As we are about to take a few days off and wrapping up this “first coliving season”, we are beyond grateful with everything we experienced in the past 8 months. A lot has happened this year… from getting the keys in April, undusting the house, 5 intense months full of renovations, the opening in September, our very first guests arriving, our first family dinners, our first experience being “full-house” and also some challenges on our end to find the right balance between “social time” and our private life. We’ll share more on this journey in an upcoming post where we’ll tell you a bit more of our personal insights and learnings from operating a coliving for the very first season.
But before, we wanted to share our last week’s experience which has been the most amazing way to “finish” this first season!
Without Anceu there might never have been an Alpiness
Last week, we hosted an event we were sooo much looking forward to: Agustin and Africa from Anceu coliving joined us for a week of brainstorming and work thanks to the P2P exchange program created by ECHN (european creative hubs network).
For those who follow us, you’ll probably know how much love and admiration we have for Anceu. As we mentioned in our very first blog post announcing the opening of our space, Anceu has been a huge source of inspiration for us. We had been thinking about opening up a coliving space for quite a few years already, but somehow “a little something was missing”. This little something we found it while staying in this amazing coliving located in the most rural area of Galicia. When we first booked for a month, we kind of thought “well, let’s book 1 month at first… I mean… the place looks very rural, maybe we might get bored after a while”.
Fast forward, we ended up staying more than 7 months in Anceu! Not only we never got bored, but we also discovered what an amazing social impact a coliving could have in a rural area. I am not saying that a coliving located in a city can not have an impact, but in a rural setting, you can really feel that the diversity, skills, cultural exchanges and human interactions brought by a coliving really contributes to the local life as well.
Agustin and Africa have developed incredible skills bridging the gap between locals and foreign travelers, crafting events that attract people of all age, gender, origin and social background. While staying there and participating in some of their programs and activities we started to define how we could create something similar in the Swiss mountains.
When we decided to open our own space we of course immediately told them (they were in fact the very first people to know we made an offer for the building). 😉
ECHN Worshop and P2P Program
Few weeks later, we got the opportunity to go attend a rural hacking workshop at their place in Galicia. If you’re interested about this workshop, take a look at this blog post we wrote right after we came back. This week has been simply incredible, meeting coliving and coworking operators from all over Europe who all shared one same goal: revive rural areas and bridge the gap between locals and colivers.
This workshop was organized by ECHN (European Creative Hubs Network), a peer-led network promoting creative, social and economic impacts of hubs in Europe (and neighbouring countries). After attending this workshop, we immediately knew that we wanted Alpiness to be part of this.
Being part of ECHN allows us to attend several events (in person or online) each year and we’re also eligible to take part in some of their programs.
If you’re running a creative space in Europe, we highly encourage you to take a look at their website and their different programs!
During this workshop, we started sharing the vision we had for Alpiness (back then we had signed for the property but we had not moved in yet). Immediately, Agustin and Africa offered to help us find the best way to involve both locals and colivers in shared projects. That’s how the idea of working on a public coworking space in our village started to emerge.
We decided to apply for the ECHN P2P-Program and were thrilled to find out that we had been accepted. The Program allowed us to host Anceu members for a week and create a weekly program tailored to be making progress on our project.
What was this week all about? Don’t you guys already have a coworking space?
Haha yes, we do have a coworking space in the house (actually a very nice one and we love it a lot!). The thing is, our building is not thought to be a public space and our walls are not extendable. 😉 Of course we have an office chair for every of our residents, but our space is simply not big enough to accept people from the village or visitors for a day of work.
We’ve been talking to the local authorities and tourist office representatives and they would both support a project where some of our events/activities could be opened up to both our residents and the locals. The idea would thus be to find a space at a walking distance from our coliving where we could offer additional work space where everyone would be welcome! This space could then be used as by local associations for hosting their gatherings and events (knitting club, local choir repetitions, etc.) but also by us to create open events such as game nights, conferences and skill-shares, pot-luck dinners with locals, and much more…
For now this is just an idea, but trust us, we’re working hard on making it happen!
Our week in summary
After welcoming Agustin and Africa we started the week with a first little workshop where they shared their learning over the last few years operating a coliving but also creating events with the locals. It might all sound easy, but actually handling things such as language barrier, communication methods (because no, slack is not used by the villagers 😉 ) and creating engagement is not an easy task.
In the evening they presented what they are doing to our colivers and we spent quite a while brainstorming on how everyone was imagining this space that would be both open to locals and colivers. The idea here was to get the colivers perspective but also include Agustin and Africa’s direct feedback!
Over the following days, we had lots of hikes (nothing better than to be outside and walking to get new perspectives) 😉 but we also met with Virginie (the president of our municipality) as well as Marlène, a local “magician” who runs a small village shop but who is also involved in many cultural events and gatherings.
We visited a few potential locations for our space and worked on the format of our final event taking place on Friday.
Thanks to Virginie, Marlène, Dylan and many others who support our projects in the valley, we managed to set up an event in a local hotel where we invited villagers to discuss this future project. Our idea was to do a short presentation followed by some questions… But thanks to Afri and Agus’ experience we shifted things around and opted for a more “workshop format” where we created 4 tables or so called stations. We divided all attendees in little groups and each group took turn at each table to share their ideas for this future space. This model proved to be great because it gave everyone the opportunity to share their opinion. With a more classical format of event, only a few people would dare raising their hand to speak in front of everybody… Having small group increased the amount of answers and the engagement!
Public coworking in a mountain village? What are the outcomes?
This week has been quite intense and I’ll be honest, we still have lots of feedback forms and surveys to review. But we’re beyond grateful for the work that has been made so far. The public coworking / village house project is of course not ready to be launched, but we’ve made lots of progress and most importantly we are thrilled to see that we have some local support around us.
From Skepticism to Support
While the villagers had initially referred humorously to “the 2 youngsters running this co-wo-thingy,” the exchange became a platform to dispel skepticism. Anceu’s success stories and tangible impacts in a village which is even smaller than ours became the catalyst for change, prompting the locals to not just understand but actively support the concept of coworking.
A Vision Beyond Coworking: Imagining a Multi-Purpose Community Hub
As the exchange unfolded over five days, the vision for the coworking space evolved beyond a traditional setup. The participants started to envision a multi-purpose space where people could work during the day and communities could converge for various events in the evening.
Empowering the Village: Ideas and Collaborations Unveiled
The highlight of the exchange was the final event on Friday evening, where expectations were not just met but exceeded. Local entrepreneurs, retirees, and representatives from diverse backgrounds joined the round table discussions. Divided into groups, attendees delved into crucial aspects such as proposed locations, facilities, events, and potential alliances.
For now we still have quite a lot of “sorting out the data to do”. Before the event we created a little survey that we shared online as well as on little flyers distributed in the village and we got more than 50 replies. At the event itself, dozens and dozens of ideas came up! We’re now working on putting everything together and we’ve decided to invite the villagers to our house right before Christmas for a little mulled wine and Christmas cookies to discuss the next steps.
This initial event has helped us tremendously in creating a first link and it’s now on us to keep working on it! We can’t wait to see where all this is going! We’ll be honest, we still have no idea in what form, but we’re now more than never convinced that we won’t give up. Something will come out of this, and promised, it will be awesome!