Coliving: How People Become Territorial

How Ownership Can Poison a Community

Community lies at the core of a successful coliving, and maintaining a healthy one is already demanding. However, one thing seldom discussed is that even if you have a healthy community, situations arise that will challenge its survival. One of these mechanisms, “territoriality,” is inherent to human nature and social dynamics.

A Bunk Bed, a Blanket, and a Dream

If you run a coliving or plan to start one, I highly encourage you to live in it for at least six months, hopefully even an entire year. You’ll set up the right culture, understand the House Manager role, see how cycles affect your community, and experience territoriality for yourself as I did.

My Space, My Garage

There were around twenty entrepreneurs sharing the house at any given time. The house was pretty large, with a nice swimming pool. The best room was the master room, with a large walk-in dressing room (lots of space!) and an amazing bathroom, complete with a jacuzzi. Oh my God, did I want that room!

Intense Culture Shifts

Territoriality is felt by every guest, and depending on their culture and personality, it’s experienced with more or less intensity. Some adapt very well, some not so much. The same way I perceived that a new guest took my space, he was probably feeling the opposite, like a trespasser.

  • the personality of long-term guests
  • how open and inclusive the community stays

Adjusting to Territoriality

A coliving works like a living organism. If you make a mistake and accept someone that clearly doesn’t fit, the community will quickly turn into an immune system and expel the intruder. Not in an aggressive way; it’s just that the new guest will feel like they don’t fit and will often leave on their own.

Mama Carlos Says

Take care when cultivating your community’s sense of ownership. Your new guests will be vulnerable, and claiming even a tiny space or object is something that makes people feel better. If you give your old guests a welcoming culture to lessen their sense of entitlement and an immediate sense of belonging in your new guests, it will lessen the creep of territoriality in your coliving.

Carlos is the CEO and founder of Startup Embassy, a coliving space in Silicon Valley with a global community of more than 2000 entrepreneurs in 90 countries