Introduction to the Open Cafe Cooperative Network Model
The Open Cafe Cooperative Network Model helps a community group to create a cafe right in the middle of their community to serve as a third place where people may gather and as a shining example of Community Ownership and governance in the heart of your neighborhood.
Inspirations for this Model
This model takes as consideration the work of the Open World Cafe that is produce by the Open World Foundation and the Replanting a Rainforest project of the Open World Foundation. Stephen Hinton and Alex Rollin thought the idea was a good one and invite you to co-create it with us.
Why an Open Cafe Model?
The first reason to create a model is to share our individual progress as we go about building an open cafe in our own neighborhood. This is a place to share progress, setbacks, and to work on tools that we can use to help our community bring a cafe into being and keep it working for us.
A cafe is a relatively simple place to start. Lots of people have experience with the activities related to a cafe, for example: running a kitchen, serving our friends coffee, and even the purchase of all the things needed for a cafe like cups or napkins. Starting with a project people are comfortable with gives the project an advantage over other things.
Why a cafe? Because people use cafes, and they do so often. Cafes are often the center of community life, and at the very least a great place to meet close friends, or to invite new folks for a get-to-know-you-chat. Either way, cafes are the "3rd home" to a lot of folks, between the office and the house.
|10 Reasons a Cafe might be a good idea for a community owned enterprise where you live:
- Cafes are the "now" agora. It's where people meet, as a civil public, and can do business if they like.
- Third place. A familiar place between home and work.
- Networking and Exposure. Lloyd's of London started as a cafe. Uberrima fides
- Users may say "It's my place. I mean, I really do own a piece of it. It's a community asset, and I'm a shareholder. I can vote and participate in decision-making."
- We are welcome and we govern here. We are the change we want to see in the world. It is our microcosm.
- This idea works. Thinking global and acting local.
- Start with something and get to the next step. Patronizing a community-owned business, and participating in the governance of community assets. Practice makes perfect, and next time it'll be something bigger than the cafe.
- Joy in friendship new and old. Connect with the world through the light of joy in the eyes of neighbors and those we see regularly.
- Strong Local. By building strong local projects we can connect with the world. It just works!
|What makes a good cafe? What might a community need?
- Access to casual public space
- 3rd space. Between work and home. A park, but inside with warm and cold drinks and snacks.
- Comfort and aesthetics
- The place feels like the place between. Clean, where a visitor can enjoy the decor and the decor serves their enjoyment and use of the space.
- Welcoming friends
- A visitor can be proud to share it with friends. The hope is always that there are enough places to sit. Luckily there aren't enough chairs in the place to make it uncomfortable.
- We can hear each other
- The place is muted enough that on a crowded day no one has to shout too loud. Music works for the mood, but works with the people inside, instead of trying to set the mood on top of them.
- We can meet
- A small group can make a good bet that they can show up and find a table. Perhaps members can even make reservation.
- Online, Easy to Find
- Everyone knows where the place is. It is broadcasting everything that is happening there. It's fun like that. Live.
- Connect it to the Commons
- Make every process in the enterprise connect to the commons. Everything that happens there helps the commons to serve the community.
|How can the community own the place? Rights, responsibilities?
- Membership for customers
- Every customer can be a member and owner of the cafe. With a small donation and their signature they "join" the ownership group.
- Maker meetings
- Every owning member can come to a vision meeting and share their ideas or project that involves the cafe.
- Coordination team
- A leadership team could be chosen by the members to help keep the day-to-day activities of the cafe on course. This team can include the staff and volunteer representation.
- Steering committee
- The owning members can elect members to the steering committee every year. This committee could keep the "big picture" in view and help the owning members to navigate the cafe.
- Community advisors
- Depending on the neighborhood there may be many different stakeholder groups who could be consulted about the cafe operations. A community advisory group could be a place where representatives of the community can gather to discuss the cafe and the community, and offer advice.
- Annual voting
- Owning members can vote annually. This is a great time to educate members about what it means to be owners and invite folks to help make the impossible possible.
- Community commons
- Every owner can spread the word about the joys of ownership. Invite friends from other communities to see the cafe, and take a copy of the operating manual. They can get a jump start with a copy of everything known about how to make the cafe a success.
|Where does the money come from for a cafe? What about the storefront?
- Collecting startup funds
- Each member of the team organizing the cafe can work to collect start up moneys. This is the money that the cafe needs to get things going. Typically 6 months to 1 year of operating expenses is a good place to start.
- Government connections
- Your community government may have a program that can make life easier for your cafe to get started. Ask them if they have any programs for community owned enterprises.
- Private loans with little or no interest are the best kind to have. See if you can establish a line of credit with a bank.
- Some community members may be interested in making donations to get the cafe going. Expect them to be interested in your business plan.
- Membership shares
- You could organize your cafe in such a way that you can offer low cost membership shares. These might only cost 1EUR, but folks might be interesting in buying several, or hundreds of them. Think about how you can publicize your members who own more than one share.
- You can start offering items for purchase before the cafe is open. Consider giving out another membership share for every 10.
- Community commons
- Every owner can spread the word about the joys of ownership. Invite friends from all over the communities to join in and give what they can to make it a success.
- Financial Permaculture Worksheet - tool to be used to map the commons of the cafe. Can be used on any scale for examining inputs and outputs for a system using group discussion.