The Power of Collectives

Faye Alund | How to nurture coworking success locally, regionally & nationally.
Ryan Chatterton
April 17, 2018
6 min read
Wayan Martino

Faye Alund is the Co-founder of Kumpul Coworking which manages spaces and innovation hubs in BaliJakarta, and Surabaya, all in Indonesia. She is also the President of the Coworking Indonesia Association. Faye has a long history of work in the social impact sector. These days, she’s blending her social impact experience with a love of community building at Kumpul Coworking.

Faye Alund is the Co-founder of Kumpul Coworking which manages spaces and innovation hubs in Bali, Jakarta, and Surabaya, all in Indonesia. She is also the President of the Coworking Indonesia Association. Faye has a long history of work in the social impact sector. These days, she’s blending her social impact experience with a love of community building at Kumpul Coworking.

Recognizing the power of the collective to help obtain bigger goals and objectives by working with government and corporate partners, Faye started the Coworking Indonesia Association, which is now the world’s largest coworking association boasting over 200 member spaces. What’s more, Faye is an in-demand speaker at startup and coworking-related events throughout Indonesia and beyond.

Needless to say, I was delighted to have met with Faye at CU Asia 2018 in Penang, Malaysia earlier this year!


Below are some of the key highlights from this interview.

Coworking collectives and associations have immense power.

Time and time again I find that the most successful coworking brands and founders believe in the power of the collective. These individuals are always instrumental figures in, if not founders of, coworking associations in their cities and they bring together stakeholders from the community, and then work with them to achieve otherwise impossible goals together.

And Faye is no different.

In the interview, Faye tells us about the founding of the Coworking Indonesia Association and how they use the bargaining power of more than two hundred spaces to work with corporates and government organizations that wouldn’t likely give them another look were they only representing a single space.

The power of coworking associations is real. You should get involved in one. If one doesn’t exist in your city, state, or country, you should start one!

Focusing on locals versus digital nomads.

The vision at the beginning of Kumpul was and continues to be, to build Indonesia through the coworking movement, nurturing entrepreneurship, and investing in the local ecosystem. So although located in Bali, a digital nomad hotspot, Kumpul has consciously chosen not to focus energy and resources on attracting digital nomads. It usually is difficult for digital nomads, or "visitors” as Faye calls them, to contribute significantly to the long-term benefit of the broader community and region compared to people who are living there consistently.

“Recently we just had a discussion, doubting the digital nomad's significance of the contribution to the local economy,” Faye pointed out to me in a follow-up conversation. “Most of the nomads are not big spenders and might be comparable to the region's income on middle-class tourism. For an already touristic region as popular as Bali, the percentage of the contribution is not very significant. If we talk about the contribution towards the local ecosystem and economy, we also need to take into consideration the statistics of how many digital nomads are also taxpayers where they live and work. Additionally we need to consider the fact that it is very difficult for digital nomads to provide job opportunities or to secure business deals with Indonesian companies, due to the complexity of the working permit.”

That’s not to say Faye is against location-independent workers. On the contrary, she considers location-independent workers to be entirely different than digital nomads. “Digital nomads value nomadism,” she says. “They are moving and changing locations and do not really have a deeper attachment [to the region]. Due to their shorter stay, most adopt a tourist mentality, and it makes it more difficult to be immersed in the local ecosystem.”

Location-independent workers, on the other hand, tend to be interested in making a home for themselves. Perhaps in more than one place, but they are still much more permanent and invested than digital nomads. “Location-independent workers can be part of the local community,” Faye added. “[because] there's flexibility in their work and they are not necessarily nailed to a desk somewhere.”

This is why when Faye refers to "locals," she doesn’t necessarily mean people from the region (i.e., not necessarily Balinese or even Indonesian). To her, locals are anybody who considers Bali and Indonesia to be their home as opposed to those merely passing through. Locals have a willingness and the ability to contribute their skills, time, passion, and network to the region. Some digital nomads may fall into this group after a while, but then they aren't digital nomads anymore.

While digital nomads or visitors undoubtedly impact the local economy and there is value in their presence, it can and does come with downsides. Focusing on locals instead of visitors allows Kumpul to be a hub for lasting positive impact within Bali and Indonesia.

Empower your members to initiate projects in your local community.

Members are continually coming up with exciting ideas, and often they expect you to execute them. Faye takes a different approach. Echoing advice from her coworking superhero, Alex Hillman, she empowers these members to implement their ideas on their own instead of doing it for them.

Doing this has two interesting effects.

First, it saves you time and energy. As Faye puts it, “coworking spaces are usually very lean organizations. So you don’t actually have enough resources to do stuff for one hundred members. When we find out some people want to do something, we say, ‘Okay why don’t you lead it, and we’ll support you?’”

Second, it better connects these project initiators to the local community, and integrates them into long-term national/local programs and networks. Referencing the digital nomad problem, Faye again iterates that eating local food and renting a house from a local is just another form of tourism. Additionally, short-term voluntourism projects often do more harm than good, as they mostly make the volunteers or visitors feel a sense of personal contribution whereas the impact and sustainability of the programs are sometimes highly questionable. Instead, by empowering her members to lead projects within the broader community, Faye believes their contributions will anchor them in the community and give them a greater sense of belonging and purpose that goes beyond that of a mere tourist or volunteer.

As with all of my interviews, I love talking to thought-provoking and insightful coworking leaders. And Faye was no different. I think you’ll agree. Enjoy!

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Ryan Chatterton

Marketing Director, founder at Coworking Insights, coworking maven, digital nomad, lover of wine & tacos.

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