As a coworking and coliving space project initiator, I have been staying at many coliving spaces during the last year and met as many managers. One of them was Rod, who owns and manages the property at Coliving Provence. About a year ago, we had a chance to meet at this beautiful place and exchange ideas and visions about coliving. Since then, we kept in touch on a regular basis and he informed me that he was looking for a community manager for a 2 week period in September, as he would be attending events in Lisbon at that time. This happened when the plans I had for running a first phase for my coliving project in the Alps in September got cancelled. I did not really think twice before accepting his proposal.
We met before he left, so that he could show me how to deal with all the equipments, avoid potential issues and make the people staying there enjoy their time. Coliving Provence has a few perks that really make it a very special place. The most obvious of them, as soon as you arrive, is the 2km dirt road leading to the property for which you need a proper 4 wheel drive and a taste for adventure. The place is part of a partially off the grid hamlet and made of one main house which accomodates up to 5–6 people, where people usually gather for lunch and dinner. Upstairs is another fully equipped house that sleeps 4, and another nice little house for 2 people is located in the middle of a big and well maintained garden. On top of that, there is also a swimming pool, and a very nice view over the valley.
In this context, as a community manager, the main challenge is planning and organization. The most time consuming tasks are when a drive to the nearest village is involved. Forcalquier, as it is called, is usually where people would arrive and leave by bus, and where basic shopping can be done. The whole journey takes about half an hour and includes switching cars between a 4 wheel drive and another car that Rod lends to his customers. From time to time, a drive to Manosque, a bigger city located 30 minutes away from Forcalquier would be needed for bigger shopping or picking up / dropping off people at the bus or train station. Most rides also include a stop at the garbage bins and at the fountain to fill up water bottles, as the water from the tap is very soft and not everybody likes the taste.
On site, the goal is to make sure that colivers stay and work in good conditions. Wifi is one of the most critical things and has to be tested everyday to ensure good working conditions. The swimming pool needs to be looked after every 2 days and regular checks have to be done to make sure the house stays clean and essential products remain available.
Beside these practical aspects, the best part of the job is, of course, about human relations. The community manager is the one who makes people feel welcome as soon as they arrive. Even if their profiles are often independent and autonomous, being available is important to answer questions, listen, be reactive and quickly tackle potential frustrations. Making sure that people connect and get to know each other is the clue to a great atmosphere, and can be challenging depending on the number of people staying in the house, as well as their length of stay. Dinners and activities are great moments to foster the community feeling.
During my stay, we went hiking up a mountain, visiting old villages, exploring a local market, discovering the beautiful calanques National Park on the mediterranean sea and even unexpectedly showing up at a birthday party of a 70 years old lady we never met before. When we were not going out, we also enjoyed the swimming pool, did workout, yoga, meditation from a big rock overlooking the valley, masterminds, stargazing, watched the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and spent some time at the nearby river and natural pools. All these moments, together with the numerous discussions and the wonderful personalities we had in our group, contributed to create a really unique atmosphere, which evolved depending on the combination of all these changing factors.
I really enjoyed the weeks I spent at Coliving Provence, the picturesque property, the amazing people I met, and the overall experience I had there as a community manager.