What the heck is Coworking?


Yesterday I had an interesting debate with Dutch Design Workspace(@ddwschina) on twitter about the definition of Coworking in respond to my speech at 3rdspaceconference about “Coworking in China”. In this speech, I referred to the term of Coworking as the narrow sense of “Coworking Space”, which was used firstly in 2005 by Brad Neuberg to describe a physical space which he firstly called ‘9 to 5 group’, and soon became the growing worldwide movement of independent café-like community spaces for freelance professionals and early stage startups. A Coworking Space is normally built organically upon an existing coworking communities and operated under the values of “Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability” and share information and knowledge freely among one another and numerous web or event based platforms have been created to serve that purpose. At Xindanwei, we have been actively contributing our knowledge and experience about coworking through online platforms, conferences, events, and lately introduced Coworking Manual apps.

Yet by means the term “coworking” stands for something much broader, it means a new way of working, which is co-operative, open, collaboration & network based rather than singular, isolated and individual based.  It was firstly coined by American game designer and fun theorist Bernie DeKoven in 1999 as “computer-supported collaborative work”, however, for people who works in the creative disciplines, collaborative way of working is an essential way to tackle complex problems emerged in our rapid-changing world and generate novel ideas and effective solutions, because creative ideas and solutions are often the result of combined efforts of a team or group of creative minds, and often arise in collaboration when people share their ideas and for example build links and find analogies.

One of my favorite Dutch Architects Ben van Berkel has been researching extensively on the network practice of architect and collaborative process which he named as”liquid architect“. He pointed out:

“Network practice allows architects to be involved with design, technique, detail and execution by building close working relationships with other experts…The empowering quality of the new co-operative process derives from the increased transferability of knowledge. Strategic forms of co-operation may include structural engineers, industrial, new media and graphic designers, cost calculators, management, consultants, process specialists, stylists and photographers. Made possible by the use of new technology, relevant knowledge stored inside all of these disciplines becomes available due to connectedness. As an expert on everyday public information, the policy of the architect is not to improve society by providing the best understanding of it, but simply to collect information that is potentially structuring, to co-ordinate it, transform it, and to offer a centralising vision on the basis of that information.”(The new concept of the architect, UN studio)

Another example would be the in-house projects established by one of the largest advertising agencies Wieden+Kennedy in their different locations worldwide to attract and engage with multidisciplinary creatives “at the forefront of technology, arts and commerce” and to adapt themselves “in a dynamic world”.

In fact, in a world of widely distributed knowledge, most of the companies and organizations cannot afford to rely entirely on their own internal talents and resources to stay innovative and competitive, more and more open innovation models such as user innovation, participatory design, crowdsourcing and know-how trading. Coworking will continue to act as the stimuli and catalyst of knowledge sharing, serendipity and accumulation, as well as the vehicle of co-creation and co-development. Our next challenge would be: how do we integrate these random creativity and novel idea’s generated by group dynamic and interactivity with the existing business model and come up with  abundance innovation outcomes? I am here to learn.

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From Self Reflection to Self Mastery (my THNK experience – 2)

From the moment our THNK mentor announced that we needed to pair up three in a group to conduct peer-coaching through out the program, I knew I would have a hard time to find someone to coach me. And it happened exactly as I expected. For a moment I was surrounded by shame, fear and disappointment and couldn’t help to express them instantly. A few minutes later I was surprisingly relieved about this sudden emotional downturn as I realized I was no longer controlling these vulnerabilities as described in the TEDtalk by Brene Brown, I accepted their existence, and I felt safe to expose them to my THNK peers, and enjoyed being imperfect as the way it was.

This is a painful but extremely inspiring personal journey I have been going through THNK – from self reflection to self mastery. Self reflection is built upon the awareness through examining our body gesture and movement by practicing standing, walking and waving together; it is built upon the ability to recognize your inner voices, a practice we have done with Eric Fox through the Passion and Purpose Dialogue; it is also built upon the open, honest and whole-hearted learning environment where everyone has opened up their true selves and is ready to build connection with one another and celebrate mistakes.

