Community-centred approaches to foster local resilience: Coworking as social infrastructure place

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-2021 has altered the working lifestyle worldwide, with many workplaces in an enforced modification to allow social distancing, marking a massive shift in working culture in the contemporary era. Indeed, when the home is not the most efficient workspace, and the office cannot host the workers due to social distancing limitations, coworking spaces (CSs) represent a valuable alternative for remote workers. Although various studies have examined coworking from different angles, there needs to be more knowledge of the community-driven approaches that CSs can adopt to support the local community and benefit the neighbourhood. In this scenario, the pandemic highlights the need to consider CSs as places of social infrastructure to address cultural and social issues affecting the local communities.

This study aims to investigate the role of community-centred CSs during the Covid-19 pandemic as resilient places of social infrastructure for the neighbourhood in marginal and semi-peripheral areas, providing robust frameworks and empirical evidence to support their implementation into urban design strategies in the post-pandemic phase.

The main objective focuses on the values, infrastructures and spatial strategies associated with the community-centred coworking model and aims to define whether it benefits the neighbourhood’s development and contributes to the socio-spatial dynamics of the area.

This research study adopts a mixed-method grounded theory approach (MM-GT) combined with Social Impact Assessment (SIA to evaluate the role and social sustainability of community-centred CSs in pandemic times through a comparative case study approach in two different neighbourhoods: Finsbury Park (London), and Loreto (Milan), where respectively SPACE4 and HUG NoLo CSs are located. Both the spaces are recognised as community-centred coworking, located outside the inner-city centre with complex social dynamics, and exemplary cases of local resilience during the pandemic adapting their business model to accommodate emerging working needs embracing flexible and supporting strategies.