Atılım, Community Manager of ATÖLYE (Istanbul), went to Barcelona in January 2017, to meet Makers of Barcelona (MOB) and its team, through the European Creative Hubs Network and our Peer-to-Peer Scheme (P2P). This is his article about the experience of exchanging knowledge, creative hub to creative hub.
First time in Barcelona.
Full of excitement.
An unexpected chilly weather welcomed me when the airplane crew opened the rear door of the plane that landed at the Barcelona airport. I learned later on that the week I spent in Barcelona was one of the coldest in recent years.
Just my luck.
I arrived in Barcelona a day before I got to met the MOBbers. Having newly arrived at the city, I was curious to learn about the touristic stuff. And I spent my first day exploring nearly all of the breath-taking Gaudi works scattered around the city.
“Instead of creating a mere building, Gaudi created a vision.”
We are now able to continue the construction even after his death, in the trace of the vision he had created” said the tour guide; while I was gazing at the ongoing construction of one of the towers of at Sagrada Familie, with absolute adoration.
I don’t know if this way of thinking is inherent to all Barcelonians. But if you would like me to summarize my MOB experience in a sentence, I could easily paraphrase the guide’s words on vision, and attribute it to MOB without any hesitation.
MOB’s vision goes beyond their space. MOB creates a vision that incorporates the values of collaboration, unity, and freedom of expression; and stands within a framework of new trends that promote changes in the way you relate to any kind of work. What really defines MOB is what happens inside their spaces, in an attempt to drive their members to evolve as a community. I felt lucky to be a part of this environment.
You feel constantly surrounded with this vision from the first minute you step into MOB.
From the modestly decorated space to the creative content of the events as well as the projects that they take on, from people’s expressions to their body language, their motions within the space… All these elements come together to constitute MOB’s creativity loop.
MOB currently has two spaces in Barcelona. The third is on its way.
Lorene’s (Operations and Event Manager) smiling face welcomed me at the door of their second space (MOB & PAU) on my first day.
She gave me a tour of the space and explained the general structure before we went into details with the other P2P visitors, Sorin and Cosmina, from Alchemy Hub, Romania.
Alejandro, one of the co-founders of MOB & PAU, joined us later on. I had already met with him during the first Creative Hubs Forum in Belgrade, where I spent the whole day picking their brain and asking them questions on space management, projects and their community.
When it comes to community, there is no difference between MOB’s two spaces as their members are able to use both of the spaces. Each member has their base in one space but can go to the other space to work from there or to join the events.
What differs between the spaces is the facility extensions, which they establish differently.
At MOB Main, they have a fabrication area under the concept of Fab Cafe whereas at MOB & Pau, they are in the phase of building a Food Lab internally.
The third space is planned to be built with a Biotechnologies lab as well.
On the second day, I visited MOB Main. A Laser Cut Machine and 3D Printers caught my eye just as I entered. There, ahead of me, stood the Fab Cafe. Before you enter the workspace, you pass by the Fabcafe and get to grab your morning coffee there. It also kind of functions as a workspace too, since there are so many people sitting and working from the cafe.
Fabcafe is a concept that merges a coffee shop with a Fablab. You can either order a coffee or order a job from the 3D Printer. It is up to you. Starting from Tokyo, the Fab Cafe concept is currently in 8 different cities from all around the world.
I found it quite charming that these machines were the first things I saw when I first entered the space. It directly puts you in a different mindset and gives you a clue on which kind of people you might meet inside.
Our Makerlab at ATÖLYE is also a room that people come across before they enter the workspace. However, putting these machines in the middle of everything like they are in Fabcafe, makes you feel like they are actually more reachable, which makes more sense considering the concept of Fab Cafe.
The coffee shop enables the space to be more engaging for the people coming from outside as well.
I always believe the space and the community itself should be exposed to external factors even if their structures are defined by some certain rules. Be it a community which is limited with some certain disciplines (not in the case of MOB) or a space restricted with certain usage rules.
What enriches our organizations at the end of the day is our ability to interact with the outside world.
This is what works really well with the concept of MOB Main. Even if you are not a member of MOB; you are able to experience how the things work in their space by simply sitting in the Coffee shop and soaking up the creative atmosphere. In a way, this concept inspires you and you feel encouraged to become a part of it.
Barbara (Community Manager of MOB main) has arrived a little later. I felt a nice sense of empathy when I saw her busy expression while dealing with different things at the same time (I know that feeling very well). We knew each other from the Belgrade forum as well. She was super friendly again and we have talked about the daily flow at MOB Main while we were sipping our coffees at Fab Cafe.
MOB has almost 300 members in total residing in both spaces. And nearly 2/3 of these members are based in MOB Main. Their community is so diverse in terms of disciplines, as they are open to any kind of profile when it comes to membership applications. People work in a focused way in the workspaces and it is rather silent compared to many other coworking spaces I have seen so far.
If I want to express the general atmosphere at MOB’s workspace with one word, I would choose the word “relaxed”. People move around the space freely, get together around lunch tables, have coffee together at the coffee shop. This atmosphere surely reinforces MOB’s vision is to engage their members to connect, collaborate, create, explore and evolve as a community.
Event series which they hold also consolidate the interactions between members, both in social and professional manners. Creating hub’s own culture requires us to facilitate ways to get more organic feedbacks from our communities. And I believe the events are one of the best settings to achieve these kind of organic interactions between team members and the community as well. I mean it is not only about members to interact with each other during the events; but also for facilitators of the space to get more feedback from members about the organization and so on. In addition to face to face speaking at events; MOB also apply a system in some of their events and put a kind of “suggestion” box for people to write their ideas/ suggestions regarding the organization, space, projects etc.
