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PCDN Guide to Shared Spaces, Co-Working, and Local International Development Networks

By Doug Vilsack, Executive Director, Posner Center for International Development (Colorado)

Shared Space 101

The shared space movement has taken off over the past decade.  The idea largely originated within the arts and tech communities as a way to foster collaboration and keep costs down.   Since then, shared spaces have emerged to meet the needs of many groups, from the creative class to corporations.  This resource guide provides a brief overview of shared spaces, listing some key questions for organizations to consider in deciding if a shared space is an appropriate fit.  It also provides an overview of shared spaces focusing on international issues and a listing of other local international networks.   This guide is a work in progress and we welcome additional resources/contributions (make sure to also check out this blog post by Dr. Zelizer Strengthening Regional Networks for International Collaboration).

Shared workspaces come in many shapes and sizes, from co-working spaces with a hodge-podge of clients to mission-driven spaces with a laser focus on a specific industry or issue.  At a base level, co-working provides inexpensive, flexible space, and access to the office services necessary for young organizations and businesses to grow.  Hundreds of non-profit centers and social venture spaces now exist to spur innovation and encourage collaboration around the world.  The Nonprofit Centers Network provides support for emerging and existing non-profit shared spaces, and local support organizations, like the Denver Shared Space Project, have arisen in some areas.   Other networks like LiquidSpace help organizations and businesses find the right space for them.  Finally, many shared spaces partner with business incubators and accelerators to help young organizations and businesses grow. 

Are you wondering if a shared space is right for you?  If you answer YES to most or all of the questions below then you should start looking into shared space options in your area:

– Do you run a start-up organization or business venture?

– Could you benefit from the expertise and knowledge of others on a daily basis?

– Do you see collaboration as a key to your organization or venture’s growth?

– Can you deal with a little noise (though not as much as you would expect)?

– Is the [insert office, cube, home, etc.] where you work now sucking your will to live?

– Do you want to make friends at work?

– Do you work well in an environment with many distractions (though there are places to hide)?

– Do you like working in an open area, possibly without a locking door?

– Are you willing to forget everything you know about paying for office space by the square foot?

– Are you willing to actively search out opportunities to collaborate (it won’t just happen on its own)?


Learn more below about shared spaces and local international networks near you.  Please let us know what other spaces and networks you work with:

 Shared Spaces for International Development Organizations and Ventures

1. The Posner Center for International Development (Denver) is the first shared space in the United States focused on international development.  The Posner Center brings together 54 tenants and an additional 50+ members with a joint mission to build a community of innovators who grow lasting solutions to global poverty.  The tenants and members that work in this space – a renovated 19th century Horse Barn – address development challenges in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, education, energy, health, governance, microfinance, water and sanitation, human trafficking and entrepreneurship, among others.  These organizations share similar goals, such as designing products or providing services that improve the quality of life for the poorest people on the planet.

2. The Development House (London) is set over seven floors and is home to over 20 organizations with particular focus on international development issues.  These organizations chose from a variety of space options, from large offices to individual desks.

3. The Global Switchboard (Pittsburgh) is a shared-space, community-oriented, work center for Pittsburgh’s globally engaged social-profit organizations and individuals. It is Pittsburgh’s home for global engagement, a way to bring new resources to the city, and a space to cultivate new and innovative global ideas.

4. Haiti Communitare (Port-au-Prince) is a Haitian-based organization that strives for Haitian and International groups to operate as a community, thus increasing capacity and streamlining logistical operations.  HC partners operate in a shared overhead environment, thus allowing their focus of operations to remain project-based.  Philippines Communitere has also recently opened.

Shared Spaces with Strong International Membership

1. Impact Hubs (54 Global) are part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community center.  They offer members a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities to grow impact. From Amsterdam to Johannesburg, Singapore to San Francisco, Impact Hubs are a rapidly expanding, diverse global network of over 7000+ members in 54+ locations.

2. 1776 (Washington D.C.) works with the world’s most promising startups to address the world’s biggest challenges.  1776 is passionate about creating a global community by connecting startups with the resources they need to grow and succeed —from mentorship and corporate connections to capital and media attention—in sectors such as education, energy, health and cities.

3. Mission Social (San Francisco) is a unique co-working space for Social Enterprises, Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs.  They provide affordable office space, shared resources and the opportunity for informal dialogue and collaboration among organizations.

4. Open Guv Hub (Washington D.C. & Kathmandu) physically co-locates like-minded communities of practice in a single shared physical workspace in downtown Washington, DC and Kathmandu, Nepal.  The OpenGov Hub is the day-to-day home to a range of people and organizations working on the open government agenda while also serving as a community gathering point for open government learning and networking activities.

5. Center for Social Innovation (NYC & Toronto) is a leader in the global co-working movement.  CSI provides coworking space, community and a launchpad for people who are changing the world. Members are provided with the tools they need to accelerate their success and amplify their impact.  CSI has also published numerous articles and books about co-working and shared spaces.

6. Non-profit Center (Boston) is a mission-based NonProfit Center in Massachusetts for progressive social change nonprofits.  Located in the heart of Boston’s political and financial hub, the center brings together organizations committed to pursuing social and economic change in a shared space.


Other State/Local International Development Networks (Without a Shared Space)

1. Global Washington (Seattle) supports the global development community in Washington state that is working to create a healthier and more equitable world.  They promote their members, bring them together to spark new ideas and partnerships, and build a network of leaders improving lives around the world.

2. Chicago Council on Global Affairs (Chicago) is an independent, non-partisan organization committed to educating the public—and influencing the public discourse—on global issues of the day. The Council brings together stakeholders to examine issues and offer policy insight into areas such as global agriculture, the global economy, global energy, global cities, global security, and global immigration.

3. World Affairs Councils of America (All 50 States) is the largest non-profit grassroots organization in the United States dedicated to educating and engaging Americans on global issues with nearly 100 councils across 40 states reaching more than half a million people a year.

4. US-Global Leadership Coalition (Many States) is a broad-based influential network of 400 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, academic and community leaders in all 50 states who support a smart power approach of elevating diplomacy and development alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world.

5. InterAction (Washington D.C.) is an alliance organization in Washington, D.C. of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).  Their 180-plus members work around the world with the world’s poor and vulnerable with a belief that they can make the world a more peaceful, just and prosperous place.

6. WorldDenver (Denver) is a non-profit community organization dedicated to advancing a deep understanding of global affairs and cultures.  Supported by individuals, businesses and foundations, WorldDenver engages globally-minded Coloradans in a direct, personal dialogue with each other and with elected officials, civic leaders and professionals from around the world.

7. Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) (Washington D.C.) is a global network of organizations that propel entrepreneurship in emerging markets.  ANDE members provide critical financial, educational, and business support services to small and growing businesses (SGBs) based on the conviction that SGBs will create jobs, stimulate long-term economic growth, and produce environmental and social benefits.

8. The Bay Area International Development Organization (BAIDO) (San Francisco) is a network of San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits doing international development work.  While this organization is now defunct, many of the members of this network still exist.



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