Living in a chaotic city like shanghai, it is hard to keep standing still while everyone around is moving like craze. Yet, very often, being still is an extremely powerful status and approach to cope with chaos: being still  means we treat ourselves fairly and with compassion, accept our own weakness, conflicts among our own different personalities and the challenges we are facing to stay calm and burden-free; being still means receiving, listening, absorbing rather than giving, creating noise and pushing, it charges us before we take any movement and avoid being over stretched or even get hurt by exhaustion; being still will help us to sense where the direction of different forces flow and borrow these energy to optimize the outcomes; most importantly, being still will help to have a clearer view about the environment around us and empower people around us with trust, courage and honesty.

(to be continued)ImageImage

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“Sometimes you have to travel far to find home” (My Thnk Experience – 1)

When I stood with a group of 30 “creative leaders” in circle to practice Qi Gong  in the westerpark of Amsterdam with my boots half soaked in the morning dew, I was both entertained and amazed: Am I just traveling half around the globe to learn Chinese Qi Gong  which seems comprising no more than standing and waving like a tree, holding an invisible balloon or water melon, and walking backward like all the old couples in my neighborhood parks?

This is the daily “body and mind” early morning exercises of THNK – the Amsterdam school of Creative Leaderships, a program I was invited to attend as the founding participant and help to re-shape: “We build our airplane as we fly it” as the faculty staff repeated several times modestly during the entire week. And I love every bit of it!

Let’s start with the most scary part of it: “Everyone walk around in the room naked or half naked holding a mirror reflecting one another.” Of course I don’t mean the real nudity as you see in the nude beach ( that would be good, actually), this is the self reflection and peer reflection process everyone must go through to establish the real mind connection, trust and honesty. We started with the wadlopen in the wetsuit feel like hi jacket, a hiking tour of 4.5 hours in the mud of north sea. I mentally and physically rejected this exercise as I have asthma and I have done it 10 years ago, so I decided to skip it within 200 meters and went with water-taxi and reached the destination Ameland in 15 minutes.

Followed by the story-telling session where you must tell three life-changing personal stories to your peers, life story line drawing(with X line as time and Y line as your self-definition), 30/30 exposing yourself to the world(30 seconds staring at everyone in the eyes plus 30 seconds making speech about the spontaneous feeling on the spot), we started to build a 3D picture about everyone in the room and enormous curiosity among one another. I found myself extremely fascinated by the story telling session, it is such an interesting and effective way of opening up yourself to be emotionally tied. I don’t even remember what I have told my peers, the only thing stroke me was that when people told stories to me, I had no difficulties at all to come up with more similar experience stories to build upon others to be engaged and integrate everyone’s stories as part of my own ones. I decided to do this on regular basis with people in my work and my life.

The 30/30 part was a tricky one. Imagine yourself stand in a center of 30 something half strangers staring at you, and making notes about your appearance and quick impression, some people reacted in a very radical way, some almost ended into sweat and tears. I was told by others my appearance was indeed the unforgettable as I left the center stage and walked to everyone and confronted them with a smiling gaze and closed fist: powerful, daring, different but threatening, unintentionally, this was the first image I have created for myself among others and I have spent at least 60 hours of that week trying to play the opposite to see how it went.. (To be continued)ImageImage

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Encounter Four Social Entrepreneurs 与四位社会企业家相遇

There are different reasons for different people to attend Skoll World Forum, for me, the reason is simple, I wanted to meet people who do amazing things and get inspired by them. This inspiration will empower me to carry on the difficult job I chose for myself as a social entrepreneur. It worked, when I walked out of the conference venue, I was driven by so much compassion and love, I almost wanted to hug everyone on the street.  – SKOLL World forum has been a spa to my mind and consciousness.


I have met many really interesting people in the past SKOLL forum and on my way back via London, but only with very few of them I have had chance to strike some really sound conversations.  In order to frame their profile more precisely for my readers, I have followed up with a simple formatted interview with them by email(got inspired by the video interview approach by Social Edge).


1, Who are you and what do you do?
2, What make you most passionate about?
3, What are your key messages and advices to other social entrepreneurs in the world?
4, what are the project you are working on in China? (optional)

Here goes:

Patrick Meier: 帕得里克. 梅尔

1. I’m a scholar-practitioner; I work for an African non-profit technology company called Ushahidi, which means “witness” in Swahili. We design free and open source platforms for live, collaborative mapping. We believe in democratizing map-making to give more people voices and we believe that live maps are more powerful than static maps. My role at Ushahidi is to interface between the company and the humanitarian, human rights, development, grassroots and activist communities to catalyze partnerships and live maps using the Ushahidi platform.


