Josh Lipscombe from Inspire 9 taking Building a Community session

CUAsia Thailand 2017: Building a Community

“There is no cookie-cutter approach to building a community,” states Josh Lipscombe from Inspire 9, a coworking space operating in Northern Australia since 2009. He graced everyone with his presence in CUAsia 2017, where he shared a few key ingredients about building a community and ways to live up to one’s role as a community leader.

Everyone wants to and loves to celebrate wins, I mean who doesn’t like it when they finally get something right; however, we usually choose to commemorate moments that have or have had a significant impact in our lives. At inspire 9, they encourage the tiniest win you could imagine, such as sending your first invoice, according to Josh rather than celebrating the action, they prefer to honor the efforts that went into those works. It is easy to get bogged down by the day to day activities. By celebrating all the little steps along the way, it gives the residents in the space the idea that it is going to be hard, but they will eventually reach their goals.

On the flip side, mess ups are fantastic too, and Josh is a firm believer in celebrating failures since it recognizes the fact that someone has put their heart and soul into something. By acknowledging those failures you are encouraging your members not to give up, it may come in the form of a simple lunch invitation, where you bring together people who have faced similar misfortune so they can share their experiences. He states that one of the roles of the community team is to make sure that people are comfortable enough with the space to acknowledge the mess up.

The next ingredient he mentions involves connecting our community. It sounds pretty simple, but some people don’t grasp this concept. Whenever someone walks into Inspire9, they make it a point to introduce them to two people at minimum, that person could be someone who came for a tour of the space, or somebody is beginning their first day at coworking. Inspire9 is a vast space; a lot is going on in a given moment so it can be confronting for someone with a quiet personality. You would be surprised at how a mere introduction can get rid of all the nerves. Once the introduction is established, the role of the community team is to understand who the newcomers are, then it is all about planting the seeds to make sure those people are connected to the right people. Josh stresses the importance of knowing who occupies the space and what they expect from the space, not everybody wants to form connections or know everyone’s name, but there are a lot of people who do, and those who don’t want something else. You could connect people through a project, or even over shared hobbies or interests.

Josh feels that there is a compelling connection between asking people for help and encouraging them to take ownership of the space. When that happens they will want to contribute; for example – there were two festivals in Melbourne where two Inspire9 staffs had to manage their respective booths, people from the community offered to man the booth for them so they could enjoy a reprieve. There are a lot of spaces that don’t necessarily have that kind of culture or the type of people who offer to take the initiative.  Inspire9 relies heavily on their community to help them out because once people see that vulnerability, they are much more inclined to get involved and put forth that extra effort.

The final ingredient to an impressive coworking space is an excellent community team. Inspire9 is very flat-structured, everyone their operates on an equal and informal basis, this encourages other teams and residents to step up and take control. There may be times when you come across a newcomer who is shy and does not know for sure how to tap into the resources the space provides. As community team leader, you should take the time to understand who is in our space, and that means spending one on one time with your members.  You must aim to be 100% onboard with bringing people out of the comfort zone because you want to provide your members with the opportunity to tap into their full potential. Josh ended the session with the following words, “To build an environment for people to grow, a lot of it depends on the community team, how we can lead by example because we are all awesome!!


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