Coworking as Community-Building

This is a bit off-topic for this blog, but trust me: the connections to freelance technical writing will become clear.

I’ve written now and then about coworking as an alternative to the home office. I’ve been alternating between coworking and working from home for a year now, since my friend Cynthia Dailey and her husband Jay opened up ScribbleSpace in an area of Southwest Orange County called Horizon West. The place continues its mission of providing a quiet, amenity-driven office space for laptop workers tired of working at Panera or Starbucks. But Cynthia has had bigger plans, and those plans are being realized.

A little background on the area: ScribbleSpace is in a housing development called Summerport Village, in an area that is unincorporated but currently carries a Windermere, FL, zip code. Summerport was supposed to have a “town center” model of development, where you have mixed housing (homes, town houses, apartments) and commercial/retail properties all contained within a relatively small geographical area to make things feel cozy and “walking distance.” Celebration, Florida, was the first place I saw this type of layout, but it has since spread across the country.

The developers built the Summerport housing first, but the 2008 financial crisis put a stop to the commercial areas–the place where ScribbleSpace is now–and is really getting going now. At present, there is one street ending in a cul-de-sac with commercial spaces on both sides, open space for potential restaurant properties at the end of the street, and apartments above the commercial spaces. Across the street is the local park. Additional commercial space is in development a block away. So slowly but surely, Summerport Village is acquiring the look and feel it was designed to have.

My friend Cynthia wants more than just additional stores in her neighborhood, she wants to help build a community, which is a bit different. A town is where you live, a community is where you belong. And so to facilitate that “belonging” feeling, Cynthia has been using ScribbleSpace as a location not just a place to get work-from-home types out of their homes but also a place where classes, events, and other activities can happen…if not in the space, then right outside or nearby. She even indulges me as I do a citizen science project using the dirt from the office front yard. This past weekend, for example, Summerport Village hosted a Health & Wellness Fest in the park across the street on Saturday and a farmer’s market at the end of the cul-de-sac on Sunday, and of course ScribbleSpace took part (I was at the desk in case anyone happened to drop in).

These events came about in part because of the contacts Cynthia made with the people who came in to ScribbleSpace looking for somewhere to work. Those people included a health/wellness coach and a physical trainer. And those people knew people…and so now the neighborhood is getting a wellness fair. That’s how these things work.

I know, you’re supposed to be at a coworking spot to work, but really the important ingredient that these locations provide is the opportunity for the laptop worker to work in the company of other people. You can work from home, and I do for days or weeks at a time, but there is something to be said for being able to talk shop, network, or just socialize with other adults. In such wise I joined a session with the wellness coach on healthy eating and also acquired a new financial advisor. I haven’t gotten any new customers–yet–but I have worked with the customers I have at ScribbleSpace and they’ve learned to like it, too. So if you haven’t given coworking a try, you might at least consider it, especially if the local place turns out to be as community-minded as Cynthia. It’s a different way of belonging without joining a company–you are still a freelancer, but now you have a community as well.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Directior, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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