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[Tuning In] Federico Folcia, founder of Crane, rejects taboos when curating the creative process for lifelong learning

Written by Emily Fang Published on 

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Inspired by his own aging parents, Folcia discusses creating open communities with no generational boundaries and opportunity for skillsharing.

Federico founded Crane, a social space and community for lifelong learning built for those who want to gather for fitness, wellness, workshops, lifestyle, and co-working. One of his latest projects is Crane radio, which was created to empower podcast newbies to start their own podcast. Email kym@crane.club for more info. 

Community members can ask Federico questions here.

Federico Folcia, founder and CEO of Crane

KrASIA (Kr): Can you tell us about the inspiration behind creating an open community with Crane? I see the space as being geared towards lifelong learners. 

Federico Folcia (FF): I have been in the community building space for 12, 13 years prior to working on this project. I used to run a company called Roomorama, which was pretty much the alter ego to Airbnb today. This is a big aspect of what Crane is all about.

I started Crane three years ago, out of observation and frustration when I saw how my parents’ generation have the desire to share their skills, experiences, and passions, but very often there is a disconnect in terms of how this is possible in the real world. There’s no real platform to do that. So I thought this could be another chapter in the sharing economy that could be explored, tapping into people and experiences of any generation.

The other one is frustration. I am Italian, I’ve been out of my country for 20 years. I’ve been feeling guilty more, because I’ve never gone home, and I’ve seen my parents aging. I’ve always wished that I could impact my parents’ [quality of life] positively on an ongoing basis, as opposed to just as a one-off thing. You meet your parents occasionally, bring them out for dinner and go on vacation, but how do you actually impact their quality of living on a daily basis? That’s the inception of the idea. I felt frustrated seeing people like my mother, who’s very extroverted and likes to go dancing, [thinking they’re too old for that by the age of 50]. Why don’t you do it again? This is something you have passion for, you should keep on doing it.

Crane was really about creating this ecosystem, a collage of different tools that allows people to stay relevant, thrive, and engage with others socially, and maybe even professionally. Over time, that concept has evolved. Nowadays, Crane is a multi-generational ecosystem. So we’re not just targeting a more mature demographic, but pretty much trying to appeal and be aspirational to everyone.

Folcia sits on the couch he’s picked out for Crane. Most of the furniture is furnished and personally selected from different parts of the world by him. Photo taken by KrASIA.

Kr: How do you think younger generations should go about connecting with and learning from older generations?

FF: It’s very difficult, to be honest. It’s a matter of maturity and self-awareness that we develop as we grow. I became closer to my parents as I approached my mid and late 30s. I’ve also become a parent myself so now I see the relationship from both perspectives.

But I do feel that if we try and convince the younger generation to engage with the older just because it’s something that they should be doing, it’s not really going to work out very well. Instead, we should set examples and show them what the older generation has to offer to them. That’s what we do here every day. We are trying to create an infrastructure that supports, in every form, the creation of content activities, experiences, workshop classes, whatever you can think of, by leveraging the passions, experiences, and skillsets of the older generation, and try to present it in a way that is appealing to the younger one.

Once that is taken care of, there’s so much more that can be brought into the content. There is a huge wealth of knowledge and skills that the older generation has to offer. If you are able to package it well for the younger generation, then they will follow by example.

Kr: Can you give some examples of interesting workshops or classes being taught at Crane?

FF: We haven’t done anything during COVID-19, but despite those three and a half months of interruption, I think we run more than 450, 500 activities since we opened Crane a year ago. We’ve had all sorts of events and experiences. We’ve had a lot of themed dinners. We had more mature people coming in and talking about their life experiences. We had very heavy topics that we wanted to tackle in a more intimate way. For instance, we had undertakers coming in and talking about death. It’s an interesting topic that seems to be taboo, [but] it is something that we should be talking about. We’ve had massage group therapy led by sexologists, where we had people in their 70s coming in and massaging their partner with the help of a professional.

There isn’t any taboo in how we approach the content creation process. It doesn’t really matter how old or young you are. We create the parameters for people to connect with common interests. It just so happens that the longer you have lived, the more likely you are to share knowledge and experiences. That’s why it’s also good value for us as a service provider. We like to work with more mature people, because most often they are the ones providing the most content.

Kr: Would you say that learning from other people’s experiences is equally as important as learning textbook lessons?

FF: In general, I would say yes. But that doesn’t mean that the academic part should be replaced by it. It should be ‘and’, not ‘or.’ It also needs to be contextualized to the outcome of what you want to achieve. If you want to be a doctor, [learning from] other people’s life experiences is great, but you still need to get your degree. After you get your degree, you will go into a surgery room and there will be a more senior doctor, most likely, who will share the mistakes and knowledge that they have acquired over the years.

You see how the two things come together. But yes, in general, I would say it’s very important, especially to develop an open mind. It’s very important to stay curious. Traveling and sharing experiences and knowledge are extremely valuable.

Kr: It’s great to see classes at Crane being taught by your community members. Where do you think the shared economy is headed, as more people get into education? 

FF: The sharing economy has been growing exponentially since approximately 2008. There’s been a lot of Airbnb-fication and a lot of Uberification of services. The process has not stopped. I read somewhere that in the next 12 years, companies in the sharing economy will be 20 times the current number. So this gives you an idea of how this movement will continue expanding and growing.

With regards to education and skill-sharing, I think what’s been very key is that COVID-19 has forced everybody to stay at home and adapt to the digital world. Everybody is now aware that you can start your own podcast from your bedroom, and share their talent by going on Udemy or Skillshare.

I foresee that there will be a verticalization of these services. Right now, most of that is in the consulting and creative spaces. But I do feel that there’s going to be a lot more happening at a granular level. We are approaching it from a slightly different perspective, because we’re adding a physical connotation to the whole exercise. That’s how I sort of define Crane, in a way. If you ask me what we’re trying to create, I would say: offline Netflix, whereby people discover and access experiences and skills from other people. In order to consume those experiences, they need to go back to the analog world.

KR: What lessons are you currently learning while building this space for multi-generational activity, and what do you want to pass down to your kids?

FF: I think that the way Crane has been built is somewhat reflective of my values. The people working with me in the company are very much reflective of the team culture and the community joining the Crane ecosystem. It’s about developing this idea that learning and sharing should never end regardless of your age. It should be an ongoing process. That’s the foundation of lifelong learning. You need to be open-minded, inclusive, and break all the various dimensions.

Accessibility is another important trait of what we try to build. It’s very much connected to the mindset of people. Accessibility is not just about space, it’s also about people, and you need to be accessible to other people. That’s how you develop an attitude of wanting to share your skills, your knowledge, and your passion with other people.

KR: Any last words that you want to say to our readers? 

FF: Don’t put pineapple on pizza!

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