We got to the Agora Coworking space in Berlin around midday, it was a slow day and the sun was beating down on the backside of the road. I looked at the small archway with a huge gate that made up the entrance, already there was something gooi about this place.
The grand collection of bikes inside the gate looked as if a film crew had left in a hurry while making a movie about a 1920′s University.
On the right of the gate was a garden with trees that were low enough to hide the rest of the garden but high enough to sit on a chair under. This made the garden more intimate and less office like, I felt a sudden urge to sit down and write poems all day.
I looked up at the tall red brick building, well it had four floors, I am not sure what is was before, some kind of work house or maybe a school? There were no lifts so everyone ran up and down the stairs all day meaning there were only fit people here.
The first floor is home to an open coworking space, up to the second floor we found a studio followed by a ‘silent room’ on the third floor.
There were so many stairs I am sure I missed a floor, finally we got to the open art space in the huge attic that was home for our workshop sessions.
I considered the relationship hanging in the air between ‘German efficiency’ and ‘artistic unpredictability.’
Of course Germany is a cultured nation. But ‘Germany’ makes me think Bosch, BMW and Simens not sculpture, water colours and Universität der Künste.
The Agora Collective came alive when 62 people collided and started a crowd funding project.
What made me even happier is one of the things they invested in was a good coffee machine.
That last sentence leads me to the ground floor, this is where the Agora cafe happens and HAPPEN it does!
Agora’s secret weapon the weekly guest chef Pepe with whom I was able to jump in the kitchen with and make lunch for 50+ people.
The kick is that lunch gets made from leftovers, Pepe gets local super markets to send round food that is good to eat but not ok to sell.
People bring in whatever is leftover in from their own homes and it is all dumped on a big table and you wander by and start chopping.
Yes you read that right! There is no map, menu or theme there is just good food and good energy.
The Agora kitchen works with anyone (even you) chopping, slicing or dicing what you choose.
You then take your completed work to Pepe and he decides which of his four pots on the stove will welcome your food best.
Back at the workshop
How was lunch? Asked Fran, as we started the afternoon workshop.
A wave of contented excitement swept the room, everyone seemed to reply at once,
We ate so much!
We loved it!
That was the best thing ever!
Then Fran asked ‘does anyone know what they just ate?’ – Silence.
No one minded though, we all smiled and felt closer than we had done before.
This had been the icing on the cake for the day, we had lent a hand in prep and then trusted Pepe to fuse everything together with elegance.
I’d fly there for just for lunch – that is how tasty the food is and how much love goes into it.
As I watch these guys work I thought about the challenge of running a kitchen like this. Somewhere it needs to make money.
A good kitchen needs a good chef who knows how to create a combination of good food and a good budget.
The climb up to the workshop, the cooking, the eating together in the garden instigated conversations and ideas with a deeper emotional connection.
It is tempting to speak to someone in a company because they have the ‘right job title.’
In my experience you discover a stronger bond and connection by talking to someone in a relaxed setting. Coworking works better for me than regular networking because I am looking for help with projects not more sales.
More people can contribute to something faster when built around values and strong relationships, especially food!
In this way business, coworking and collaboration are like the Stone Soup Story where everyone brings a little something to add to the pot and the village ends up with stone soup.