April 2016

Coworking spaces, social entrepreneurship and the future…

Coworking spaces, social entrepreneurship and the future of Europe: From Davos to Lesvos

Vasili Sofiadellis has been going to Lesvos, the birthplace of his parents, every year for the last 10 years. Last year he traveled to the Greek island with his colleague Paul Keursten, founder of OPEN coworking in South Africa, and was immediately struck by the weight of the current refugee crisis affecting Europe today. Lesvos has seen one of the largest concentrations of individuals fleeing their war-torn countries.

While the greek people have been extremely supportive during this crisis, bringing much-needed aid to the hundreds of refugees arriving each day on their shores, Vasili saw that there was also a need for something more sustainable. As over an estimated 1,011,700 imigrants arrived in 2015, it is now essential that Europe begins to carve out solutions on not just how to deal with the immediate circumstances, but how to create long-term acceptance and opportunities for both refugees and European citizens to embrace a brighter future.

After months of planning and establishing partnerships with various players in the startup academic and political world, including the mayor of Lesvos, BeyondCSRNet and Visions2Ventures  are now preparing to launch their newest initiative: “Coworking spaces, social entrepreneurship and the future of Europe: From Davos to Lesvos. Appropriately taking place on the upcoming Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity, the event will be on May 9th, at the Lesvos town hall, and aims to find ways to address the current humanitarian crisis through the engagement of European citizens and the entrepreneurial spirit

By bringing together diverse stakeholders who will represent these refugee communities, as well as academic institutions, entrepreneurs, and investors, “the event will aim to co-create a productive environment where the community will develop tangible and sustainable solutions in order to best responding to the multidimensional challenges of humanitarian crisis”. In addition, they will also live stream of the day’s talks and workshops across their network of European coworking spaces that have shown solidarity and support to redefining Europe.The primary goal of the initiative will be to launch an inclusive and collaborative platform based on a network of coworking spaces across Europe that will ultimately act as a catalyst for systemic change.

Earlier this year, we spoke with Vasili about what inspired him initially to start this initiative, which came from a deep realization that many of the refugees coming over to Europe are hindered by negative views created through widespread media coverage as well as the economic difficulties faced by European citizens in recent years. What Vasili and other initiatives exploring potential solutions to the refugee crisis, like Startupboat, noticed first and foremost was that many of the migrants making their way to Europe are highly educated  and only left their homes as they had no other choice.

In this realization, he saw the potential for creating a community which would lead to a brighter future for these refugees. “It is imperative for Europe not only embrace these people but to also create an enabling environment for them to integrate into communities by providing them with the opportunities through which they can become self-sustainable,” explained Vasili.

As Europe Day pays tribute to political peace humanitarian rights, “Coworking spaces, social entrepreneurship and the future of Europe: From Davos to Lesvos” strives to redefine how we understand the European future. Through creating a supportive community that utilizes “social entrepreneurship and innovation as a major source of wealth and job creation, economic and technological growth and social transformation” citizens of Europe can better embrace the humanitarian challenges they are currently facing.

Call for Speakers and Collaborators

Participants at the conference will include, representatives from various international organizations, academia, coworking spaces, social entrepreneurs and media. If you are interested in speaking at or supporting Initiative“Coworking spaces, social entrepreneurship and the future of Europe: From Davos to Lesvos” you are encouraged to get in touch with the organizers.


BeyondCSRNet (Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility Network) London-Athens is a startup not for profit organization that links today’s enterprises to tomorrow’s business models, which was inspired by the UN’s SD/Global Goals, by turning CSR into an Impact Investment Tool for Social Change. Member of: The Finance Lab (UK), ITU’s Group on Innovation & Entrepreneurship/Agora (Greek Ecosystem), Impact Hub, Alumni Mentors Network of the University of Warwick

 Visions2Ventures: Visions2Ventures is an African-centered venture capital and bespoke advisory firm, focused on investment readiness and market access for high impact tech entrepreneurs. Our vision is to enable socially driven tech start-ups to flourish into successful high-impact businesses that shape an inclusive and sustainable future. Visions2Ventures is a Silicon Cape board member and EBAN’s European Impact Investment Committee


The office moves towards a clubhouse

The office moves towards a ‘clubhouse’, a space which acts as a hub for soaking up the company DNA”, Chris van Houdt, PROOFF Design

When we imagine the future of work a lot of things come to mind: Smart cities, co-living spaces, even “officeless” workspaces”. Adopting similar ideas that came from movements like Bauhaus, architecture in the workplace aims to gain a deeper understanding of society and technology’s relationship to design.

