One of the regulars here:
1. Waves/gestures through the windows in the door to come right in. The door is unlocked.
2. Gets up, shakes hands with, and welcomes the person as they come through the door.
3. Helps them settle their stuff somewhere.
4. Gives them the “Hollywood Celebrity Tour” of the space to familiarize them with the amenities and the highlights/people. This involves introducing them to whoever happens to be working here that day, telling them about what other coworkers here do, and asking them about who they are and the work they do. Also, introducing them to the play features (board games, video games, dog and cats, movies, bookshelves, backyard, etc.) not just the expected work features.
5. After the tour, asking them if:
- They’re here to work alone today or together. (I make myself available to those who want to work together in case other coworkers are on tight individual deadlines.)
- They’d like to read the 2-page Welcome document for the space. (more on this below)
- They’d like a drink. If they do, and I’m the welcomer, I get it for them. This is my home, after all, and it matters to me that every single person who walks through the door feels deeply welcome.
This is what I’ve observed us doing here so far most days and the order in which we often do it. I’m not a fan of checklists given to others. Other welcomers do whatever they feel like doing to make people feel welcome and are often far better at it than I am given my propensity to rattle on endlessly about things I’m passionate about (as most of you already know).
When someone new emails us or joins our Facebook page…
- Email: Sometimes I hear from people via email that they’d liked to come by. I exchange two or three emails with them, find out about them and what they’re looking for, and tell them about us and our space. I welcome them to stop by on Wednesday if they’d like to meet more people or on another day if they’d like to start by coworking just with me or a smaller group. People only hear about us via neighbors, online community members, our neighborhood news blog Central District News (thanks Tom!), and postcards in neighborhood community centers/shops/spaces. So most people who email me already strongly suspect that we’ll be a good match, we hit it off immediately, and my task is mostly to answer a few of their logistical questions and to remember to not to rattle on endlessly via email. Depending on the person and what they ask for, I may also recommend that they check out Office Nomads, The Mill, Agnes Undergound, and other coworking and/or maker spaces in the surrounding neighborhoods. Coworkers in Seattle are so lucky. There are dozens of spaces to choose from (or–for nomads like me–dozens of spaces to work across), and we Seattle collaborative space people encourage coworkers to try them out and find their own good fit(s).
- Facebook: About once/week, I recognize new community members by name and say “Welcome!” to them.
Seven experiments in welcoming (in progress)…
1. Telling the stories. To emphasize the spirit and nature of the space, when a newcomer shows up, I often tell the story of why we started it (I was lonely and tired of working by myself most days), why our regulars choose to cowork here, and how we got the idea (visiting a more formal coworking space in another city and thinking “This is amazing!” and “We could do it even better!” simultaneously).
2. Being/doing what we want instead of talking about what we want. Frack this is tough for this introvert writer, but I’m trying. For example, instead of telling people we’re looking for coworkers who like to share things, we just very visibly share things. Seeing our share shelves and share board and community books and free tea and strawberries and blueberries and popsicles is enough. Instead of talking about the fact that we want to work with playful people, we just play. Seeing our games and toys and puzzles and after-hours movie watching (this week, seeing Fisher and Sean’s Water balloon fight and free popsicles event) is enough. This community is teaching me to lead with play–a state of being I’d almost forgotten I even could be.
3. Having a two-page Welcome document in a silly folder that reflects the nature of the space for those who want it. As part of the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance now, and I’ve started visiting other spaces and seeing what it feels like to be a newbie in a space, intentionally witnessing how they welcome me, and eventually hanging out with them and directly asking them about how they welcome people and help brand new people feel welcome. One of the many things I’ve learned from our ancestor/partner/sister spaces is that as a newbie stepping into another space, socially awkward me appreciates a bit more formality and hand-holding than I myself thought to do for others in our space. For example, if you’re nervous and/or new, you may forget half of what you’re told on the walking tour and have to re-ask questions and feel even more awkward. So I created a two-page Welcome document for our space and put it in a silly folder. The full text of this document is at the end of this blog post. Guess the other tip here is: Visit other coworking spaces and experience what it’s like to be a newcomer for yourself.
