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MANILA, Philippines – “When you think of social entrepreneurship you think of this. They’re good with research. They’re good with numbers. But I think what’s wrong with the existing model is that the sexy is not there,” says Tomo Nakayama, who runs a new co-working facility in Ortigas city.
And nothing is sexier than co.lab xchange, an alternative working space that attracts progressive and positive individuals who are on the cutting edge of new ideas and looking for people to share them with.
“People that I meet here are really about what’s next. They make me feel that I’m not crazy. Yeah, I’m not delusional. You guys are crazy too,” says Ruby Veridiano.
Among other things, Ruby’s an ex-VJ for MYX TV in North America who launched a writing empowerment program, “The Glamour baby Diaries,” spoken at over 400 venues all over the world, inspired the youth through her spoken word performance with iLL-Literacy, and founded “Meeting of the Minds,” an initiative to connect the young global Filipinos and spark them with projects of social change.
Meanwhile, in her short 2-week stay, Erika Pineda, cofounder of JeepneEd, a non-government organization that brings mobile science and technology labs to rural areas in the Philippines says, “All of the people here are thinking more about their impact and sharing their craft than just making money, which is somewhat hard to find these days.”
“It’s a magnet eh,” says Mark Bantigue, founder of P3, crowd sourced online magazine for Progressive Pinoy Perspectives. “It attracts the same like-minded people, progressive thinkers who are using their talent, skill and the existing systems to make change within it.”
For the next generation of social entrepreneurs, co-lab provides the interface to strike up a friendly conversation. It’s a hub for young professionals or startups to network with experts from different industries so their ideas can grow and flourish.
‘Meeting of the minds’
But what makes co.lab different from a coffee shop or a studio?
“Generally, people are more comfortable paying P150 for coffee in a cafe than spending P500 and getting the space for free in co.lab. But what they see is just what’s in front of them. People can’t see the value beyond the rate, which is a chance to network with other people who are ready to share their expertise,” says Tomo.
If you stay among your immediate network you’re most probably going to talk about the same topics. What co.lab offers is the exposure to the different minds needed for insight that will push innovation.
One time co.lab had a group of Japanese DJ’s convert one of the conference rooms into an Internet radio station. Tomo says, “They loved the experience so much they’re planning to do it regularly.”
Ex-MTV VJ Sarah Meier once held a workshop in their Makati branch while Eco warrior Anna Oposa and tourism advocate Brian Ong teamed up with Congresswoman Aliah Dimaporo to file a bill to protect Philippine marine biology.
“What I plan to do with this space are things that you cannot necessarily do in a classroom, café, or a business center. I don’t know what exactly that is because it depends on the community,” says Tomo.
There’s a “Meeting of the Minds,” which is a joint effort between co-lab and Ruby that serves as a platform to break the ice and bring together like-minded people to create innovative projects.
There are already mental barriers that prevent us from enacting change without having the physical divide in traditional offices. Tomo says, “For a space to be conducive to creativity it has to be designed to knock down walls. Small details like colors, paintings, and artwork factor in.”
Similar to the offices of Google and Facebook, co-lab xchange feels like a playpen but for social entrepreneurs who are young at heart, mind, and in spirit. With its wide-open spaces, plush couches, bright orange and blue motif and glass white board walls it gives them the space to not only work alone but to play off each other’s ideas.
“What makes co.lab different is that it seems to be made more for collaboration. The interaction potential is just there,” adds Mark.
Erika, who has been to other co-working facilities in around the world, shares how the good nature of the Filipinos is perfect for a co-working enterprise. “I think people are more willing to talk here and collaborate. I don’t know if that’s because of our culture of very warm people but that’s great compared to New York because they tend to be cold sometimes,” she says.
“Progressive thought is there. Organizing it is what’s needed. The talent is there but everyone is separated doing their own thing,” says Tomo.
“There were a couple of places like this in New York and I was craving for the support that you get from people who are going through the same painful process as you are,” says Erika. As it says on the co-lab website, working alone isn’t the same as being lonely, which is true for any industry, whether or not it’s social entrepreneurship.
“When you’re starting something on your own you have to surround yourself with positive people who are really encouraging. If I talk about it to certain other people, they’re like, ‘Why don’t you get a job? This is crazy. You’re wasting your time,’” says Ruby.
But in a progressive and positive environment, co-lab is a place that makes “wasting one’s time” look sexy.
For those who want to check co.lab out for free, they can attend on March 22 “The Jelly,” which is a monthly open house and mixer for the day. Visit http://colabmanila.com/ for rates and more information. The Pasig branch of co.lab xchange is located at 3 Brixton Building near Pioneer Center. – Rappler.com