Can a Cup of Coffee Change the World? Cultivating a Culture of Social Change

Posted on January 27, 2015 by


Our conversations on social change have been known to jump around.  They have had local and global dimensions.  They’ve required strategic vision and tactical messaging.  We’ve put out calls for boundless energy and borderless empathy, seeking in ourselves and others the ability to navigate nuances of the creative and the structured.

Where do we start?  Where does it end?  Social change can be perplexing.


This week, on the local end of the spectrum, I was inspired by the story of a St. Louis coffee shop owner focused on serving social change by the cup.  That got my attention.  Of course coffee can stimulate many things. But this post resonated because it seemed I had been to places like this: a social setting where the mood was relaxed and engaging, where stories seemed to flow freely, and where story tellers would abound. Where “pay it forward” measured in java could spark more than just a smile onas cold winter day.

Digging deeper on the comparison of local vs. global social change, I see 3 factors at work.  (1) People.  That’s the ‘social’ part of social change.  (2) Their mindset, and how they approach social situations. And (3) culture, the long term result of how those same people interact.  That’s where things get interesting.

The conventional wisdom on culture is that we learn the story of a people and their practices, and we live their story out, often beyond logic or reason.  Even when new thinking eventually comes into play, the forces of culture can deeply influence our behaviors.  Culture can thus have a dark edge, limiting our choices.  But what might happen when the factors are positive, as in the “pay it forward” coffee shop?  What if our story is one of hope?

Here’s my thinking.  If we change our mindset, then influence the mindset of others, can we change the world?

In our chat WEDS Jan 28 at 1 pm ET, let’s look at 7 factors that can fuel positive thinking about social change, whether in local venues or on a global scale.  What might we learn from the comparison?

  • Q1. Openness.  Must we bring a disposition for learning and sharing, or does that develop?
  • Q2. Trust.  We need to trust strangers in a social change context, but how can we?
  • Q3. Caring. Pay it forward is a selfless formula for helping others. Can it work in global contexts?
  • Q4. Belonging.  All humans seek to belong at some level. How are local vs. global allegiances different?
  • Q5. Inclusion. In social circles in times of change, including others creates risk.  Is inclusion safe?
  • Q6. Impact.  We want to make a difference. Can our local successes scale?
  • Q7. Empathy. We may relate to the person next to us. How do we relate to people in other cultures?

Think about the implications here.  If postive cultural factors get established locally, in a local coffee shop for instance, could those factors take hold on a broader scale over time?  Let’s discuss, and find out.

And props to Jessie Mueller and what she’s doing at Rise Coffee Shop in St. Louis. An inspiration, to be sure.

Chris aka @sourcepov

Posted in: Social Change