To find out more about those designers that are influencing the way we imagine the future workplace, we reached out to PROOFF, a Dutch agency that “provides solutions for the new paradigm of work”. We spoke to Chris van Houdt about the exploration of activity based working by developing furniture concepts.

Hi, Chris. Why is it important for design to incorporate variety into its practice, and what does it bring to the overall result?

Working with different design studios means that we can really focus each designer’s own unique qualities and skills, as well as their specific field of research. Having one designer to create the whole collection wouldn’t generate the same outcome, as each one brings something else to the table. Together, we have created a collection of 10 furniture solutions, each product representing specific needs of the workspace.

Your designs are “intimate” but made for “public space” can you tell us a bit more about how that works? 

It’s important to carefully research the current and future needs of the workspace, translating these into furniture concepts, carefully creating prototypes, fine-tuning and finally getting the products ready for production by our selection of highly skilled craftsmen. In our case, the products are each designed with a specific solution in mind. Making life and work easier whilst boosting productivity, wellbeing and innovation in the office.

As we are looking to explore the role of design in the workplace, how do you see this playing out?

When you look at the shift towards open plan offices, started some years ago, the ambition that companies and interior designers once had (having the workforce all in one big open space will make them collaborate more and have the company be more productive, plus reducing furniture costs because of sharing workspaces) is, in most cases, not being achieved.

Staff often experience the open plan office as chaotic, not being able to focus or have a private conversation. In short, workspace design, doesn’t accommodate different styles of working and the needs of staff. Carefully designed furniture and workspaces can combat that and also play a big role in workspace wellbeing.

What is your take on the contemporary design often found in office space today? 

Today, the role of architects and (furniture) designers is really about gathering information about the workspace they are designing for. Transforming these details into a workspace and furniture that gets the best out of its users. Amplifying the productive, innovative and collaborative atmosphere at the office. Architects and designers are continuously trying to find a balance between what they envision and their client needs.

In your opinion, what types of design works best with the needs of contemporary workers? 

We see the office moving more towards a ‘’clubhouse’’, a space which acts as a hub for soaking up the company DNA. A home-base like structure, where staff can come in and out like a beehive. Today’s workers are looking for a workspace that lets them choose how they can work best, mentally and physically. They want to pick and choose their favorite spot to do focused work, make a phone call, have a private chat and collaborate with their team. This flexibility and ‘’keep moving’’ strategy enables staff and thus businesses grow.

Workspace design needs to facilitate this and the design of the workspace needs to strengthen the company DNA, think colour, material, structure based. This is where architects, interior designers, and workspace consultants play a pivotal role, as they are able to research, strategize and envision a workspace that works best for each client and their staff. And this is where furniture design comes into play. Their furniture solutions chosen need to amplify the strategy the workspace creator has in mind.

Almost 80% of the coworking spaces in the UK are planning to expand

According to the Global Coworking Survey, co-produced by SocialWorkplaces.com and Deskmag, close to 80% of the coworking spaces in the UK are planning to expand in the near future.

For almost half of the recorded spaces, this expansion would include establishing new locations.

From our results, we also found that surface space is more substantial in the UK : 9.235 sqft on average in Britain as opposed to 7.955 sqft globally.

Average surface coworking UK

UK coworking spaces’ capacity is on average 12% higher than the average in the rest of the world, with 43% of the spaces hosting more than 50 workers, as opposed to 38% worldwide.

Details, statistics and data on coworking in the UK can be downloaded here below  :