Superhero Spaces in China – Pt. 1: Yi-Gather, Guangzhou

Hello Changemaker

Built in a former locker factory just outside Xi Menkou station, in the heart of Guangzhou’s old town, Yi-Gather is the largest co-working space in South China.

Guangzhou has a long tradition of leading Chinese innovation and importing new models into the country: two thousand years ago, traders from India, Persia and even as far as Rome brought exotic goods and stories of distant lands into the city. In the 80s, the region was the first in China to embrace new market models and quickly develop. Today, with over 30 universities and many talented young people, Guangzhou is still a key area for Chinese innovation.

I was lucky to meet one of Yi-gather’s co-founders, Kenny Choi, who very much embodies this adventurous spirit. The first time I saw him, he was on the stage of an international conference in Shanghai, standing between basketball legend Yao Ming and social enterprise legend Mohammed Yunus. Kenny travelled around the world to shoot the first Chinese documentary film about social enterprise. As he went around gathering interviews, he noticed that the people worked in a particular type of space, alongside other innovators, and benefited greatly from this contact.

Kenny shot his documentary to show Chinese people alternative ways of improving the world around them – Yi-Gather is the logical next step in this journey: it offers the people of Guangzhou a place to turn their dream into action.

YI-Gather logo

Yi-gather opened on the 30th of November 2013, and is bringing superhero culture into the city. The space itself spans over two levels, on the 3rd and 4th floor of a former locker factory, with a mix of fixed desks, flexible work tables, a reading room, a shared kitchen, and a terrace with views of the skyscrapers around.

The community brings together video-game makers, tech start-ups, designers and social innovators. More importantly, the space has become a meeting point for virtual communities in the region, including Guangzhou Start-Up Weekend, CAPE, and a number of innovation meetups.

Yi-gather is now developing a ‘co-working visa’ system with a similar initiative in Hong Kong, to encourage cross-border creativity.

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This post by Julien Leyre is the first in a series of Chinese superhero spaces. Julien is the founder of the Marco Polo Project, a not-for-profit that uses online collaboration to improve cultural and linguistic understanding between China and the West. The first Marco Polo festival of digital literature, held in 2014, will bring together global writers and translators to discover each others’ work, and explore how the shift from print to digital affected the way we read and write.

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