Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sharon Community Cafe...and Makerspace?

The latest venture we are exploring for our town center is a Makerspace. 

What's a makerspace, you ask? 

A makerspace is essentially a community center with tools. It combines equipment, community and education, providing a place where people can come together to learn new skills, share skills and tools. We're not just talking about craft classes for kids, although the STEM learning possibilities for our youth are numerous here. Makerspaces can have things like 3D printers, welding equipment, and pottery studios.

The biggest makerspace near us in MA is Artisan's Asylum in Somerville. They offer equipment, workshops and work spaces for their members. How many times have you started a creative project on your dining room table or garage, only to have to pack it all up when you need the space for its original purpose? Nothing saps my creative impulse more than having to haul bins of material out of my basement or attic. A makerspace could have areas and supplies, ready and waiting for your projects. 

Providence has AS220, which is an artist-run organization, where they "envision a just world where all people can realize their full creative potential." They offer gallery and theatre spaces, a dance studio, a print shop, fabrication and electronics labs. They have a restaurant and bar, too.

Makerspaces are popping up all over. Here's an article, published the day I'm writing this, about JaxHax, a new makerspace in Jacksonville, Florida. The Westport, CT library has a makerspace. In May, they are offering a series of Arduino board workshops.

So how does this fit into our vision of worker-owned cooperative businesses in our town? We confess that we don't know yet. But there are a dozen of us who are interested in the makerspace idea and we'd love to talk to you about it. To that end, we will be at the Green Day event, which is sponsored by Sustainable Sharon Coalition, on Saturday, May 3rd from 12pm - 4pm on High Street next to the Sharon Public Library. Look for our tent and come create with us. We'll have some projects you can try out. Chuck and I will also be sharing information about cooperative businesses, in general.

We will also host a "pop-up" makerspace on Saturday, May 17 at the Unitarian Church Rummage Sale in the town center. We are eager to learn if the community is interested in the makerspace idea. We also just like talking to people while we make stuff, so come on over and visit if you're in the area.

Frontier Co-op Buying Club
Another project we are working on is starting a Frontier Co-op buying club. Frontier is a member co-op located in Iowa. I've been part of buying clubs and food co-ops before and I really miss the savings! Buying clubs provide their members discounts when they place a large order together. The way Frontier Co-op works, when a buying club member places an order of $250 or more, the shipping is free and they get wholesale prices. Members also earn a patronage refund annually. Some of my favorite things to order from Frontier are organic spices, essential oils, teas and health/beauty products.

House of Brews

We were in Stoughton Center recently and had a chance to visit House of Brews. Leo and Sandra Fay opened the coffeehouse/tavern in July 2013. We were pleased to see that they serve Equal Exchange coffee and hot chocolate. The woman who served us said they are proud to serve high quality coffee from a locally-owned business. Supporting local producers extends to their beer offerings, as well. I wanted to plant myself on the couch in front of the gas fireplace and enjoy the cozy atmosphere, but we had work to do. We plan to visit again soon. I noted their hours: 6:30am - 11:30am and 5pm - 11pm.

What do you think of the makerspace idea? Have you been part of a buying club before? Let us hear from you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Looking for a Co-op Near You? There's an app for that!

Hey, all you iPhone and Android users! There's a free app you should know about. It's called Cooperate USA. It helps you locate co-ops anytime, anywhere, allowing you to shop or otherwise do business cooperatively. Developed by the National Cooperative Business Association in partnership with Co-operatives UK, this app "aims to help educate Americans on how coops can be The Fix (Twitter Hashtag: #TheFix)" for the many ills in our society - unemployment, unequal distribution of wealth, food deserts, lack of affordable housing.

I just installed the app on my Android phone. Once I opened it, I was given the option to "Find Nearby Co-ops", and I was given a list of choices of the types of co-ops I could find near me. There's a button to find "Worker" coops, and of course Equal Exchange pops up since they are less than 10 miles away from me. When I hit "Agriculture", Ocean Spray Cranberries comes up, less than 20 miles away. If I hit "Financial", I have oodles of credit unions to choose from.

I can't wait to try this app when I'm away from home! Let me know what you find in your travels while using it.