Cafe Society: A fresh approach

Featured article - 12 March 2019
Alex Hoskyn, founder of the Chatty Café Scheme

Head-shot of the author, Alex Hoskyn, founder of the Chatty Café Scheme

A table for customers who are up for talking to other customers

Health and social care providers and commissioners are always looking for evidence; evidence that a person requires 1:1 support; evidence that something works. Of course, ideally, we'd like proof before proceeding with something new. But there are a new wave of innovators, ready to take responsible risks.

I am basing the above primarily on my own views - however, I recently spoke to a fellow social innovator who told me that, in his first year working in this area, he relied mainly on commissions from the local council. But when he realised that this actually meant adapting his service to meet their requirements, he decided to change tack and now bases his business model on fundraising and funding. These options give him the freedom and flexibility to keep his service doing what he knows works; and he knows this because he sees it first-hand. It’s not right for everyone but being flexible is certainly helping him.

Café society

The Chatty Café Scheme has been set up to reduce loneliness and to get people talking - but we knew from Day One that we wouldn't mention the word ‘Loneliness’ on the publicity. It’s too heavy, stigmatized and would perhaps make people run for the hills. We are trying to influence UK café culture by encouraging venues to designate a Chatter and Natter table, which is where customers can sit if they are happy to talk to other customers.

There are so many groups out there categorising sections of society together; mums and babies, older adults, people with additional needs, carers and so on. But we feel there can be huge benefits from mixing everyone up. A man I spoke to recently said: "I didn't want to go to day centres in my forties or fifties. Why would I want to when I'm eighty?" Cafes are places that are already there. They are open, have heating, lighting, staff and they are community assets. Chatter and Natter tables are simply using these approachable spaces to encourage human interaction.

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