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School of collaboration: La Colaboradora

A peer-to-peer co-working space fuelled by shared talent
Zaragoza / Spain
Size of city: 
661 108 inhabitants


Lorena Calvo
International Relations Office, City of Zaragoza
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La Colaboradora is a public co-working space of collective intelligence where people exchange services and know-how using a "time bank". It was set up in Zaragoza (ES) in 2013 as a response to high unemployment and empty public spaces. The 300 members include entrepreneurs, freelancers, non-profit organisations, and creative professionals seeking support to launch a project or improve their employability skills. They join up and use the space in exchange for sharing four hours of their time each month.
La Colaboradora is co-governed by the local public administration and other members, promoting self-employment and public space ownership. So far, 210 new entrepreneurships have been created and 30 long-term unemployed have found jobs. Participants have shared 9,800 hours, and organised 592 activities, 51% of them free for citizens of Zaragoza. La Colaboradora believes more opportunities can be created by sharing resources and making collective know-how freely available.

The solutions offered by the good practice

La Colaboradora is a P2P co-working space where the local council supports its community’s entrepreneurial projects and job searches by offering an atmosphere to connect and collaborate through a time bank. It’s not just a working space, it’s also a community where human contact and trust are essential.
La Colaboradora is a three-year-old successful experience that offers concrete solutions both to the members of its community as well as to Zaragoza’s citizens. Members can: develop their entrepreneurial/artistic project with no cost, by exchanging their time bank hours with their peers; enter the employability skills programme ‘25 Talents’ and improve their job search skills by a mile; join a strong community of entrepreneurs, share interests and create opportunities; own a public space and help run a collaborative project by joining its working groups or Steering Committee; join the Social Challenges and use their skills to support third sector initiatives in our city; share their know-how and expertise through open source trainings for the city.
This will improve the city’s collective intelligence, promote innovation and collaboration. Citizens and members can: empower themselves by attending free training activities and rising their profiles; attend open events with special guests, debates and presentations, and expand their network. Overall, this good practice promotes innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurship, public space ownership and capacity building.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

La Colaboradora was created in 2013 to address difficult challenges faced by Zaragoza’s people, unemployment the most pressing one of all. The lack of resources made us think of a public space where people could use their talents to build new opportunities together.
Just as it is based on the principles of a collaborative economy, La Colaboradora respects and integrates URBACT’s values at its core. We believe that more opportunities can be created by sharing resources and building human relationships based on trust, by freely opening our collective knowledge to the city and empowering its inhabitants. However, we not only share our skills and talent to improve our projects and employability skills, we also organise events that promote the collaborative economy in the city and coordinate the Social Challenges.
Some outputs: 30 long-term unemployed (out of 50) have found jobs, 210 new entrepreneurial projects, 9,800 hours have been voluntarily shared. We’ve raised €3,000 for charities working with refugees, planted trees, organised a free lunch in a public square to advocate for the responsible consumption of food, and supported activities with disabled children, among others.
La Colaboradora is a lively community of 300 very different people with an open agenda of training and events. Its most powerful aspect is that it is a paradigm of the Fourth Sector; it’s the hub of a mixed ecosystem where public projects, companies, NGOs and citizens coexist.

Based on a participatory approach

La Colaboradora is only possible with the total involvement of Zaragoza’s city council and the commitment of its members, the collaborators. Since its launch in 2013, the citizens of this community have shared a total of 9,800 hours and organised 592 activities, of which 51% have been open and free for all of Zaragoza’s population, many of them open-source training sessions. The practice is ruled by a joint-governance between its community members and Zaragoza Activa. The participation of the collaborators is key, as they run the project through the Steering Committee, General Assembly and working groups.
Since its opening, more than 100 members have helped run La Colaboradora by assuming an active role and joining one of the current six area teams. Of the total hours we mentioned before, 3,500 have been dedicated to manage La Colaboradora and, as a consequence, this civic community has developed a new and innovative way of governing and organising itself that has led to building a deep comradeship among peers and a strong sense of public space ownership.
In addition, La Colaboradora works with other entities and institutions, local and international players, who are often invited to join our events in order to broaden our network and learn from their good practices. Some of these stakeholders are the University of Zaragoza, the Aragonese Institute of Youth, the Impact Hub Madrid, the Secretary of Ibero-American States (SEGIB) or the European Creative Hubs Network (ECHN).

What difference has it made?

The key that makes La Colaboradora different is that it is a cross-sectorial public project based on a collaborative economy and community empowerment that believes in sharing resources for a sustainable future. Since its opening in May 2013 through February 2017, 300 people running 250 projects have shared 9,800 hours in services and know-how by creating a new sharing experience that has evolved in a deep civic feeling of mutual help and trust.
Above all, we are happy to say that 55% of the community’s projects started running during their first year in the community and 50% have managed to consolidate themselves after this period.
In addition, our ‘25 Talents’ spin-off, an employability skills programme created and developed by community members in 2014, has supported 50 long-term unemployed people in their job search, with 30 of them finding jobs. La Colaboradora’s model won the 2015 Ouishare Award Best P2P Finance Initiative in Spain, and the 2016 Eurocities Award for Cooperation. We are also recognised as a good citizen-driven innovation practice by the Secretary of Ibero-American States (SEGIB).
La Colaboradora has been able to build a very dynamic and emotionally united ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation in a public space. It’s the place where local professionals find their peers to share ideas and skills, be inspired and receive support. It’s a 21st century community capable of empowering itself by sharing talent, time and knowledge.

Why should other European cities use it?

La Colaboradora’s model is founded on universal elements such as trust, commitment and public service that are easily transferable to other European cultures. However, as a community-led practice it’s permanently evolving and a strong understanding of its universal principles is fundamental to make it adaptable.
Since we launched the project in 2013, La Colaboradora has received the visits and recognition of dozens of other hubs, public institutions and foundations inspired by its innovative model. In 2016, the project received the Cooperation Eurocities Award and gained the attention of many cities. Lille, Madrid, Stockholm, Bialystok and Espoo showed a special interest by participating at the speed networking session that we chaired at the Eurocities “Sharing Cities” conference.
In addition, we’ve signed an agreement with the city council of Santa Fe, Argentina, to transfer La Colaboradora’s model to the cities of Rosario and Santa Fe; and the Brazilian city of Santos has already visited us to transfer the model as well. In Spain, Barcelona Activa and AndoaIn’s city council have submitted a proposal to transfer the model. Moreover, private hubs from Gijón, Pontevedra, Madrid and Barcelona have also visited us to learn how we manage the practice.
La Colaboradora is also a member of the European Creative Hubs Network, where we share and exchange expertise and good practices with other European cities. In this context, Malmö has also shown interest in our time bank model.