Co-working is not new. Collaborative spaces are two a penny in the cosmopolitan melting pots of San Francisco, London, and Berlin. They have become a welcome response to the breakdown of traditional businesses relationships, requiring formal employment, hierarchical organisational structures, and attendance (or perhaps, presence) in employers’ office space. New ways of working, supported by technological innovation, mean there has been a rapid rise in the number of independent contractors and freelancers engaged on project activity based across the globe, all needing ways to engage and collaborate.
Now co-working in urban areas is important. Face to face contact with fellow workers generates creativity, mutual interdependence and a feeling of belonging. However, in rural areas it is a necessity. Rural isolation and poor internet connectivity have meant that productivity is often poor, feelings of isolation are high and collaboration difficult.
James, a Devon based social media expert said, “After dropping off the children at school I would be faced with hours at the kitchen table, waiting for information to download, often not speaking to real people until I picked my children up from the school hours later. It can be frustrating and very lonely.”
Creating co-working hubs in rural areas, therefore, is not just important for increasing economic activity but crucial for supporting communities to be resilient. At their best they can enable a real sense of community, friendship and innovation – inspiring new projects and creating wider and expanding networks of diverse expertise.
Devon Business & Education Centre (DBEC) in the tiny hamlet of Tale, near Exeter, has been established with these aims in mind. Chris Lorimer, who has developed the space, commented, “As a location it is truly beautiful and tranquil, but we hope that it will become a local hub for coworkers who seek the opportunity to collaborate and be productive. In practical terms, the space has high speed internet and is highly sustainable but equally important, we believe it will be a welcoming and encouraging place for people to achieve great things”.