At Cowork Frederick, “community” isn’t just a buzzword, it’s at the center of everything we do. The way we see it, coworking isn’t about high-speed internet, great coffee (or beer), or even a great office space. It’s about people, about being part of something, learning, sharing, and helping each other. We see parallels in a barn raising. And that’s where our story begins.
A Modern Day Barn Raising
In 1983, a tornado ripped through Holmes County, Ohio. It destroyed 15 acres of land and leveled a forest of hardwood trees. It also leveled four Amish barns. This is would normally be a devastating loss. Losing a barn means not just losing the building, but also losing the livestock, hay, grain and equipment it housed. But this loss was hardly felt. Why? Community.
Over the next few weeks, members of the surrounding Amish community rolled up their sleeves, hitched up their horses, and rebuilt the barns using felled lumber from the storm. “We give each other our labor,” one farmer said. “That’s our way. In the giving, nothing is lost, though, and much is gained.”
When raising a barn, the entire community comes together to help a member build a most important structure. It is a collective effort for the common good. Amish community members are committed to helping one another, and they put that belief into practice when putting up a barn. It fulfills a practical need and ties the Amish people together, reinforcing their society through the practice of mutual aid.
This is evident when disaster strikes and destroys someone’s barn. It also applies for life’s successes and celebrations. The Amish relentlessly participate with one another in creating a future together.
“In the giving, nothing is lost, and much is gained.”
The History Barn Raising
A barn raising is a collective action in which a barn for one member is built or rebuilt by members of the community. They were particularly common in 18th- and 19th-century rural North America.
The concept of barn raising was brought to this country primarily from England. As settlers moved to America, they passed the tradition down and shared it with others. It wasn’t just kindness. It was very practical. For much of our country’s early years, people were truly dependent on each other. Helping each other was essential to survival.
A barn was necessary for any farmer. It was also a large and costly structure, the assembly of which required more labor than a typical family could provide. Members of the community would assist, unpaid, in the building of their neighbors’ barns. Reciprocation could reasonably be expected. Members of the community “paid it forward”, and, as such things go, received help in return when needed.
The tradition of “barn raising” continues, more or less unchanged, in some Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities. While men and boys typically do the physical labor, women also participate by organizing the event and preparing meals. Each and every member of the community has a role to play.
Building our Community at Cowork Frederick
This is how we approach everything we do at Cowork Frederick. Our community is built on trust and a shared set of values and beliefs. We have a shared sense of responsibility to each other and to the larger community beyond our doors.
Just like barn raising, coworking is a radical display of community. People come together to help one another. “Mutual aid” benefits all and the community is stronger.
Long before we opened the doors to our shared office space, we built a community. How? We talked to people, learned what they needed and shared our vision. We hung out in coffee shops and talked about each others goals, and work, and happenings around Frederick. We gathered together, pulled out our laptops and coworked.
At our grand opening in 2012, only about half of the renovations of our building was complete. We purposefully left the remainder unfinished so community members could collectively decide what they needed most. Based on their input (and help), we added phone rooms, another meeting room, another restroom, a work space with “dedicated” desks, and another more casual and “loungey”.
Since then, members have participated in every important decision we’ve made. They’ve also come together to refresh the paint, build phone booths, and more. Members have also collaborated on business strategy, given feedback on designs, traded work, helped each other perfect pitches and presentations and so much more.
One year, a member and her partner were both struggling with serious health issues and had not been able to keep up with household chores. Their backyard became so overgrown, they received a citation. Upon learning of this, members rallied. They brought their tools, rolled up their sleeves, and hauled nearly 3 tons of brush and weeds to the county compost site. Then they came back and planted flowers and mulched the planter beds to show even more love for their coworker in need.
Together We Can Do More
Barn raising is more than just erecting a structure, it’s about bonding people together. It’s a real-life demonstration of commitment to each other and to a set of values. When we come together, we have the potential for immense good. By pooling ideas and resources we are stronger, more innovative, more able to meet the challenges before us, and more able to create a better world for all of us.
As we move forward toward the next phase of our evolution, we will rely on each other, once again. With our expansion, we are coming together again to build something new. The very idea for our current expansion was sparked from member input about what they want and need.
About the author:
Bethany Good is a prolific poet, creative writer, author, and storyteller. In 2019 she finally found the role she was meant to play, when she became the Founder, CEO, and “Head Wordsmith” of Good Writing Co., which provides copywriting, brand voice consultation, digital marketing, creative storytelling, and other content writing services. Bethany is a dedicated wife and mother of two elementary-aged children. In her limited free time, she enjoys cuddling with her new Boston Terrier puppy, Scout, as well as gardening, hiking, and telling neighborhood kids to get off her lawn.
About the author:
Julia Swanson Ferguson has over 30 years of business experience. After earning a B.B.A. in Accounting and an M.S. in Management Information Systems, she began a fast-growth career that included business process re-engineering, system design, project management, and ultimately running a global consultancy division for a Fortune 500 software company.
Along the way, she launched several small businesses of her own. In 2012, she and her husband Glen opened a coworking space in Frederick, Maryland. In 2016 she left “corporate America” to focus on that business. She’s also a real estate investor and property manager. When not working, she loves to travel, hike, and write songs.