Coworking: A Space for Community

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Coworking is about more than just a place to be, as Liz Elam, founder of GCUC, describes it. It’s about creating a community and being with like-minded people. GCUC, the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, is the largest coworking conference in the world, and Liz talks all about what coworking can look like, challenges that 2020 presented, and tips for entrepreneurs.

How Liz Got Started

Liz Elam, a potato-lover and people-person, runs a global event company, solely focused on coworking. What is coworking? Simply put, it’s a membership club where people can go to get work done. There are work spaces, event spaces, coffee (of course), and more.

Before Liz started focusing on GCUC, she was working two fulltime jobs: running a coworking business with three locations as well as the world’s largest coworking conference series. It all started In 2011 when she started thinking about and working on GCUC. The first ever conference was held one year later.

Coworking in the Year 2020

Coworking in the craziness of 2020 has looked a little different. How has GCUC coped? Liz says they’ve kept going with online events and notes that the situation forced them to think at the next-level, to see how they can add value. It's pushed them in good ways and she knows that they just have to get through this time because on the other side, the coworking industry will thrive.

Commercial Real Estate and Coworking

What about landlords and real estate companies and how they fit into the coworking industry? Liz comments that managing humans, and spaces for humans, is very complicated. That's why everyone should stick to what they do best.We talked about investors, board members, partners and more, recognizing that bringing in friends and family is a common mistake since it muddies the water.

While some people can be difficult to work with, Liz tells listeners something that she always tells her interns: People are sometimes going to treat you really poorly, but it’s not about you, it’s about them. However, we humans have the power to turn someone else’s day around and Liz and I discuss the necessity of giving people the benefit of the doubt since you never know what someone is going through.

Community in the Coworking Industry

The power of coworking is getting people together and creating community. It’s not just about being with people, it’s also about being around other people who think the way you do or have the same ideals. This is one reason that Liz is frustrated by the implications of COVID forcing many people to work from home. She says that telling people to work from home, alone, is not a long-term solution and she mentions the need for more awareness of mental health issues.

Taking the First Step

Becoming an entrepreneur is a big step. In fact, Liz says that she had to quit her job to get scared enough to start. For those looking to take the first step, she recommends you realize that struggle (and even failure) is possible and you can’t let other people’s fears have control. Reading, doing the homework, and meeting people and picking their brains are essential steps.

The Future of GCUC

Liz, who has recently applied to get her masters in Foresight to be a professional futurist, has ideas about where she wants to see GCUC in the future. She doesn’t want people to just go to GCUC, she wants it to be a community that people are connected to all the time. Which is, after all, the pulse of coworking.


  • Liz’s background, a definition of coworking, and how she got started with GCUC.
  • The year 2020 posed new challenges for coworking and for GCUC, but they adapted by moving to online events and Liz is certain that the coworking industry will come out stronger.
  • Coworking companies work with landlords, real estate companies, partners, investors, and board members. Liz talks about how to navigate all of it.
  • Creating community is the heart behind coworking and Liz discusses the good that can come from people being together and the challenges that COVID presents.
  • Entrepreneurship is a brave thing and struggle and failure are likely. But, with the right perspective, taking that first step is possible.


  • “Particularly in the coworking industry, we are around people all day. Every day we serve people and the reality is some people do the right thing, some people do the wrong thing. Everybody’s got a difference of opinion and they see things through their own lens.” (Mike)
  • “People are sometimes gonna treat you really poorly, but I want you to know that that’s not about you. That’s about their morning.” (Liz)
  • “We were built to be around community.” (Mike)
  • “Find some reason to get around other folks who think the way you do or congregate around the same ideals.” (Mike)
  • “I’ve been advocating for mental health for the past 5 years and telling people, ‘If you’re not paying attention to this, you will be left behind.’” (Liz)
  • “I had to quit my job to get scared enough to start.” (Liz)
  • “Don’t let other people’s fears stop you, because it’s a real brave thing to be an entrepreneur.” (Liz)
  • “Get with that mentor and get a second opinion that’s not emotional.” (Liz)