Canadian Monica Georgieff spent time as an intern at coworking space Betahaus in Sofia, a city currently in turmoil as its citizens protest against a government seen as corrupt. Here, she tells us how the coworking space itself has evolved to provide its support for the movement as it fights for a more progressive government.
In Sofia, Bulgaria, protests against the current coalition government and their series of poor decisions have become a nightly occurrence. After the official work day, locals have a decision to make – go home or hit the streets sporting white, green and red, Bulgaria’s national colours. For over 40 days in a row, tens of thousands have been adamantly choosing the latter option in order to push forward a vision for better government in their home country.
Setting up office outside the Bulgarian Parliament
Recently, Betahaus – the local coworking hub – and friends have been making their presence known en masse and all day. By relocating the operations of their members and other professionals to the centre of the action, the space has managed to support the ongoing protestors in front of the Bulgarian Parliament after, as well as during, their normal work hours.
Surrounded by laptops, cables and protected by the shade of two large white tents, a startup community has set up camp in the core of downtown Sofia’s ministry buildings. The occupations of the participants are varied. Some of them run their own businesses or work freelance in fields including architecture, design, software and administration of non-governmental organisations.
“Pro-working” – proving professionals protest too
Two weeks in a row, the group has been doing their regular nine-to-five workday outdoors while at the same time contributing to the efforts to effectively shift the status quo. The goal of the coworking resistance was to dispel one of the most prominent pro-government campaigns, namely that most of those protesting against them are not professionals and therefore not qualified enough to express an opinion.
Proving that despite one’s professional commitments, one can still participate actively in the improvement of the Bulgarian ecosystem, makes these young entrepreneurs and their coworking chapter a pro-working (protest working) chapter. It is one in a series of global initiatives that ally the coworking community with current civil causes.
Applying this network of professionals and their collaborative attitude, nurtured in the core of the coworking hub, to the dynamic environment of social change shows another push forward to a new generation of socially-engaged professionals, active in the office as well as in society.
Moral convictions, entrepreneurial spirit and an informed view on civil rebellion make this group a force to behold on the global stage and one that has the potential to change the role of the workspace and entrepreneurship on a universal level.
Protests in Sofia, June 2013: Flickr user BMW Spirit
Betahaus Sofia protest: supplied by author
For related posts, check out:
- The Top 10 Croatian startups set to smash into Europe in 2013
- Start me up, Sofia – A beginner’s guide to South East Europe’s rising tech hub
- Romance and noncomformity – but is the Balkan startup scene ready to grow up?