For Eric van den Broek, cofounder of Mutinerie Coworking in Paris, theCoworking Visa does not cover every base, which makes coworkers with more specific needs longing for more. Van den Broek told Deskmag, “I think that the Coworking Visa is a great idea and it proves that coworking spaces are willing to cooperate. However, it needs to be a bit more organized.”
Emergence of CoPass
Thus, there is CoPass, which shares the same vision as the Coworking Visa in terms of collaborative and mobile coworking. The idea is based on a network of global collaborative spaces and also offers two different versions – a free and premium option and also a group feature.
“The free version would be a better organized version of the Coworking Visa, enriched with social functionalities and a better data visualization. The premium version is a card on which you can buy credit that you can then use in any space of the network at a discount, whereas the group feature enables groups of people to tap into this same credit,” said Van den Broek.
He also added that CoPass would eventually have social features that CoPassers can use to get in touch and also share online.
CoPass: A More Mobile and Collaborative Lifestyle
Founded almost two years ago and progressively tweaked, the idea of CoPass came about during a coworking conference in Berlin, when Van den Broek met Stefano Borghi of Cowo360 in Rome. They mused over the possibility of being able to work from anywhere and also the ability to find cool folks looking to collaborate. Thus, the skeletal framework of CoPass was realized. However, it was only until three months ago that the two seriously dedicated themselves to the idea, and CoPass is now in the process of becoming a reality.
Van den Broek explained, “Now that our spaces start to be more autonomous, it’s time for us to go to the next step: connecting the spaces to make mobility even easier and to propose a completely new lifestyle.” He continued by saying, “We want CoPass to become a central platform for people and groups of people aiming for a more mobile and collaborative lifestyle.”
How CoPass Works
To ensure that this mobility and collaboration comes with more structure, these are some of the ways that CoPass is implemented:
CoPass is designed for frequent use, whether the person is a permanent member of a space or not. CoPass works in the same city and members can use it on a daily basis to switch between space A and B. It also enables groups of people to work in different coworking spaces with one single account, and offers community oriented services. For instance, CoPassers will be able to know which other CoPassers work and in what space, as a way to facilitate connection. If needed, they could even crash at a fellow CoPassers’ home. Spaces that host with CoPass receive a compensation for the services that they offer.
“We will also ask CoPassers to let us know when they want to go somewhere where there is no space yet. Then we identify a cool space, contact him and add him to the network. We don’t aim as much for quantity as we do for quality of spaces and local communities. We want CoPassers to have great experiences compassing,” reiterated Van den Broek.
LEXC – League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces
At the other end of the world, in the United States, another coworking program called the LEXC – League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces shares some similar functions and values as CoPass – especially in the way that they value mobility and quality.
Since the idea sprung forth at a coworking conference in 2011, LEXC now has six venues in the US that include Nextspace in San Francisco,Blankspaces in Los Angeles and Link Coworking in Austin. The founding spaces all cater to corporate users, and share the same goal of wanting to set up a national organization where members can use other spaces through this organization. With this in mind, LEXC wants to team up with coworking spaces that execute in similar ways. At the moment, LEXC has 24 participating spaces around the US and continues to grow, with plans to go global in the future.
Jerome Chang, secretary of LEXC said, “We have applicants from Brazil, Australia and Canada already. We want to go global at some point, but we want to make sure that our home front works first.”
How LEXC Works
Claimed to be the world’s first coworking loyalty program, LEXC brands itself as a unique network of coworking spaces with a common standard of excellence.
This is how it works: as members of any LEXC venue, you can enjoy trusted access and full privileges at any other venue in the network. If you are a member of one LEXC venue, you are now a member of all LEXC venues. The concept also builds upon the Coworking Visa but in Chang’s opinion, the Visa may be well intentioned, but “it varies from location to location even though it is international.”
“LEXC wants to make sure that there is consistency – we want to be one single voice for coworking, a representative voice for all the spaces under it,” he continued by saying that “The Coworking Visa is usually for three visits, but our concept focuses on building awareness. We want to become the first space that people approach when they want to know about coworking and what coworking can do.”
The Loopholes of the Visa
The Coworking Visa, which was introduced in 2011, encompasses a more freewheeling approach. It allows active members of one space to use other coworking spaces around the world for free or usually three days, but terms vary from space to space. This has sometimes caused confusion for coworkers and the associate coworking spaces.
Broek, also added, “Using the Visa can be a bit messy today. Some of our coworkers we sent abroad were welcome by a terrible “what’s the coworking visa?”
This lack of knowledge of the Visa is also shown in Deskmag’s 3rd Global Coworking Survey in 2012/2013. According to the survey, 48% of the people who work at more than one coworking space only are not using the visa because they don’t know what it is, and 7% thinks that it is too complicated.
This is where programs like CoPass and LEXC come in, with a set of requirements and structure, which may make the process easier and more accessible.
For example, both programs have their own requirements based on a set of values, which may be intrinsic in the Coworking Visa, but explicitly set out by CoPass and LEXC.
For CoPass, when you register as a space or member, you will have to abide by a certain number of rules.
“They have to share similar values like openness, collaboration, accessibility, community, and most importantly, trust,” said Van den Broek. “As long as you are trustworthy you can benefit from CoPass services. As soon as you try to screw the system, you’re kicked out.”
This makes sure that members who use this do not abuse the system.
“We also want spaces that join to feel as part of the network. We don’t want any situation where a CoPasser comes to a space and the guy welcoming him does not remember what CoPass is. Spaces have to commit to welcome CoPass members well,” concluded Van den Broek.
Similarly for LEXC, values and standards are important. Member spaces have to go through a stringent interview process and founding members will be selected based on how they think the spaces function with customer service, such as their culture or management.
A Special Tool for Organization
It also has a special way of streamlining its operation and connecting its members without creating a mess- through Liquid Space, an online coworking directory, which is involved as a founding sponsor and key enabler of LEXC. Their platform provides the real-time trusted sharing system that lets LEXC manages permissions and privileges for shared members (via visas) and share inventory in real-time.
Any member of an LEXC coworking space can freely reserve a work and meeting space anywhere in the LEXC network using the web and mobile (iPhone/Android) booking interfaces. Once members arrive at their reserved venue, the platform provides authentication, automates check in, and unlocks amenities and special LEXC member privileges so they can get to work.
“Liquid Space is generally simpler and more technology friendly. All LEXC members use Liquid Space on some level to facilitate the visa between us,” said Chang
Developing National Partnerships to Reap Benefits
At the moment, LEXC is also trying to develop national partnerships with some corporations so that all venues in LEXC benefit from the partnership.
“Next Space, one of our founding venues, partners with an HR outsourcing company called TriNet and they can broker some good pricing and incentives with TriNet. Now we want to include the rest of LEXC into that partnership so all members benefit from this,” Chang told Deskmag.
Organizing a Standard of Excellence
Best practices, high standards and an organized structure, are just a few of the things that these programs advocate, while simultaneously keeping the original idea of the visa’s mobility and geniality.
For Van den Broek, the Copass opens up to a whole new world of coworking. “I think such a solution will make a lot of people that like coworking, but do not use it today, go into coworking spaces. I think groups of people (companies or global communities like Ouishare for instance), ultra nomad workers that usually go to cafés and home workers can now go in coworking spaces when they are traveling.”
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