2. I’m passionate about using technology to change the balance of power in favor of individual freedom, self-determination and self-sufficiency vis-a-vis institutions, organizations, companies and governments. I believe technology can create social capital, strong and weak ties, which facilitates collective action and political, economic social change. I’m particularly passionate about using technology to empower marginalized communities and give voice to the voiceless.


3. My first piece of advice to other social entrepreneurs is first to focus on people, then process and then technology, in that order. We need to make sure that all our efforts are people-centered and hence participatory and sustainable, from design stage to implementation stage. The first step to people-centered projects is to listen. My second piece of advice is not to be afraid to burn bridges if this means standing up for your own principles and what you think is right. My third piece of advice is to always admit when you’re wrong and learn from your mistakes.

我对社会企业家的第一个忠告是:首先要以人为中心,其次才是过程和技术,这才是正确得先后顺序。我们必须保证我们所有的努力从设计阶段到实践阶段都是以人为本,是可以参与的,可持续的。以人为本的第一步就是倾听。我的第二个忠告是如果你坚信你的原则和判断,就别怕 “切断后路”;我的第三个忠告是,要勇于承认错误,并从错误中吸取教训。

4. The project in China is focused on giving residents in Beijing a greater say on their public transportation infrastructure. The idea is to crowdsource feedback on how to improve public transportation and to map these results in order to inform policy change on this topic.


Sharon Chang 莎朗. 张

1. I am trained as a designer and architect, but ended up with a career in brand strategy, media and entertainment. In 2010 I began devoting full-time attention to building a social venture called Yoxi, with the mission to discover rockstars in social innovation to inspire mainstream action. Having worked across design, technology, marketing and entertainment, and being very active in philanthropic work, I discovered major gaps in all of these practices and have come to realize that I can use my experience to connect seemingly unrelated dots and make changing the world be “play” rather than “work” for everyone.


2. This may sound like an overly simple and obvious thing, but i am most passionate about teaching people how to enjoy life while having a positive impact on others, as self-fulfilment leads to compassion and generosity.  I love possibilities and hate negativity.  I get excited about being able to inspire people to believe in themselves, think big and do amazing things while having fun. I think if everyone can be a little more curious, playful, fearless and open-minded, then the world would be a better place. This notion of having fun in life also leads me to be super passionate about a few other things: i am addicted to travel, I love great food, i appreciate fine craftsmanship and beautiful designs, and i am a big animal-lover.

也许我热爱的东西看似过份简单: 我非常喜欢教给别人如何享受生活,同时用自己积极乐观的态度去影响他人,因为奋发努力的人往往富有同情心并慷慨大度。我热爱积极上进,讨厌消极堕落。如果能够让他人收到启发并因此而相信自己,建立崇高的理想,开始从事伟大的事业并从中享受快乐,我会感到兴奋。我想如果每个人都可以多一点好奇心,多一点乐趣,多一点无畏,多一点开放的心态,这个世界将会更加美好。为了让生活充满更多的乐趣,我热衷于旅游,美食,我崇拜高超的手工艺及美丽的设计,同时我还是个爱动物的人。

3. Be fearless and show up everyday to pursue your dream. It really is as simple as showing up, doing everything you can do, and continue to believe in new possibilities. Success and failure are both transient, don’t let success blind your vision or failure destroy your confidence. Of course everything feels extremely challenging – If it were easy then someone would have done it already. Also, remind yourself to think differently all the time. Have a dialogue with your ideas,  give them room to evolve, don’t get stuck on one version and let it block your creativity. Stay connected to people, be open to share and collaborate. Most importantly, be optimistic: know that your effort is a stream that flows into the larger river of positive change – anything is possible.


Telle Whitney 泰勒. 惠特尼

1,  I am the CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI).   ABI is a non-profit that works with industry and academia to recruit, retain and advance technical women, and we have recently embarked on an effort to create a global movement of individuals and organization to change the culture of technology for technical women.  Our programs include the well known conference the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, as well as a number of important awards and scholarships.  In 2009, for the first time, we offered the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Bangalore, India.  We plan to continue our offerings worldwide. What makes ABI unique is its focus not only on the community of technical women, but on impacting the culture of technology for technical women.


