside.  Shared spaces become more than just hip executive suites when there is a sense of place, when people feel welcomed, and when there is more to be gained by coming to the space than just “getting your job done.”  The tension shows up when we try to quantify those somewhat ephemeral qualities that make these centers so awesome.  When we try to put parameters around our sense of community, there’s a fear that we will stifle that which makes community alive and vibrant.  And yet, without some guidelines, it’s really hard to make sure that the culture lives on beyond just the one or two people that got the thing started.  And without some guidelines, new members and staff are at risk of feeling lost, confused, or – worse – unwelcome in the space.

The challenge that our Roundtable managers hit on wasn’t just some woo woo navel-gazing about “what makes a meaningful community.”  They were hitting on the reality that there are some things about a place that can’t be captured in the User Guide, while at the same time we need guidelines to set the stage for healthy, productive space management.

So, instead of “what to policy and why”, last month we landed on this bigger question of “To Policy or Not To Policy” – which really is a little more interesting to me than the list of things we need to put in our org manual.  Below I’ve included the reasons for an against writing down a formal set of policies for your center.  In our group, we have representation from centers with a 30+ page center manual to centers where all the ins and outs of managing the space live in the founder’s head.  And both approaches have their merits.  And what we landed on is that it is critical to be intentional about what we write down versus what we choose to leave in the ether.  If a policy ultimately makes the user experience in your center better, then it’s probably a good idea to write it down.  If, however, quantifying something puts unnecessary or unmanageable burdens on you or your members . . . it’s probably not as critical.

So, what do you think?  How has this tension between organic co-creation and rigid rule-setting played out for your space?  What would you add to the pros and cons list below?

If you’d like to learn more about the Roundtable, click here.  If you’re dying to check out the one pager they created to guide policy creation, click here.


Write It Down Pros/Cons