P2P Story: Coconat meets Sun and Co.

Julianne, Co-founder and CEO of Coconat – a Workation Retreat in Germany went to Spain in June 2017 to meet Sun and Co through the European Creative Hubs Network and the Peer-to-Peer Scheme (P2P). This is her article about the experience of exchanging knowledge, creative hub to creative hub.

Coconat meets Sun and Co.

A first person account

History:

I met Jon from Sun and Co. at the European Coworking conference in Milan at the end of 2015. Coconat had just finished our proof of concept in the summer, ad Sun and Co. had been in operation for just a few months. The excitement of meeting another project with such similarities was palpable. Already then we began devising ways to work together.

What we had both created we now call coliving, places where people live together for a limited amount of time, and where workspace is usually available as well. At the time we didn’t really have a name for what the product was. We were still discussing other labels that we might fall under. We also spoke at length with Samantha Wolf who was working on her Master’s Thesis, out of the University of St. Gallen, on coworking and tourism. We created a google group for all of the projects we saw popping up around the world. and sent out a big invite to everyone we could find.

In 2015 we had already identified about 80 projects that could be categorized with us. These included workation locations, coliving projects, ’co-workation’ places, organized trips for people who would like to work while travelling, and package deals where a coworking space and accommodation was organized by someone.

By the end of 2016, not much had happened with the google group, but the ideas were still there. Jon and his colleague had started planning a meet-up for the coliving projects in Europe.

P2P:

Towards the end of 2016, I had the pleasure of being invited to Belgrade hosted by the EU Creative Hubs Network, and it was just a truly magical experience. For myself, it was so great to be with like-minded people, whose projects were about so much more than real-estate development, or Euros per square meter.

Everyone there had passion for their projects, and seemed to be mixing in creativity with social goals and sustainable business concepts. It all resonated so well with what we were developing at Coconat.

When I heard about the Peer to Peer scheme, I knew immediately where I would go. To Sun and Co., to see their space, and to take part in the meet-up. To tighten ties with as many projects as possible.

The trip:

In June 2017, I finally was on the plane to Spain. Coconat had just opened in May, and was immediately quite booked out, so we had been running sort of running after our project for about 6 weeks when I made the trip. What was good was that I had a lot of real data and stories to share, and lots of questions to ask. I did feel a bit bad leaving my colleagues for so ling in those first weeks, but in the end they survived, and I was able to learn a lot and bring it back to the team.

Interestingly enough, after I posted on Facebook that I was on my way to Sun and Co., I got a message from a supporter of Coconat, and friend, that he was there too! What a small world sometimes. As I sat on the plane looking out the window and watching the changing landscapes, was just thinking about seeing my friends and finally experiencing Sun and Co. in person.

I landed in Valencia, and made my way to the Bla Bla car meeting point, which Sun and Co. helped me to organize. Just a 1 hour car ride, and then I arrived in Javea Spain. I walked through the maze of small streets on up to my new home for the week.

Jon greeted me at the door and showed me around Sun and Co.

Sun and Co.

The building was the former residence for Sun and Co. founder Edu’s grandparents, which he had converted in to a hostel in 2012. As an architect, he had a truly unique playground.

On the ground floor you find the shared workspace areas and the amazing shared kitchen, as well as the outdoor patio. The kitchen has 4 work stations, and is perfect for cooking events, or simply a lot of people who are just taking care of themselves. The design is simple, modern, and creates just the right atmosphere. It was quite easy to simply sit down and start working, as well as to have casual conversations with the other guests.

The social core of the place could be seen on the glass wall between the kitchen and the outdoor patio. There people could share activity ideas, and announce things to each other. I saw right away that there was a welcome dinner planned for myself and the others who were arriving that day. I felt like I was a part of the small community that occupied the place.

Before arriving I was also invited to a private Facebook group and message system, so I could already see that there were a lot of activities being planned by the group. And after arriving I was shown my room, where a little note awaited me, as well as a bottle of wine, which of course I was to share later on in the evening.

On the social side, I met my old friend and made new ones while there. We all worked the days away and planned fun activities in the area for our days off and in the evenings. Sun and Co. had put into place tools that made self-organizing really easy, as well as helping us along through their partnerships with local tourist activities. All in all, in the 7 days I was there, there were walks through the town, paddle boarding, kayaking, a drive up the lighthouse, a festival and parade (that was just good timingJ) and lots and lots of food.

The guests were all digital nomads, and quite international. We had an energy engineer, an amazon shop, a recruiter, an educational software developer, and a couple just starting their own business as guests, as well as the team and some permanent Sun and Co. folks, who had made there home in Javea (after experiencing Sun and Co.!).

Coliving meet-up

Towards the end of my stay, there was the planned coliving meet-up. We were just a very small group, but it was nice to have a full day to simply speak about what we all are doing.

Participants were Coconat and Sun and Co. of course, as well as a representative from Purehouse Lab. The setting couldn’t have been better with a 5 hour discussion at a beach café, and finished up with another few hours at Sun and Co. and over dinner.

We talked everything, from operations, to marketing strategies, to philosophies behind our different projects. We discussed in detail possibilities of partnerships, and what they could look like.

A lot is still to come from this. I am very happy to share this wonderful summary prepared by Matt from Purehouse Lab: https://medium.com/purehouselab/a-co- living-brainstorming-session-at-sun-and-co-4d1f4ca8811f

Our biggest takeaways were:
• Definition: There are 2 kids of coliving:

o Destination based, where people travel to a certain place for a shorter amount of time, somewhere between 1 week and a few months. They live and work from there, and enjoy being around others who are doing the same.

o Urban based, where people are easily able to find a living space but without the hassle of signing long-term ease. They tend to stay for 6- moths to 2 years, and enjoy the shared living experience as well as the flexibility in home base.

• We would all like to develop an established network, and feel an urgent need to do so soon, as the trend in coliving is rapidly expanding.

o We have reactivated the google group, and continue to invite more parties to join: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!forum/coliving- coworkation

Notes on Coconat:

We have been developing Coconat for the last 4 years, and opened our first permanent location in May 2017, just outside of Berlin in a small village called Klein Glien. We have already hosted well over 1,000 guests.

Coconat is a social enterprise, in that our goals are aimed at impact over capital, and we aim to reach them through a sustainable run business.

  • The business is a combination workationretreat – for individuals and small groups to stay for a day or two to get some work done and/or have a meeting, coliving – for individuals who would like to stay with us one week or more, this includes volunteer members of our team, who exchange 20 hours work time for room, board, and work-space, and coworking – for our local freelancers.
  • Supporting local businesses – we partner with local businesses in area for mutually beneficial goals. For local business we can use our marketing reach to Berlin to give larger exposure, and access to a much larger market than can be found in the region – examples include mobile juice makers, local brewery, local bakery, and we are working to develop a new business with a permaculture initiative which will take place on our property.

Future goals –

o Creating a better sense of value for the young people growing up in the region. It is our hope that we can help to encourage young people to come back to the region after university studies, by providing an example of a functioning innovative business, that is in tune with modern technology and very connected to the city as well as internationally.

o Working with the local public adult education programs in the area with focus on digital literacy for the current residents, especially those who did not receive a university education and who perhaps are currently working in a field which will soon become redundant because of emerging technologies.

o To directly create more Coconats in rural areas in Europe and beyond, as well as working with others who would like to use the model in their region – either through the development of a network, or through a similar scheme as the Impact Hub model.

More information can be found on our website www.coconat-space.com

(Cover photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash)