PEER SUPPORT is the currency of a coworking community. From making a cup of tea to sharing an insight hard won over a 20 year career - it’s these interactions that hold a community together. But, what has it got to do with how you manage your space?
Peer support is a fairly nebulous term, but leaving it open to interpretation is part of the fun! We see it as any spontaneous act of kindness that makes someone feel supported. This might be as small as an enthusiastic response to a story or as big as responding to that terrifying cry of “I can’t get the printer to work”. You might look at your community and think - well that’s just what these guys do - and while that's almost certainly true you’re probably also playing a significant role in creating a culture that enables this peer support.
The easiest way to encourage your members to support each other is to set a good example. Think about it from the perspective of a member: the staff are friendly, they’ve learnt your name and they’re forthright with their helpfulness from the off - you’re going to want to reciprocate! There’s only so much time you want to spent sitting with the team at the front desk, but when you grab a desk you’re going to take this approachable attitude with you. You’re more likely to introduce yourself to other people and once you’re on a first name basis with someone the peer support will be free-flowing.
There are formal practices a coworking space can put in place too. Your events programme is a goldmine of opportunity for encouraging and facilitating peer support. Any social event will inevitably lead to people getting to know each other and then helping their new friends out. You might centre the events around providing support there and then; this could be mentoring, accountability groups or advice surgeries.
Equally the little things have a big impact. A wall or board of member profiles in the space shows people who is in their community and provides a reminder of names that have slipped to those inaccessible recesses of the mind. Introducing members to each other, particularly the shy ones, helps them jump that daunting hurdle of a first conversation, that might turn out to be the first of many. Offering help makes people feel supported and asking for help makes them feel valued. Do all these consistently and you’ll have the right culture in no time!
Peer support can also be looked at as generating social capital. Every time a supportive word is said, an idea is encouraged or an insight is shared your community is generating social capital. 77% of Members have received Peer Support at The Melting Pot and we use a very soft touch approach! Supportive communities are healthy communities and there’s nothing better for a coworking space than a healthy community.
The Coworking Canvas
This blog is part of a series demystifying our Coworking Canvas – a practical tool for developing the 6 key areas central to a thriving coworking community. The canvas was designed by our sister organisation the Coworking Accelerator drawing on over a decade of experience building The Melting Pot. Get in touch to find out how to learn from our team, who will show you how to apply these tools to your coworking venture.
Cleo Goodman is Communications and Social Impact Manager at our mother organisation The Melting Pot.
Cleo started off at TMP as a host, community building, managing the events venues and running the learning events programme. Now, she manages our communications and measures the social impact of coworking at TMP and our incubation programme for social entrepreneurs Good Ideas.