Encouraging the Spirit of Collaboration
What do coffee shops in Jakarta have in common? The fact that they offer coffee, of course, but let us forget about caffeinated beverages for a minute and try to think about the activities that take place there. Anyone who has walked into a cafe – be it a franchise or a small, independent one – would immediately notice that aside from friends chatting over coffee or professionals settling deals while sipping their espressos, there are a lot of people who spend hours busily typing away on their keyboard. For them, a cup of coffee is a mere pretext. They need a workplace more than a beverage provider.
In an age when introducing oneself as a “freelancer” no longer raises eyebrows – or at least, not too many eyebrows – conventional offices are no longer the only place to be productive. It is not uncommon for a freelancer juggling various projects to work at home. But even though the thought of being able to make money without having to deal with the traffic on a daily basis makes the home a tempting option, one might get too comfortable to get anything done. In such a scenario, it is perhaps wiser for freelancers or “mobile workers” to resort to coffee shops that provide WiFi.
While more and more cafes are popping up all over the city, giving the officeless among us an endless list of places to go to, the main target of such establishments are still customers who want to enjoy a drink or some light snacks. Even the most comfortable places might not have enough power sockets or a reliable Internet connection. But even more problematic than the lack of facilities is the fact that since people go to cafes for many different reasons, the possibility of scanning for potential business partners might be difficult, if not slightly awkward.
So what these solo warriors need is not only a place where they can work without having to worry about being indirectly shooed away by baristas, but also one that can allow them to expand their professional and social networks. Comma Indonesia, a co-working space that was established in November 2012, is one of the few places in Jakarta that has successfully attracted young freelancers mainly concentrating in the creative and tech industries. To date, there are approximately fifty registered members who have found a home in this cozy, communal office.
Although the concept of co-working spaces had already been introduced in 2005, it was not until 2011 that the idea really took off in Indonesia’s busy cities – especially Jakarta. However, despite the increasing demands for shared spaces, one of Comma’s managers, Albert Endi, believes that the existing system is still unable to support such an unconventional working arrangements. While the hourly rates at Comma are extremely affordable (IDR 25,000 per hour), buildings in Jakarta are expensive – making it difficult to open additional branches.
But the good thing is that because places like Comma are rare, those who value them will naturally try to keep them going. In fact, the loyalty of Comma’s members and occasional visitors can be seen in the way they willingly promote the space to their friends and acquaintances. Endi said that there is no need for an official marketing officer because all the regulars already do the job. When an establishment encourages a sense of collaboration – and indeed, collaboration is Comma’s principal philosophy – people will not be reluctant to reach out to one another. Being competitive might motivate one to achieve one’s goals, but if one chooses to collaborate with others, greater things can be accomplished.
Comma’s appeal, however, does not stop at its openness to professional collaboration. There is also a system that Comma goers call the “Co-Library.” All members are free to add any book they like to the collection, so long as it is labeled with its owner’s Twitter handle. A member who would like to borrow a book just has to “mention” its owner (preferably with #CoLibrary attached at the end of the tweet). Contrary to what a number of critics have said about our constantly wired generation, social media can clearly have a positive impact on offline networks.
So if you are a busy bird with no nest, you might want to stop by Comma Indonesia. From nine until five, the space exclusively functions as a co-working space. Or if you are planning to hold bigger projects, the space is available as a venue for many different types of events from six until ten.
It is good to be able to work independently, but there are times when collaboration matters.
One Wolter Place, 3rd floor
Jl. Wolter Monginsidi no. 63B
Go to Comma Indonesia’s Facebook page or tweet @CommaID.