The “shot heard round the world” in the Workspace-as-a-Service industry last week was the appointment of Jamie Russo as new Executive Director of the Global Workspace Association. The role has until now been held by Richard Meyers, an association management consultant who founded Association Growth Management in 2004. The firm has been managing the day to day responsibilities in running the organization with particular focus on its annual conference since January 2010. The appointment of a full time employee, not to mention one who comes from coworking and not serviced offices, is sheds a bright light on the impact coworking is making on the shared workspace market overall.
Jamie Russo is Founder of Enerspace Coworking, a brand focused on the balance between work and wellness, with locations in Chicago, IL and Palo Alto, CA. In addition to being the “Chief of Work and Wellness” at Enerspace, she is outgoing President of the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces (LExC), the invitation only, coworking focused, private networking group and this past year launched a podcast called “Everything Coworking”. It’s this mix of experience and activities that position her as the industry leader best suited to take on the task of broadening the organization’s membership base.
An organization long associated with more traditional “Serviced Offices” or “Business Centers”, GWA has had difficulty in engaging with operators in the booming coworking segment of the market. There are many fiercely held convictions on what is or what is not coworking, proven by the almost universal chuckle whenever Regus’ “We Invented Coworking” campaign is brought up in conversation. Further debate is fueled by a variety of independently produced international focused “un-conferences”, organizations such as Open Coworking and groups like WANY and even Russo’s most recent hobby, LExC who all are competing for likes, follows, ticket sales and sponsorship dollars.
The 2015 GWA Financial Study, which accounted for more than 13,000 operations worldwide with 7,525 self defining themselves as Business Centers and 5,875 as Coworking Spaces provided a startling disparity in annual growth between both sectors: Serviced Offices grew only 6.2%, dwarfed by 118% growth of coworking Spaces. It’s not surprising then, in her first interview, Russo shared her focused on “engaging a broader constituency of space providers”. She continued with: “Shared workspace is being provided by office space providers, coworking spaces, hotels, universities, airports, coffee shop hybrids, commercial buildings and more. I want to engage this broader constituency of space providers…As a connected group, we can make a significant impact.”
While this is no easy feat, Dale Hersowitz, CEO of WUN Systems and a member of GWA’s Board of Directors has faith in the board’s selection, saying “Jamie is extremely sharp and has a strong grasp on both the current and future outlook for shared spaces. I believe Jamie will be a great asset to the GWA organizations and ensure a positive outlook for GWA’s future.” Ultimately it’s their hope that Russo’s coworking roots bring the industry at large together as a whole, rather than segmenting it by labels and layouts.