We enjoyed sharing the documentary Shift Change with an enthusiastic audience last night. It might have been frigidly cold outside, but the Equal Exchange coffee was hot, as was the discussion following the film. We had great questions from members of the community, and answers from the experts in attendance, Stacey Cordeiro from Boston Center for Community Ownership and Rink Dickinson, CEO of Equal Exchange, a local worker-owned cooperative business.
Of great interest to me and our community cafe idea was the news from Rink that Equal Exchange's cafes are doing quite well. They have plans to open new grocery store-based cafes in Cleveland and Chicago. Cafes were not a direction they planned to go in, but they are meeting the demand for their products by way of the cafes in addition to their other sales avenues.
Another topic we discussed is the education many people need in order to participate fully as worker-owners. We all know how difficult it can be to be open and honest in times of conflict. If you are operating a business with a group of people in a co-op, it's important to speak your mind in a constructive way, and not everyone has the experience to do this well. Also, if you are the type of person who needs to get your way all the time, you might find working in a co-op very difficult. But as one of the worker-owners in the film said, if you work in a democratically-run operation where you share in decision-making and profits, you are not as likely to allow yourself to be pushed around by politicians and other people who might like to have power over you. The societal implications of this are huge. It has been my experience that one cannot escape the need to work with people in this world. And it has been my experience that interactions with people do not always go well. Conflict happens. If we were all trained in how to speak our truth in a constructive way, the world would be a more peaceful place.
We talked about the idea of a library/cafe model. Turns out the Watertown Public Library has one, Red Leaf Cafe. And I found this one in Auburn, Maine: The Library Cafe. I also learned that many college libraries have cafes in them, which makes sense because students need caffeine to pull all-nighters. But the library/cafe idea is a tangent because our local public library has a lack of space already.
I reiterated my desire for a "third place"where I could connect with the diverse people in my community. Many of us chose to live here for the diversity, among other things. And sometimes you just want a place to meet a friend for coffee to chat, or your book group wants to meet outside of someone's home, or you like to knit in public. We all agreed that our town center needs some revitalization.
What's next, you ask? We need to form a Steering Committee and do a Feasibility Study. Let us hear from you if you have interest or expertise to share.
Thank you to the Social Justice Committee at Unitarian Church of Sharon for sponsoring the Shift Change screening.
Congratulations to our Book Giveaway winners, Linda H. and Birgitta M. Your copies of Locavesting by Amy Cortese and Owning Our Future by Marjorie Kelly are on their way! Readers, these books inspired the community cafe idea and I encourage you all to check them out.
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