Back in November I wrote a short post on social enterprise cafes entitled ‘Cafes with a conscience‘. A few days ago the Guardian published an article with a similar title touching on some of the same issues.
The article highlights cafes from Bristol (International Peace Cafe), London (The Brigade; Paper & Cup), and Belfast (The Cabin Cafe) showing the different ways they are contributing to their communities – through the services they provide, but also to their employees and wider communities in which they intended to support as social enterprises. There has been a proliferation of social enterprise cafes opening in the UK in various locations and formats. I have been creating a database, and need to go back to my original post which maps these to update it. The article in the Guardian reminded me that I had written an extended version of my original post which never got published which highlighted some interesting social enterprise cafes to explore.
Social Bite, with locations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, is a chain of social enterprise cafés with profits generated from the business being put towards helping the homeless. In this business 1 in 4 of staff members are formerly homeless people, and food is given to the local homeless community through the suspended coffee and food concept.
Paper & Cup is one of two social enterprise cafes in East London ran by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust. The café-bookshop provides work experience and barista training to the long term unemployed, as well as those recovering from addiction, in order to help them develop their employment and social skills and confidence in working in a café environment.
The Milk Café in Glasgow was established to develop a community resource for ethnic minority women in the city where they can get support from others in the community, build skills (such as language, or cookery) and take part in creative events; collectively this is designed to assist integration of these women into the wider communities in Glasgow.
The Old Spike Roastery in Peckham, London, is a coffee roasting company with a café that provides house and a living wage and training for people local homeless people in the community, in an effort to provide a stepping stone to more secure long term employment.
And finally one which has opened more recently Second Shot Coffee in Bethnal Green, London. The cafe provides training for people affected by homelessness in an effort to help them develop skills so they can move into more stable employment. They operate a pay it forward system, a bit like ‘suspended coffee’, which means that someone in need later can have some food or drink for free. As you can see from this instagram photo – the pay it forward wall, where people draw their contributions, is an active part of the cafe.
Importantly the social enterprises model is one of many ways in which some cafés have been integrating in, and contributing to communities. As highlighted in the Guardian article by the founder of the International Peace Cafe in Bristol:
“with the divisions that Brexit highlighted, the urgent need to break down barriers and the economic need to create jobs and opportunities, cafes like this have become an absolute must-have in our society”. Guardian
It will be interesting to see if she is right, and we do see a greater proliferation of this form of cafe business in the future. Many other cafes make an effort to contribute to their local communities, from cafés that seek to reduce food waste or food miles of products used, to those that run craft events, or skills workshops. Current research being conducted at Coventry University as part of the ‘Spaces of Community’ project is exploring the varied ways in which cafés are used in different cities. The growing presence of social enterprise cafés demonstrates a range of ways that cafés in cities can have a different roles in communities, not only for the people that frequent them, but for the communities that some of these cafés are trying to support, and beyond.