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Stakeholder and community engagement

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A common aim, a well-loved temporary building, and the birth of a new community – Entry29 took a new approach to co-working.

In 2012 a small group of local entrepreneurs, including one of the Lighthouse founders, started a conversation around providing affordable, low key co-working space for those enterprises and individual who were just starting out. Entry29 was not the first coworking space in Canberra, but it was the first that was set up to be owned by the community itself. This turned out to be a bit more complicated than any of us anticipated.

Having spent six months consulting with the broader entrepreneurial community, we found that the thing entrepreneurs valued above all else was the ability to engage with others experiencing similar challenges and opportunities. While a nice environment was of interest, high speed Wi-Fi and lots of places to meet, including coffee shops located nearby, was more important.

Our consultations were extensive including

  • Market research to identify potential market share and reach.
  • Surveys using several social media platforms to capture the community and understand what they needed and how they wanted a community based co-working space to be set up. One of the key discussion points was governance and how the community would be involved in the administration and management. This would ultimately influence the structure and constitution for the coworking space.
  • Discussions with emerging entrepreneurs looking to spin out of the various research and tertiary institutions to understand their needs.
  • Discussion with existing providers to understand how a pathway could be established for entrepreneurs as they grew and were able to pay more for space and services. We weren't about competition but rather setting up long term partnerships.
  • Discussion with other coworking spaces outside the ACT to understand how reciprocal rights might work.
  • Identifying and working with potential partners to seek sponsorship for legal and building works and educational programs.
  • Running a competition to name the space. Entry 29 was the winning entry for the original design of Canberra.

Entry29 was offered a 12-month trial period in a demountable building owned by the ANU. After setting up an interim board (three of the initial entrepreneurs), many planning meetings, relocation of the resident possums and numerous working bees, the first members moved in during May 2013.

Six months after settling, the board held its first community meeting to seek nominees to take over the governance of Entry29. There was a lot of discussion and a high level of discomfort in taking on the responsibility for a diverse range of members with different needs and expectations. The board tried this again several times over the years and in the end negotiated that two community members would be observers on the board to ensure that their voice was heard, and any needs addressed. It wasn't what we had originally hoped for, but it worked well as a compromise.

After 18 months at our temporary location, Entry29 moved into the CBRIN premises as a founding tenant and was located there until 2017 when we won the contract to manage the ACT Government's Renewables Hub. Entry29 members co-located with a growing number of start-ups in the renewables sector. That was quite a step up in terms of accommodation and services and opened a range of new partnership opportunities for the members.

By late 2019 the number of coworking options in Canberra had grown exponentially and the Entry29 board felt that it had achieved its goal of helping the start-up community find its voice and give them options on how and where to work. As part of the wind up, the community was actively involved in what should happen next with the remaining Entry 29 assets.