4. Community member board. Thanks to Office Nomads, I’ve also learned that a community member board in the physical space can make you feel more welcome and help you feel part of the community faster. It helps newbie-you remember names and faces (also helpful to old person/faulty memory me). I actually recognized several people on ON’s board, which really made me feel part of the community. So I began creating one for our space last week. Here’s a photo of this work-of-art-in-progress. Names aren’t on it yet. I lost my label maker somewhere in the basement. Sigh. Names will be on it eventually.
5. Online community playground. I think of our online community spaces as playgrounds and more opportunities to spend time with people I love. So far, we have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/collectiveself), a Collective Self community photo album (http://collectiveselfphotos.tumblr.com/), and a Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance photo album (http://seattle-collab-space-alliance.tumblr.com/, this one is brand new but will eventually reveal all the names and faces and personalities of the collaborative work spaces in the area). With just an email address, community members can be added to the Tumblr photo albums and add their own photos/pictures as they see fit. The Facebook page is used by regulars here to post stories/ideas/images of interest to the community, talk about upcoming events, and directly help and/or tease each other. Newcomers can feel for themselves what kind of community we are and decide to join us or keep looking for a better fit. Love that. My goal is to find community members who will be happy here with us long-term–people who will go gladly on this life’s journey with us.
6. Mad-ninja-skills-of-the-community list. We have a share board where people can write the names of skills and things they have to share. Sometimes people don’t though, so we also ask people periodically about their skills and have created a monster list. I just hung that list on the wall yesterday. There are enough people here now that I can’t even remember all the skills we have. The list is my place to go to remind myself just how frickin’ AMAZING this coworking community actually is. I’ll share the list in an upcoming post. It’s amazing. Whether somebody is paid money for the skill or not is immaterial. It is a skill this community has. Walking into a new space, and working with new and different coworkers for the first time is awkward for me and, I suspect, most people. I suspect that having the Community Skills List on the wall will make the initial tour of the space for newcomers more fun: another fabulous stopping point on the Hollywood Celebrity Bus Tour of Collective Self that you receive the first time you visit.
7. Bad-mood buddies. If I’m dealing with something particularly stressful or difficult in my life on any given day, I should not be the one who opens the door, gives the tour, and tells the stories. Someone–anyone–in the space is better suited to help a newcomer feel welcome those days. I learned this the hard way last month. I answered the door on a day when multiple things were going wrong in my life. I haven’t seen that coworker since. Now I think of all the regulars here as my bad-mood buddies, and I’ve told them (or will tell them next time they’re here) to step in to welcome people whenever they’re up for it and especially when I’m clearly NOT up for it.
This is the official end of this post. The following text is our 2-page Welcome document, because Daniel’s out of town and I can’t figure out how to attach a document to a blog post. 🙂
Welcome. We are beside ourselves with happiness and gratitude that you are here.
Important: This document is for people who like reading documents. If you don’t, stop reading now.
Hours: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All other days, by appointment, unless you have a key. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-805-9978 to work here non-Wednesdays.
Front door: Just come in Wednesdays, don’t knock. Other days, the front door may be locked so either 1) make an appointment or 2) become a good friend and receive the code or your own key.
Networks and passwords:
Main floor network is called *************, and the password is **************************
Upstairs network is called ************, and the password is ****************************
Free wireless internet access, full kitchen (some days free food), tea and coffee, printer, large dry-erase board, multiple coworking sub-spaces (details below), round 10-person reservable community table, smart TV, fireplace, board games and video games, sidewalk chalk, garden, porch and patio, Tardis cookie jar (feel free to put cookies in it), share shelves (place for stuff you can just take/give away), community book shelves, sappy dog and 3 friendly cats as coworkers/play buddies
Connect after work:
Facebook (www.facebook.com/collectiveself), twitter (@collectiveself), after-hours hang outs, community photo album (http://collectiveselfphotos.tumblr.com/ send Lori your email, become group member, and add photos here). To connect with the even larger collaborative space community, check out http://www.collaborativespaces.org/ and http://seattle-collab-space-alliance.tumblr.com/.
- Front porch (at very front of space, good for small meetings in warm weather, taking phone calls, and after hours, having drinks and relaxing)
- Living room (to the right of the front door, good for very relaxed coworking where you don’t mind periodically mixing conversation into your work. After hours, movie watching. Fireplace cozy in winter, aka, roughly September – May in Seattle.)
