How to build a mesh

Since 2,5 months I’ve been running Peer!, a Seats2meet location in Amersfoort-Noord, together with Mirjam Gaasterland. Coming from a marketing background, it was only natural that I was going to do the location’s marketing and sales. At Seats2meet, we don’t focus on promoting meeting space rental. We focus on building a mesh: a community consisting of organizations, freelancers and professionals. Connecting the members of this community is the value they extract from it: unexpected business opportunities, gaining knowledge and all the facilities they need to do their work. In short, Seats2meet is a place where individuals and organization can develop themselves. Facilitating and encouraging this is a challenging task and I’m happy to share my experiences with you.

Theory and tools

So, how to build a mesh? There are lots of models and theories on how one might accomplish this. For years, the mesh and variations of it have been discussed in management literature. Examples include Cubrix by Marcel van Marrewijk and The Fuzzy Firm by Prof. Dr. Arjan van den Born. My experience as a ‘New World of Work’ consultant came in useful too, having helped organizations to work and think like a network, rather than like a ‘rake’ (as the traditional hierarchical organization chart is often characterized). Furthermore, as a Seats2meet location operator, I got a lot of useful input from the book Society 3.0, in which our CEO Ronald van den Hoff explains the ideas behind the concept of S2M. We also get the opportunity to attend masterclasses, like recently The Laws of Managing by Joe Pine and Kim Korn. With these theories in my toolbox, I have to say that I mainly work intuitively. I measure the growth of the mesh based on observation and gut feeling.

The first steps

Most theories however were developed for organizations: ‘How to transform from a rake to being agile and flexible?’ Luckily I don’t have this ‘handicap’ and I have been able to basically build Peer! from scratch. The previous owners provided me with a basic community; the challenge of expanding it and increasing its value for members was up to me. This value is mainly in facilitating unexpected, valuable interactions (which we call serendipity at S2M) as well as all the preconditions for knowledge work: fast Wi-Fi, adequate workplaces for all sorts of activities en of course good coffee and lunch. Additionally, organizations and flex workers in the area had to know about our existence. In order to achieve this I used all thinkable communication channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Seats2meet Magazine, an email newsletter and local press. This helped us mobilizing our own network, as well as the existing Peer! community. The content we post focuses primarily on our ideas: the mesh, innovation, incubators, connecting people and sharing knowledge. It’s nice to see that interaction is increasing and people in the city are becoming more familiar with us. A little while ago I met a woman who works at a company network, who told me she just had to get in touch with us, because the city is buzzing about Peer!.

What the mesh can do for you

Of course it’s up to you how you translate it to your own organization, since every organization is different. I can just speak for Peer!. I genuinely feel like Peer! is becoming a fluid organization, made up of other companies, freelancers, professionals and start-ups. Other companies, networks and freelancers are linked to our mesh and jump in and out when they need us – they come to workshops for knowledge, book a meeting space when they want to meet, or they come along to find inspiration in our concept. It works the other way around too; we can ask them to provide an occasional presentation or workshop.

After 2,5 months I can conclude that we are becoming increasingly connected to other networks and companies. And for those who want to know: ‘Does it pay off?’ I can say that our approach has been successful in that respect too: our turnover has increased. Every week new companies and freelancers visit Peer! and even better: they return!