2,  The wonderful part of my job is to see the impact we have on people’s lives, especially young women. For example, I was recently talking to a young woman who is debating between graduate school and a job in industry.  She had applied to graduate school last year, but was not able to find the right position.  This year she has two offers for graduate school fellowships, and an offer to work in industry. All of the choices came from people she met at the Grace Hopper Conference.   What was most rewarding to me was coaching her to understand what really matters to her.  She has decided to go to Graduate school, and I am very excited.  Our programs impact the lives of thousands of women, especially at critical decision points in their lives.


3,   My advice would be:

  • Be true to your passion, that more than any other factor will carry you through to success
  • Develop a business plan and a business model, understanding what your customers want and need, and how you can uniquely provide a product
  • Find great people, and hire them.  They more than anything else will help you succeed.
  • Be confident in your own abilities, especially through the difficult times.
  • Seek advice from many especially those with different perspectives, and listen

3,- 相信你的激情,你的激情是支持你走向成功最重要的因素。





Anna Maybank 安娜. 梅班克

1, I’m co-founder and director of Social Innovation Camp, a launchpad and accelerator for technology-based social ventures. We match up software developers, designers and people who understand a social problem to help build web and mobile-based solutions to social challenges.


2, Human creativity and how you unlock it.


3. For anyone trying to create something new, one of the most important skills you can learn is to balance having a tough skin and being persistent in the face of being told ‘no’ a lot, with the ability to change what you’re doing and listen to constructive criticism. That combination of single-minded vision and the self-awareness to change direction when you recognise you’re wrong is tough to maintain, but so important.




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Maximize the Full Potential of Being a Social Business in China

To be quite honest, I wasn’t very familiar with the term “ Social Entrepreneur” when I was invited last year by the Skoll World Forum to speak about it. Still today, when I ask many social entrepreneurs in China about their entrepreneurship, they have no idea what I am talking about.  As a matter of fact, the change-makers in my surroundings who are in the stage of forming or operating socially responsible businesses, do not position themselves in a certain high moral position and take external support for granted.


They are, just like any other entrepreneurs, going through all the same phases all the startups have to go through.  Learn about the business environment, build the capacity of the organization, talk to the government, talk to the investors, talk to everyone who is able bring resources to the organization. Figure out the product or the service, the price, the promotion and find market places to sell the product or service, and figure out their unique selling points compared to the (very often commercial) competitors.


It is a perfect mentality to consider social business to be not so different from non-social business and apply professionalism in strategic planning and execution, however, there are some really powerful things about social business that these entrepreneurs tend to ignore or are not aware of, which are also something important I want to learn and take back home from Skoll World Forum.


1 – The power of the followers and supporters. Who are the better marketers than the people who love and admire your ideals and actions! Not everyone can be a leader or initiative taker, but definitely everyone can be a follower or supporter to other’s good initiatives. The Internet allows everyone to become a follower or supporter by a few simple clicks.


2 – The power of peer-to-peer supports among other social business, leads to accelerated serenity and innovation. Social entrepreneurs are mostly likeminded people: we are small and vulnerable but with big hearts, and we are dying to meet people like us.  Since everyone comes from different backgrounds and disciplines, we are able to learn about things we don’t know to get inspired, exchange our resources to help each other and even collaborate.


3 – Media exposure.  In China, the press just loves social entrepreneurs and new types of businesses! Since our establishment two years ago, we receive calls and emails from journalists and editors every week!  We are all over the place: CNN, Global Times, Oriental Morning Daily, Southern China Daily, Urban Pictorial, Vision.  And the interesting thing is, different press has elaborated our stories from different angels, which gives a lot of inspiration in positioning ourselves to different markets.


4 – Free resources from other social-minded organizations and businesses. As a matter of fact, it is not only journalists who will come to find you. In our case, businesses regardless of their sizes, event organizers, investors, museums, PR companies, real estate developers all find our business interesting and valuable. They have their specific needs in mind, for instance, attracting customers, bringing added-value to their service, creating media exposure, and in return, they will give us their resource for free.


How did we do it?


1 – Crowd sourcing, crowd funding, crowd wisdom, you name it! Explore the full potential of social media! Simple steps would be establishing fans/support community and groups on social media platforms, starting to write a blog or micro-blog to inform and interact with the community, find ways to mobilize talents in the community and reward them!


2 – Find and meet other social entrepreneurs.   Set up and attend regular lunch or network events to stay in touch with all the social entrepreneur peers in town.


