Some things we learned from curating an experimental community hub for two years.

Many activities

During the first year we focussed mostly on events, workshops and other activities that were run over a short period of time — a couple of hours, a day, night or weekend.

Hosting others

After some time hosting events, we started getting inquiries from external organisations who wanted to use the space. These were local community groups such as the Transition Network, some ladies sewing boomerang bags, a mental health support group, a group of architect students, boardgamers and environmental groups. We also leased rooms to local start-ups and non-profits for a very cheap rent.

Some Learnings

1. Building a community of communities is very difficult

We know that the by far most important factor in a successful community hub, whether it’s a makerspace, artists collective or coworking space is to create an actual community. In our case, this task was even harder due to the nature of the collaboration. We needed to build a community of communities. The communities (organisations) that were in the space as mentioned above are very different, and a natural “us vs them” dynamic needed to be overcome. We attempted this through shared parties, dinners and other activities.

2. Keep it beautiful

Aesthetics… a subjective thing and soo difficult to get right!

3. One group is responsible for structure

The boring stuff like paying bills, invoicing, maintenance, cleaning etc is better handled by one organisation that is responsible for these things. This organisation should get a cut of all revenue for that work. In our case enkel paid for everything and was responsible for the space, and in return received all the income.

4. Coworking is not a viable business model in a small space

Figure out your business model before you start.

5. Daytime activation is hard

As coworking isn’t a viable business model for small spaces, it’s hard to activate it during the daytime. Most people (here in Perth at least) work full-time elsewhere, and the few freelancers and small organisations in our network weren’t enough to create a buzzing space. Sure, we had people and organisations working in there, but us organisers didn’t have enough time, energy and money to create a good enough workplace to attract people to work there during the day.

6. Shared calendar system

Keep shared Google calendars for each separate area on your website so that people can see what’s going on in the space. Give admin access for this calendar to all collaborators so that they can book the space themselves. Get rid of as much admin as possible.

7. Prepare for negative local community feedback

8. It’s better if you live in the community where the hub is based

9. The values and purpose of the space must be clear

We didn’t have many problems with people, groups and activities as we in enkel are very clear on our values Courage, Community, Conscience and Creativity, which guide pretty much everything we do. This made it easy to decide what activities we would have in the space.

10. It’s hard to get people to do things

Thanks to our collaborators Town of Vic Park and the Vic Park Collective for two great years in the Vic Park MiniLab!

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enkel collective

enkel collective

Collective in Perth, Western Australia with the mission to create a new generation of changemakers.