Walk into Case Study Coffee in Portland, OR, on any given Saturday and you might see this sight: a dozen people gathered at individual tables, fingers ticking across their laptop keys. The silence is deafening. And then, simultaneously everyone stops typing, does a joyous fist pump into the air, closes their laptop and begins to talk to everyone else.
The most bizarre flash mob ever? Actually, no. It’s one cafe’s innovative way of creating community. The event, called a “write-in,” encourages local authors to meet at the coffee shop to write for 45 minutes, and then talk for fifteen. A hand-written chalkboard sign on one of the tables reads, “Also a Writer? Join Us!” Perhaps the most interesting thing of all? The entire thing is customer-driven via word-of-mouth, personal invites, and check-ins on Google+.
Creating this kind of community is something we often talk about in the coffee world. We want to make connections, for personal and professional reasons. We understand that it’s as important to touch the lives of our local customers and clients as it is to reach out across the globe to interact with growers, suppliers, and advocates. And we work hard to weave a strong network to all corners of the coffee world.
From a theoretical perspective, community is a clear path toward better business, better coffee and a better future. From a day-to-day, hands-on perspective, however, building community can be a bit of a challenge. What does that even mean? How does one go about doing such a thing? And what—beyond the good feelings we might get from connecting with one another—are the actual long-term benefits for coffee?
The answer is different for every person and every business. Here are only three perspectives from those who have found unique ways and means for building community.