- Dining room (in the center of the space with views of living room and kitchen, good for focused working on your own during work hours, and sometimes we change it up and turn it into a collaborative work area or a game playing area. This space is also available for hosting meetings/teaching classes on all days but Wednesdays.)
- Bathroom (at the very back of the space, straight back from the front door)
- Media/meeting room (at back of the space, with door, good for meetings of 2 to 6, phone calls when empty, and movie watching/video gaming when you’re tired of working)
- Kitchen (good for making tea and coffee, storing lunch in the fridge, and cooking together. Also great space for coworkers who are cooks/chefs/foodies who want to demo something new they’re trying and/or for teaching food-related classes. Yours to use as you like while you’re here Wednesdays. Tea/coffee/mugs and stuff are on the counter. Ask someone for help or dig around and figure things out for yourself.)
- Upstairs office (first door on the right at top of stairs, this space is good when you need serious quiet, hosting 4-person meetings, or need a large dry-erase board. Large monitor and ergonomic keyboard up there too.)
- Back yard (behind the house, good for warm-weather meetings, playing ball with the dogs, and taking phone calls. After hours, good for making ‘smores and having drinks and dinner.)
Some beliefs of people who’ve decided to become regulars and supporters of this space
- I can be myself here.
- I can relax and play here, not just work here.
- I’m more effective here than on my own.
- This community and neighborhood fucking rocks.
- Dogs and cats are cool coworkers.
- I can help this community.
- This space is/could become far more than just a place I do my individual work.
- Free is affordable. Working here is cheaper than working in a coffee shop.
- Trusting strangers—people who lead with trust—are innately trustworthy.
- Wow, there are better ways to work than I imagined on my own.
- Make yourself at home. Shoes on or off, your call. Put your stuff wherever you want to put it. Dig around for a cup or plate or fork in the kitchen or ask if just digging freaks you out.
- Take phone calls away from others. Good places to step to include the backyard, front porch, the media/meeting room (with door shut), and for really private calls use upstairs office (first door on right).
- Add your photo to the member board. Lori’s also happy to take your picture if you’d like.
- Use the share shelves and community bookshelves. Bottom two shelves on the back porch are where we put small free stuff for others to take: anything from dishware to office supplies to candles to dog toys. Books and games and toys on the bookshelves are borrowable.
- Make changes if you feel unhappy. If something doesn’t work for you here, talk to others and change it.
- Notice the spirit of the space and make sure it’s right for you. We aspire to be welcoming, open, generous, relaxed, fun, playful, helpful, grateful, trusting, smart, funny, and forgiving. A ragtag band of free-range chickens, cute ninjas, kind pirates, and cool neighbors learning to work and build community together.
- Ask for ideas/help with things. If you ask for help out loud, those who can help, will help. Those who can’t that moment, won’t. FYI: everything Lori is working on individually on Wednesdays can be set aside in favor of working with others. She’s a time ninja!
- Ask questions and share things while you’re here and also after work. Via after-hours hangouts, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr community photo album, front-porch gifts/swaps, for example.
- Make friends here. Life’s short. Sometimes deadlines should wait. Sometimes only with the help of friends can we make that regularly happen in our lives. Without Grady, for example, Lori forgets to eat meals.
- Tell extremely cool others about us. We’re new and growing. Please tell extremely cool others about us—those you can imagine thriving here and those you think would do us good.
- Lean on the mad ninja skills of others here. See the community skills list on the diningroom wall.
This is a fantastic post. It is overwhelmingly rich. I like your statement at the beginning “I believe that if you feel fully welcome then you will be fully welcoming”. This what prompted you later to say “.. I should not be the one who opens the door, gives the tour, and tells the stories. Someone–anyone–in the space is better suited to help a newcomer feel welcome those days”. Great, self-organizing in its fullest meaning.
I thank you for always triggering my mind. In your sound comment on my last presentation on slideshare you you made some great insights.In the presentation “The Pendulum of Societies” you expressed the view that even though the individual might be getting weaker, the sense of belonging to communities more than offset this negativity. This post is in perfect alignment with your respone. I responded twice to this comment. It is quite relevant to repeat the second response here.
