Food for Thought – community business
The good people of Glasgow regularly pop into Spoon for a coffee, food and a catch up with friends but it’s so much more than a café.
The Spoon is a Social Enterprise, committed to the aims of Unity as an organisation. We exist to recognise and promote the abilities and contributions of all our fellow citizens, regardless of labels, so that our communities can become more inclusive and inequality, in all its guises, is constantly challenged.
Increasingly the café offers a safe place to come for warmth and food (events are typically on a ‘pay what you can and come for free if you can’t’ basis), plus we have a Pay it Forward Scheme which is now gathering pace. This means that we are able to offer food and hot drinks free, at the point of need, to individuals and families who are affected by homelessness, poverty, isolation or just need a bit of support during challenging times.
Isolation is a huge symptom of inequality. We try to challenge this by creating an environment where people have a reason to connect and come together, without cost or obligation. This might be to learn, share skills, or just to have fun or chat. We don’t have all the answers, but we know that the more connected people are, the less isolated they become. However, people affected by inequality need to feel safe and welcome in order to even begin making these connections and build lasting and supportive relationships. That’s what the Spoon is for!
We use the café as a community hub from which individuals and groups can benefit from the support of others; emotional to practical, and we see many long term benefits such as meaningful employment opportunities to regular company and someone to laugh with. Either way, it’s about connections. Through volunteering we have connected people who would otherwise never have met, never mind learned about, got to know, and liked each other. We create the environment, Glaswegians do the rest!
Within the café we provide work experience, volunteering opportunities and paid employment to people with learning disabilities and young people at risk of exclusion. We have also provided voluntary work experience for people affected by homelessness for whom we have also provided housing support. We also provide a space for community groups to come together in a safe and supportive environment. A number of LGBT+ community groups use the café and have in turn connected with us in recognition of our shared aims.
Those who work or volunteer in the café receive the same training and support as all team members, and rates of pay (we are proud to be a Living Wage employer) is also the same for everyone. Working with and treating people equally has a considerable effect on how others view people who might otherwise be labelled or marginalised.
Ensuring that we recognise and value the contributions of everyone in the café in the same way fosters a culture of equality which we believe impacts on other areas of people’s lives after the café doors close and they head home.
We have a good success rate of converting work experience into meaningful employment. Where we can offer work we do, and where we can’t we offer as much support as possible to help people secure work elsewhere using the experience and skills they have gained with us.
Many of the people we still employ came to us because they were facing exclusion or significant barriers to employment. We have benefited from the many and varied skills they have brought.
We have an important role to play in supporting others to be successful in the work they are doing to embrace diversity and support their communities. We are not best placed to do everything and we recognise the strength in partnership working. We try to practice what we preach around making new connections! Our friends around the city have an incredible range of skills and knowledge and together we can achieve a great deal.
The Spoon café is working hard to provide an inclusive space in the Merchant City where, in the spirit of equality and inclusion, every one of our visitors can always expect decent grub, good conversation and a welcome that is as warm as the soup!
Please visit us anytime, all welcome!
You can find out more via Spoon’s Facebook page.