3 – Talk loud, spread the “Social Message” everywhere! Speak at as many public events as possible, organize our own free or paid events to tell everyone about us, continuously.  Make a big deal about every single media exposure and let everyone see it, very often people could understand your business better through the interpretation of others, especially journalists.


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刚刚在上海飞往伦敦的航班上看了一部根据Kazuo Ishiguro 同名小说改编的英国电影:Never let me go。看到电影结尾的时候我的五脏六腑全部都揪在一起,一直等到演职员表走到最后,才绝望地发现导演狠心地没有留下任何后话,那种伤感,绝望,难受和恐惧几乎使我呕吐。
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Skoll, 我又来了!

下周二我又要赶赴牛津参加在英国牛津大学举办的Skoll社会企业家精神国际论坛(Skoll World Forum),不同的是这次是以blogger的身份参加这次社会企业领域最重要的国际盛会。 我和这个SKOLL论坛太有缘分了,它给我创造了两次“人生第一次”的体验: 第一次做有关社会企业的演讲,第一次以blogger的身份飞了几万里参加国际论坛。

讲出来自己也有点不敢相信, 去年受到Isaac的推荐得到SKOLL国际论坛的邀请去牛津演讲, 自己完全没有听说过SKOLL,更不知道自己需要讲些什么。回家后好好做了一下调研, 才搞清楚Skoll是个什么样的论坛, 都是什么人参加,以及什么叫做社会企业,什么叫社会企业家精神。补完课忽然恍然大悟,原来自己做得事情也属于这个社会企业范畴。



Skoll基金会的创始人Jeff Skoll曾经是ebay的第一任总裁,这个工作经历为他积累了一大笔财富。离开ebay之后Jeff Skoll创立了Skoll基金会,同时进入了电影圈创立自己的电影公司Participant Production做制片人,从2004年开始先后制作了多部在国际上屡获大奖的纪录片,最有名就是有关全球变暖的《难以忽视的真相》, 探讨了美国公立教育体系现存的问题的《等待超人》以及揭示美国垃圾食品黑幕的《快餐国家》等。Jeff Skoll是美国投身公益事业的最杰出的企业家之一,他所创立的Skoll基金会在过去的十年间,用2.5亿美元的资金支持了全世界81位杰出的社会企业家和66所社会组织,居同类基金会首位。


在牛津的经历是兴奋而短暂的,我就像是刘姥姥走进大观园似的参加各种丰富有趣的论坛活动安排。结识了很多从事伟大事业的朋友,除了同一个论坛版块的讲者Creative Commons 前总裁伊藤穰一先生(Joi Ito),为争取穆斯林妇女权力的著名社会活动家和记者Mona Eltahawy女士, 论坛主持人TED欧洲总裁Bruno Giussani 之外,我还结识了social edge团队的所有成员和我最喜欢的网站change.org上的博客作家Nathaniel Whittemore

除了SKOLL本身的活动之外,我还意外地发现了位于论坛活动地点对面的咖啡馆“果酱工厂”(The Jam Factory, 原来的果酱制造厂)也在进行一场“牛津果酱峰会”(Oxford Jam)的草根式国际论坛,与SKOLL相比,这个“果酱峰会”的参与者无拘无束,空间里用晾衣绳挂满了各式各样地名片,人人三三两两地抱着大号咖啡杯窃窃私语,咖啡馆的一边有一群人围在一起严肃地探讨社会企业的国际加盟模式,另一边横七竖八地斜躺着一群人在进行“反抗贫穷”的小型拍卖会,拍卖的物品是用公平贸易棉花制作的内裤,还有人嬉笑着把内裤顶在头上。这个轻松愉快地氛围让我感觉又好像回到了“新单位”的家。

今年参加Skoll不用演讲,这给了我充分的时间和精力好好研究今年论坛的话题和讲者,第一个印象是今年的Skoll留了很多版块给中国(去年我是唯一一个来自中国大陆的演讲者):这次的social reporter报导团队五分之二来自于中国(一共五个人,除了我之外,另一位social reporter是中国对话China Dialogue的总编Isabel Hilton), 另外还有一个版块特别留出来讨论中国公民社会的发展问题,由Cynthia Dai主持,发言人有shokay的联合创始人 Marie SO,半边天基金会的创始人Jenny Bowen,Venture Avenue的创始人张红斌以及社会企业的投资人Yvonne Li。



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