An idea crossed my mind that may be worth pondering about. The decline of loyalty and other positive emotions is weakening the individual as you said. We are turning from a sand-like individuals to a clay-like individuals. Sand particles are strong and do not stick together. In contrast, clay particles are weak, but tend to stick together. The weakening of the individual is enhancing the need to stick to others. Even though the loss of strength and the tendency of the individual to become chaotic, the need to stick to others is the re-organizing factor.
Hello Ali, my friend, so nice to see you and talk with you again! Yea!
What great comments you’re getting on that latest slide deck! I’ll comment here so I can rattle on a bit.
I did not say that the decline of loyalty and other positive emotions is weakening the individual. I couldn’t say that, because I’ve not experienced that and I’m taking care to only speak from my own experience these days. I said “Human values are being pulled apart, as are our individual selves, for those of us who were taught that we are individual selves first. Often feels like diminishing to an individual–this pulling apart. Yet it feels more like stretching and expanding in these other happy-to-be-with-you collective states.” Since I’m in these other states 95+% of the time now, I don’t experience the individual as weakening (most days), I experience the individual as growing stronger as the community/culture/planet grows stronger. That’s my reality today. Not that it’s everyone’s! 🙂
I’m not in a position to see and experience the overall decline of loyalty and other positive emotions. My loyalty and positive emotions are expanding: loyalty to my planet and those that live on it as opposed to loyalty to one biological family, or region, or country (or, in the U.S., one brand, heh heh). 😉 I’m intentionally (thanks to my community) in a position to see and experience the stretching, expanding, and redefining of ourselves and our emotions, so that we can talk about that, live that, radiate that as a primarily positive thing.
Hmm, sand v clay. Neither sounds good to me as a gardener. Today I’d say that where I am we’re at a stage beyond those two. As a gardener, I’m not after sandy soil or clay soil, I’m after healthy, rich, diverse soil–a little sand or clay mixed in but also lots of decaying matter, lots of organic matter, and abundant plant and bug life. 🙂 Is that an apt metaphor? Sand>clay>healthy soil = individual>self-org group>community? Hmm, will have to think about that some more. I do know that I experience self-org groups as a good thing–a solid ground on which to stand. But also that they’re not enough to feel fully healthy. Community–with a good number of trusted strangers thrown in–feels even more healthy to me.
Ali, you always get me thinking! Hope you’re happy and well my friend.
Some friends are tiring to the mind. That is what you are with your deep thinking and great comprehension of what communities mean.
Your response inspired me with the title for my next presentation: The Tiny Shark in My Tank of Ideas. In Japan they add a tiny shark in the tank of fish. The fish out of fear keep moving and therefore arrive fresh and tasty to on-land. Your response is the tiny shark that eats up few of my ideas, but keeps most of them moving and therefore stay fresh.
What I meant by sand and clay is a metaphor for the general trend of change. I did not mean that we dispense with either of them. I did not rule out other members of the community “the vegetation, fertilizer, pebbles, humidity and so on. It is the whole family”. Sometimes changing the soil:sand ratio is extremely beneficial and sometimes it can be harmful for arid areas in which plants need more clay to store water.
A deep response that is keeping ideas moving in my head.
You’re now in a generation where people are tired of hype, tired of dreams and want to work together to get things done. Your peers want to do things that make the world a better place to live in rather than just dream about it. They recognize the problems around them and seek solutions to make things happen.
Fantastic reading. It is extracted from
Reality Branding – Are You Taking Advantage Of The 40 Year Social Pendulum?
This was a great read, thanks for the tip!
I like the idea of being a tiny shark as long as you’re also a tiny shark with me. 🙂 No, I have a better metaphor for you.
You are like a pinion pine: a desert tree that some native American communities gather nutritious pinenuts from and whose harvests are so plentiful that families spread blankets under them to catch them all. And kids walk around happily with handfuls of pinenuts in their pockets–an every day thing–while, at the same time, the nuts are so vital to their lives that they’ve also become sacred objects.
Ali = tree, Ali’s ideas = pinenuts, happy kid = me. I keep handfuls of your ideas with me at all times, carrying them around in my little kid-shark pockets to sustain me.