PITTSBURGH— Amizade’s Executive Director Brandon Blache-Cohen recently presented at Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto’s roundtable on co-working spaces. The roundtable was the third in a series of discussions focusing on innovative new business models.
As well as Amizade, other entities present included, Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, Urban Innovation21, Women’s Entrepreneurship-Chatham University, and RevvOakland.
In a statement by the Mayor in a release from the Office of Mayor Peduto, he explained that for government to “grow and change it has to listen more, and that’s what these roundtables are all about.”
During the roundtable, Blache-Cohen discussed Amizade’s newest project, the coworking space known as The Global Switchboard.
“A few years back we had an extra desk in our office downtown,” explained Blache-Coehen. “We decided to rent the desk out to a like minded organization.”
The organization Amizade rented to was Awamaki – a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers rural Andean women with skills training, connects them to global market opportunities, and enables them to earn an income to transform their communities. What happened next pleasantly surprised Blache-Cohen
“Within a week we had a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Awamaki,” said Blache-Cohen. “Within a month we had applied for a US State Department grant. It was clear that sharing space created a great opportunity for collaboration”
This early success lead Amizade to further consider what a shared working space would look like.
“So we thought what would this look like if we collaborated with more global organizations,” Blache-Cohen explained to the roundtable. “Would we raise the visibility of all of us? Would we better impact and meet our missions. So we convened a grouping of several organizations and it seemed like there was some interest in this idea.”
Blache-Cohen described how Amizade and organizations like it are often “invisible” resulting in Pittsburgh not being fully represented as the global city it truly is. Amizade sees coworking spaces as the perfect venue to bring Amizade and other globally minded organizations into the spotlight.
“The difference between our coworking space and many others around the country is that we are a coalition-building coworking space with very specific programming meant to amplify the members’ voices,” said Blache-Cohen. “We have a member-wide mission and vision, and we are intending to become the home for Pittsburgh’s global engagement. If there is something globally happening in the city, we want to act as the pipeline for that.”
In just the first three months of Amizade’s coworking space the beta stage of operations has seen 12 members with all 25 desks taken. Other accomplishments include partnering with the foundation community and funding successes.