Social Responsibility as a Coworking Space: what does it mean?
This blog was first published in Dutch on Smart WP
Community and social responsibility are not new ideas for coworking spaces. Many coworking spaces focus on some aspects of social good or individual development, and approaches can run the gamut from working against loneliness for coworkers to supporting local poverty initiatives all the way up to executing plans to change the way business is done.
But most spaces never really sit down and formalise an approach and a structure. Publically committing to being a force for social good has its own value and there are many ways to approach this. Coworking spaces working as a team, within our own communities, can improve our chances of reaching our goals and realising our goals of social responsibility.
The truth of the matter is that social responsibility is a broad and complex question, and it is worth examining all the aspects in a comprehensive way and measure your business against a set of standards. It is also useful to make a public commitment to social responsibility in order to ensure that it is at the heart of your business.
One commonly adopted approach for this is to have your company certified as what is called a B Corporation. From a B Corporation perspective it is important to integrate B Corp commitments to all your stakeholders into the documents governing your company. These commitments include indicators of social and environmental performance. There are five core elements of becoming a B Corp: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers.
Why is B Corp certification so important you might ask? When a business is certified as a B Corp, they are demonstrating that they are committed to a specific set of business best practices that promote positive environmental and social change.
To become a B Corp, a business must become aware of the full picture of its social impact, as well as the social responsibilities that it needs to undertake and maintain.
Coworking spaces and their social responsibility
According to Gareth I. Jones, founder of TownSq, coworking spaces are in the business of bringing people together, which is creating new commons and new environments for people to meet like minded people in their community.
Gareth says that coworking spaces are also doing their part by further supporting and fostering entrepreneurship, developing startups, creating employment and economic benefits that come from having growing companies in an area.
Taking on social responsibility
Working towards being socially responsible is a large and complex task. But, it’s about knowing where the end goal lies.
Gareth draws a parallel to the campaign about the use of plastic straws. The idea is clear. Plastic straws are single use, they get thrown out, they pollute the environment and our oceans and can potentially kill a turtle. This is a clear message with a single axis, and it, therefore, catches on and spreads quickly. These kinds of simple ideas can have power, but they seldom strike at the core of a hard problem.
With a clear, bite sized campaign, it is easy to see the end goal: stop using plastic straws. Other tasks are more complex, like creating an inclusive community and space, or ensuring that your customers and workers are happy.
But, once a goal is set out, broken into actionable goals, and a clear line is drawn to the end, it becomes easier to tackle the task and eventually successfully complete it.
It is also important to note that working together as a team is far more valuable than trying to approach a task alone, says Gareth. Tasks can be split up into smaller tasks and can be completed by team members. It lessens the burden and helps reach the end goal.
Where to start
As a coworking space, it might seem daunting at first to try and achieve all of your social responsibility goals. Sometimes It is better to start small and work your way up.
Gareth suggests starting a challenge that you have lived experience of, or one in which you have a personal stake.Gareth says that you might get knocked back more than once, but it is your duty to get up and keep trying until you have reached the end goal.
According to Gareth it also teaches an important lesson: you cannot ever truly solve a crisis or solve the problem, but you can alter it or you can influence it or you can shift its direction.
Gareth gives an important piece of advice: “Try and move away from a completionist mentality”. It is better to look at all of the elements and realise that there are many stakeholders involved whose concerns need to be addressed, and who also can add more solutions as well. It is also important to realise that you are part of a team and working together will help you reach the end goal.
“The wider thinking about systems change is quite interesting. Finding something which gets your heart beating, gets your pulse racing, something that you care about enough to keep learning more about and be committed to, takes some of the pressure off your shoulders,” says Gareth.
Social responsibility is part of being a coworking space, whether you are working towards a B Corp or not. As a coworking space, community is important and falls under the goals of your social responsibility. So, find something that quickens your heart rate and see where it leads you.