Community Cafés have a special ethos of providing a mix of welcoming, supportive, safe, neutral, accessible and affordable environments for everyone regardless of their situation or circumstances. Their relaxed and informal nature contribute to improving the lives and wellbeing of those who are less-able, less-mobile, lonely, isolated, those needing to upskill to get into work, or those on low income or disadvantaged in some way. They can also be used to reduce food waste by putting unwanted, near-end date or damaged produce to good use. Community Cafés should be self-sustainable through income generated, but at the same time they deliver multi-dimensional benefit in helping people be better supported and more integrated in society, contributing positively to the wider community and the environment.
In his book, The Great Good Place urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s suggests that, to have a healthy existence, people should live their lives within three realms or ‘places’. The first place is the home, the second is work and the “third place” is somewhere separate from the other two where the person can be more “anchored” in community life. He argues that the Third Place is important for society by establishing a ‘sense of place’ for people. The characteristics he says should be found in a Third Place tackling social cohesion are:
- Free or inexpensive
- Food and drink (not essential but important)
- Highly accessible (within walking distance)
- Involve regulars – those who frequently visit there
- Welcoming and comfortable
- Both new friends and old should be found there
At Community Cafe Advisor we believe that a community café can provide all these characteristics and more, not only for the customers but for people working there as well, especially those working voluntarily or to gain work experience through training. By establishing a true sense of place within their community, people’s lives can be greatly improved.
Whilst providing lively and good quality places which many of us regularly enjoy, commercial cafés are prioritised towards profit and their different customer groups do not typically interact. In contrast, a Community Café, whilst still needing to make a profit or ‘surplus’ to be sustainable, more purposely uses the attraction of good quality food and drink in an informal and welcoming setting to bring diverse people together. They are designed to address a need, for example, those who need help into work, those want to contribute through volunteering, those who would otherwise be isolated or those who would access more support services through charity and community venues being more attractive and welcoming.