Tech, Government, and Coworking in Germany

Christian Cordes | Future-focused tech in coworking spaces and building Germany's coworking ecosystem.
Ryan Chatterton
July 26, 2018
5 min read

Christian Cordes is Project Manager of Schiller40 Coworking in Wolfsburg, Germany. He also works for the City of Wolfsburg as the Urban Digital Development Officer. As if that weren’t enough, he is the Board Director of the German Coworking Federation (GCF). The German Coworking Federation is a network of coworking spaces throughout Germany that hosts Cowork, a coworking conference primarily focused on the German market.

Christian and I had this conversation at Cowork 2018 in Bremen, Germany. While I've chatted with Christian in passing at coworking conferences around Europe, this one-on-one interview with him was a real treat. We talk about the role of technology in coworking, working with governments, and about where the German Coworking Conference will head to next year.

Experimental Technology in Flexible Workspaces

Listening to Christian talk about his new project, a popup Markthalle (market hall) is inspiring. He calls it a space for digital ideas. And that’s possibly an understatement.

The markthalle is setting a precedent for creating member-access to new digital technologies. The space comes equipped with:

  • Open coworking and office space
  • Event space for 200 people
  • A makerspace
  • A digital sports field with sensors in the ground an in the fences which allow people to measure and analyze data on real-life actions taken on the field.
  • Various laboratories each focused on different activities such as broadcasting and streaming, a mixed reality lab for virtual and augmented reality enthusiasts, and a so-called open lab that focuses on design thinking and co-creation.
  • A cafe with delicious coffee

The space is created in partnership with Volkswagen and VfL Wolfsburg (the Wolfsburg football club).

The Role of Government in Coworking

One of the significant challenges of starting a coworking space in many cities is the cost of real estate. And this was the case in 2012 in Wolfsburg. So Christian and his team at Schiller40 took a different approach when they launched their space. They partnered with the City of Wolfsburg.

The city government pays the rent, the staff, and paid for all the infrastructure, including desks, printers, and technology.

Christian pointed out something interesting that's come as a result of this collaboration with the government. Not only has the city's participation in this space been good for the local community, allowing access to needed shared resources and infrastructure, but it's changing the mindset of the people who work for the City of Wolfsburg. The city workers are now challenged and excited by these bold ideas and fresh new concepts. And that's a great thing.

On Growing Coworking Conferences

The Cowork conference, which is sometimes referred to as the German Coworking Conference, started as a small one-day BarCamp (also known as an Unconference) in 2010 in Wolfsburg.

In 2014, the team decided to turn this small BarCamp into a full-fledged, three-day conference for the German market.

They made a few critical decisions that have led to the growth of the conference and would be good advice to follow for any other would-be coworking event organizers.

  • They decided to move the event around Germany, not only host it in the major cities like Hamburg and Berlin.
  • They never host the conference in a city more than once.
  • They let the community decide where the conference should be hosted.
  • They host the GCF member meeting at the conference. It’s the best time since everybody is together.
  • They experiment with different formats.
  • They respond positively to feedback, including the long article I wrote about how coworking conferences need to change.

I’m very much looking forward to next year’s conference, which will be hosted in Manheim.

Go Slow

I asked Christian what he would do differently if he were to start over in the coworking world. I love asking this question because everybody has a different answer. And each answer is a gem of wisdom.

For Christian, that answer was to slow down and take more time.

Coworking is exciting and intoxicating at times. But we must understand that, especially when we’re working with others (such as corporations and government), the world doesn’t move at the speed of our ideas. It has its own pace. And that’s why we must be patient and pay attention to detail over time.

Going slow is okay.

Christian's passion and energy are contagious. If you've read to here, but haven't watched the video, I implore you to do so. It will get you pumped for what is to come in our budding little industry.

Never miss a beat!
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Ryan Chatterton

Marketing Director, founder at Coworking Insights, coworking maven, digital nomad, lover of wine & tacos.

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