#10: Ed Thomas | Head of Community Experience, The Collective
At the heart of Space as a Service is the concept of community; an intangible benefit that extends beyond functional service provision and which will ultimately lead to customer happiness and therefore potentially higher retention rates and ultimately returns for investors.
Ed Thomas views the central ethos of co-living as bringing community back into the heart of the home. When he joined Reza Merchant's The Collective in 2016, he was tasked with exactly that; creating a sense of community within the pioneering 546 bed, co-living development in Old Oak, West London.
Ed believes that strong communities equate to happy members at The Collective, a belief founded in the fundamental principles of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. After shelter and security, humans next need relationships to thrive. For the individual, the benefits of community range from improved wellness, greater avenues of entertainment, networking opportunities, shared learning experiences and, perhaps most importantly (in a city where 60% of 18-35 year-olds report feeling lonely), less loneliness. Ed believes that technological changes have altered our relationship-building patterns in a way which places a greater-than-ever importance on "real" communities in big cities.
For the property owner / developer / manager, meeting this most basic of human needs can lead to higher occupancy rates and rents and higher retention rates, as well as an array of cross-benefits across mixed-use sites.
In our interview, Ed explains how he's used a mixture of intricate building design and planning, combined with technology and, most importantly, human direction to help build community at The Collective, Old Oak. He explains the importance of enabling communities to self-develop rather than trying to force anything on members within the development. This needs to be done within a framework of rules, however, to ensure that all members are pulling their weight equally - the skill lies in being able to navigate the path between facilitating and pushing ideas on community members. Apple's concept of Fearless Feedback is an integral part of Ed's ability to adapt seamlessly to his members evolving needs and demands - communities are fluid concepts and there's no one-size solution.
We discuss the role technology can play in helping both owners and customers build communities, as well as the issues that technology is bringing to individuals as they seek to build relationships in new cities or environments.
Finally, Ed gives his thoughts on the emergence of co-living as a sector, the direction of travel for The Collective and emergence of competition to the brand.
Ed's favourite building is The Collective, Old Oak - unsurprising when you hear the thought he's put into it! His favourite innovation is The Collective's Library of Things; the embodiment of the shared-economy / community ethos through a tech-enabled solution.