Part of our mission is to celebrate creativity, while building inspiring co-living homes able to deliver a more convenient and fulfilling lifestyle for our communities.
Our Hives are the result of a plethora of collaborations with an eclectic mix of inquisitive artists, dreamers and crafts people in any number of fields — be they art, architecture, design or technology, which share our ethos.
In this Hive Creators series, we wish to give credit and access to the people behind the scenes whose gift and invaluable contributions make our Hive spaces what they are.
INTERVIEW WITH GABRIEL NEIRA VOTO – SOCIAL IMPACT ADVISOR
01. Hi Gabriel! We would love to know a bit more about your background, passions and what makes you tick? (i.e. nationality, passion, hobbies, etc)
Hello! I am Gabriel, I am a Brazilian/Portuguese with a passion for understanding and connecting natural and social ecology. I believe nature can help us discover new ways of living together and my mission is to support rural and urban communities to thrive. I always feel better when doing sports, specially by a pristine natural spot, and with my favorite tunes playing in my earphones. I also love to discover new cultures and understand the potential that human beings have to collaborate.
02. Where is your passion for co-living coming from? Tell us your story.
After graduating I felt I wasn’t creating enough positive impact for society. That inspired me to create Favela Verde, an NGO that had the mission to harmonize the transition of two very different ecosystems in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The urban ecosystem – represented by the biggest slum in Latin America “Favela da Rocinha”, and the natural ecosystem – represented by one of the world’s largest urban forests, “Parque Nacional da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro. Spending so much time in the slums made me realize the importance of community, the value it adds to the social fabric and the strength it provides to overcome even the worst deprivations. “Together we are stronger” – that was the motto. Fast forward this passion for community has led me on a journey all the way to London where I worked at the world’s largest co-living building as a community facilitator. There, I had at my disposal all the physical infrastructure that one could possibly want to engage a community, but the sense of community was just not there. This experience has trigged a defining question in my head that has become a life quest: “What is necessary for a community to thrive”? In a building with 600+ people, from all over the world, with different cultures, agendas, intentions and values, can we actually find a common denominator that glue or holds the community together? As an ecologist, I can say that we humans are the “ultimate social animal”. Our whole evolution has been based on our ability to connect, communicate and be empathetic towards each other. That’s arguably the very reason why we weren’t extinct thousands of years ago by predators since we could rely on our innate ability to care for each other. Greater urbanization has led us to continuously grow the size of our settlements and it simply doesn’t work for us. We need smaller spaces to be able to develop meaningful connections, meeting and interacting with people on a deeper level so that we can ultimately achieve a healthier lifestyle. A great example is London – a massive settlement with virtually infinite chances and spaces to meet new people, but where loneliness is rife. I strongly believe co-living is the key for us to regain to reconnect in the mist of ever-greater urbanization. It gives us the opportunity to build and curate a community with a size that can translate into a healthier lifestyle. We are biologically designed to cope with a maximum of 150 meaningful connections.
03. Your passion is around people and communities. What in your view makes a great community and what do you need to foster a brilliant community experience?
For me it all comes back to trust. Trust is the main glue that holds the social fabric together. Without trust in the community we fall on this concept called “social trap”, coined by John Platt in the 1970’s. It can be described as a situation in which a group of people act to obtain short-term individual gains, which in the long run lead to a loss for the group as a whole.My mission is to empower communities to be able to grow and maintain their trust levels, and to design and implement spaces and experiences that will foster those meaningful connections. Finally it’s important that we accept that diversity is an invaluable asset in each and every spacewhile ensuring people beliefs and identity are respect and they can be themselves.
04. What are your tips when it comes to design co-living spaces aligned to how communities and people want to live?
As a co-living operator or professional, you need to make an effort to get to know your community intimately. The customer journey should be designed and implemented with care and integrity. There’s no one-size fits all in this game. People should be at the heart of everything you do. By thoroughly exploring the pains and the gains of your potential residents for each development you are able to see through their eyes. If you put yourself in their shoes, you are more likely to create a home where residents can be themselves. When people feel they can fully express themselves, they feel supported to reach their fullest potential. In that sense I’m very happy to collaborate with B-Hive Living, as I truly believe you are definitely aiming for nothing less.
05. What do you see as the main trends in co-living especially for the younger generation?
I really believe that technology plays a pivotal role for the success of this new way of living. As you know it’s is not a new concept, people have been living together since prehistoric times. But I believe that it’s the first time in history we have the resources to be able to design “smart” homes in which we give people a great deal of autonomy to literally to look after their health, convenience and lifestyle.
I think that the new frontier for co-living is to explore the potential of technology fully. Today we can help personalize our individual spaces from circadian lightning to seasonal room temperature, and create bespoke common areas to accommodate the needs of different types of people, with different drives and personalities. I see how B-Hive Living has been working on this direction, using biophilic design and leveraging technology to allow their residents to customize their room temperatures and etc and this is refreshing.
06. When it comes to measuring the impact of a co-living space, what is important to measure and why?
I believe that in co-living there are three different systems interconnected and hence the need to take a system thinking approach.Firstly, we have the impact of the user experience being the first one. Here some topics to be explored are the health and well-being of the user/community, access to information and ways to reduce their ecological footprint. The second level is the building itself. Here this is more connected to the environmental impact and carbon emission per space. It’s important that we look at issues such as what kind of materials are being used in the construction, what is the waste management strategy and the energy consumption levels. And finally, there’s the external community level that it’s unfortunately often neglected. I really believe on the potential co-living has to bring a different level of social and human capital to a given area. For that to happen, a solid and holistic public engagement strategy must be developed and implemented since the conception of the project. Only with the integration of the internal & external community we are able to reap the whole spectrum of benefits this new way of living can provide to our cities.
07. Given what you’ve learned working in co-living so far, what is your best advice for residents who wish to make the most of their co-living experience?
Empathy is the key. Be open to explore new ways to relate to each other. You might not like everyone straightaway, but learning to respect and accept the differences from the outset will make you question some old assumptions and beliefs you might have. This is the time to unite, collaborate, exchange and co-living can help us massively to do that.
08. What is your hope for co-living in the present? And the future?
My hope is that co-living can be seen as a new way of engaging urban and rural communities. And that the new players entering the market would do that because they see that potential to transform society rather than just following the next trend. Open-source! In the future I would love to see more and more collaboration amongst the co-living developers and operators, where no one has to reinvent the wheel again and again, and the concept can be developed faster and more efficiently, supporting more and more people to connect, collaborate, and support the change we need to see in the world. Also, I would like to see the levels of depression and loneliness dropping as more and more people opt for co-living.