By Britney T-M
TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.
**I am no longer on the mainland, and I will be writing the remainder of this series from HQ (BoxJelly, I’ve missed you!).
Things don’t always go to plan. This series is case and point for me. Plan: hit as many DMV spaces as possible. Execution: “as many as possible” means two spaces. Both spaces I ended up at were actually Unsectord events, so taking the perspective as an actual space user (as opposed to just a “tourist”) was a nice change.
The first Unsectored event was a discussion on cross-sector leadership at Affinity Lab. With the cross-pollination and networking that occurs, there couldn’t have been a better setting than a coworking space for the discussion. At Affinity Lab, there was a key coded door, wide open receiving room, and a whole back area I knew I wouldn’t have time to schedule a tour for. Because of the limited accessibility I would have, I started paying closer attention to the details.
It was at this space where it occurred to me how advantageous displaying member profiles could be. Upon entering, a table of business cards greet you. Towards the back by the printers is a bulletin board of one-page, self-authored profiles of members. Each personality comes through in their writing styles and flyer designs, and so did information on their businesses, skill sets, and experiences. What better use of copy/printing wait time, than getting to know your coworkers?
The event itself left me with a huge sense of encouragement. I’m very fortunate to be recently graduated during a time where the base for this ecosystem for innovation is already built. The model for Unsectord events wouldn’t be as feasible without coworking spaces, and coworking spaces wouldn’t have been supported without the rise of the independent worker (whether you’re on the freelancing tech side of life, or the Downturn hustler end of the spectrum). Through coworking spaces, we can expect to see much more variety in what organizations and businesses do, the type of interactions we’ll have, and ultimately, the capabilities we’ll be using to fulfill that human potential.
The Unsectord event we attended at Punch Rock was for a happy hour around social innovation. It was here that I met founder Roxie Alsruhe. PunchRock sits atop the third floor of a historic brick building, the first two floors of which are (also) an interior furnishing store.
There’s a common work area, kitchen, meeting room, and roof top. As a place, the PunchRock community is made of members who are involved in everything from alternative energy to fashion. “Essentially what our mission is, is to grow social entrepreneurship,” says Roxy. “Social entrepreneurship is the way to break down the mold of what business traditionally is or how organiations traidtionally run…it’s basically how I view social enterprises as mission driven businesses. They’re sustainable and they’re making a positive impact. So we’re punching through the rock. We’re PunchRocking.”
That also came with unexpected challenges – like people not taking them seriously. “We were the first coworking space in the nation’s capital that was focused on social impact. Many were skeptical of the idea, and [the focus] on social enterprises.” So PunchRock has become not only a coworking space, but also a learning environment and gathering place where different workshops like obtaining free legal advice from Georgetown Law’s Social Enterprise and Non-Profit Law Clinic are held and events like Unsectord discussions take place.
From energy to education to genocide prevention, PunchRock members are cross-pollinating ideas, skills, and networks. Sitting next to us was Dewey, an intern with Three Birds Sustainability, an organization that brings renewable energy to underserved schools and integrates renewable energy into their curriculum. A couple desks away was Hyungsoo, who designed a timepiece, the Kickstarter for which was launching the next day (and has raised over $500,000 in just 35 days). A faceless watch (or, timepieces because you don’t actually ‘watch’ it) – is innovative, creative, and about every other buzz word you could think of, but it’s the impact it has that matters (especially for the blind, and visually impaired). “…there’s something much bigger than you are,” Roxie explains. “A lot of different issues need to be confronted with, and imbedding that into your lifestyle and with the work that you do.” As we would say at the BoxJelly, Work the Way You Live!