Using Whuffie as part of a business model

Being part of The Werks is awesome. It’s a real chance to put some ideas that haven’t really been used in business practice before. Yes, it’s experimental. Experiments are fun!

What is Whuffie?

In a nutshell Whuffie is Social Capital. Which values your reputation within a specific community or context. If you have the time, these slides explain the concept Whuffie pretty well.

Getting Whuffie to werk in practice

So we have The Werks which is a big building in “Hove actually” for small businesses and freelancers of a creative nature. We aim to have no barriers to entry so are trying to be as open as possible about everything.

Having the space is incredibly important, but is only part of the whole mission – to support independent freelancers and small business within the ‘creative’ sector.

When it opened, every Friday was Open Coworking. Meaning anyone could turn up, use the space and wifi, get some work done and perhaps meet a few people in the process.

A couple of months in we found that people wanted to come in openly on other days, but felt they couldn’t because Friday was the designated Open Coworking day. So we opened up Open Coworking to every day, though in the process this caused confusion to what people are supposed to contribute.

The Werks Guidelines

So we have a set of ideas in our heads which we communicate to werkers, but as of yet have not been written down. It kind of feels like a secret club at the moment – people hear positive things about us, but are not quite sure how it works.

The following is what is in my head:

  • No barriers to entry – anyone can come in and use the coworking space, no membership required. Though several paid membership options are up for grabs (coworking, desk space, office space).
  • Contributions – everyone has something to offer. If you are financially able you should contribute moolah to coworking, open events, etc. If you are not so financially able you can contribute in other ways, e.g. help werkers, volunteer your skills, clean a few dishes, donate a book to our library, water the plants. We do not monitor contributions, it is based on trust.
  • Contribution is a must – whether you are a paid member or not everyone is expected to be a part of the community, it doesn’t have to happen straight away, but the good intention must be there.
  • Open is not the same as free – free implies you take what you can and give nothing back. Open is a two way thing, take something, put something back in. We don’t do free.
  • Easy financial contributions – we have a family shiny silver piggies where werkers can make financial contributions. Receipts can be provided upon request. Random cheques and payments online are also welcome.

(I’m sure I’ve missed stuff off the list…help me fill in the gaps)

What’s Whuffie got to do with it?

Whuffie is core to every werker:

  • we learn to trust each other
  • we do favours for each other
  • we work together on projects
  • we pass work around
  • we make friends
  • we talk and create ideas
  • we exchange knowledge
  • we have fun!

Money couldn’t buy you any of the above, though we probably couldn’t survive on the above alone. That’s what Whuffie has to do with it!

Does it werk?

I would like to think so. The Werks is a busy buzzing place at the moment and is keeping its head above water, though there is still so much to do.

The key thing is that we have a balance of paid members and projects which help support all the Whuffie stuff that is essential to help our local community grow. We wouldn’t be here without the whuffie and wouldn’t be here if it was a project funded entirely on whuffie.