In January, 2007 five of us started meeting in my apartment in Newton, MA to discuss creating a modern urban form of community center, a Third Place. We each had our own ideas. Mine were built around a coffee shop as a meeting place. The "working name" was OUR Place. With life's twists and turns my passions for this idea had to take a long holiday. First I injured my back. Then I moved to Woodstock, CT ... that was in mid 2008.
It is now 2013, and I've lived in Austin, TX for about a year. I moved here to be near my daughter and to participate in Mueller -- a modern urban village being built on the site of Austin's former airport. I was inspired to move here and be part of creating a vibrant community.
Now, I am a member of the Steering Committee of the Mueller Neighborhood Association. We are exploring ways to strengthen and increase community participation. I've brought up the idea of a coffee shop...thus I am revisiting the concept I worked on and felt so inspired by over five years ago.
The Third Place -- Its Importance
you are not familiar with the Third Place term, "Home" is the first
place, "Work" the second and then there are Third Places -- places
Ray Oldenburg wrote The Great Good Place in 1989. Here is a quote from the site:
"Ray Oldenburg is an urban sociologist from
Florida who writes about the importance of informal public gathering
places. In his book The Great Good Place, Oldenburg demonstrates
why these gathering places are essential to community and public life.
He argues that bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other "third
places" (in contrast to the first and second places of home and work),
are central to local democracy and community vitality. By exploring how
these places work and what roles they serve, Oldenburg offers place
making tools and insight for individuals and communities everywhere."Learn more at:http://www.pps.org/info/placemakingtools/placemakers/roldenburg.
Third Places of today and the future can play an important part to
help us feel and be connected, help us co-create social and economic value. With the challenges we face with climate change, among others, the importance of neighbors helping neighbors and the need for Third Places is even stronger. With the opportunities Mueller has to truly be a modern urban village, the values of a Third Place (or places), is even greater.
OUR Place has great possibilities. So I am revising this....more to be done. What you find below was written a good 6 years ago...will be updating it over the weeks and months.
I see the coffee shop as the predominant model for a place to go and hang out alone or with friends, to hold informal business meetings, meet blind dates. Starbucks has been the major player. I worked at the Starbucks in Newton Centre (near Boston) as barista.
I joined the company in December of 2005 because of my belief in the
power of Third Place. I made several attempt to "speak" to management --
about how to strengthen their concept and weather the competition I saw coming. In 2008 Starbucks was struggling -- profits were down and the stock's value was way down.
In October of 2008 my store was one of many that were closed. By then time I'd moved from the Boston area and was returning to visit and work a few hours a month. Because of the customers and the Partners, I loved working at Starbucks.
In my corporate days I consulted coffee companies. Helping Starbucks be a better company would have had great impact. Yet, I was not meant to be.
How could Starbucks / and other Coffee shops improve?
Many of the elements of Third Place that Oldenburg speaks about were not happening at Starbucks. It was not nor is it maximizing its Third Place potentiality. One thing that is missing, in my opinion, is that people do not intermingle to meet new people and make new contacts. In very few stores are there means to create more community within a particular outlet.
Being connected and feeling community is a huge social need. Have you heard about this or read about it? While communication through social media grows, so do the number of research studies that point to the consequences of less in person interactions.
If your have read this far, something must be guiding you...so keep going!
I envisioned OUR Place as a community center that lives Universal Spiritual Values, promotes and local community and Global Community. Churches and other religious organizations have filled many of these needs. Yet, fewer and fewer people are attending houses of worship on a regular basis, meaning fewer are participating in the community aspects and works of these institutions. As church populations dwindle, we need substitutes. Churches are not drop-in places, i.e., places to go that fit into our modern lifestyles. . For now I will not get into other things that are shifting many for churches.
My dream and intention was to create a "chain" of community centers built around coffee/tea shops. That dream has shifted since 2007.
Yet my 2007 vision maybe worth your time to explore. See below. And, if you have read this far, thank you. Contact me!
OUR Place Community Centers
Third Places to Gather -- hosted in coffee/tea houses
Education, Entertainment & Recreation Centers
Environmental Centers that are Examples What is Possible
Adopt a Community Partnerships
Vocational & Global Action Networks
The inspiration for OUR Place is to design community centers that
- Facilitate OUR personal, community and planetary evolution through loving, caring local gathering places
- Facilitate our spiritual being
- Create a means for us to build OUR networks
- Act as a meeting place for many organizations
- Act as examples of the best green and sustainability business practices living lightly on the planet
- Use spiritual, higher consciousness principles to “succeed” in the market place
- Use commercial viability to source outreach services
- Participate in Global Change through our local community
OUR Place Mission
In order to help us grow our spiritual selves and communities, to help save our planet’s ecological system, foster sustainability, progressive social, political goals and universal spiritual values, the mission of OUR Place is to create integrative structures and services that grow OUR individual and collective spiritual and economic power.
By creating a new form of socially responsible Third Places, be they coffee houses, tea houses or some other form of easy access gathering place within higher consciousness educational centers we gather like-minded neighbors and grow our spiritual community, helping us as individuals and within our communities and beyond.
We contribute to a better world by moving consumer dollars and entertainment/ educational time to this higher consciousness model. Financial viability helps create right livelihood for those involved. Profits are invested in outreach work.
OUR Place is designed to be a new model for Community Centers focused on evolutionary offerings and built around the accessibility of the Third Place model. Spiritual, educational, entertainment and recreational offering will help us all evolve at our own pace. Of course, all the offerings, services and products available at OUR Place will meet standards that align with our principles.
OUR Place will provide a loving and empowering place for like-minded people to gather and create ways and means to support, cooperate and collaborate with each other.
Thru coming together informally, OUR Place will grow our spirituality, our networks, alliances and create infrastructures that nurture us personally and in community. Cooperation in our vocations can help us reach our potential and make more of an impact. Together we hospice the old paradigm and midwife the new.
OUR Place is based on the principles that:
- We are the people we have been waiting for creating the change we wish to see in the world.
- There are many paths.
- Many hands make light work.
- “The urge to progress is innate in all societies and culture, both individually and collectively.” 1
OUR Place, the Business, is designed to utilize the principles of sustainability, vocational enhancement and building cooperative ventures.
OUR Place is in the concept development stage. Your interest and energy helps create the attractor field that gathers the talents and people to create OUR Place.
Step forward as you are called. There is no obligation. If you are inclined, please pass this concept on to others who may wish to participate!
If you desire more detailed information about the evolving OUR Place concept, go to OUR Place -- In Detail.
1 David Hawkins, Ph.D. The I of the EyeCreate and “Be the change we wish to see in the world”2
2 Mahatma Gandhi