“We want a coworking network that can operate without any bureaucratic influence” – Sabrina Schifrer, Alpe Adria
Sabrina Schifrer, founder of Alpe Adria Coworking, has spent the past 3 years to connecting coworking spaces in the surrounding region of Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. Alpe Adria aims to spread the coworking word, by spreading knowledge and educating the community throughout the Alps and beyond.
Hi, Sabrina. What inspired you to start developing spaces and coworking culture in the Alpe Adria region?
I was initially inspired by Deskmag and Deskwanted’s work, which showed me the wonderful world of coworking. This project also brought me to realize that we need to have it in the region where I grew up as well.
I saw that by simply using existing concepts that I wouldn’t progress as I wanted to, so I started off by launching the WOW Coworking Space in Villach, Austria. Unfortunately, it was too early for a space, because coworking in rural areas wasn’t familiar to potential users. After that project, we decided to focus on creating awareness of coworking, because the Carinthian region, in southern Austria, is an ideal location as it is positioned close to Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. We always considered our community within these borders, but we also would like to go beyond this region.
Why did you find it important to develop coworking in the Carinthia region? What coworking spaces are improving the region, and in what ways?
There are a lot of coworking spaces improving the Alpe Adria region as we speak. If I just have a glimpse over the border, I see Poligon in Ljubljana as one of the main coworking hubs in the region. Then there are also several rural development spaces, like coworking Zasavje, where Tadeja Bucar is highly ambitious when it comes to revitalizing the region. Overall, we see this movement generated by the people in this area as a major step towards upgrading their lives.
On a local level, we also have a small coworking space in Klagenfurt, Austria, which is fully booked at the moment. Thus, there have been some plans to establish a new one. Furthermore, we have smaller coworking spaces in other Austrian cities like Völkermarkt, Spittal and an additional two in Villach. Much of this has been possible due to sufficient support from our local politicians who are willing to invest in the trilateral ecosystem.
What are the primary goals of Alpe Adria Coworking in terms of creating a coworking network in the region?
The goal is to have a working network that is able to operate without any bureaucratic influence. We want to have the independence to create products that are useful for spaces and their users as well as events where the community can come together and meet outside their usual business spaces in order to create something new and valuable for society and for themselves.
Why is it important for you to be a part of the European-wide coworking movement?
The European coworking movement is useful when it comes to lobbying and making our members more visible. We definitely need promotion within the network so we can show the greater community that coworking is not just for fun but also an extremely valuable part of a new and emerging economy.
At this year’s Coworking Europe Conference in Milan you gave a workshop on EU funds, which was very popular. For that experience, what can you tell us about EU funds and how can they benefit coworking spaces?
The funds that are available are often seen as too difficult to apply for and information regarding this funding is not readily accessible. One of my fields of expertise is the allocation of EU Funds, and there are some that would fit well with the needs of coworkers.
I would recommend starting with an Erasmus+ strategic partnership, and then going further by searching for funding under Europe for Citizens, or even Interreg and ETC (European Territorial Co-operation) funds. The benefits are clear, as you can get funding for up to 2 to 3 years that can help you complete certain projects that people are normally unwilling to pay for.
Would there be any specific advice you would give coworkers/space owners who are looking to apply?
If you apply, do make sure the funds are paid beforehand or that include a bigger organization that has the capacity to pre-finance the costs. You will be asked in e.g. the ETC program to pre finance approximately for one year, which can be a lot for a small company. Also, it’s important to always look for partners who you trust as it is vital to work alongside competent people who you can easily collaborate with.
What are some of the projects you have worked on that have been funded by the EU?
We got the initial funding for the Alpe Adria Coworking project from the ETC funds of the EU. Then we realized around 10 projects within the framework of Erasmus+, and at the moment, we are now applying for new projects. Our international network allows us to take an important role in looking for projects that deal with regional development, entrepreneurship, and cooperation.
How did you find this year’s conference? What were some of the highlights for you, and what would you like to see from future events?
This year’s conference was the first for me. I really enjoyed the unconference part where everybody could propose his or her own topics. Furthermore, I enjoyed being on stage and talking about the experiences of Alpe Adria Coworking. I hope that next year I’ll be reporting about the strong network of Alpe Adria Coworking.