MOB team places huge emphasis on building and activating this community through daily internal activities such as: Monthly Surprise Sandwich Day, monthly Breakfast series, weekly Afterwork Gatherings, weekly Welness and Yoga Sessions, monthly ZUMOB session. Their metaphor is “MOB provides the space, and its members the talent.” There are so many different pop-up events running besides these regular ones as well. People from outside are also allowed to organize events at MOB for free if they bring really good content on the table. MOB team believes the most important part of the events organizations is the content creation; and if somebody does it very well, why not to give them a space.
I had a chance to join their monthly ZUMOB (Squeeze your ideas) session on the evening of my third day. Similar to our weekly Feedback Sessions at ATÖLYE, ZUMOB is an event which gives members opportunity to talk about the projects that they are working on. It’s a great way to meet new members, talk about and share visions. In this way, people know more about each other and can get support from the other members after learning more about their specialities.
There were five different speakers presenting their projects/portfolios at ZUMOB. There is also an open-mic session at the end of the event; for those who would like to take stage there spontaneously.
Each person is able to present their content in their preferred language. Half of the presentations were English, whereas the others were in Spanish.
The projects varied from a portfolio of a graphic design studio to an online personal coaching infrastructure and to different startup ideas focusing on really interesting niche fields. People are able to jump in and support the projects from other members and form various collaborations.
When it comes to collaborations and projects it is fair to touch upon MOB’s aside projects which members are able to take part in it as well.
We had a small chat with Iker, one of the members working in video production and visualisation and scanning techniques. He is currently working on the development of a new system to scan 3D objects with HD cameras. He was doing some tests when I visited his workspace downstairs at MOB Main.
“Everyone here can push their capabilities forward to collaborate with MOB. For instance we are now talking about new collaboration opportunities that we could cooperate with Fablab” he says.
MOB’s current website has also been developed and designed by the team from their members. And they are proudly announcing it at their website by saying “Our philosophy is collaboration and collaboration we did! This website is made from pure love from Mobbers” at the bottom bar of their website.
MOB has a variety of aside projects/subbrands reinforcing both the community itself and the startup ecosystem in general. And seriously, what defines MOB is what happens inside in terms of these projects as well.
Future Funded and Young Fish Programmes are considered to be under the umbrella of MOB Academy.
Jonathan has taken stage at ZUMOB to explain the concept of MOB’s recent initiative Future Funded. Future Funded is crowdfunding platform for new talents. It is said that 46.5% of young people are unemployed in Spain. In turn, companies find it difficult to find talent appropriate to the skills of the XXI century. Future Funded seeks to bridge this talent gap by investing in the formation of the new generation.
Connected to Future Funded, MOB team has also been working on the project Young Fish since 3 years. Young Fish was conceptualized and designed to supercharge and empower the inner talent of every youngster by giving them the right tools and mindset.
During the two-week program, participants attend a series of workshops and work on a given challenge. The workshops are lead by international experts in fields ranging from design thinking to prototyping, branding to storytelling, along with a real life challenge. The programme targets 3 areas: design, prototyping and validation. By the end of the two weeks, each team is expected to have a beta version of their project that is economically sustainable and that would have a positive impact on the society. The results of the project can range from startup, products, services or an one-off event.
MEAT is an agency for open innovation. Powered by the creative community of MOB essentially, MEAT aims to give services to companies for their big/small projects. The scale of the projects varies from customized projects to bootcamps as well as the integrated services and the facilitation of new innovation hubs. Ensuring the company’s compatibility and continuity, MEAT brings the most qualified people within the network of MOB.
Initiated by MOB team, Assemblers is a platform which is planned to be a worldwide project pool. People all around the world are able to use this platform when they need any kind of support for their projects. They just need to go to the Assemblers’ website and choose the predefined categorizations of skills, material needs and milestones about their project. You can get connected to the projects all around the world. I believe this structure will provide a very useful resource for hubs to communicate and collaborate with each other.
KUBE, is a legal brand focused in helping startups, companies and freelancers in their legal, tax and accounting matters. It is a service associated to MOB and in partnership with Baker Tilly. Alejandro (Co-founder of MOB&PAU) and Jose Luis Martín, two lawyers, are specialised in helping startups, foreign companies and freelancers to manage their day to day legal tasks.
Every last Friday of the month, KUBE answers people’s questions related to legal matters, during twenty minutes for free.
What is next?
We have been in contact with MOB previously as well. But this exchange programme was the proof that being digitally connected is not enough. Being there, living the atmosphere of their space and exchanging ideas while they are actually on it was super inspiring. I cannot even express their hospitality with words. Big thanks to all MOB team, and to European Creative Hubs initiative for making this happened.
I was quite surprised from the similarity in the way we approach to our communities, our spaces and the projects that we focus on. The main logic is quite similar and it is for sure that the small nuances that we apply differently will ensure the enrichment of our organization in all manners. I didn’t want to see this article as the comparison of our hubs to demonstrate differences between us. Rather, I tried to explain MOB experience as a package for other readers to get benefit as well.
From now on, our relation with MOB will become even more organic to apprehend new collaboration ways. The aside projects that we are currently working on are extremely overlapping with the ones that MOB is tackling and we will always be in touch concerning possible collaborations opportunities.
First fruits of this cooperation is the new member exchange network we have recently given a start with MOB. Together with other hubs like Volumes (Paris), The Trampery (London); we are planning to expand this network for our members to use the partner spaces in all around the world.
Just let us know if you would like to be involved as well!
Atılım Şahin Community Manager ATÖLYE