United for Change Here in New London

While city streets around the world become crowded with (mostly) peaceful protesters denouncing banks, big businesses and the actions and policies of governments failing to address the many and profound current economic, social, and environmental ills, a small but growing number of people are uniting to raise the quality of their daily lives - quietly, locally.

Jessica Hill, 26, a 2003 New London High School alumna who serves as a volunteer for the New London Talent Show and the Homeless and Hospitality Center, spends quality time with people who share certain of her values. Some of these are, mutual respect, improved communication, and cooperation. Her aim is to have those values prevail in the workplace as well.

When she recently read an article on Twitter about coworking groups being organized around the country, Jessica decided to see whether she could create one locally. Coworking is redefining the way we do work. The idea is that independent professionals and those with workplace flexibility work better together than they do alone.

"It appealed to me," she said, "Because in a coworking environment you are collaborating with others and making real connections, which is much more difficult in an old-fashioned office."

Using Facebook, emails and posters placed downtown, Jessica has set out to reach "like-minded" people to start a local group - similar to those that already exist in Bristol and New Haven. Communication and mutual respect are the essential elements, because, as Jessica explains, "You can cowork anywhere, in a coffee shop or someone's house. I see this happening first. Then, eventually, I'd like to have a coworking space available in the downtown area."

Among the people interested in Jessica's call is Art Costa of Thames Valley Sustainable Connections. He invited her to see the space on Golden Street, which Sustainable Connections shares with other projects. While showing her desks and partitions already installed in the beautifully renovated room. Costa talks about some of the groups he's involved with - New London First, Field of Greens Farmers' Market, and the Connections' Breakfast. The last attracts architects, developers, farmers and state legislators from what Costa calls our "bio-region" - "to build around the idea of alliances for our business community."

Costa, who said he feels the coworking project fits perfectly with the work of Sustainable Connections, suggests ways of making the partnership possible - from offering a monthly "share" in the space for $50 per person, to helping schedule times for prospective members. However, Hill said she doesn't want to commit to a space until the group is formed.

Ken Hanson, Connections' secretary, agrees with making room for the coworking crowd since his group, in order to succeed, has to focus on community building and thinking about your neighbor's business.

"When our neighbors flourish, they will share with us," Hanson said.

This approach to making a living and getting a life in the process contrasts with "keeping up with the Joneses," and is gaining followers at a time when people are wondering, locally and globally, how democracies might sustain the search for a better quality of life.

"There are lots of people who would like to start a small business and don't have the space, or are freelancers and need a space to do their work, or work on a community project but do not have the manpower. There are so many possibilities with this concept," Hill said.

A meeting of those interested in joining will be held in mid-November. For information, write Jessica at coworkingnewlondon@gmail.com.

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