Community Values & House Rules

Hello there! My coworking space would like to gather all members to build our community’s values and house rules together, as well as gather feedback from members.

Do folks that have experience with this sort of thing, have any tips? I would like this to be as productive as possible and to really convey that what we are trying to do is build a space that members feel they have some sort of ownership of and say on.

I would appreciate general pointers, specific topics to keep in mind, tips on navigating the conversation and generally any wisdom you all have to offer, thank you!

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Hi Britanni,

If your members and community already have a culture that has some damage control to be done, I’d recommend sending out a Google Survey to find out how people are feeling about the current community values, and roll out house rules after an internal review. I think that open forums in the midst of a tense time can be damaging for overall morale. But if you take the lead to make those changes with out a house roast it will be appreciated by your members.

If you’re looking to do an initial standard-setting for a new community, I think that an open conversation would be greatly beneficial, and you might do this over bagels or home made smoothies one morning :slight_smile:

I’d focus on these key topics:

  • noise levels
  • phone booth policies
  • guest policies
  • dog policies
  • harassment policies
  • open communication values
  • security expectations (key card usage, after hours safety)

Hopefully that’s helpful!

Totally agree with @liznowlin - context is key for making the most of these kinds of gatherings valuable.

It’s so great that you’re doing this - I’ve guided hundreds of coworking operators towards regular town hall meetings (from using them for regular, periodic check-ins to using them to course-correct when things get off track). It’s hands down on of the most valuable tools in our toolkit and I’ll admit…even we don’t use it enough!

We’ve done “Town Hall” style meetings as often as 3x a year, and as infrequently as annually. One of the best things you can do is treat these gatherings as a sort of rhythm, rather than a response to something specific, which to @liznowlin’s point tends to put people on edge.

If this is in response to something challenging going on, I recorded a two-part episode of a podcast with one of my teammates back when we were facing one of our biggest challenges, and I had to deliver a bunch of potentially scary news. The first part focuses on how I personally processed the bad news, which may or may not be as relevant. The second part, though, is more about how I used a combination of in-person conversations, small group conversations, and then larger public communications to synthesize LOTS of community feedback.

If this isn’t in response to something negative - which I hope it’s not and you’re just being a smart, proactive community leader, then this can look a lot like our normal Town Hall gatherings!

We typically structure those as a way to look at the past to see what we’ve accomplished, snapshot where we are today (successes and challenges), and then facilitate a conversation about where we might be headed.

I usually kick off with a brief warm-up type exercise where members are encouraged to introduce themselves. In a larger community, this can take the form of a think/pair/share exercise. In smaller groups, a quick round of “Hi, I’m Alex, and I joined Indy Hall because…” type thing that takes 10-15 seconds per person.

Then we’ll do a mini keynote of sorts, again looking back at recent history for some wins to celebrate (milestones, success stories, etc), followed by some thoughts on what things are like right now.

The goal is for this stuff to set the stage for the real meat, which is where things are going. This is something my team and I discuss ahead of time, usually prompting the room with some kind of question or idea that we think members WANT to contribute to.

I think that’s the key - if you make it all about the stuff YOU care about, and you’re trying to get them on board, it’s hard for people to get bought in. But if you have an idea of what people already care about…frame your conversations and questions around that.

One if my favorite exercises is to ask people to imagine 2-3 years down the road, and ask what their goals and dreams look like. Where they live, what they’re doing with their time. Who they’re working with, what they’re working on. What their work environment is like. What their neighborhood or city is like. Etc. (You can borrow more of my prompts/questions from this recording)

Then, for the second part of the exercise, ask them to talk about what might be in the way of reaching those goals, and what ways the community could work together to help each other accomplish those goals.

This exercise is kinda magical because it does two things:

1 - it gets people to open up about what they really care about, and inevitably, people will share goals and dreams
2 - it gets people thinking about how their skills and experiences can contribute to each other.

Best of all, in this mode, folks start thinking and responding VERY differently to things like “rules” because if you’ve done things right, the “rules” should be there to help them achieve what they want instead of being something arbitrary and in the way.

THIS is where shared values come from. It doesn’t come from a notebook or a brainstorm, it comes from people opening up to each other and realizing what they have in common.

Don’t be surprised or upset if not everybody attends - the key is to connect with the folks who DO attend, and make sure they have a valuable enough experience that they want to come to the next one AND they encourage other members to join in, too.

Last tip: treat these gatherings as the BEGINNING of a conversation, and be prepared to follow up and follow through. We literally say those words at the beginning and end of every town hall to help get members in the mindset that this isn’t the only time they can speak - we’re here to listen and support each other ALL the time, this meeting is just the starting point in case it’s been a while (or ever) for someone.

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Liz & Alex, thanks so much, your feedback is super invaluable and it’s definitely helped me structure the content of the meeting so far. I’m also diving deeper to see how I can get the most out of the resources you’ve provided.

So, this is kind of in response to something negative (small business problems: HVAC not working, somewhat unfinished space, etc), but mostly to start a conversation and begin the space’s thought process on what this community means to them and to bring people together. At the moment the space feels kind of sterile, we’d like folks to integrate more especially because we are a co-working space dedicated to the building industry, it’s by nature a collaborative industry, and we need the space and it’s members to reflect that.

I would absolutely love for these meetings to happen, say quarterly, and I plan to poll members in person on what they think about that.

Again, can’t thank ya’ll enough, truly a huge help, was kind of going in blind to this.

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